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THE SITUATION ROOM

Wildfire Burning Out Of Control in Southern California; Controversial Comments Made By Vice President Dick Cheney About Torture; Lynne Cheney Interview

Aired October 27, 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, it's fierce, ferocious and fatal -- it's 2:00 p.m. in California, where an out of control fire has scorched 24,000 acres. Four firefighters have died and officials say their deaths could constitute an act of murder.

Also, steamy tales and other controversial details -- it's 5:00 p.m. in Virginia, where some novel sex scenes are heating up an already very nasty Senate race.

A book written by the vice president's wife is being brought into that Virginia race, as well. And as the vice president himself takes heat for comments about torture, Lynne Cheney is coming out swinging right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. This is an interview you're not going to want to miss. It's exclusive. We'll show it for you this hour unedited.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with a developing story, that giant Southern California wildfire burning out of control right now. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is now upping the reward in the search for the person or persons who set that fire, which has left four firefighters dead and another in critical condition.

CNN's Thelma Gutierrez is live for us in Beaumont, California, near the fire lines.

She's got the latest details -- Thelma.

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I can tell you that that is --the fire continues to burn out of control, with just 5 percent containment. Of course the big problem out here are those Santa Ana winds, which are blowing strong.

Now, we're just three miles from the fire line and you can see that thick smoke billowing behind me as this massive ground and air assault continues. Now, just to give you an idea of how strong the wind is out here, what the firefighters are up against on the ground, we pan over to a flagpole here at the command center. And you can see how that flag is just being whipped around.

Now, it's this wind with -- that's actually moving those walls of flames across the desert, with gusts of up to 40 miles an hour. We were talking to firefighters who say that they're looking at walls of -- a wall of fire about 150 feet tall. We're talking 1,800 firefighters on the ground who are up against these very, very dangerous conditions.

Now, you have mentioned four firefighters have died in this fire trying to protect a home. Three actually died on the screen. Two were airlifted to a nearby burn center. One died a short time later. Another right now, 23 years old, is in critical condition, with burns on up to 95 percent of his body -- Wolf

BLITZER: Our heart goes out to those families.

Thank you, Thelma, very much for that.

We'll have more on this fire as it develops and we're watching it very, very closely. Let's hope they can put it out quickly.

Meanwhile, there are new questions about the Bush administration's position on torture after a controversial comment by Vice President Dick Cheney this week, apparently about a practice which simulates drowning.

Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, that interview happened on Tuesday. The vice president giving an interview to WDAY out of Fargo, North Dakota. And it was really some tough talk from the vice president.

But there are some human rights groups that are concerned it may be much too tough.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): A firestorm has erupted over comments the vice president made over whether he would endorse an interrogation technique that some consider torture, called water boarding.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP FROM RADIO INTERVIEW, COURTESY WDAY)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you agree a dunk in water is a no- brainer if it can save lives?

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, it's a no-brainer for me. But I -- for a while there I was criticized as being the vice president for torture. We don't torture.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: It's the no-brainer that's got a lot of people thinking -- what did the vice president mean? His office in the White House insists he was not talking about a torture technique known as water boarding, in which a detainee is subjected to a simulated drowning.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He wasn't referring to water boarding. He was referring to using a program of questioning -- not talking about water boarding.

MALVEAUX: The president also weighed in.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This country doesn't torture. We're not going to torture. We will interrogate people we pick up off the battlefield to determine whether or not they've got information that will be helpful to protect the country.

MALVEAUX: Cheney has consistently advocated that the administration should have the flexibility to use the most aggressive interrogation techniques for the most dangerous prisoners. But some Republican lawmakers, led by Senator John McCain, have argued water boarding goes too far.

Last month, Congress passed legislation banning certain interrogation methods for detainees, which some lawmakers believe includes water boarding. But the law also leaves room for the president, as chief executive, to decide on a case by case basis whether some techniques are legal. The administration repeatedly refuses to identify which ones it believes are permitted under the new law.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The vice president's comment really doesn't matter here because there is now legislation that makes clear what the limits are. And those limits are quite clear in the minds of intelligence professionals.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: So, Wolf, why is this debate so hot?

Well, of course, 11 days until mid-term elections. There are some Republican strategists who believe the vice president was just giving a little -- throwing a little red meat to the base there on that radio show. But there are other human rights advocates who are fearful that this is a slippery slope to abuse -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Suzanne, for that.

And Lynne Cheney, the wife of the vice president, is fuming about the criticism over her husband's remarks about torture. The vice president's wife offered a fiery defense of the Bush administration in an exclusive interview right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Listen to this little excerpt.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LYNNE CHENEY: It's a complete distortion. He didn't say anything of the kind.

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

L. CHENEY: Well, I -- you know, I understand your -- 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 -- if you really want to talk about that, I watched the program on CNN last night, which I thought -- it's your 2006 voter program? -- which I thought was a terrible distortion of both the president and the vice president's position on many issues.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: We're going to have the full exclusive interview with Lynne Cheney. That's coming up this hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. As you'll see, she's pulling absolutely no punches. You're going to want to stick around and see this.

There are new American casualties in what's now the fourth deadliest month on record for U.S. forces in Iraq. At the same time, there's been an Iraqi government turnaround on the question of timelines for increasing security.

And joining us now from Baghdad, our correspondent, Michael Ware -- in light of this joint statement that was released just a few hours ago, Michael, by the U.S. ambassador in Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, and the prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, the question that jumps up at me is how much pressure can the U.S. exert on the Iraqi government without going too far and seeing that fragile government simply collapse?

Because I have been told by officials here in Washington that the chaos we see now in Iraq would be small potatoes compared to what happens if this government simply collapses.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, if this government collapses, then there will be a horror here of, you know, historic proportions. But the point that your sources are telling you, Wolf, is well made.

I mean this government, essentially, for what it is, is held together by some string and some sticky tape, more or less.

You know, whom are the American partners in this government?

Beyond the office of the prime minister and the national security adviser, that's close to pretty much it. Otherwise, you know, the fundamental building blocks of this government and of political power here are the various militias.

Now, America holds very little, if any, sway, with those. The same with Maliki. So any promise that you hear from the Iraqi government, one has to wonder is this coming from the heart of the government?

And that essentially is the militias. So if the U.S. puts too much pressure on what it calls the government, this apparition at the fate -- at the front of it, at the face of it, then, yes, it will fall apart.

BLITZER: And the chaos would really escalate in a major, major way.

WARE: Wolf, it would be like Dante's Inferno," obviously. It would come apart in so many different places, in so many different ways. I mean already we have a number of different wars being fought here. And people are trying to keep the lid on the pot. We have the insurgency war. We have the anti-terror war with al Qaeda. We have the sectarian war, the civil war, and we also have the on again, off again sort of conflict or rivalry between America and Iran.

So already we see, you know, where the problems lie.

Can you imagine if the only thing that's keeping the lid on it for now was removed?

It would be on a terrible scale.

BLITZER: Michael Ware in Baghdad for us.

Michael, thanks very much.

WARE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Mexico's leaders are unhappy that the United States may finally take a real step to secure its borders.

President Bush signed a bill yesterday to build a 700-mile long fence along part of our border with Mexico. The outgoing president of that country, Vicente Fox, called it an embarrassment for the United States, saying the fence would not stop millions of Mexicans from heading north to look for jobs, jobs he was unable to provide for them while he was president in their country.

And the country's president-elect, Felipe Calderon, called it deplorable. He said this: "Humanity committed a grave error by constructing the Berlin Wall and I am sure that today the United States is committing a grave error in constructing a wall along our northern border."

A note to President Calderon -- the Berlin Wall was built to keep people in. This fence is being built to keep the Mexicans out. But perhaps they don't have all that much to worry about, after all. The fence is estimated to cost $2 billion and that bill that Mr. Bush signed yesterday didn't include any money to pay for it. A typical Washington stunt -- all hat, no cattle. Here's the question -- Mexican leaders say the border fence is an embarrassment and deplorable.

How much do their opinions matter?

E-mail us at CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

Jack Cafferty in New York.

Up ahead, my exclusive interview with the wife of the vice president. Lynne Cheney joins us here in THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about the upcoming election and why she's so angry with CNN.

Also, a bitter election battle turns even uglier. We'll update you on the Virginia Senate race and new controversy over sex scenes in a novel.

Plus, South Dakota poised to vote on what would be the strictest abortion law in the land. Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is there on the front lines of the culture wars.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It includes tales of sex, controversial claims about women and accusations of character assassination. It's not a book, but shocking details in the Virginia Senate race could make for an interesting read, especially now that some racy novels are involved. Eleven days before election day, there's a new chapter in the race between the Republican incumbent George Allen and the Democratic challenger Jim Webb.

CNN's Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, joining us now with more -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Democrat Jim Webb insists sexually graphic passages that pepper several novels he wrote between 1981 and 2001 are being taken out of context from works of literature by his GOP opponent, Senator George Allen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMES WEBB (D), VIRGINIA SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm a novelist. I could make money if I wanted to by writing, you know, scandalous books or whatever. My books, you know, we -- if you pull excerpts out like that and stack them together, you're doing something that is not allowing the reader to discover the journey of a novel. And those incidents either were illuminating characters or showing the average reader environments around the world that they may never have been able to see with their own eyes.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: Now, Senator George Allen admits he stirred this pot because Allen's campaign compiled the document with 10 sexually explicit passages from five of Webb's military novels and gave it to the gossip Web site, the "Drudge Report."

Now, for example, in one passage, which is too explicit to quote from directly, Webb writes graphically about a stripper performing a sexual act with a piece of fruit.

Now, Allen had already been trying to appeal to the female voters of Virginia by campaigning against Webb as a former Navy security who had said, "Women were psychologically unfit for combat."

Now, Allen admits he didn't actually read Webb's books, but insists the writings are fair game.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: It's his writings. Yes, those are his writings and the people of Virginia can judge those writings and he can explain his writings. From those excerpts that I read, they certainly are demeaning to women.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, a top Webb campaign ad responded this afternoon with this, saying: "George Allen, you have not earned the right to question Jim Webb's recollections of war, so just shut up."

Now, Webb and Democrats also fired back by saying that GOP authors, from Lynne Cheney to Newt Gingrich, have also written some racy passages in their novels. And Democrats also point out that Webb is an acclaimed military fiction writer, and books like this one, "Lost Soldiers," have been praised by conservatives like Tom Clancy and John McCain, who have written glowing reviews -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, thank you for that.

And defending steamy scenes in his own novels, the Democratic Senate candidate, Jim Webb, as Dana just pointed out, is pointing to that book written by the wife of the vice president, Dick Cheney.

Coming up, Mrs. Cheney has a chance to respond. And, by the way, she pulls absolutely no punches.

Lynne Cheney exclusively here in THE SITUATION ROOM, maybe like you've never seen her before.

Meanwhile, things are not much prettier in a contest not far from Virginia. That would be in neighboring Maryland. A Senate campaign about Iraq, about President Bush and, in some cases, a race about race.

Our Brian Todd reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whoo!

LT. GOV. MICHAEL STEELE (R-MD), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: Here you go. Whoa!

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a died in the wool Democratic state, a charismatic Republican is making a splash.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michael!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Steele.

TODD: Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele giving Democrat Ben Cardin a surprisingly stiff run-for the open Senate seat, with an engaging but aggressive personal style that clearly rattled Cardin at a recent debate.

The issue?

A proposed new subway line extension near Washington.

STEELE: Where do we plan to take it?

REP. BEN CARDIN (D-MD), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: One -- where it's going to start?

STEELE: Where is it running from? What are the two options on the purple line right now?

CARDIN: Well, right now we're talking about taking it from Chevy Chase. I'm not going to answer your questions...

STEELE: Why not?

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: In a race where race is unavoidable, Steele could make history as only the second African-American Republican to be elected senator since the turn of the last century. But analysts say that's an uphill battle, even with his own demographic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you would need an extraordinary fleeing of the African-American Democratic base, coupled with everything else, for him to get elected.

TODD: The problem, analysts say, is not race, but party. Marylanders have a longstanding disdain for Republicans and the current president. Cardin has successfully pressed Steele on the Iraq war. And Steele, while enjoying the GOP's generous coffers, has tried to distance himself from George W. Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM MICHAEL STEELE CAMPAIGN AD)

STEELE: Now he says I'm in the president's hip pocket. Listen to me, Mr. Cardin, I think for myself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Steele barely mentions the party in the ads. Analysts say that will help him win some votes a GOP candidate might not otherwise, but in the end...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He will make a presentable showing that will help him in his future political career. But I don't think in any way -- I would be personally flabbergasted if Michael Steele beats Ben Cardin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Brian Todd's report.

That was Brian Todd's report coming in only a few moments ago on the situation in Maryland.

And as we head into the crucial mid-term elections, 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. Check it out, CNN.com/ticker.

Coming up, an abortion battle in the heartland. We'll take you to South Dakota for the latest on what would be the nation's toughest abortion law.

Plus, my exclusive interview with Lynne Cheney. I'll ask her about the controversy about her husband's remarks on torture, the mid- term election -- now only 11 days away -- and lots more.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in with Zain Verjee for a closer look at some other important stories making news -- hi, Zane.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.

Iran is apparently sending a defiant message to the U.N. Security Council. A semi-official Iranian news agency says Iran has now doubled its capacity to enrich uranium. This comes right as the Security Council members are working on a draft resolution to sanction Tehran for refusing to suspend its nuclear program.

President Bush says Iran is just isolating itself more.

A show of force by South Korea's military today amid lingering tensions over North Korea's recent nuclear weapons test. Thousands of army, navy and air force troops take part in war games on the Korean Peninsula's southeastern coast. North Korea calls the exercises provocative, but Seoul says they're simply regular training. South Korea plans to retake control of its forces from the U.S. by 2012.

A senior U.S. intelligence official tells CNN recent al Qaeda threats against oil fields in Saudi Arabia and offshore oil facilities are specific and credible. The U.S. and British Navies are warning commercial vessels in the Persian Gulf about the threat. Sources say warships are patrolling the Persian Gulf as a precaution. Security has also been stepped up at oil terminals and refineries.

And a disturbing report about security at a major U.S. airport. Today's "Newark Star-Ledger" newspaper says screeners at New Jersey's Newark Airport failed 20 of 22 tests by undercover agents last week. The agents reportedly smuggled fake bombs and guns through the checkpoints and screens reportedly also failed to follow standard procedures in checking passengers, as well as their baggage.

The airport's federal security director says it can do better -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I think that's an understatement.

VERJEE: To say the least.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Zane, for that.

Coming up, the vice president's wife pulls no punches. On the issue of torture, Lynne Cheney is blasting her husband's critics, who suggest the vice president condones it. Mrs. Cheney is also expressing outrage that her name is being mentioned in that nasty Senate race in Virginia between Republican George Allen and Democrat Jim Webb.

My exclusive interview with Mrs. Cheney, the full interview, unedited. That's coming up next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.

Happening now, Lynne Cheney angry at CNN, accusing Democrats of lying and now caught up in one of the most bitter election battles of the year, the Virginia Senate race. My exclusive interview with the wife of the vice president only a minute or so away.

Also, critics raising new questions about the Bush administration's stance on torture after some controversial remarks by the vice president. In a radio interview this week, he appeared to condone a controversial interrogation technique that simulates drowning.

The White House says he did not and President Bush says flat out, the United States does not torture.

And that deadly Southern California wildfire burning out of control right now. It's already left four firefighters dead, a fifth in critical condition. And the reward in the search for the arsonist or arsonists now up to $300,000.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. More now on the recent controversial comments from Vice President Dick Cheney. It concerns the issue of torture. Lynne Cheney is defending her husband's recent comments, but she's also outraged over her own name being mentioned in a very nasty Senate race in Virginia.

And joining us now, the wife of the vice president of the United States, Lynne Cheney. No stranger to CNN.

Thanks very much for coming in.

L. CHENEY: Thank you, Wolf, for having me.

BLITZER: We're going to talk about this excellent new book, "Fifty States: A Family Adventure Across America." This is a book that I recommend for all ages, and I see it's already a best-seller.

L. CHENEY: I'm very proud of this book. It was an effort of two years for Robin Glasser and me and it was inspiring the whole time. It's a story of the whole country told by a family going on a road trip, and my grandchildren love it.

BLITZER: I want to get to that, all that.

But I want to pick your brain a little bit on news that's happening right now, including your husband, the vice president.

He was interviewed earlier this week out in North Dakota and he had this exchange with a radio talk show host.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP FROM RADIO PROGRAM, COURTESY WDAY)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you agree a dunk in water is a no- brainer if we can save lives?

D. CHENEY: Well, it's a no-brainer for me, but I -- for a while there I was criticized as being the vice president for torture. We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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 a prisoner being drowned, if you will; that he was, in effect, supposedly confirming that the U.S. has been using it.

L. CHENEY: Wolf, that is a mighty house you're building on top of that mole hill there, or a mighty mountain. This is a complete distortion. He didn't say anything of the kind.

BLITZER: Because of the dunking, using the water and the dunking? L. 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, is 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 Democratic talking points, using phrases like domestic surveillance. When it is not domestic surveillance that anyone 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 a 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 are walking around free right now and nobody's arrested them.

L. CHENEY: You made a point last night of a man who had a bookstore in London where radical Islamists 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. This was the one that John King reported on last night.

L. CHENEY: Right there, Wolf, "Broken Government." Now what kind of stance is that? Here we are. We are a country where we have been mightily challenged over the past six years. We've been through 9/11, we've been through Katrina. The president and the vice president inherited the recession. We're in a country where the economy's healthy, that's not broken.

This government has acted very well. We have tax cuts that are responsible for our healthy economy. We're a country that was attacked five years ago. We haven't been attacked since. What this government has done is effective, that's not broken government. So, you know, I shouldn't let media bias surprise me, but I worked at CNN once. I watched your program last night ...

BLITZER: You worked as co-host of "Crossfire."

L. CHENEY: And I was troubled.

BLITZER: All right. Well that was probably the purpose, to get people to think. To get people to discuss these issues. Because ...

L. CHENEY: Well, all right. Wolf, I'm here to talk about my book. But if you want to talk about distortion ...

BLITZER: We'll talk about your book.

L. CHENEY: Right, but what is CNN doing? Running terrorist tape of terrorists shooting Americans. I mean, I thought Duncan Hunter asked you a very good question and you didn't answer it. Do you want us to win?

BLITZER: The answer of course is we want the United States to win. We are Americans. There's no doubt about that. Do you think we want terrorists to win.

L. CHENEY: Then why are you running terrorist propaganda?

BLITZER: With all due respect, this is not terrorist propaganda.

L. CHENEY: Oh, Wolf.

BLITZER: This is reporting the news. Which is what we do, we're not partisan.

L. CHENEY: Where did you get the film?

BLITZER: We got the film, look, this is an issue that has been widely discussed. This is an issue that we reported on extensively. We make no apologies for showing that. That was a very carefully considered decision why we did that. And I think, I think that if you're ...

L. CHENEY: Well I think it's shocking.

BLITZER: If you are a serious journalist, you want to report the news. Sometimes the news is good, sometimes the news isn't so good.

L. CHENEY: But Wolf, there's a difference between news and terrorist propaganda. Why do you give the terrorists a forum?

BLITZER: And if you put it in context, if you put it in context, that's what news is. We said it was propaganda. We didn't distort where we got it. We didn't distort anything about it. We gave it the context. Let's talk about another issue in the news and then we'll get to the book.

The Democrats are now complaining bitterly in this Virginia race, George Allen using novels that Jim Webb, his Democratic challenger has written in which there are sexual references. And they are 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.

L. CHENEY: Now, do you promise, Wolf, that we are going to talk about my book?

BLITZER: I do promise.

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

BLITZER: This is in the news today and your name has come up. So that's why we are talking about it. But listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES WEBB (D), VIRGINIA SENATE CANDIDATE: There's nothing that's 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 get graphic on stuff.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

L. CHENEY: You know Jim Webb is full of baloney. I have never written anything sexually explicit. His novels are full of, um, sexual explicit reference 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's triple X-rated.

BLITZER: Here's what the Democratic Party put out today, the Democratic Congressional Senatorial Campaign Committee. "Lynne 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. In 1988 Lynne Cheney wrote about a Republican vice president who dies of a heart attack while having sex with his mistress." Is that true?

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

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

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

BLITZER: But it did have lesbian characters.

L. CHENEY: No, not necessarily. This description is a lie. I'll stand on that.

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

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

BLITZER: We can talk about the children's book, but I just want to ...

L. CHENEY: I think our segment is like 15 minutes long and we've now done 10 minutes of ...

BLITZER: I just wanted to clarify what's in the news today, give you a ...

L. CHENEY: Sex, lies and distortion. That's what it is.

BLITZER: This is an opportunity for you to explain on these sensitive issues. L. CHENEY: Wolf, I have nothing to explain. Jim Webb has a lot to explain.

BLITZER: Well he says he's only -- as a serious writer and novelist, a fiction writer he was doing basically what you were doing.

L. CHENEY: Jim Webb is full of baloney.

BLITZER: We'll leave it at that. Let's talk a little bit about your book, "Our 50 States." A family adventure across America.

L. CHENEY: You know, one of the reasons I wrote this book is because we spend so much time, nowadays, talking about things that are negative. And it's not the fault of any particular segment of the society, but we have come to define news as bad news. And so our kids get a steady diet of this is wrong, the government is broken, the war isn't working, the economy's terrible. Even when those things aren't true, our kids are getting a steady dose of negativity.

What Robin and I wanted so much to do is to talk about what a wonderful country it is. We wanted to give our kids something positive, and I hope that's what we've done in this book. It's very, very pro-American. This is a book that's very patriotic. There is no question about our view that this is the greatest country in the face of the earth. And that is what we want kids to take away from it.

BLITZER: Indeed, the kids who read this book will learn a lot about the 50 states. That's what it's called. But a lot of the landmarks in those 50 states.

L. CHENEY: Well not just landmarks, but the vast variety and diversity of our culture. You know we have everything from the preservation hall banned in New Orleans to Mariachi music in Texas to the Philharmonic in Boston. We've got all kinds of food.

There is a lovely little girl in this book her name is Annie and she writes back to her grandma again and again about the different foods she is enjoying or not. In Boston she says the beans are great but she's a little doubtful about the cod. So, it's not just about landmarks, it's also about the kind of history and culture that I think kids will enjoy very much.

BLITZER: And it is beautifully illustrated.

L. CHENEY: Robin Glasser is a dear person and a very talented individual and I'm very happy to work with her.

BLITZER: We can certainly disagree on what is news, what is serious news. But we can agree that this is a beautifully-done book.

L. CHENEY: Well I appreciate that, thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: How is your husband doing? Because there is always concern about his health.

L. CHENEY: Well I'm not sure why there's always concern about his health. He's been out on 140 campaigns. He's raised $40 something million dollars for Republican candidates around the country. He's been very busy. He has been serving the nation very well as I think George Bush has been a really great leader for us during this time of some trials.

BLITZER: We are going to leave it right there. It was kind of you to come in.

L. CHENEY: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: You came armed. I guess you knew what you wanted to do.

L. CHENEY: Wolf, I am always prepared for you to ask questions that maybe aren't quite fair, but they are pretty tough.

BLITZER: You did a good job.

L. CHENEY: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you. And for more on Mrs. Cheney's book "Sisters" and her current best seller "50 States" let's bring in our internet reporter Jacki Schechner. Jacki?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, both books are available online at the book seller amazon.com. And now "Sisters" was published in November of 1981 and there are only nine copies of it left available according to Amazon.

And they range in price from $280 or so to about $1,000. The book describes itself as a book about a woman empowered in the 19th century. There's not a lot more detail online other than the front cover and the back cover at least on amazon.com. Now of course her current book is also available online, "Our 50 States" listed on the best seller list right now. It is listed at number eight, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Jacki. We'll get back to you.

Still to come, might South Dakota be on its way to passing the most restrictive abortion law in the United States? Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley has a report.

And the latest on the California wildfire that scorched 24,000 acres and is still raging. Our internet team will have some unique images of the fire. All that coming up. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: On Election Day, voters in South Dakota will take a stand in the culture wars. On the ballot, a measure to ban most abortions in that state. If approved, it would be the most restrictive law in the nation. Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley reports from South Dakota on the state of the abortion debate. Candy? CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this may be the vote heard around the country as South Dakota pushes the edges of abortion law.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): If lawn signs were votes ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or you can visit us at voteyesforlife.com.

CROWLEY: If the size of the war room were a measure, if a full- on blitz said something about turn-out.

LESLIE UNRUH, VOTE YES FOR LIFE: We're doing door to door. We are, we've got radio ads, TV ads, we have postcard parties. We have home parties where there's a DVD.

CROWLEY: If all that counted, then South Dakota might be on its way to banning abortion except when the mother's life is threatened. The most restrictive abortion law in the nation. But lawn signs, war rooms and ads aren't votes. What you hear might not be what you get.

ELAINE ROBERTS, SOUTH DAKOTA HOUSE: I believe that our folks are working very hard. They are just not as noisy as the other side.

CROWLEY: Opponents of the abortion ban count on the unspoken.

CLARENCE KOOISTRA, FORMER SOUTH DAKOTA STATE SEN.: The silent majority. And I do feel that throughout the state of South Dakota there are many people like that. And I do think they are going to come to the polls in the general election.

CROWLEY: Clarence Kooistra is against abortion, but thinks the ban is unconstitutional. He voted against it when it came up in the state legislature which is why he's now an ex-state senator and an ex- republican. But this debate does not fit the usual template. South Dakota is a conservative anti-abortion state. No doctor here will perform an abortion. Though the one featured in this ad used to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think this is the time to ban abortion on demand in our state. I don't think it's necessary.

CROWLEY: There is one clinic in Sioux Falls. It is manned by out-of-state doctors who drive or fly in to perform abortions. Casey Murshel heads a group fighting the abortion ban. She is pro abortion rights and a Republican. But she says the state is less Republican or Democrat than it is libertarian.

CASEY MURSHEL, NARAL-PRO-CHOICE SOUTH DAKOTA: There really is a resistance to too much government. A real respect for people making their own decisions and for self-determination.

CROWLEY: She believes that silent majority.

MURSHEL: It's my hope that they will quietly go to the polls and vote no. CROWLEY: South Dakota seems an unlikely place to have a rumble, but it's got one. And it could start one.

ROGER HUNT, SOUTH DAKOTA HOUSE: If this bill wins in this state, I think the same thing. There's going to be a very positive reaction across all of the other 49 states.

CROWLEY: Or it could fail. It's hard to figure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Such as the tension over this issue here in South Dakota that neither side will say how much money or how many volunteers have come into the state from national organizations. But rest assured, they are involved -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy Crowley reporting for us. Thank you, and as we head into the crucial midterm elections, 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. You could check it out, CNN.com/ticker. Up ahead, new images of that deadly California wildfire. From you, our viewers, our internet reporter standing by. They'll show us the situation online.

Plus, Mexican leaders say the border fence is an embarrassment and deplorable. Jack Cafferty wants to know how much do their opinions matter. Jack's standing by with THE CAFFERTY FILE, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lou Dobbs getting ready for his program that begins right at the top of the hour. He is here in THE SITUATION ROOM to tell us what he's working on. Lou?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Great to be with you Wolf. We are working tonight on trying to figure out what the government of Mexico is doing. The president of Mexico, the president elect of Mexico has decided that it's really unreasonable for the United States government to actually secure its border, despite the fact that most of the drug traffic in this country originates in Mexico. Despite the fact that that country has sent as many as 20 million illegal aliens into this country.

And we are going to take on the government of Mexico tonight. Something that the U.S. government declined to do today. So that should be interesting. We are going to continue our series on democracy at risk. The issues that are facing this country as we move toward this very important midterm election. Can we rely on e-voting machines? And the answer seems to be overwhelmingly no.

BLITZER: I don't know if you saw the interview we did with Lynne Cheney.

DOBBS: I sure did. BLITZER: She's very upset that we're calling this series "Broken Government" because she insists the government is not broken. The economy is doing great. And that for us to be calling this a broken government is distorting the actual situation.

DOBBS: Well, with all due respect, I don't believe Lynne Cheney could be more wrong. Both in tone and in fact. The truth is that this government is not functioning. It is dysfunctional in point of fact. It's failing to secure our borders. It's failing to inspect cargo five years after a terrorist attack on this country. It's inexcusable. Homeland Security is nothing more than a sham being perpetrated right now. And sometimes, aided and abetted by the national media, Wolf, as you well know.

We have a middle class. Half the people in this country are making less than $30,000 a year. There's no question. Some Americans are doing well but our middle class is being hammered, by run away health care costs, by competition. Corporate America and this government have put our middle class in direct competition with the cheapest labor in the world. It is extraordinary.

BLITZER: I think her other point is that by calling it "Broken Government," her words, these are Democratic talking points. And that we're playing into this partisan battle right now.

DOBBS: Well, again with all due respect to Lynne Cheney, to anyone else who wants to argue about the issue of "Broken Government." This is a broken government that's been created by both Democratic and Republican congresses and presidents.

The fact is, both parties are not working in the interest of the middle class. If she thinks this is a partisan issue, I would urge her to focus on our reporting. Pointing out -- point of fact that neither party is serving the interests of the American people right now. And our working people, most importantly, our working people, our middle class, are working men and women and their families. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

BLITZER: One thing about Lou Dobbs, he's an equal opportunity critic against the Democrats and the Republicans.

DOBBS: Well, I'm probably a little heavier critic right now since the Republicans are in charge. If we see that change, you can bet one thing as you know, Wolf, probably be a little more heavily critical of what the Democrats are doing.

BLITZER: Lou's book, and it's a best seller right now, "War on the Middle Class," here it is right here. How the government, big business and special interest groups are waging war on the American dream and how to fight back. It's doing very well as it should do.

DOBBS: Terrific interview with Lynne Cheney. And it really, it was very revealing. In terms of the tone and the tact that's being taken. Now we are watching power bridling and truth being spoken to power. Kudos to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Lou, thanks very much.

DOBBS: Thank you.

BLITZER: Let's turn now to that deadly southern California wild fire that has already killed four firefighters and left another firefighter critically burned. The arson fire is only five percent contained right now and has destroyed already more than 24,000 acres. Our internet reporter Jacki Schechner standing by with some images sent to us here at CNN. Jacki?

SCHECHNER: Wolf, we've got an iReporter named Karen in Banning, California and she's been tracking this fire and sending her photos into CNN via iReport. These were taken about 5:00 yesterday California time when you can see the fire was raging out of control, the smoke billowing. And you can see the aircraft up there in the distance. Now she took these photographs earlier today and sent them to us. She said the fire looked to be out this morning and then flared up once again. She explains to us that the conditions there are extremely windy.

There's also photographs being posted online that's at flickr.com the group photo blog. His father Kevin Galloway tells me his son Kyle Galloway is 11 years old and took this photograph. That Kyle's been out of school due to the smoke so they traveled 45 miles to Banning, California to document the fire. As for resources for you online, the California Department of Forestry is updating its Web site with pertinent information including notices that 300 to 400 homes are under mandatory evacuation right now and they are also mapping resources for you online as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that Jacki. Up next, Jack Cafferty wants to know how much do the opinions of Mexican leaders really matter when they say the border fence is an embarrassment and deplorable? Jack standing by with THE CAFFERTY FILE when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Check back with Jack Cafferty for The Cafferty File. Jack?

CAFFERTY: Mexican leaders say the border fence is an embarrassment and deplorable. Our question is how much do their opinions matter to you?

Suzanne writes, "The wall to keep Mexicans out is in no way like the Berlin Wall. The Mexican government needs to get a grip on itself and get over the fact that frankly we don't want them here. Why do we even care what they say?"

Janelle in Roeland Park, Kansas, "I also think the fence is deplorable but I probably have more right to say that than any Mexican leader. After all, if they had developed their economy so people could make a living in Mexico, I believe most Mexicans would stay in their own country rather than come to ours."

Brian, Coleman, Michigan, "It should have been built already and 2,200 miles long with troops guarding it to keep out OTMs, other than Mexicans, and drugs that are pouring over our border. But the Mexicans shouldn't be worried, just because the president signed a bill to build the fence, it won't get funded or built just like we don't enforce the current immigration laws that would solve the problem as well."

Ed in Anaheim, California, "If we really want to know what Mexico thinks regarding border fences, just look at their border that they share with Guatemala. It is rigidly guarded and enforced. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. We're a sovereign nation and what Mexico thinks doesn't matter."

And finally, Bill in Streamwood, Illinois, "Opinions of Mexican leaders do not matter to me, even when they are true. The border fence, if it ever does get built, is an embarrassment, to the leaders of Mexico. Every individual who leaves Mexico for a job in the United States is essentially a slap in the face to Mexico's government."

If you didn't see your e-mail here you can go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile and read some more of these online -- Wolf.

BLITZER: They authorize the construction of this fence. But as you well know, they didn't have any money. There's no appropriation, no money specifically for such a fence.

CAFFERTY: This is just more a pre-election political nonsense. We have laws against illegal immigration. We choose not to enforce them. Why should anybody think we'd be serious about building a damn fence?

BLITZER: See you back here in an hour. Thanks very much Jack for that. And beginning Monday, this important note, we'll be in New York for all of our special election coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll be on the air from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. eastern, then at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Paula Zahn will join me, two hours from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Let's go to Lou, he's here in Washington.

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