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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Lynne Cheney; New al Qaeda Threats
Aired October 27, 2006 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou. 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 tonight's top stories.
Happening now, Lynne Cheney pulling no punches at all, the vice president's wife dives into a no-holes barred defense of her husband and the Bush administration. It's 7:00 p.m. here in Washington where Dick Cheney's latest remarks about torture are causing somewhat of an uproar. You won't want to miss my exclusive interview with the second lady.
Also, Mrs. Cheney is fuming about being dragged in to the Virginia Senate smack down. At issue tonight, sexually explicit scenes and novels written by Democrat Jim Webb. Is this powerful ammunition for the incumbent George Allen in one of the closest races in the nation?
And target -- Saudi oil, new word tonight on al Qaeda threats that a senior official calls specific and credible. What's the White House doing about it?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We'll get to that exclusive interview with Lynne Cheney in just a few moments. First, though 11 days before America votes, the gloves clearly are off in a knock-down drag-out political fight. That would be in the Virginia Senate race specifically.
Republicans right now, highlighting sexually explicit passages in novels written many years ago by the Democratic challenger Jim Webb. Incumbent George Allen's campaign charges Webb's novels are demeaning and dehumanizing. Tonight Webb says he's the victim of smear tactics.
Let's begin our coverage with our congressional correspondent Dana Bash -- Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's no surprise that once you get closer to the election, the tighter the race, the uglier the campaign gets, and the Virginia Senate race is, as you just talked about, downright nasty. George Allen and republicans had already been trying to appeal to the all-important female vote in Virginia by pointing out on TV and elsewhere that Democrat Jim Webb, a former Navy secretary declared the Naval Academy a quote, "horny woman's dream and women psychologically unfit for combat."
Those are quotes. Now the Allen campaign has mined Webb's novels in attempt to send more signals to women and conservatives Webb should not be Virginia's pick for the U.S. Senate.
BASH (voice-over): Democrat James Webb insists sexually graphic passages that pepper 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 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.
BASH: Webb's Republican opponent, Senator George Allen, admits he stirred this pot.
SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: My opponent says he's a writer. He talks about that, and he's running it in his ads and 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.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From those excerpts I read they certainly are demeaning to women.
BASH (on camera): Your critics and Senator Allen's campaign said that what you chose 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 suspicion 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.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is a sort of thing that happened. That's from Olongapo (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 described what appears to be a man performing a sexual act on his son. Again, Webb called it something he witnessed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When an individual picks up his son and does that in front of 100 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.
BASH: And Webb also reminded reporters over and over that he is an acclaimed novelist. In fact, the Democratic Senatorial Committee released a document listing GOP authors from Newt Gingrich to "Scooter" Libby, who put some racy passages in their novels as well and his top campaign official issued this statement earlier today, Wolf, saying, George Allen you have not earned the right to question Jim Webb's recollections of the war, so just shut up -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Getting very bitter down there in Virginia. Thanks very much, Dana, for that.
Lynne Cheney is firing right back at Jim Webb and Democrats who say she's written some racy books of her own. In an exclusive interview here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the vice president's wife pulled no punches. Listen to this little excerpt.
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 DICK CHENEY: Now do you promise, Wolf, that we're going to talk about my book.
BLITZER: I do promise.
L. CHENEY: Because this seems to me a mighty...
... a 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're talking about it, but listen to this.
WEBB: There's nothing that's been in any of my novels in my view hasn't been either illuminating surroundings or defining a character or moving a plot. I'm a serious writer. We can go and read Lynne Cheney's lesbian love scenes if want to you know get graphic on stuff.
L. CHENEY: You know Jim Webb is full of baloney. I have never written anything sexually explicit. His novels are full of sexual explicit references to incest, sexually explicit references -- well, you know I (INAUDIBLE) just want my grandchildren to turn on the television set this morning, Imus was reading from the novels and it -- it's triple x-rated.
BLITZER: Here's what the Democratic Party put out today, the Democratic 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...
BLITZER: ... 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 full of lies. It's not -- it's just -- it's absolutely not...
BLITZER: Did you write a book entitled "Sisters"?
L. CHENEY: I did write a book entitled "Sisters"...
BLITZER: It did have lesbian...
L. CHENEY: This -- 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, Wolf, Wolf, could we talk about a children's book for a minute?
BLITZER: We can talk about the children's book...
L. CHENEY: I think our segment is like 15 minutes long...
L. CHENEY: ... and...
BLITZER: I just...
L. CHENEY: ... 10 minutes...
BLITZER: I just wanted to clarify what's in the news today...
L. CHENEY: Sex, lies and distortion, that's what it is.
BLITZER: This is an opportunity for to you explain on these sensitive issues.
L. CHENEY: Wolf, I have nothing to explain. Jim Webb has a lot to explain.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: The full interview with Lynne Cheney is coming up this hour. We're going to play the whole thing unedited for you. Here's something else you'll hear Lynne Cheney get fired up about in our interview. Criticism of her husband's latest comments on torture and an interrogation tactic he calls a no-brainer.
Let's go to our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, really quite a firestorm over Vice President Cheney's comments. It was an interview that he did actually on Tuesday for WDAY out of Fargo, North Dakota. A lot of people saying this is some tough talk, tough words from the vice president and human rights groups are saying it may be too tough.
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. Call it water-boarding.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you agree dunking water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?
RICHARD B. 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.
MALVEAUX: It's the no-brainer that's got a lot of people thinking. What did the vice president mean? His office and the White House insists he was not talking about a torture technique known at 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 would 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.
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I can understand how loose talk about dunking people in water can make listeners uncomfortable, but as I listen to congressmen and senators, they clearly are saying that that is not permissible.
MALVEAUX: 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.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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.
MALVEAUX: And Wolf, there are some Republicans strategists who believe Cheney's tough talk was really just essentially throwing red meat to Republican supporters to the base on that radio show, but there are also human rights advocates who are quite concerned that this might be a sign of a slippery slope in condoning abuse -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Suzanne, thanks very much -- Suzanne Malveaux at the White House. Let's go up to New York. Jack Cafferty is standing by with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: How are you doing, Wolf? Before I get to the question, we're a week and a half away from the most important midterm election in a long time. We've got 3,000-plus people dead in the war in Iraq, $500 billion of our money gone over there, 47 million people in this country with no medical insurance, open borders, open ports, debts totaling more than $9 trillion. Trade deficits with China and places like that. Choke a horse.
The middle class being squeezed out of existence, Medicare and Social Security headed for bankruptcy. And we're having discussions about who writes sexually explicit paragraphs in novels? It's no wonder this country's in the shape it's in. That's an absolute disgrace. Now on to the question of the evening -- a British bookmaker says the odds favor Republicans retaining control of at least one House of Congress in the upcoming midterm elections.
Ladbrokes quotes odds of 1-3 for the GOP to remain the majority party in the Senate. That means the better has to put down three pounds in order to make a profit of one pound. But they're heavily favored to lose the House. There the Democrats are favored at odds of 4-11. And there might be something to this gambling.
The CEO of a gambling Web site based in Ireland says the gamblers beat the polltakers 80 percent of the time. Right before the 2004 elections, Tradesports.com accurately picked the winners in 33 of 34 Senate races and apparently it's because election markets happen in real-time. So the odds change moment to moment, often including new information as opposed to polls which are more of a snapshot in time, a still photo, if you will.
So here's the question. When it comes to the upcoming midterm elections where would you put your money? E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile.
BLITZER: Good question, Lou. Thanks very much. Lou, I keep calling you Lou. I keep -- excuse me. It's Jack. I apologize.
BLITZER: You accept?
CAFFERTY: How long have we been working together?
BLITZER: A long time.
BLITZER: And hopefully for a long time to come.
BLITZER: Sorry about that. He's a good man -- Jack Cafferty.
Coming up, a very provocative interview with Lynne Cheney here in THE SITUATION ROOM. She's fired up about the term "broken government", a racy race, discussion of her own novel, and her husband's controversial comments. Some exclusive you won't want to miss.
Plus, an al Qaeda threat to Saudi oil sites. Find out why it's being taken very seriously by the U.S. and British military.
And deadly arson fire out of control in southern California. Four firefighters are dead and the battle rages on.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: There are new American casualties in what's now the fourth deadliest month on record for U.S. forces in Iraq since the war began three and a half years ago. At the same time, there's been an Iraqi government turnaround on the question of timelines for increasing security. In a statement issued with the U.S. ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki now agrees some changes must take place in Iraq with timelines, timelines in place, an idea he rejected only two days ago.
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, Nouri 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've 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: Well if this government collapse 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, who 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, swagger with those, same with Maliki.
So any promise that you hear from the Iraqi government, one has to ask, is this coming from the heart of the government? And that essentially is the militia. So if the U.S. puts too much pressure on what it calls the government, this apparition 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 you know Inferno. Honestly. 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 a lid on it for now was removed? It would be a terrible scale.
BLITZER: Michael Ware in Baghdad for us. Michael thanks very much.
WARE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And still to come tonight right here in THE SITUATION ROOM a racy race and a husband's controversial comments on torture. My exclusive interview with Lynne Cheney -- it's the complete unedited version. You're going to want to see this.
And the U.S. Navy on patrol in the Persian Gulf, al Qaeda threats to Saudi oil sites.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. and British navies are warning commercial vessels in the Persian Gulf about the threat. In a statement, a U.S. Navy commander says coalition forces are taking prudent precautionary measures and focusing maritime security operations in the gulf on these possible threats. There was, Wolf, as you will remember, an attempted attack at the Saudi oil facility at Abikok (ph) earlier this year. Security has also been stepped up at oil terminals and refineries -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Zain, we'll watch this story together with you. Thank you very much.
And just ahead, my exclusive interview with Lynne Cheney. A provocative and heated discussion about her husband, broken government, passages from her own novel and her new children's book. She's pulling absolutely no punches. This is an interview you'll want to see.
Plus, firefighters are trying to bring that raging wildfire in southern California under control, as they grieve the deaths of four of their own, the latest on their efforts to stop the flames.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Happening now, in New York City teams are investigating a suspicious white powder found at former President Bill Clinton's Manhattan office. Officials say they are awaiting tests results on the substance. Neither the former president nor his wife, Senator Hillary Clinton, were at the office when the substance was found.
Iranian media say Iran is again enriching uranium. Iran's Student News Agency says the country's enrichment program involves a second experimental network of centrifuges. And today a judge ordered the arrest of former Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet. The 90-year- old is accused of torture, murder and kidnapping in the early part of his reign, which began in 1973 and ended in 1990.
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 strongly 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: And we're going to talk about this excellent new book, "Our 50 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 VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you agree a dunk in water is a no- brainer if it can save lives?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, it's a no-brainer to 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 waterboarding, this technique that has been rejected by the international community that simulates a prisoner being drowned, if you will, and he was, in effect, supposedly, confirming that the United States has been using that.
L. CHENEY: No, Wolf -- that is a mighty house you're building on top of that mole hill there, a mighty mountain. This is complete distortion; he didn't say anything of the kind.
BLITZER: Because of the dunking of -- you know, using the water and the dunking.
L. CHENEY: Well, you know, 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 -- 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.
It seemed almost straight out of Democratic talking points using phrasing like "domestic surveillance" when it's 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 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, let go -- 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 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.
L. CHENEY: I certainly am.
BLITZER: This was the one that John King reported on last night.
L. CHENEY: Well, you know, right there, Wolf, "BROKEN GOVERNMENT." Now, what kind of stance is that? Here we are. We're 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 a recession. We're a country where the economy is healthy. That's not broken. This government has acted very well. We've had 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.
BLITZER: You worked ...
L. CHENEY: I watched your program last night 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 a lot of conservatives and ...
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: Well, right, but what is CNN doing running terrorist tape of terrorists shooting Americans? I mean, I thought Duncan Hunter ask 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 -- 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 have reported on extensively. We make no apologies for showing that. That was a very carefully considered decision, why we did that, and I think -- and I think -- that if you're ...
L. CHENEY: Well, I think it's shocking.
BLITZER: ...a serious journalist, you want to report the news. Sometimes the news is good, sometimes the news isn't so good but ...
L. CHENEY: But, Wolf, there's a difference between the news and terrorist propaganda. Why do you give the terrorists the floor?
BLITZER: And 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, then we'll get to the book. This -- 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.
L. CHENEY: Now, do you promise, Wolf, that we're 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: I want you to -- this was 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)
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 illuminated the 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, you know, if you want to get graphic on stuff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
L. CHENEY: Jim Webb is full of baloney. I have never written anything sexually explicit. His novels are full of sexual, 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'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."
L. CHENEY: No.
BLITZER: "In 1988, Lynn 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 was full of lies. It's not -- it's just -- it's absolutely not a...
BLITZER: But you did write a book entitled "Sisters"?
L. CHENEY: I did write a book entitled "Sisters."
BLITZER: And it did have lesbian characters.
L. CHENEY: This description -- no, not necessarily. This description is a lie. I'll stand on that.
BLITZER: There's nothing in there about rapes and brothels?
L. CHENEY: Well, Wolf, could we talk about a children's book for a minute?
BLITZER: We can talk about the children's book. I just wanted to...
L. CHENEY: I think my segment is, like, 15 minutes long and we've had about 10 minutes of...
BLITZER: I just wanted to -- I just wanted to clarify what's in the news today, given -- this is...
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, 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: And, 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 is 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 -- it's very patriotic. There is no question about our view that this is the greatest country on the face of the earth. And that is what we want kids to take away from it.
BLITZER: The kids who read this book will learn a lot about the 50 states. That's what it's called.
L. CHENEY: Yes.
BLITZER: 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 Band in New Orleans to mariachi music in Texas to the Philharmonic in Boston.
We've got all kinds of food. There's a lovely little girl in this book. Her name is Annie, and she writes back to her grandma again and again about different foods she's 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's 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 -- I don't -- $40-some million 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're 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're pretty tough.
BLITZER: You did a good job.
L. CHENEY: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.
BLITZER: Now, we'd like to address a comment that Lynne Cheney made in our exclusive interview. You heard her harshly criticize CNN's "BROKEN GOVERNMENT" series, specifically the special that aired last night. She charged that the report declared a terror suspect named Moazzam Begg was -- and I'm quoting Mrs. Cheney now -- "a person with clean hands."
John King's report actually noted that the U.S. government considers Begg a threat and a terrorist but President Bush had him released anyway. Listen to this excerpt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president released Begg over the objections of his national security team. U.S. intelligence officials insists Begg exaggerates the harshness of his treatment, and to this day, these intelligence officials stand by the accuracy of the statement Begg signed while in U.S. custody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: John King's report goes on to note that Begg's statement said he trained at three al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, knew at least a half a dozen al Qaeda operatives, and that he planned to take up arms against the United States before fleeing through Tora Bora to Afghanistan.
Another point of contention in my interview with Mrs. Cheney, the title of CNN prime-time documentary series, "Broken Government." I asked CNN's Lou Dobbs to weigh in on that.
BLITZER: I don't know if you saw the interview we did with Lynne Cheney.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: I sure did. 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, I, 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 runaway 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 interests of the middle class. If she thinks this is a partisan issue, I would urge her to focus on our reporting, pointing out, in 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, our 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, probably a little heavier critic right now, since Republicans are in charge. If we see that change, you can bet -- one thing is, as you know, Wolf, I'm probably going to 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 Interests Groups are Waging War on the American Dream and How to Fight Back." It's doing very well, as it should be.
DOBBS: Terrific interview with Lynne Cheney. It really -- it was very revealing, in terms of the tone and the tact that's being taken. You know, now we are watching power bridling at truth being spoken to power. Kudos to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
DOBBS: Thank you.
BLITZER: CNN's special series, "Broken Government," continues tonight with "Where the Right Went Wrong." It will be reported by our own senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield. That airs tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 5:00 Pacific, right after "THE SITUATION ROOM." That's coming up shortly.
For more on Mrs. Cheney's earlier novel "Sisters" and her comment about Jim Webb in my interview, let's bring in our Internet report Abbi Tatton -- Abbi.
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, Lynne Cheney's 1981 novel "Sisters" is out of print, but there are images and excerpts available online on Amazon.
An image of the front cover, describing it as a novel of a strong and beautiful woman who broke all the rules of the American frontier. More on the back, saying, "it's a novel that breaks bold, new ground."
It is out of print, as I said, but you are able to get some copies online on Amazon Nine sellers (ph), selling used copies. They don't run cheap. $282 right up to $999 for a first edition.
Now, we found online passages that refer to items that Mr. Webb mentioned. We plan on calling Mrs. Cheney back and asking her what she meant in her interview when she denied Mr. Webb's comments about her book. We'll bring you that on Monday.
We should also mention that online also is Lynne Cheney's new book, her children's book, "Our 50 States." That's ranked number eight currently on Amazon -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Abbi.
Still ahead tonight, some may have thought the outcome would be a sure thing in the Maryland Senate race. We're going to tell you why a charismatic GOP candidate, though, could change that. We're watching what is now a very, very close race in Maryland. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: With 11 days until election day, Republicans and Democrats are nervously watching the U.S. Senate race in Maryland, especially now that a prominent non-partisan watcher of congressional races, the Cook Report, says Maryland, Maryland could be a toss-up. Our Brian Todd is reporting from Annapolis, Maryland -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wolf, this race was always supposed to be a blowout for the Democrats, but there are hints in recent polls that it may be tightening, and many believe that's due to the personal charm of the underdog. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
TODD (voice-over): In the died-in-the-wool Democratic state, a charismatic Republican is making a splash. 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.
LT. GOV. MICHAEL STEELE (R), MARYLAND: Where do we plan to take it? What are the two options on the purple line right now?
REP. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: Well, right now, we're talking about taking it from Chevy Chase -- I'm not going to answer your questions...
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.
MARK PLOTKIN, WTOP POLITICAL ANALYST: 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 long-standing 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.
STEELE: Now he says I'm in the president's hip pocket. Listen to me, Mr. Cardin, I think for myself.
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...
PLOTKIN: 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 Steel beats Ben Cardin.
TODD: Still, this race has put Michael Steele on a political map, and possibly paved the way for a future run for statewide office -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting. Thank you, Brian, for that.
And still ahead tonight, a killer California wildfire burning out of control tonight. We'll have the latest on one firefighter who's now fighting for his life. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: New developments tonight in that killer Southern California wildfire. Rewards now totals $300,000 in the search for the person or person who deliberately started this blaze. CNN's Thelma Gutierrez is joining us now live from Beaumont, California, very close to the fire lines.
How bad is it right now, Thelma?
THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I can tell you, in the last half hour that we've been out here, the winds have picked up considerably, and that is very, very bad news for the 1,800 or so firefighters who are trying to get the upper hand on this blaze.
In fact, one of the firefighters was saying that he carries around a little hand-held apparatus and he is able to clock the wind speeds. And so far, they've measured the gusts at up to 30 miles an hour.
Now, right behind me, you can see that there is smoke billowing in the distance. It has completely clouded the entire horizon out here. And down below, there are firefighters that are coming in after being out on the line all day, completely exhausted, putting up a makeshift camp and getting ready to turn in for the night.
Now, the latest numbers we have, Wolf, 700 residents have been evacuated from their homes, at least 10 structures burned, and 24,000 acres have been charred. Those numbers, though, likely to jump quite a bit during the next update that comes within the next couple of hours. Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: All right, Thelma, be careful over there. I know the smoke is beginning to affect you. Thelma Gutierrez, on the front lines for us.
Still ahead, when it comes to the upcoming midterm elections, where would you put your money? Jack's standing by with "The Cafferty File."
BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack for "The Cafferty File." Thank you, Jack.
CAFFERTY: Thank you, Wolf.
A British bookmaker says the odds favor Republicans retaining control of at least one house of Congress in the upcoming midterms. So the question is, when it comes to these elections, where are you going to put your money?
Here's some of what you wrote to us, and we got a lot of mail.
Kelly in Staten Island, New York: "I'm letting my money ride on the Democrats all the way. It's a sure thing. Not even skipping Atlantic City that week."
Dave in Ontario: "Where would I put my money? In a safe place, because whoever wins, you can bet the miserable thieves will move heaven and earth to get their hands on what little I have left."
Gerald in Las Vegas: "I'll put my money on the Republicans and a third party, probably the Independent American or Constitution Party. The problems with immigration are driving this election even here in Nevada. The Democrats are a guarantee for amnesty, and that cannot be allowed if the U.S. is to survive."
Betty in Birmingham, Alabama. "Everyone should put their money on Diebold. They'll win hands down."
Scott in Georgetown, Texas: "I have money? Jack, why the hell aren't I notified about these things?"
Matthew in McKenna, Washington. Pardon me. "What money, Mr. Cafferty? My wife and I are just a couple of simple-minded country folks being squashed in the GOP war on the middle class meat grinder. Your question is so analytical and complicated for us dummies that the GOP counts on for votes. We wish you would just ask true or false questions."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, where we'll post some more of these online. You can check it out, Wolf.
BLITZER: Any e-mail reaction to our interview with Lynne Cheney?
CAFFERTY: Yes. Some of it I'll tell you next week when I see you in person.
BLITZER: I'll be in New York all of next week. We're going to get ready for the election. Jack, thanks very much for that.
And this note to our viewers. Beginning Monday, our special election edition of "THE SITUATION ROOM" expands. We'll be on the air from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern, also back on the air from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Paula Zahn will be joining us all of next week.
Meantime, I'll be coming back on Sunday for "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk. Among my guests this Sunday, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar; the ranking Democrat, Senator Joe Biden. Sunday, two hours of "Late Edition." It airs from 11:00 a.m. Eastern until 1 p.m. Eastern. See you Sunday for that.
Until then, thanks very much for joining us in "THE SITUATION ROOM." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Up next, CNN special series, "Broken Government."
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