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President Bush Lends Hand to Campaign Trail; What's Inside Lynne Cheney's Book?; Interview with Duncan Hunter
Aired October 30, 2006 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: 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, a week and a day until election day. President Bush lends a hand on the campaign trail. But as the toll in Iraq increases, will that turn voters against his party? Is the president's hand a helping hand?
Our new poll offers some answers.
The vice president's wife came out swinging in THE SITUATION ROOM the other day, disputing a Virginia Senate candidate's allegation that one of her books contained lesbian love scenes. We fact checked Jim Webb's book. Now we have a rare copy of Lynne Cheney's novel. We'll show you what's inside.
And the actor, Michael J. Fox, is scrambling right along with the candidates, giving a controversial hard sell to embryonic stem cell research.
But is the public buying it?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
We're at CNN election headquarters in New York. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
With just eight days to go until Americans vote, an election that will decide who controls the Congress, is President Bush dragging down his party toward defeat?
Our latest poll asks likely voters about their choice for Congress. Fifty-three percent say they'll pick a Democratic candidate. Forty-two percent say they would vote Republican. The same poll, by the way, at the same time, shows President Bush hovering at a dismal 37 percent job approval rating. From Georgia to Texas, he's on the campaign trail today.
Will that help or will that hurt?
CNN's Kathleen Koch is joining us now live from Sugar Land, Texas -- Kathleen.
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the White House does believe that the president's appearances help or else they wouldn't be putting him out there. As a matter of fact, they're putting him out there in these very tight districts, tight races where they think the president can really do the most good. He's in Sugar Land, Texas, or will be shortly, and speaking to a crowd of roughly 7,000 in an airport hangar and campaigning for, among others, the Republican write-in candidate who wants to fill former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's seat.
And it turns out that that that candidate, Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, is now neck-and-neck, tied, actually, with her Democratic challenger.
In Georgia this morning, Mr. Bush was -- headlined a get out the vote rally, where some 5,000 of the faithful showed up. One of the candidates he was trying to help there was Max Burns, a former Republican congressman who is trying to win back the seat that he lost in 2004 from the Democrat who won it from him at that point.
Now, in Georgia this morning, the president told the audience that Republicans would do a better job of keeping taxes low, of keeping America safe. And the president also touched on a very familiar hot button issue and struck a chord with the faithful.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For decades, activist judges have tried to redefine America by court order. Just this last week in New Jersey, another activist court issued a ruling that raises doubt about the institution of marriage. We believe that marriage is a union between a man and a woman and should be defended.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOCH: President Bush will be on the road campaigning every single day but one right up until election day, trying to get out the vote in these very close races around the country -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Kathleen, thanks very much.
While every race is important in this democracy of ours, in just a handful of states there are crucial contests that will determine who controls the U.S. Senate.
Let's go to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.
She's joining us St. Louis -- Candy.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, CNN has identified nine races that we'll be watching very, very closely over this, the last week of campaigning in the 2006 election. Those states are Montana, Rhode Island, Virginia, Tennessee, Ohio, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and right here in Missouri.
It couldn't be closer in this state -- 47-47 according to the "St. Louis Post Dispatch" in a poll released today. Probably even more focused on, when you look at Missouri, the national scene has been about the stem cell initiative that is on the ballot here in Missouri.
Michael J. Fox did one of those now famous ads here, pushing for the Democratic candidate and for the stem cell research amendment. The anti-amendment people put out, immediately, some sports figures that are very popular here in this state to give their position.
Both sides are up on the air with ads constantly. They have their get out the vote efforts already underway.
The key question is, who, in fact, will this help, in terms of getting out the vote? Will it help Republican Senator James Talent? Or will it help his Democratic challenger, Claire McCaskill?
Neither side is really willing to make a bet this time, although I will tell you that voter turnout in this race, as it is all across the country, is the important thing. And the Talent people say there are now having a get out the vote effort on steroids -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Candy, thanks very much.
That looks like an incredibly close race.
Jack Cafferty is here in New York with us.
He's got "The Cafferty File."
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I do.
Have we mentioned that we only have about a week to go now before the mid-term elections?
BLITZER: We have eight days to go. Eight days.
CAFFERTY: Well, I said about a week.
BLITZER: About a week.
CAFFERTY: That would be eight days.
There are now more questions about those electronic voting machines. The federal government is investigating the take over of one of the leading makers of those machines, an outfit called Sequoia Voting Systems. They were taken over by a smaller company, Smartmatic. That company has been linked to the government of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.
You can't make these things up.
Sequoia says it's asked the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. -- remember Sifius (ph)? Remember that phony Dubai ports deal? Sifius.
They're going to investigate. It says that should put an end to what it calls "baseless rumors of any ties to Hugo Chavez."
Smartmatic is owned by three Venezuelan businessmen. With all the controversy already surrounding the integrity of these e-voting machines, even rumors of involvement by someone like Hugo Chavez in our voting process, of course, simply adds fuel to the fire.
So here's the question.
How concerned are you that some of our electronic voting machines are owned by a foreign company?
I can't even believe I just said that. Our voting machines are owned by a foreign company. E-mail your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile.
BLITZER: You know, it's pretty shocking when you think about it. You can't make that up.
BLITZER: You fact checked that.
CAFFERTY: But Sifius is going to handle it.
BLITZER: You -- well, you can rely on Sifius.
BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.
Let's turn now to Iraq and a ma -- which is, of course, a major issue in this mid-term election.
Today, the National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley, showed up in Baghdad in a surprise visit. He and the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Al-Maliki, met. And one item they certainly discussed was the training of the Iraqi security forces.
Meanwhile, the training of those security forces might be affected amid a new report saying some critical tools they need are simply missing.
Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in Iraq, sniper attacks are up against U.S. troops, as well as IED attacks. New catastrophic IEDs killing three and four troops at a time and now questions, where are all the weapons?
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
STARR (voice-over): U.S. and Iraqi officials are unable to fully account for hundreds of thousands of arms that were intended for the new Iraqi Army and police forces, according to a report from the Pentagon's special inspector general for Iraq.
In recent years, more than 500,000 weapons were issued to security services, but serial numbers could only be found for about 12,000 weapons. Some 490,000 were simply unaccounted for. No one knows if they were stolen, being used by insurgents or are still in the hands of Iraqi units.
STUART BOWEN, INSPECTOR GENERAL, IRAQ RECONSTRUCTION: We don't make any assumptions about where these weapons are in our audit. We just identify where the material weaknesses are.
STARR: The U.S. spent $133 million buying more than 370,000 small arms. Of that, there were no records on about 14,000.
BOWEN: My greater concern was the lack of tracking of serial numbers, but that issue has now been addressed by the multinational security transition command in Iraq. It is being done now.
STARR: The inventory includes semi-automatic pistols, assault rifles, heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, all vital to helping Iraqi forces fight against insurgents, militias and death squads. The report also found, in some cases, there were no spare parts and no repair manuals to give to Iraqi security units.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
STARR: And, Wolf, the report questions whether Iraqi police units now will be able to sustain themselves and stand on their own any time in the near future -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara Starr reporting for us.
Thank you, Barbara.
Still ahead, we're going to follow up as promised on Friday with my exclusive, sometimes contentious interview with the wife of the vice president, Lynne Cheney. We'll update you on the controversy over her 25-year-old novel, what she says about it and what's really inside.
Also, with just eight days until the election, what role is race playing in some of the tightest campaigns?
I'll speak with the Reverend Al Sharpton. He's standing by to join us live.
Plus, he's the newest addition to the race for the White House. My interview with Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter of California. He's announced -- he's running.
Stay with us. I'm Wolf Blitzer CNN election headquarters in New York and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN's election headquarters in New York.
As his colleagues focus on getting reelected, one powerful U.S. congressman is looking ahead to a much bigger prize, as he's throwing his hat into the ring.
And joining us now, the chairman of the House Armed Services, Congressman Duncan Hunter.
Mr. Chairman, thanks very much.
Let's talk about this extraordinary decision on your part.
First of all, the timing.
Why only eight days before a mid-term election are you announcing you want to be president of the United States?
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R-CA), ARMED SERVICES CHAIRMAN: Well, very simply, Wolf, I've stood here on the waterfront here in San Diego every October, every late October, a week or so before the election, and tell people what I'm going to do over the next two years. And I believe in laying my cards on the table. And, as you know, I'm in my final two years as the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. That finishes up in 2007.
So this year I talked to my constituents again. I laid out what I intend to do in terms of keeping America strong, in building our defenses. This year, Wolf, there was a little something extra, and that is that I'm laying out the preparations to run-for president.
I thought it was kind of important to tell my constituents what I plan to do over the next two years. That's part of it.
BLITZER: Is it anything to do -- as you know, the skeptics are already raising this notion, that you're afraid that the Democrats are going to be the majority in the House of Representatives and instead of over the next two years being the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, you would be the ranking minority member?
What does it have to do with that, if anything?
HUNTER: Well, Wolf, I think that's nuts. I mean what -- if you announce ahead of the elections, people will question it. If you announce after the elections, then they'll say, well, you tried to get a consolation prize. I just do what I always do. For 26 years, I've stood here on the waterfront and I tell my constituents about a week before the election what I plan to do for the next two years.
And what I plan to do is continue to be chairman of the Armed Services Committee. And, believe me, Wolf, I'm campaigning for that. I've been out -- I just finished a seven state run-for Congressional candidates and let me tell you why I think we're going to win it, Wolf. Because the American people understand that this Republican Congress and this president have developed the strongest military in the history of the world. We've been spending more than $100 billion more than the Clinton administration, even discounting Iraq and Afghanistan, to rebuild national security.
This is the party of national security. I'm going to keep on being chairman. But it's over in two years, Wolf. And so I wanted to lay my cards on the table and tell my people, like I always do, what I might be doing.
BLITZER: If the president were to say to you, Duncan Hunter, I'd like you to be defense secretary over the next two years, if the current defense secretary were, for whatever reason, to step down, would that be something you would be interested in doing?
HUNTER: No. I think Don Rumsfeld, our longest serving defense secretary in the history of this country, is doing an outstanding job. And I think what Americans realize, Wolf, is it's just a tough job.
He's revamping the military all the way through. He's got wars in two theaters. He's got a two-and-a-half million man Army and National Guard and Marine Corps and Air Force and Navy. This is a tough job. It's heavy lifting.
But we're spreading freedom and we're not in any worse shape than we were during the cold war, when lots of people said you're going in the wrong direction.
We believe in peace through strength. This secretary is doing a good job on peace through strength.
BLITZER: Let's talk about presidential politics for a moment.
BLITZER: The two leading frontrunners in all the polls for potential Republican nominees are John McCain, as you well know, and Rudy Giuliani.
What do you bring to the table that they don't?
HUNTER: Well, Wolf, I'm -- I stand, as you know, for a strong national defense. And I think there's commonality there with those gentlemen. I also have been building, as you know, the border fence. I built the border fence in San Diego. It works. We've cut down narcotics and people smuggling by more than 90 percent. And we're now extending the San Diego fence some 700 miles across the southern border of the U.S.
I think that's important. I think that border security now is not just an immigration issue, it's a national security issue. That's something a little extra I bring.
And another thing I bring is this, Wolf. I believe in keeping American jobs in the United States. And as you've -- if you look at my record, you can see that I have protected American jobs that build things like these great Navy ships behind us...
BLITZER: All right...
HUNTER: ... and repair those Navy ships. My colleagues, I think, believe totally in free trade and that's their prerogative. But I believe, especially in the defense sector, when the American taxpayer pays $1,000 a year to make the armament of the free world, we should be able to build the armament of the free world. BLITZER: Well, you disagree with Giuliani and McCain when it comes to a guest worker program, which the president -- the current president totally supports.
HUNTER: Well, let me just say, right now we have a house with no sides on it. The guest worker program is how you adjust a front door. We've got a house that's got a front door and it doesn't have any sides. That means people stream across the border. We had 155,000 people come in last year from Mexico-who, Wolf, weren't citizens of Mexico. They came from every country in the world.
So you have to have some control of the border before any meaningful change in policy can be made.
BLITZER: One final question.
All those illegal immigrants here, all those people who are undocumented, 12 million, whatever number there are, what do you do with them all? Do you simply deport them?
HUNTER: Well, the first thing we do, Wolf -- right. Actually, this country deports thousands of people every day. So the idea that you don't deport people is not realistic.
We do deport thousands of people everyday and we, right now, have 250,000 criminal aliens. That's folks that came across not to get a job, but to hurt our people. And they're in federal penitentiaries and state and local jails.
You have to have control of the border, Wolf. And the same smugglers who before will take money to move narcotics or people across the border one day will take money from terrorists to move them across the border. We have to build a border. It's a national security issue.
I think I give a lot more emphasis to border enforcement than some of the other candidates.
But let them speak for themselves.
BLITZER: Duncan Hunter is the chairman of the House Armed Services, but he wants to become president of the United States. Made the announcement today.
Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for joining us.
And, remember, I'm just setting in motion the preparations for running. We'll make the other announcement later, Wolf.
So, as you know, we can get a second press conference.
BLITZER: We'll do that, probably do it before then, as well.
Mr. Chairman, thanks again. HUNTER: Hey, thanks, Wolf.
And coming up, an ailing actor finds himself in the political spotlight. But Michael J. Fox has a surprising admission to make about the stem cell research he's fighting for so passionately.
Plus, racial issues -- tainting one of the most bitter races in the country. That would be the Virginia Senate campaign. We'll have the latest for you on that.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's check in with Zain Verjee for a quick look at some other important stories making news -- hi, Zane.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Fire officials in Southern California now say they expect to have that giant wildfire burning near Palm Springs fully contained by tonight. Calmer winds have helped crews get the upper hand on the blaze, which killed four firefighters last week. It's burned more than 40,000 acres, destroying more than 50 homes and buildings in the process.
Major changes are in the works at the American Red Cross. The organization says it's planning a major overhaul in the wake of its handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster and the 9/11 attacks. Among the changes, cutting the size of its 50-member board and reducing the influence of presidentially appointed overseers.
New York City officials got an earful at a hearing today on a proposal to ban all trans in the city's 24,000 eateries. Among the concerns expressed, fears that there might not be enough alternative oils and difficulties with ingredients prepared elsewhere that may contain trans fats.
Meanwhile, KFC announced that it's dropping trans fats in favor of healthier soybean -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Zane, thanks very much for that.
Coming up, will race factor into the -- in a way when people vote in the mid-term elections?
We're going to speak about that and more with the Reverend Al Sharpton. I'll ask him if race might tip or hold down the scales in some very close contests.
And responding to criticism, the conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh now weighing in on my controversial interview with the vice president's wife, Lynne Cheney.
From CNN election headquarters in New York, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.
Happening now, what will happen in eight days?
Republicans and Democrats are hoping to have their way. We're watching all the critical races, including one that's down to the wire in Virginia.
In Iraq, thousands of small arms weapons are now missing. That according to a U.S. weapons report. It says the semi-automatic pistols, assault rifles, heavy machine guns and other weapons were intended for Iraqi security forces. Now they're gone.
And as Saddam Hussein fights charges in his current trial, he and seven other co-defendants are also awaiting a verdict from an earlier trial. That verdict could come this Sunday. But Hussein and his lawyers have written letters accusing President Bush of scheduling that verdict to influence the mid-term elections. The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalman Khalilzad, flatly denies that.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Turning now to the hot and often nasty Senate race in Virginia, a fair number of African-American voters helped Republican George Allen make it to the statehouse and then to the U.S. Senate. But after a controversial remark, can he count on that help once again?
Let's turn to our Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash -- Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, after George Allen had what's known here in Virginia as his "Macaca moment," you wouldn't think he'd be trying to win by courting black votes.
Well, think again.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
BASH (voice-over): An old friend in from the sidelines. George Allen is hoping a football Hall of Famer can help mend fences with African-Americans.
DAVID "DEACON" JONES, NFL HALL OF FAMER: And I'm just happy that he asked me to come back and say a few nice things to you people about him so you will all vote for him.
BASH: Deacon Jones played for Allen's father, coached for the L.A. Rams and Redskins and has known the senator since he was a teenager. His message isn't exactly subtle.
JONES: So I can spot a bigot a mile away and he's not a bigot .
BASH: An assist of sorts for this. SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: So welcome.
Let's give a welcome to Macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.
BASH: That was August. Allen has offered various apologies and explains for what appeared to be a racial slur. But the remark helped erase a double digit lead in the Senate race and will likely cost him voters he's fared better with than many Republicans -- 25 percent of the black vote in his 1993 governor's run-and 19 percent in his 2000 bid for Senate.
His celebrity friend is one element of Allen's late campaign outreach. Tapping into a concern found at black churches is another.
(on camera): Our camera wasn't allowed inside, but Senator Allen played up an issue conservatives hope will appeal to the African- American churchgoers, that is, opposition to same-sex marriage.
ALLEN: And you saw some folks stand up when I said marriage should be between one man and one woman. And so I look at this as a unifying, a bridging issue.
BASH (voice-over): That seems to work with Annie Branch (ph).
ANNIE BRANCH: See, I like Allen for one particular situation, that is, he is against gay, you know, the marriage situation.
BASH: Trisha Johnson (ph) and Ethel Wescott (ph) are still undecided, but say their votes won't be swayed by Allen's "Macaca" incident.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I may have said something that someone would take as racist.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Aren't we all just a little bit, you know what I'm saying?
I mean come on.
BASH: William Webster is supporting Democrat Jim Webb, says he can't vote for Allen.
WILLIAM WEBSTER: Not by the remark, but by his whole, you know, background. Not just by one specific thing, but many things. It's time for a change anyway.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BASH: Democrat Jim Webb is, of course, aggressively looking for votes in the black community. Last Sunday, he went to 16 black churches in one morning. And Webb has a kind of celebrity of his own coming to campaign with him this week, Senator Barack Obama -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Dana Bash reporting for us. Thank you Dana. The Virginia senate race is by no means the only campaign with some racial issues involved. For more on that, we're joined by the Reverend Al Sharpton, he's head of the National Action Network, he himself ran for president not all that long ago. Reverend Sharpton thanks for coming in.
REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: Thank you.
BLITZER: "The Washington Post" wrote this other day in a profile on George Allen, after noting some comments that he made, controversial comments, they wrote this. "In his first Senate term, he has taken three civil rights pilgrimages, co-sponsored a resolution apologizing to lynching victims and their descendants, and proposed allocating a half a billion dollars to historically black colleges. But macaca raises a question, has Allen really evolved or did his true nature slip into public view?" What is your sense?
SHARPTON: I think that clearly the statement reflects the policies. He is a loyal Republican and I think that the problem is --
BLITZER: You could be a loyal Republican and not be a racist.
SHARPTON: No, you can certainly be a loyal Republican and not be a racist, but if you're a loyal Republican, you may support policies that are antithetical to African Americans and for that matter most Americans. And I think that's why Allen is in trouble. It's not a word, it's what the word represents. A voting record that clearly has supported the president that has not been good for all people. This weekend African-American and Latino and white civil rights leaders met in Chicago, Reverend Jesse Jackson brought us all together to talk about an agenda. What we're talking about is Allen and that party --
BLITZER: So you're not concerned about the words as much as the policies that the Republican Party stands for because you're a good Democrat?
SHARPTON: No, I am a good civil rights activist, and the Democrats have been a good alternative in the last several years, but when they're wrong, we have taken positions against them. You cannot talk about a race for Senate or president or congress and not talk about an urban policy about dealing with trade and dealing with unemployment and dealing with the building of prisons and the closings of schools. The Republicans have failed to deliver on that that's why Allen is in trouble in Virginia.
BLITZER: What about in Maryland, there's an African-American, the lieutenant governor Michael Steele, running for the U.S. Senate, by all accounts, a relatively close race against Ben Cardin. What do you make of this Republican who happens to be an African-American?
SHARPTON: The interesting thing is that Steele makes my point. Steele is trying to run away from his party. He spent the last couple of weeks distancing himself from his party. The problem with that is if you're on the field with the other team, even if you run the other way, you still have on their uniform. But if you score, you score for them. You'll be voting for them to be chair of committees. You'll be voting for them in budget crunches. So Steele shows what I'm saying, that it's not just what color you are, it's what kind you are. And what we're going to define in '08 coming out of this meeting Jackson put together is what kind of person we are.
BLITZER: Michael Steele has made a point of telling people, African-American voters in the state of Maryland, you know what, the Democratic Party very often has taken you for granted. And if you elect me as an independent-minded thinker, I'm going to be more reflective, representative of what you need.
SHARPTON: The Democrats have in cases taken us for granted, but the question is the Republicans haven't represented and taken any of our interests at all. So you don't go from a situation that may need renegotiation to a situation that has not been open to you at all. And if he's independent, he needs to state I will not vote for a Republican chairman. I will not support the White House on things that are important. He has not made those definitive statements because he's still on that team.
BLITZER: Harold Ford, Jr., a man you know, he's running for the U.S. Senate from Tennessee. He was on television over the weekend, and he suggested that very controversial ad about the playboy mansion and all that, playboy party, he was suggested sleazy as opposed to being racist. Let me play a little clip just to remind our viewers what happened in that ad which has since been pulled.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I met Harold at the playboy party.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Republican National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertisement.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Harold, call me. I met Harold at the playboy party.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think about that?
SHARPTON: I think it was clear racial overtones there. I think it tried to play on the worst fears of the old south. I think that those that put it out were trying to conjure up those feelings. I think what it really showed is the Republican National Committee that paid for it, that has been saying to African-Americans, since that's what you're asking, that we want to reach out.
BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE) Ken Mehlman as trying to reach out.
SHARPTON: But how do you reach out and then when you get in a crunch, when you're losing, then you reach back into your bag of tricks and play an ad like this.
BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE) explanation, this is an independent expenditure and as chairman of the Republican Party, he could not get involved in controlling where this ad goes and what's in the ad?
SHARPTON: I think the fact of the matter is that if anyone of any party had done this, they would have been condemned. He's got to take the wrap here. It is also one of the ugliest things that we've seen and the Republican National Committee should have never engaged the person that did it and that came up with this kind of thinking in the first place.
BLITZER: The Reverend Al Sharpton coming into THE SITUATION ROOM, thanks very much.
SHARPTON: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Still to come, it's hard to find but we tracked down a copy of Lynne Cheney's controversial 1981 novel. Now it's become a campaign issue of sorts in the Virginia Senate race. We'll follow up on my exclusive interview with the wife of the vice president, as we promised we would do on Friday.
Plus, Rush Limbaugh, he's now weighing in on that interview as well. From CNN election headquarters in New York, stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: As candidates keep a hectic pace during these last eight days until election, the actor Michael J. Fox is scrambling right along with them on his own campaign to sell the idea of stem cell research. Let's turn to CNN's Deborah Feyerick. Deb?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I want to let you know that among the hot ballot issues this year, you've got gay marriage, increasing minimum wages, imminent domain, but it is stem cell research that is gaining the most attention. One word, celebrity.
FEYERICK (voice-over): In Wisconsin --
MICHAEL J. FOX, ACTOR: Governor Doyle has been a champion of stem cell research. He knows the promise it holds.
FEYERICK: And Missouri.
FOX: In Missouri, you can elect Claire McCaskill who shares my hope for cures.
FEYERICK: Celebrity campaigner Michael J. Fox has stayed on message.
FOX: Stem cell research offers hope to millions of Americans with diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
FEYERICK: The issue of stem cell research is playing big in a handful of governor's races, including Wisconsin races and Iowa, both races where Fox has backed a candidate. The TV legend has also thrown his star power behind Senate hopefuls Ben Cardin in Maryland, Sherrod Brown in Ohio and Claire McCaskill in Missouri, the one state that has a ballot asking voters to decide whether to fund research. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, is so passionate about the issue, it was surprising to some when he admitted on "ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos" that he hadn't actually read the ballot initiative.
FOX: I'm not qualified to speak on the page-to-page content of the initiative, although I'm quite sure that I'll agree with it in spirit. I don't know on full disclosure, I haven't read it and that's why I didn't put myself up for it distinctly.
FEYERICK: Political watchers say in a year with other big defining issues, most people in the country wouldn't have even paid attention to the ad. But for conservative radio talker, Rush Limbaugh, who last week all but accused Fox of faking his illness.
LIMBAUGH: Somebody shows me I'm wrong about my speculations of either acting or being off the medication, I'll hugely and bigly apologize.
FEYERICK: Fox, campaigning in Ohio today, hit back at his radio critic.
FOX: I'm not supposed to speak with you until my symptoms go away. Or maybe I'm just supposed to go away. But I'm not going to go away, and the millions of Americans --
(END OF VIDEOTAPE)
FEYERICK: Now, Michael J. Fox did acknowledge that some of the opposing candidates support stem cell research, but it's with adult, not embryonic stem cells. He says he is against human cloning and against egg farming. Wolf?
BLITZER: Deb Feyerick, thanks very much. Still ahead, we're going to show you the possible connection between Venezuela's anti- American Hugo Chavez and, get this, American voting machines. Jack Cafferty has information on that. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Welcome back. On Friday we told you we'd follow up on a book by Lynne Cheney, the contents of which became a hot topic in the Virginia Senate race. The Democratic candidate Jim Webb under fire for passages in his own novels, suggested Lynne Cheney's novel contained lesbian love scenes. On Friday we reported on the content of Webb's books. Now we're doing the same thing for Mrs. Cheney's novel which is out of print, hard to find, but our Mary Snow has found a copy, she's joining us now live. Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, this is a very rare copy of Mrs. Cheney's book. And you know when it first came out, we were able to purchase this, when it first came out it was $2.50. That was when it first came out in 1981. At last check on the internet, there was one of these books, there's only five available, as high as $1500. Those prices rose in the last few days after this book found itself mentioned in a campaign controversy. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
SNOW (voice-over): Lynne Cheney's 1981 book "Sisters" surfaced as a political issue in Virginia's heated Senate race last week. Here's how it came about. First Republican Virginia Senator George Allen complained about sexual references written in a novel by his opponent Democrat Jim Webb. Webb on Friday fired back with this.
JIM WEBB, (D) VIRGINIA SENATE CANDIDATE: We can go and read Lynne Cheney's lesbian love scenes if you want to get graphic on stuff.
SNOW: Friday in THE SITUATION ROOM Lynne Cheney responded.
LYNNE CHENEY: Jim Webb is full of boloney. I have never written anything sexually explicit.
BLITZER: You did write a book entitled "Sisters"?
CHENEY: I did write a book entitled "Sisters."
BLITZER: And it did have lesbian characters.
CHENEY: No, not necessarily.
SNOW: But passages from the book would appear to indicate otherwise. One reads, "The women who embraced in the wagon were Adam and Eve crossing a dark cathedral stage -- no, Eve and Eve, loving one another as they would not be able to once they ate of the fruit and knew themselves as they truly were." And in letters between two women, "Let us go away together, away from the anger and the imperatives of men, and then we shall go to bed, our bed, my dearest girl. How I long to see you again, to hold you, to kiss you a thousand times." One feminist literary critic takes issue with both Jim Webb's description of the book and Lynne Cheney's.
PROF. ELAINE SHOWALTER, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: I don't think it's fair to say that there are lesbian love scenes. It has a strong subplot about a lesbian romance and in fact the title "Sisters" suggests this.
SNOW: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee described the book as being about brothels and attempted rapes. When Mrs. Cheney was asked about that --
CHENEY: Actually that is full of lies. It's not -- it's absolutely not true.
SNOW: The book does reference prostitution, describes one attempted rape and mentions a character's rape in 19th century Wyoming. The book is not officially listed in Mrs. Cheney's White House biography and it's out of print. Some consider the book ahead of its time.
SHOWALTER: A novel is not the same as politics. The writer's imagination ought to be free and this is quite a free willing book. (END OF VIDEOTAPE)
SNOW: We contacted Mrs. Cheney's office for a follow-up, her spokeswoman gave us this statement. Quote, "To suggest there is any comparison between anything Mrs. Cheney has ever written and Jim Webb's sexist x-rated prose is simply false. It's disappointing that CNN feels obliged to defend Democratic talking points."
BLITZER: Mary, thanks very much. Mary Snow reporting.
And Lynne Cheney pulled no punches in her SITUATION ROOM interview Friday. Her appearance drew a lot of attention. The conservative radio show talk host Rush Limbaugh among those weighing in, listening in as well. Here's what Limbaugh had to say earlier today.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: So we have Lynne Cheney who -- and I watched this on the airplane flying out to Las Vegas. Lynne Cheney laid into Wolf Blitzer on CNN Friday afternoon. They sandbagged her. She's got a new book out. They brought her in and Wolf Blitzer is reading off Democrat talking points, literal Democrat Party talking points.
(END OF AUDIO CLIP)
BLITZER: I just want to correct the record. We did not sandbag Mrs. Cheney, she knew full well that we would be asking her serious political questions in addition to those questions that we asked her about her new children's book that was reaffirmed with her staff only hours before the interview. In fact, every time she has come to do an interview with me in recent years about children's books, she always agrees to answer serious questions, and she did as well this time. Lynne Cheney's husband, by the way, the vice president, got into the action today in an interview on the FOX News Channel this afternoon, the vice president strongly defended his wife's performance in our now-famous Friday interview. He said this and I'm quoting now, "I thought it was great. We refer to it around the house as the slap down, she was very tough, but she was very accurate and very aggressive. And of course, she was in the business for a while. There was a time on that network when she used to host the show they had on for a long time called "Crossfire" on Sundays for a couple of years. She spoke her mind and I thought it was perfectly appropriate." That from the vice president of the United States. From accusations of media bias to talk of Lynne Cheney's novel, the interview with Mrs. Cheney certainly drawing plenty of attention online. Let's get some more on that part of the story from our internet reporter Jacki Schechner. Jacki?
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: That's right, conservative Hugh Hewitt chastising Wolf for airing Jim Webb's defense, saying that it is not a fair comparison to make between Webb's novels and Lynne Cheney's book "Sisters." On the left, you've got Josh Marshall at "Talking Points Memo" suggesting that perhaps Lynne Cheney has amnesia about the sexual content of her book. Another topic of the interview that is drawing a lot of conversation online is when Lynne Cheney asked Wolf, "Do you want us to win," referring to the war. Some conservatives saying that it's absolutely an appropriate question, going so far as to call the media terrorist sympathizers. On the other side of the aisle at America Blog, John Aravosa saying that it is not the media's job to help anybody win a war. Now, Wolf, of course, addressed the same issues he just discussed on yesterday's "LATE EDITION" and he talked about how Mrs. Cheney knew that she was going to discuss more than just her book when she came on the program. Conservative Gateway Pundit saying that this shows Wolf is now on the defensive where over at the liberal "Talking Points Memo" they called the explanation, "Wolf calling out Lynne Cheney once again." Wolf?
BLITZER: All right thanks very much for that.
Let's move on now to the upcoming elections. Many voters will cast their ballots using electronic voting machines and amid worries about their efficiency and their vulnerability, there are now new concerns over a machine manufacturer based in a country with little love for the U.S. At least the government there has little love for the U.S. Our Brian Todd is in Washington with details. Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, indeed, with all those questions this year about the technical integrity of those electronic voting machines, many experts didn't expect they'd field questions about the political integrity of those machines.
TODD (voice-over): Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has made clear his feelings about his American counterpart.
PRES. HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELA: Yesterday the devil came here, right here, right here, and it smells of sulfur still today.
TODD: Now, just days before midterm elections, questions are being raised by a member of Congress and public interest groups about a voting machine company called Smartmatic, linked to Chavez's government. A company that owns a subsidiary that makes electronic voting machines used in 16 states in Washington, D.C. The whole company is owned by Venezuelan nationals.
CHELLIE PINGREE, COMMON CAUSE: You've got a company that clearly, if not now, in the past has had some ties with the Venezuelan government, and people are asking what does it mean to have foreign ownership of a company that produces the voting machines in this country?
TODD: Last year, after winning lucrative contracts from the Venezuelan government, Smartmatic bought an American company called Sequoia, another long time maker of voting machines. Smartmatic had previously run machines for Venezuela's 2004 elections, a vote that returned Hugo Chavez to power. Some outsiders question those election results, but they were certified by the Carter Center and the Organization of American States. Smartmatic's CEO was very clear.
ANTONIO MUGICA, CEO, SMARTMATIC: There's absolutely no foreign government ownership or control over Smartmatic.
TODD: But Smartmatic officials acknowledge the Venezuelan government owned nearly a third of the stock in a subsidiary after giving that company a small business loan. But Smartmatic says --
JEFF BIALOS, ATTORNEY, SMARTMATIC: The loan was paid off. The government ownership went away.
TODD: Smartmatic officials say they didn't even own that subsidiary until the loan was paid off and the Venezuelan government gave up the stock. Smartmatic also says it voluntarily asked the U.S. Treasury Department to review the purchase of the American vote machine company. A treasury official tells CNN that review is ongoing.
(END OF VIDEOTAPE)
TODD: Venezuela's ambassador to the U.S. tells CNN his government doesn't have anything to do with Smartmatic, aside from that contract to handle Venezuela's 2004 elections. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right Brian, thanks very much. Lou Dobbs is here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we're in New York. We've got our SITUATION ROOM table here in New York. You're getting ready for your program that begins right at the top of the hour.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely, we're taking a look at the President Bush who is traversing the entire country, trying to drive supports for Republican candidates across the country. We're also going to be voting on those -- reporting on those e-voting machines. And as you just reported, the idea that Venezuela doesn't have anything to do with Sequoia, one of the four major manufacturers of these e-voting machines as we've been reporting here for a long time, is utter nonsense. This thing is so clouded by offshore companies and shell companies, we're going to find out why Venezuela is so reluctant to create transparency. And of course, we're going to be reporting on the vote, the important vote coming up November 7th and see which way the important races are leaning right now.
BLITZER: Sounds good. We'll be watching.
DOBBS: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Good to be in New York with you Lou. Thanks very much.
And Jack Cafferty is also raising questions over those electronic voting machines made by a foreign company. Much more on that. Stay with us, we'll be right back.
BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack Cafferty, he's here with The Cafferty File. Jack?
CAFFERTY: Wolf, the federal government is investigating the takeover of one of the leading makers of electronic voting machines, Sequoia Voting Systems, by a company that's been linked to the government of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. The question is how concerned are you that some of our electronic voting machines are owned by a foreign company? You wonder what country we're in any more. Here's some of the email. Holly writes from Toledo, Ohio, "Jack, I was worried before you ever got to Hugo Chavez. I voted on paper at the counter down at the local board of elections. It was worth the $2 parking fee just to know that someone, somewhere, will have to either count or physically get rid of my vote. It won't just disappear into the circuitry of a machine programmed to do who knows what."
Michael in Glendale, Massachusetts, "I'm deeply concerned that our electronic voting machines are owned by a foreign company. Only American citizens should have the opportunity to rig our elections." Jeanette writes, "I'm not sure which is more revolting, the machines owned by "We'll deliver Ohio" Diebold, or "Bush is Satan" Chavez. I may have mangled the quotes but no more than Diebold may have already mangled our last elections. Foreign interests should have no standing in our election processes, but neither should partisan interests." Timothy in Shawnee, Kansas, "Our government supports shipping all the jobs overseas, so why not our votes as well?" Dan in Ontario, "Frankly, Americans should be more concerned if the machines were owned by the state of Florida." W.E. writes from Las Vegas, "Well, if Hugo Chavez is elected to the Senate from Florida or president of the United States in 2008, then I think people might get somewhat concerned." If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile, where you can read more of these online. It's just like the twilight zone.
BLITZER: Here is the good news. We have two more hours of THE SITUATION ROOM, tonight we're going to be on at 7:00 and at 8:00. Paula Zahn will be joining us and Jack you're going to be here until 9:00 tonight as well.
CAFFERTY: It's like an acid flashback.
BLITZER: This is going to be excellent.
CAFFERTY: You love this, right, four hours of SITUATION. You're up for it, you're ready.
BLITZER: Are you kidding, that's what we do. THE SITUATION ROOM table here.
CAFFERTY: It's like a telethon without a disease.
BLITZER: Jack, see you in an hour, we're going to have much more. Coming up, 7:00 p.m. eastern for two hours with Paula. Let's go to Lou Dobbs, he's standing by here in New York. Lou?
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