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THE SITUATION ROOM
John Kerry Apologizes For Controversial Remarks; Interview With Ann Coulter
Aired November 1, 2006 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Standing by, CNN reporters all over the country, all over the globe, to bring you tonight's top stories.
BLITZER: And they're happening right now.
Democrats are demanding an apology from the number-two House Republican for taking aim at generals in Iraq -- this after Senator John Kerry apologized, finally, saying he's sorry if he offended U.S. troops.
We're following the tit-for-tat over Iraq, only six days before America votes.
ZAHN: And, of course, the battle for Congress turning into more of a bare-knuckle brawl every day -- conservative pundit Ann Coulter will join the fray, weighing in on the Kerry flap and other hot issues on the campaign trail.
BLITZER: And we will also ask Democratic candidate Harold Ford Jr. why he criticized John Kerry, even as he was embracing Bill Clinton. Is that the ticket to winning the Senate showdown in Tennessee?
I'm Wolf Blitzer at CNN headquarters in New York, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ZAHN: Here we are, just six days until the election, with President Bush today putting his Iraq policy back on the campaign's front burner. But, for millions of voters all over the country, it was there already. Check this out.
Our newest CNN/Opinion Research poll shows Iraq is the number-one issue across the country, listed as extremely important by 49 percent of registered voters. Nothing is higher. Only terrorism comes close.
But the news from Iraq continues to be very disturbing. Just hours ago, the Pentagon announced this month's first U.S. military death, an unidentified soldier whose vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb; 2,819 U.S. troops have died in the Iraq war.
Now, that's just a fraction of today's violence in Baghdad -- 11 people killed today. Thirty-five bullet-riddled bodies were discovered. And militants stormed a youth club, kidnapping a basketball official and a volleyball coach.
Meanwhile, a Pentagon briefing slide made public today by "The New York Times" shows the U.S. military thinks Iraq is getting closer to -- quote -- "chaos."
Let's get more on the startling military assessment from our own senior military correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, it comes down to what you want to believe, the Pentagon's public pronouncements or a private briefing slide that was leaked today to "The New York Times."
The -- the slide shows -- was from an October 18 briefing. And it provides what the White House calls was just a snapshot of what was going on in Iraq, in terms of the violence.
And you can see from the slide that it shows the -- the level of violence, the measurement of the conflict edging toward the side of the slide that says "chaos," and away from the side of the slide that says "peace."
Now, the White House says, again, this was a snapshot of a single day at the height of the violence during Ramadan, and that subsequent briefings showed a dramatic reversal of the trend.
But the Pentagon acknowledges that this briefing slide, which was not ever intended to be released, but published today by "The New York Times," is an accurate barometer of what the U.S. military uses to measure the level of violence in Iraq.
The -- the briefing was presented to General George -- General John Abizaid, the top commander in the U.S. Central Command, who, just in August, warned publicly that Iraq could slip into civil war, if the violence wasn't stemmed. But he insisted, at the time, that he believed that could still be accomplished.
And it comes, by the way, on a day when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who is one of the chief defenders of the U.S. policy in Iraq, was given another vote of confidence by President Bush, who said today, in answer to a question, that he would like both Secretary Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney to remain until the end of his administration -- Paula.
ZAHN: So, what are you being told at the Pentagon about why this slide was leaked? Are they suggesting it -- it had some motivation leading into the midterm elections?
MCINTYRE: Well, you know, when it comes to motivation, it's very difficult to figure out why -- why somebody leaks somebody to a reporter. There's a whole range of possible motivations.
But they are quite upset that this slide was provided to -- to "The New York Times," to reporter Michael Gordon, who has covered the military for a long time, written a number of books. His latest book, Cobra II," was quite critical of the -- of the run-up to the war and the preparations for the war in Iraq. He's a longtime reporter covering this beat.
It's hard to say how he got ahold of the slide. But nobody's disputing that it's accurate. They are just a little bit chagrined that it was released. And they insist that, put in its proper context, it's simply a snapshot of a -- of the trend on a single day -- Paula.
ZAHN: Jamie McIntyre, thank you for helping us understand it all. Appreciate it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks, Paula.
One of the more ominous signs from Iraq today includes the developments surrounding the fate of a missing American soldier in Baghdad.
For more on that and other issues, let's turn to our senior national correspondent, John Roberts. He's standing by live in Baghdad.
John, first of all, what's the latest on that missing American soldier? I know you were embedded with his unit just as disappeared.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I was, actually, Wolf, embedded with a unit that was given the 911 call to go look for this fellow in the Karada neighborhood of Baghdad.
After that night, and up until yesterday, that area was cordoned off by many checkpoints. Roads in and out of the neighborhood were blocked. The U.S. military and the Iraqi police were searching every vehicle that went in and out of there. They had had information that, at least on Monday, a week ago Monday, he had been in that neighborhood, or at least a cell phone that he owned had been in that neighborhood.
They also tracked, through intelligence, a possible location to Sadr City. They have set up roadblocks and closed checkpoints, permanent checkpoints, around that area as well. But they could not come up with any kind of evidence that this fellow was actually inside, even though they believe that they had intelligence to suggest that he was in there -- the -- the belief, at least among his family, and perhaps among the U.S. military, that he was kidnapped by the Mahdi militia.
But, again, yesterday, when those checkpoints came down in the Karada neighborhood, under pressure from the Iraqi government the United States opened up those permanent checkpoints that had been closed and took down the temporary checkpoints that they had set up in and out of the Sadr City neighborhood. That was after Muqtada al- Sadr, the Shiite cleric who is very popular in that area, called for a general strike, called for civil disobedience, because of those checkpoints -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Give us your assessment, John. When -- when this U.S. military Central Command chart shows the current situation in Iraq moving very ominously close toward chaos, you're there. You're on the scene. You have been embedded. You have been going around the country. What's your assessment?
ROBERTS: Wolf, it's -- it's really only giving an official voice to what many U.S. soldiers on the ground already believe.
They -- they believe that, as hard as they are fighting against the sectarian violence, against the insurgents, against the terrorists, at best, the situation is static, which means that they're not winning the war against these insurgents and against sectarian violence.
There's a possibility, as well, that this could become even worse than it is right now, if it spirals downward from the level of the militias engaging in the sectarian violence, to the point where it becomes family on family, Sunni against Shia.
People have been living in these neighborhoods for generations in -- in relative peace and harmony. Of course, the -- the Shia were oppressed by the Saddam Hussein government for so many years. But, on a neighborhood level, they seemed to get along.
If it devolves to the point where these families, these different sects start going at each other, Wolf, that chaos meter could push all the way into the red zone.
BLITZER: John Roberts, be careful over there in Baghdad. John is our senior national correspondent. He's on duty in Iraq right now.
Meanwhile, tonight, Democrats are fighting fire with fire in the political war over Iraq. They're now demanding an apology from the number-two Republican in the House, the majority leader, John Boehner -- at issue, Boehner's comments right here in THE SITUATION ROOM earlier today, in which Democrats say he seemed to cast some blame on generals for the problems in Iraq -- this after Republicans demanded and finally received an apology from John Kerry for his controversial Iraq comments.
More now on -- we will get more on Kerry in just a few moments.
But, first, let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's got more on this latest rift over John Boehner -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, since your interview with the House majority leader just a couple of hours ago, Democratic leaders have been pouncing.
First, here's what John Boehner said when asked about President Bush's support for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, amid all -- amid all that criticism of how -- of Rumsfeld for how the Iraq war is going.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE SITUATION ROOM")
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Let's not blame what's happening in Iraq on Rumsfeld.
BLITZER: But he's in charge of the military.
BOEHNER: But the fact is, the generals on the ground are in charge, and he works closely with them and the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Democrats just as eager to jump on this and get the subject off John Kerry, as the Republicans were yesterday to get on Kerry.
This from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid -- quote -- "John Boehner ought to be ashamed. He's blaming our troops for failures in Iraq. If he wants to cast blame, he can start by looking in the mirror, because he and his Congressional Republican colleagues have rubber-stamped the Bush administration's failed policy for nearly four years."
Senator Reid calls for Representative Boehner to apologize, as does Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean -- quote -- "Once again, Republican leadership is pointing fingers, rather than taking responsibility for their failures. Our brave troops deserve better from Republican leaders like Don Rumsfeld, John Boehner, and Dick Cheney."
Now, not to be outdone in this battle of statements, John Boehner has just, moments ago, fired back. We just got this in just the last few minutes -- his spokesmen accusing the Democrats of trying to deflect criticism from Kerry, saying -- quote -- "Democrats are quickly squandering any and all credibility by even attempting to equate Mr. Boehner's comments with criticism of anyone in the military.
"It is obviously -- it's -- it's an obvious and weak attempt to deflect criticism from Senator Kerry's awful remarks delivered earlier this week, remarks Mr. Boehner himself was highly critical of. Mr. Boehner commends our military and our generals for doing a heroic job each and every day in their fight against terrorists in Iraq and around the globe. He thanks them every day for their bravery, and will continue to do so."
Wolf, unless you're living under a rock with all of this, you got to figure there's a midterm election in six days.
BLITZER: In six days, indeed. Thanks, Brian, very much -- Paula.
ZAHN: Now, we talk in greater detail about that mess John Kerry, Wolf, left for the Democratic Party with his bad joke aimed at the president, he says, or the troops in Iraq, if you believe his critics.
Kerry isn't running for anything this year, but fellow Democrats are. And they are wishing, some of them, he would just get off the stage.
Let's turn to our chief national correspondent, John King, who joins us from Philadelphia tonight.
So, they're not relieved he finally apologized today, John?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're greatly relieved, Paula, he finally apologized.
Democrats thought it should have come a day or two ago, but they're happy for that apology. Tonight, Senator Kerry was supposed to be here in Philadelphia. This is one of the places he's no longer welcome.
But Democrats hope now, with this apology, the uproar ends, and when Iraq comes up on the campaign trail in the final few days, they can focus their fire on President Bush, the man in the White House now, not the man he beat in the election back in 2004.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
KING (voice-over): An upbeat Democratic rally in Philadelphia -- Senator John Kerry asked to stay away, so as not to spoil the optimistic mood...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
KING: ... or change the focus.
GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: It's a terrible distraction in the last couple of days. Bob Casey vs. Rick Santorum, not Senator Kerry -- Bob Casey vs. Rick Santorum.
KING: But much of the day's back-and-forth here in Pennsylvania and across the country was about John Kerry.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: What Senator Kerry said was inappropriate. And I believe we can't let it divert us from looking at the issues that are at stake in our country.
KING: The Massachusetts senator bowed to mounting pressure from fellow Democrats, angry he had given Republicans a late campaign gift.
In a statement issued Wednesday evening, Kerry said: "I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform. And I personally apologize to any service member, family member, or American who was offended."
At issue was this Kerry statement Monday night in California.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: You know, education, if you make the most of it, and you study hard, and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you -- you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.
KING: The apology was welcome news to Democrats like Iraq veteran Patrick Murphy, who's trying to defeat a Republican incumbent in the Philadelphia suburbs, and says the GOP was trying to use the Kerry statement to steer focus away from the big picture.
PATRICK MURPHY (D), PENNSYLVANIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Let's put it back in perspective. We have men and women that are dying every single day in Iraq and Afghanistan, with no end in sight. We need to hold this administration accountable.
KING: Kerry insisted he had mangled a joke, and meant to criticize President Bush, not the troops.
But it was the president leading a coast-to-coast Republican condemnation.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Anybody who -- who is in a position to serve this country ought to understand the consequences of words. And our troops deserve the full support -- they -- of -- of people in government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, in a statement issued just a short time ago, the White House said it viewed Senator Kerry's apology as a little late, but welcome -- and the White House press secretary, Tony Snow, saying a short time ago, wonders why it took so long.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, it took him a while.
And I suspect, at some point, he will go before cameras and say the same thing. But, you know, it -- it was a little baffling why he didn't do it before. But, again, he did the right thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, again, Democrats are angry they went through this to begin with. They think the damage will be minimal.
But, Paula, I will tell you, in talking to a number of Democratic strategists today, they do think there are two or three of their top 20 House targets, seats now held by Republicans, where this could be an issue, could cause a little bit of damage. Worth watching over the next several days -- Paula.
ZAHN: Worth watching, and we will be.
John King, thanks so much.
Some Democrats telling me they're...
KING: Thank you.
ZAHN: ... fearful -- or, actually, Republicans, that it's going to increase the voter turnout by 1 percent, which will greatly impact some of those very close races that he's talking about.
BLITZER: If -- if it's very close, 1 percent could be huge, Paula. Thanks very much.
Even before John Kerry's comments drew fire, his White House prospects in 2008 appeared to be dimming. Our new CNN poll of registered Democrats nationwide shows Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is their top choice to be the party's next presidential nominee. Kerry is a distant fifth choice, after Clinton, Senator Barack Obama, former Vice President Al Gore, and former Senator John Edwards.
Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File."
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Disturbing story in Iraq, one of many -- Iraqi Shiites celebrated in the streets yesterday when American soldiers lifted those checkpoints around Sadr City in Baghdad.
That area had been blockaded, while U.S. and Iraqi troops looked for a kidnapped American soldier. But Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki demanded the American checkpoints come down. And they did.
And who controls Sadr City? Muqtada al-Sadr, the commander of Iraq's most feared militia. Al-Sadr made it clear this week, if those checkpoints were not removed, his forces might retaliate. And the prime minister knows that he needs the support of al-Sadr and his militia, if he wants to successfully govern Iraq.
The American Embassy in Baghdad insists the decision to remove those checkpoints was made after a meeting between al-Maliki and top U.S. officials. And a military spokesman was adamant that U.S. soldiers removed the checkpoints on their commanders' orders.
But it doesn't really matter, does it? By removing the checkpoints, the United States is, in effect, handing over the fate of the kidnapped American soldier to the Shiite militia. This country has a long and proud tradition of never abandoning its soldiers on the battlefield. And we ought to be ashamed of ourselves for this little stunt they pulled.
The question is this. Who's calling the shots in Iraq, the United States, the Iraqi government, or the militias? E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com, or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile.
It's a disgrace.
BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much. We will see what our viewers think.
You will be back shortly.
ZAHN: And, if you don't get the sparks flying with that one, we will with something else.
You know who is coming up tonight? Ann Coulter.
CAFFERTY: Oh, swell.
ZAHN: Jack is really excited about that.
ZAHN: I can guarantee you, that always creates heat. We will have a debate with a -- a liberal about what's going on in Iraq and what's going on in this campaign as we head into Election Day.
BLITZER: And we're going to have a lot more coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Democratic congressman Harold Ford, he is at the center of one of the country's most watched, most controversial Senate contests. He's standing by live.
ZAHN: And whatever happened to, it's the economy, stupid. Well, Bill Schneider will be here next to look at the election and your wallet.
From CNN election headquarters in New York, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Depending on whom you ask, the U.S. economy is anywhere between stable and thriving. But experts agree that is going to make very little difference on Election Day.
CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider explains.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Democratic political consultant and CNN contributor James Carville coined the phrase "the economy, stupid" in 1992. Is there any doubt what the issue is this year?
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Not anybody I talk to, and -- and not anybody that any pollster talks to. It's Iraq.
SCHNEIDER: What happened to the economy? There are some signs it's gotten better. The stock market is hitting record highs. Gas prices are dropping. Have people noticed? Apparently, yes.
Two months ago, in our Opinion Research Corporation poll, most Americans said the economy was in poor shape. Now, 62 percent say it's in good shape. But look at what else has happened. Two months ago, at least 40 percent of voters said the economy and gas prices would be extremely important issues in their vote this year. Those numbers have taken a tumble -- the number who say the economy will be important, down seven points -- the number who cite gas prices, down 16.
A new rule has taken over. When the economy is bad, the economy is the issue. When the economy is good, something else is the issue. It's, Iraq, stupid.
Do voters give the Bush administration credit for the improving economy?
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The truth is, the tax cuts have led to a growing economy that has added 6.6 million new jobs since August of 2003.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SCHNEIDER: In August, people who said the economy was in good shape rewarded the president's party with a strong vote of support.
Now, more people say the economy is in good shape, and the reward they give Republicans is zilch. Their vote for Congress is just about tied.
Bill Schneider, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: A week from now, will the Republicans have John Kerry to thank for another good election? We will ask conservative columnist Ann Coulter. She's with us right here in THE SITUATION ROOM tonight.
Also, some faces that may be part of Ann Coulter's worst nightmare -- we will check out some possible committee chairmen if the Democrats take over Congress.
We will be right back.
ZAHN: And welcome back to CNN election headquarters right here in New York.
Six days away from the midterm elections, and we're focusing on issue number one, the war in Iraq, something polls say over and over again.
Our next guest are two of the sharpest shooters anywhere on the Internet, the blogosphere, and on TV. And, no, Ann Coulter didn't tell me to say that.
ZAHN: Conservative columnist Ann Coulter, author of "Godless," and Slate.com columnist Mickey Kaus.
Great to see both of you.
So, let's start off by talking about Senator John Kerry. Was the apology enough?
ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, "GODLESS: THE CHURCH OF LIBERALISM": I think so, but it's a very bad statement, because it brings up all the other statements he's made, and just the sort of general idea that the Democrats do think the only reason someone would go into the military is, they have no other options, which, of course, is not the truth at all.
But it does bring up him accusing our troops of terrorizing Iraqi women and children last year, and, after Vietnam, accusing his fellow comrades of...
MICKEY KAUS, COLUMNIST, SLATE.COM: But...
COULTER: ... of murder and rape.
ZAHN: All right, jump in here, Mickey, because...
KAUS: But, Ann, that was -- that was 2004. I mean, I can't believe that it's a new story that John Kerry said something stupid.
KAUS: He was a terrible candidate.
We have dispensed with him last year. Democrats only supported him, because -- because they had this misguided notion that he would win.
KAUS: And, so, he's still putting his foot in his mouth. I can't believe it's a two-day story.
ZAHN: But it is a two-day story, Mickey. And there are some folks out there that think it will increase voter turnout. Is John Kerry going to cost some Democrats some victories in tight races?
KAUS: Well, it's not going to help, but there are some Democrats, like Harold Ford, who are having a great time distancing themselves from Kerry and using him as the -- sort of our Sister Souljah of -- of this year.
ZAHN: But they have taken money from him, too, haven't they?
KAUS: Well, but it's more important that they go on -- on the airwaves and denounce him. And that makes him look more conservative and more appealing to the voters of Tennessee. So...
COULTER: That's true, but, Mickey, you did support John Kerry, and your party did nominate him.
KAUS: Well, the alternative was President Bush. And -- and I don't think you're very happy with President Bush, Ann. Are you happy with Harriet Miers? Are you happy with his immigration policy? COULTER: I'm happy...
KAUS: I don't think so.
COULTER: OK, two things.
But I am happy with the war on Iraq.
ZAHN: All right, but -- but let's come to -- to something that John Kerry fiercely defends. He said what -- what was reported was taken out of context.
ZAHN: Mickey, you're not going to cut him any slack here at all -- at all here tonight? Ann is saying that he was implying that you end up in the military when you're not educated.
KAUS: Well, it was a bad...
ZAHN: Do you really think that's what he meant?
KAUS: I think he's living in the Vietnam era.
And, in the Vietnam era, if you remember, there were -- were these periods where it was score high or die. If you did well in college, you kept your college deferment. So, there was this sort of class bias to who went up in the military. That's been eliminated now.
But Kerry's head is obviously still in 1969. So, yes, I do think it was a telling mistake, but it's just John Kerry.
ZAHN: All right.
KAUS: He's not the whole Democratic Party.
ZAHN: All right. So, Mickey didn't get his president in 2004.
You got your president.
ZAHN: He's president today.
You have got some Republicans really running from this president, particularly because the American public is so opposed to this war and the handling of this war. Why are so many Republicans running away from him? And don't -- don't you think it's justifiable, if they're in a tight race, and they think he's going to cost them the race?
I mean, I understand Americans feel -- I mean, obviously, we would like this whole thing to be over, for Islamic terrorists and insurgents to be -- to be -- what did Bush say, gotten rid of one way or the other, alive or dead.
But it is a very difficult war. We weren't attacked by a country. We can't just carpet bomb Germany, set off a nuke in Japan. They're -- these terrorists -- it's just not al Qaeda.
COULTER: It's thread throughout the area -- spread throughout the area.
ZAHN: But, if you are running for office as a Republican in this country, would you want to be campaigning side by side with the president right now, particularly if Iraq is the number-one issue in this country?
COULTER: I think I would, actually.
I mean, I do think we have to go in and win. And I certainly wouldn't want to be campaigning next to a Democrat who -- who -- who, you know, keeps saying: What's the plan? What's the plan?
All it is, is just pointless carping. Well, what's their plan? Their plan is to pull out and really energize the terrorists. We clearly can't do that.
COULTER: There may be a few complaints here and there, but I think the Democrats have shown themselves to be unsuitable to deal with national defense.
ZAHN: And, Mickey, as you know, Republicans are taking advantage of this opening John Kerry gave them with these remarks. And they're saying this is further evidence that Democrats are very soft on the military and soft on security.
KAUS: Well, Bush's defense, as usual, is , he's made such a mess that nobody, including the Democrats, can think a way out of it.
KAUS: And the voters may -- may decide this is a pretty good time, when -- when the presidency is not at stake to send a message to Bush that they disapprove and hold him accountable.
Obviously, it was an imprudent decision to go into Iraq. I'm not one to say it's all gone to hell and we're going to lose and we should go out. But clearly, if we had to do it over again, we wouldn't do it. It wasn't a smart decision and voters can decide if they want to punish Bush for that. And I think that's what they're going to do I think.
ZAHN: Well, you've got someone like Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who's not even locked in a tight race, who goes public and says, if she knew then what she knows now, she never would have voted to go to war.
COULTER: This is an important war for the odd war we're in right now against terrorism. Like I say, it's spread out throughout the world, including in the United States. We have to establish a democracy in this godforesaken area of the world. It doesn't have to be a perfect democracy. We need a place for our troops, we need a base, and we are transforming the world.
I think the recent war in Israel would have developed into an entire conflagration if we had not -- but for the fact that all those countries over there are George Bush's bitch now. They know that he may attack.
ZAHN: All right. But no one running for office is ignoring these statistics that we're going to put up here on the screen. Once again, showing how important the issue is to people who are going to the polls -- at least they're hoping -- in the next week. And terrorism -- one would think when you've looked this on the issue of Iraq, it would benefit Democrats. Why aren't they getting more mileage out of this -- Mickey?
KAUS: Well, I think the Democrats are getting a lot of mileage out of it. Keep in mind that some of those people who say that Iraq's their most important issue are on the Right, and they want us to send more troops.
ZAHN: I know. But they don't see the Democrats talking in a unified voice.
KAUS: Well, that's right. But this is an accountability election, and there's a larger issue about the whole war on terror. First there's the issue of democracy in Iraq. I find it implausible that any military that's strong enough to control the chaos in Iraq will also preserve democracy. There's going to be a coup there one of these days, and we're going to end up with a nondemocratic government. At least those are the odds. In the larger war on -- go ahead.
ZAHN: OK. I just need a quick answer from both of you. Mickey, will the Democrats pick up the House or the Senate?
KAUS: I think they'll definitely pick up the House and it's looking increasingly likely that they'll pick up the Senate. There's always a last-minute wave, and I think it's likely to go to the Democrats.
ZAHN: And what do you think, Ann?
COULTER: Not as much as they ought to. They lost seats in the first midterm election.
ZAHN: You're not overly optimistic...
COULTER: No, I mean, they ought to be picking up like 67 seats. I write about this in my column this week. By historical odds they ought to be picking up 67 seats in the House, roughly a dozen seats in the Senate. Nobody thinks they're going to come close to that, and that's because I think they can't be trusted with national security, whether it's Iraq or NSA.
ZAHN: So you say, they stay in control of Congress?
COULTER: No, I'm pessimistic, but even if they take control, it's not going to be a 1994 election.
ZAHN: All right, you two. We're going to have to leave it thee. Ann Coulter and Mickey Kaus. Thank you.
COULTER: Thank you.
ZAHN: And if the voters do give Democrats control of Congress next week, there will be some big changes in the committees that affect every way the government touches our lives.
Coming up, the possible new chairmen and their new priorities. How about chairwomen?
BLITZER: If Democrats win control of Congress, it will be their dream and the GOP's worst nightmare come true. In these final six days before the election, many voters may be wondering what Democrats will do when or if they are in charge. Some clues can be found by considering who would be boss. Here's our congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel.
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They're among the most liberal politicians in America. Nancy Pelosi, Alcee Hastings, John Conyers, Henry Waxman and Charlie Rangel. And if Democrats win back the House next week, they're set to rocket to the top positions in Congress. Republicans have seized on the prospect of liberal lawmakers running the House as a way to fire up their base on the campaign trail. The president singled out New York's Charlie Rangel, though not by name.
BUSH: I think it is interesting to note that the person who wants to be to be the head of the Ways and Means Committee for the Democrats said that he can't think of one tax cut that he would extend. He said that's code word for get ready, if the Democrats take the House, your taxes are going up.
KOPPEL: Embattled Indiana Republican John Hostettler's campaign is using this radio ad to scare voters away from his Democratic opponent.
ANNOUNCER: Speaker Pelosi will reauthorize the Clinton gun ban. Give amnesty to millions of illegal aliens with Detroit liberal John Conyers, and raise taxes with New York liberal Charlie Rangel.
KOPPEL: In a recent interview with CNN, Nancy Pelosi said Democrats are for tax cuts but only for the middle class. REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: We want to do things that are positive rather than tax cuts to the wealthiest people in our country, which is only taking us deeper in debt at the expense of the middle class.
KOPPEL: But a member of the House Republican leadership, Eric Cantor, told CNN, he doesn't buy it.
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), VIRGINIA: We've already heard from the ranking member on the Ways and Means Committee that there is not one of the Bush tax cuts that he would support for renewal, which to me means a tax increase for many Americans to the tune of maybe $2,100 for each family.
KOPPEL: Republicans also point to other Democrats who will be in charge, like Florida's Alcee Hastings, a former federal judge impeached by the House in 1989 in an alleged bribery scheme, who could be the next chairman of the Intelligence Committee. Hastings says he did nothing wrong.
And Michigan's John Conyers, who has called for President Bush to be impeached, and until recently on his congressional Web site, demanded an investigation into what he called "administration abuses of power." And if the Democrats take power, the 21-term Michigan lawmaker would likely become the next chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
KOPPEL (on camera): But even if these lawmakers would be their party's public face, their clout would likely be limited, due to a significant number of more moderate rank and file Democrats, who often find themselves at odds with their more liberal leadership.
Andrea Koppel, CNN, Capitol Hill.
BLITZER: Senator John Kerry's comments in California are being felt on the frontlines in Iraq. How are members of the U.S. military reacting to Kerry's apology? We're picking up instant reaction online.
Our Internet reporter Jacki Schechner has the latest -- Jacki.
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, Matt Burton (ph) runs black5.net (ph), which is one of the top read military blogs. He's based here in the United States, but he's been getting plenty of e-mails and comments from U.S. troops stationed all over the world. And many of them are very angry with John Kerry. Now he asked tonight, do you accept John Kerry's apology?
And people are commenting on his blog. The answer is a resounding no, apology not accepted. Also commenters going so far as to say that what Kerry issued fell far short of an actual apology.
Now, this image is also making the rounds online today, mostly on conservative blogs. It appears to be U.S. troops holding a sign that reads, "Help us, John Kerry. We are stuck here in Iraq." All misspelled, obviously riffing on Kerry's speech. It appeared first, it seems, on Charlie Sykes' (ph) website. He's a conservative radio talk show host based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The U.S. Army says this appears to be a genuine photo, although they don't know where it was taken, when or by whom.
There are other service men and women who are blogging from the front lines and reacting to Kerry's comments. This is Michael, who's an infantry man in Iraq. And he says, he has a college degree and that Kerry is just blinded by his arrogance.
And then there's Kirsten, who's a captain in the air force, and she's in an office in Baghdad, and she says of the nine military personnel in her office, five have graduate degrees and some even have PhDs. Paula?
ZAHN: Jacki, thanks so much. Coming up, he helped lead the Republican revolution a decade ago. Now former House majority leader Dick Armey speaks out about where he thinks his party went wrong.
A little bit later on, your answers to Jack Cafferty's question. Who is really calling the shots in Iraq?
BLITZER: A dozen years ago, Republicans took control of the House and Senate in a midterm landslide. Six days from now, will they watch Democrats take power in the same way?
BLITZER: Joining us now, the former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, he was one of the architects of that Republican revolution, which he now says went astray. Congressman, thanks very much for coming in. A lot of talk about that article you wrote in the "Washington Post" last Sunday.
Among other things, you wrote "Republican lawmakers forgot the party's principles. Became enamored with power and position and began putting politics over policy. Now, the Democrats are reaping the rewards of our neglect, and we have no one to blame but ourselves." Those were very powerful words, congressman. So where did the Republicans go wrong?
DICK ARMEY (R), FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, if you look back at how we took the majority, unexpectedly after four years was because we nationalized the vision of our party. And we committed and told America we commit to doing big things about this country in the future. And made it very clear it wasn't about ourselves. We were bold, we were innovative, we were creative, and people said hey, yes, let's go with these guys.
They really have something they'd like to accomplish. What has happened over the course of the years ensuing is the Republicans in the majority are more and more attendant to become preoccupied with my position, my next committee assignment, will I win my next election. Instead of long-term policy commitments, they became more and more enamored of short-term political actions, oftentimes in terms of what do we put on the floor, and why do we do it.
It was more about the political consequences and the next few months. They forgot the governing adage of behavior and the legislative body. If you're a small government conservative, good government makes good politics. And they just, they just got too insecure about their own retaining their own majority.
BLITZER: And you also complain that Republicans got too enamored with the religious conservatives. You write this, "America's Christian conservative movement is confronted with this divide. Small government advocates who want to practice their faith independent of heavy-handed government versus big government sympathizers who want to impose their version of righteousness on others through the hammer of law." Explain your concern here.
ARMEY: Well, first of all, let me again, remind you the winning coalition for conservatives is small government conservatives whether they be on the social policy issue or the economic policy issue. That are sort of bonded together by a commitment to individual freedom and relief from big government. What happened on the social policy side and the Schiavo case is probably the best example. Is the social policy conservatives said let's use the power of the government.
Let's preempt the historic separation of powers. Let's embrace judicial activism when it is in fact ordered by a legislative power to compel the judiciary to impose a concept of morality that we happen to believe in. That's a horribly dangerous precedent. It's certainly counter intuitive to any devotion to liberty.
And while it did very little to endear the Republican to the already existing base of evangelical supporters, it deeply offended a very broad spectrum of other voters that were otherwise available. Said no, wait a minute, these guys are supposed to be about liberty, appreciation for the constitution, separation of powers and against judicial activism. So it was a clear choice to say we think righteousness trumps freedom in political -- in public policy. And that of course is a politically losing proposition.
BLITZER: Here's what James Dobson from the group Focus on the Family said reacting to your criticisms. "He could be trying to reposition himself as an erstwhile Republican leader by discrediting the Religious Right, hoping to step into the vacuum after the upcoming election. Come to think of it, that may explain everything." You want to respond to James Dobson?
ARMEY: Well, again, I think Dr. Dobson who happens to be a very good family therapist apparently and so forth, has been one of the more aggressive voices pushing Congress into such decisions as the Schiavo case. My own view was it was a misjudgment in terms of what is the legitimate role of a legislative body, a role of the federal government relative to the judiciary.
It was a misjudgment in terms of the extent to which the American people would rather embrace freedom in our constitutional traditions than the morality play that was being worked out in Florida at the time. And quite frankly, I think if I'm trying to position myself, around an idea, the idea being freedom works.
Let's remain devoted to freedom. Let's put principles of freedom and restraint of big government. Lower taxes, let's put that out ahead of all of our short run concerns about our own political destiny, and we will prosper as we did after the contract with America, with Ronald Reagan, and even in fact of the aftermath of Barry Goldwater.
BLITZER: Congressman Dick Armey, always outspoken. Thanks very much for coming in.
BLITZER: And we're just a few minutes away from a "LARRY KING LIVE" you won't want to miss. At the top of the hour, the new CBS News anchorman Katie Couric tells Larry about how her life has changed.
That's coming up in a few moments.
But up next, Jack Cafferty with your thoughts on who's really calling the shots in Iraq right now.
ZAHN: Jack's back. We used to say that in the morning.
CAFFERTY: We did.
ZAHN: You don't even remember that that was your cue.
CAFFERTY: No, I do, absolutely.
ZAHN: You do?
CAFFERTY: Yes, you and I labored many hours in the early morning vineyards.
The question this hour is, who's calling the shots in Iraq, the United States, the Iraqi government, or the militias? And you're not going to like some of these answers.
Dave in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts: "Obviously no one. We hear the same old rhetoric from Bush and Co. about Iraq. Yet there isn't one member in his staff, himself included, that has the stones to stand up to anyone in Iraq. A leader of a Shiite slum has more clout than the U.S."
Craig in Arizona: "Iran is calling the shots through the militias."
Steve in Washington: "It's obvious that our success in Iraq depends on working together with our partners in Iraq. We can't just bully them and expect to be successful. If the Iraqis had asked us to remove the checkpoints and we did not, then when violence escalated as a result, you would have been just as critical."
Jeff in Vancouver, Canada: "With over 100 Iraqis dying every day (thanks to the U.S invasion), it is a display of incomprehensible arrogance to think that the U.S. had the right (for even a second) to turn a city of 7 million people "upside down" to look for one soldier."
Lawrence in Victoria Texas: "If the generals are truly in charge, as John Boehner suggests, I doubt seriously they would abandon the "no man left behind" doctrine on the demand of an Iraqi warlord. The Republicans cowed to these demands to in order to avoid more bad news in Iraq just days before the election. Clearly the life of one soldier is not as important as retaining control of the Congress."
And Mike in Tampa, Florida: "I concur with Jack's assessment on Sadr City and who's in charge. If truth be known, we've let the militia run that place for a while now and have been inhibited by U.S. Baghdad general. I know. I patrolled Sadr City."
If you don't see your e-mail here, you can go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. We post some more of these online.
ZAHN: We've got to leave you right now because we've got to head to Florida. All right, Jack?
CAFFERTY: You got it.
ZAHN: Thank you.
And we're going to take a look at the Senate there now. As a former astronaut soars in the Sunshine State, a cloud seems to be hovering over his controversial opponent.
John Zarrella has more.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Florida Senator Bill Nelson has good reason to be all smiles.
SEN. BILL NELSON, (D) FLORIDA: Holy smokes! You act like this is a big deal.
ZARRELLA: Nelson is cruising. A double digit lead over his Republican challenger, high profile, highly controversial Congresswoman Katherine Harris.
REP. KATHERINE HARRIS, (R) SENATE CANDIDATE: Floridians want someone that's going to keep government out of their business.
ZARRELLA: Harris was Florida's secretary of state during bitterly disputed the 2000 presidential election, and certified the vote for president George Bush, while the vote count was still being contested.
HARRIS: I hereby declare Governor George W. Bush the winner of Florida's 25 electoral votes.
ZARRELLA: The issue has dogged her ever since. Many Democrats have held her personally responsible for Bush's victory. Harris is constantly defending her role.
HARRIS: There are so many reports that were completely false when I know I followed the letter of the law. And I'm grateful for that.
ZARRELLA: But the Republican party is far from grateful that she's in the race. Concerned she would galvanize Democrats, they discouraged her from running. The president's brother, Florida's Republican Governor Jeb Bush was blunt.
GOV. JEB BUSH, (R) FLORIDA: And we also already have a candidate in the race. I just -- who's a good person. I just don't believe she can win.
ZARRELLA: But Harris refused to cave. She has said she would use millions of her own family money in the campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The only thing that will really win it for Katherine Harris is a massively larger Republican turnout than Democratic turnout, and for all the Republicans who are wavering to vote a straight ticket and include her in it.
ZARRELLA: Analysts say Harris held her own in the first debate with Nelson. There were no fireworks. Both candidates agreed on many issues. They disagreed on whether the U.S.'s dependency on foreign oil could be muted by drilling in Anwar, the delicate Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
NELSON: It doesn't take a mathematical genius to understand you can't drill your way out of the problem.
HARRIS: If you would take the entire area of Anwar the size of where we're going to drill, it's the equivalent of having a football field and putting a postage stamp in the middle of it.
ZARRELLA: Political experts say just holding her own in debates won't do it. The lack of party support and the stigma of 2000 may simply be too much for Katherine Harris to overcome.
John Zarrella, CNN, Davie, Florida.
BLITZER: And this important note coming up right at the top of the hour on "LARRY KING LIVE", a prime time exclusive.
ZAHN: Katie Couric will be along. The brand new anchorwoman of the "CBS Evening News" talks about her new job, the pressure cooker that it is. And she'll be taking your phone calls. Katie Couric coming up.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Here's an election edition of some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends at the Associated Press.
ZAHN: You got Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill leaving a restaurant in southwest Missouri.
BLITZER: In Fairfax, Virginia Republican Senator George Allen campaigns with Senator John Warner.
ZAHN: From Clinton, Tennessee, Republican Senate candidate Bob Corker enjoys a milkshake while talking with voters at a drugstore.
BLITZER: Looks pretty good. And elsewhere in Tennessee, his opponent, Democratic Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. places a bumper sticker bearing his name on a truck.
ZAHN: Oh, the things you got to do out there on the campaign trail.
And that's today's "Hot Shots" pictures, often worth a thousand words.
BLITZER: We had hoped to bring you an interview this hour with Congressman Harold Ford. He's in a tight Senate race in Tennessee. Unfortunately, he got stuck in traffic. We'll try to bring him to you tomorrow.
ZAHN: And the two of us will be back together. Same time, same place tomorrow night, 7:00 to 9:00. Hope you join us then.
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