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THE SITUATION ROOM
Iraqi Prime Minister Skips Dinner With President Bush and King Abdullah of Jordan; Colin Powell Says Violence In Iraq Meets Standard Of Civil War; President of Iran Writes Open Letter To American People; Jim Webb Confirms Angry Exchange With President Bush; David Satterfield Interview; Charles Rangel Interview
Aired November 29, 2006 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou. And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you tonight's top stories.
Happening now, President Bush stood up by Iraq's prime minister. Is it a sign of things to come for their summit in Jordan? It's 2:00 a.m. Thursday in Amman where a stunning secret memo isn't helping Iraq crisis talks get off to a good start.
Also this hour, Colin Powell takes his differences with the president over Iraq a step further. The former secretary of state is using the words the Bush administration won't -- civil war.
And dancing penguins caught in the culture wars. Conservatives aren't happy about the movie "Happy Feet." Is it a cute cartoon or environmental propaganda?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Tonight new setbacks and complications for U.S. and Iraqi officials now desperately searching for a way out of a bloody and politically-damaging war. The Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki was a no show at a dinner with President Bush and Jordan's King Abdullah in Amman. Mr. Bush and al-Maliki won't meet now until tomorrow.
The delay talks on the heels of a bomb shell here in the United States that word -- the disclosure of a classified memo by the national security adviser Stephen Hadley. And it raises serious questions about whether al-Maliki can reign in sectarian warfare in Iraq.
Another blow to al-Maliki, lawmakers loyal to the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who hates the United States today suspended their involvement in the Iraqi government. It's their way of protesting al- Maliki's meeting with President Bush who they call the world's biggest evil. And former Secretary of State Colin Powell is now disputing the Bush administration's definition of the ongoing violence in Iraq.
Powell says if he were heading the State Department right now, he'd recommend calling it a civil war. Standing by is CNN's Carol Costello and our Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre. But let's go to our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. She's on the scene for us tonight in Amman, Jordan where the president has been meeting with the king of Jordan, but not with the prime minister of Iraq. Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, this certainly is not the picture that the White House had hoped for. Al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, was a no show for those three- way discussions this evening. The White House is trying to save face. But clearly officials were very surprised by all of this. But considering what happened before the summit, perhaps they shouldn't be.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): Under extreme pressure on all sides to stop the carnage in Iraq, President Bush, Jordan's King Abdullah and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki were scheduled to meet here in Amman, Jordan tonight. But an abrupt cancellation, the president took the call aboard Air Force One en route. He was being stood up by the prime minister of Iraq.
White House counselor Dan Bartlett insisted it wasn't a snub, but that because Maliki and the king sat down earlier in the day, the three of them no longer needed to meet. Mr. Bush and Maliki's face to face talks are still planned for tomorrow. But even before the president arrived, the summit looked to be off to a rough start.
First a secret and very blunt memo was leaked expressing White House doubts whether Maliki was capable of quelling the violence in his country. Mr. Bush's national security adviser Stephen Hadley said Maliki had good intentions, but that Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action.
Second, backers of the radical Shiite Muqtada al-Sadr made good on their promise when they withdrew their support from Maliki's government in protest of his planned meetings with Mr. Bush. Meanwhile former Secretary of State Colin Powell delivered a speech in the Middle East saying he believes the violence in Iraq should be called a civil war. Adding if he were still in the administration, that's what he would do.
MALVEAUX: It's at a critical time for both leaders. Their credibility on the line engaged in this game of high stakes diplomacy. President Bush under pressure of course to change course in Iraq policy and Maliki under pressure at home to show his strength and his independence from the Bush administration. Wolf?
BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux on the scene for us in Jordan. Thanks very much. And as Suzanne just reported, President Bush plans his talks on the crisis in Iraq. Yet one person who supported the original invasion of Iraq is now out with a sobering and surprising assessment of what's actually happening on the ground. Let's turn to our Carol Costello; she's joining us with details -- Carol.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, time for the name game. But this time the label civil war is coming from none other than Colin Powell. And he said it to an audience in the Middle East contradicting his old boss at the very same time President Bush is convening a summit in Jordan.
COSTELLO (voice-over): Crank up the heat and get ready for a possible Republican civil war, courtesy of one of the most popular statesmen today, Colin Powell. At a leadership conference held in Dubai chalked full of influential Arabs, Powell told the crowd Iraq is in a quote, "civil war". There are no TV cameras inside the conference, but CNN's Hala Gorani was there and says Powell added...
VOICE OF HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If he were still heading the State Department he would probably recommend to the Bush administration that those terms should be used.
COSTELLO: This is the same man who led the march to war in Iraq at the United Nations in 2003.
COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: The facts and Iraq's behavior show that Saddam Hussein and his regime are concealing their efforts to produce more weapons of mass destruction.
COSTELLO: But what a difference a few years makes. What Powell said today is politically important because it could snowball among Republicans starting a different kind of civil war on Capitol Hill.
MARCUS MABRY, SENIOR EDITOR, "NEWSWEEK": Many Republicans who will now see that Colin Powell has declared this a civil war and they will feel that now gives them the political cover to speak of it in the same terms.
COSTELLO: After all, General Powell has credibility. He led the first Gulf War and he served as secretary of state until he left partly over disagreements over how the war was being waged. As for what his replacement says about Powell's definition of the war now, it isn't likely Condoleezza Rice will recommend her boss call the violence in Iraq a civil war.
TOM CASEY, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: It's not what our commanders on the ground say it is. And we frankly are relying on the assessment of those experts that are sitting there in Baghdad.
COSTELLO: But if more Republicans start uttering the term civil war, political watchers say things might become so hot for President Bush, he may be forced to stray the course.
COSTELLO: Something else Mr. Powell told our Hala Gorani, he continues to regret his statements to the United Nations in 2003. And Wolf, lest you think his public definition of the war is setting up for a possible presidential run, Powell says he has absolutely no plans to run for president.
BLITZER: We are going to be speaking shortly about Colin Powell's words with Charlie Rangel, the Democratic congressman from New York. He has some choice words for the former secretary of state. Thanks very much for that -- Carol Costello reporting.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon is preparing to issue new marching orders in its battle to try to tighten the security in Iraq. At least three battalions of additional U.S. troops expected to be moved into the Baghdad area. Let's get to more specific details from our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre. Jamie, what's going on?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, once again the failure of Iraqi troops to step up has forced U.S. troops to step in. U.S. commanders have ordered at least three battalions. That's roughly 1,500 troops moved into Baghdad, partly because they are short some 3,000 Iraqi troops that were promised by the Iraqi government but have never shown up. Despite the fact that Iraq has 300,000 troops in uniform, many don't want to leave their home areas or are considered unsuitable for work in Baghdad.
Meanwhile, the chairman of Joint Chiefs dismissed a report by ABC News suggesting that the United States was going to move Marines from Anbar Province into Baghdad, essentially abandoning Anbar Province. The Joint Chiefs chairman, General Peter Pace, said quote, "that is not on the table" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jamie, thank you very much. Let's go to New York and Jack Cafferty. He's standing by with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado has managed to get both his feet into his mouth at the same time. That's not easy. This weekend on a conservative Web site, "WorldNetDaily", Tancredo said Miami, Florida has become quote, "a third world country", unquote. He said Miami is an example of what uncontrolled immigration can do to the nature of America.
If Tancredo's name is familiar to you, that's because he chairs the Bipartisan House Immigration Reform Caucus. And he wants a fence along the U.S./Mexican border. Needless to say Florida Governor Jeb Bush was not amused by these comments. He wrote a letter to Tancredo yesterday saying that Miami's diversity is something the state of Florida chooses to celebrate, not insult.
Tancredo fired right back at the governor with his own letter, calling Bush's characterization of Miami as multiethnic and all America naive. So here's the question. Congressman Tancredo called Miami, Florida a third-world country. Do you agree? E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: See you soon, Jack. Thank you. And coming up, Iran's president making his case directly to the American people tonight. We're going to have details of his open letter slamming the Bush administration and surprisingly making a prediction for the next U.S. election.
Two Democrats are publicly venting their anger at President Bush right now. Senator-elect Jim Webb has a very personal bone to pick with Mr. Bush over Iraq. And Al Gore just may be setting the stage for a presidential campaign comeback. There are new developments.
And take a look at this, "Happy Feet", that's a movie. The kids love it. It's the number one film in America right now. But some are calling it propaganda. CNN's Jeanne Moos shows us a new front in the culture wars.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: There's word tonight of important developments regarding the planned report from the bipartisan group studying ways to try to come up with a solution to the crisis in Iraq. Our White House correspondent Ed Henry has been learning additional details. Ed, what's going on?
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, an official close to the Iraq study group tonight tells CNN that in fact they have reached an agreement on what he calls key issues, paving the way for their final report to be released next week. As you know, published reports have suggested deep division on this Iraq study group. But the co-chairman of the group, Lee Hamilton, a short time ago came out and made a dramatic statement suggesting the critics, the doubters may be wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEE HAMILTON, IRAQ STUDY GROUP: Let me say two things about the Iraq study group. Number one, early this afternoon we reached a consensus. And number two we will announce that on December 6.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, a very short and sweet statement giving no details. Obviously the $64,000 question now is what exactly is this consensus? Can this bipartisan panel, five Republicans, five Democrats, led by Democrat Hamilton, Republican James Baker the former secretary of state. Do they have some sort of consensus on really the key issue whether or not U.S. troops should be withdrawn and if so, how quickly?
What would be the plan on that? That has been one of the issues vexing this panel, vexing the Bush administration and also Capitol Hill, leaders in both parties. We don't know yet. Officials close to the panel saying they just don't know. A very small select group of people have seen this, early versions of the report. It will be out next Wednesday when the world will know -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And to our viewers, stay with CNN next Wednesday for complete details. We will be watching that, Ed, very, very closely.
Meanwhile, the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is making his case directly to the American people. Today he sent an open letter calling on them to change what he characterizes the mistakes of the Bush administration. Let's turn to our State Department correspondent Zain Verjee -- Zain.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Bush has addressed the Iranian people directly before. Today Iran's president decided it was his turn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
VERJEE (voice-over): A letter delivered straight from Iran's hard-line president to the American people. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad slams the U.S.-led war in Iraq, which he says has left the country in ruins and fueled terrorism. The cost, he says, has been high to Iraqis but for Americans too in blood and money.
I consider it extremely unlikely that you, the American people, consent to the billions of dollars of annual expenditure from your Treasury for this military misadventure. He adds America could spend its own dollars on its own people like victims of Hurricane Katrina and Americans living in poverty.
Ahmadinejad once again condemns U.S. support for Israel and says U.S. treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib has added to America's poor image around the world. He appears to capitalize on the dramatically different political landscape in the U.S. saying, I hope that in the wake of the midterm elections, the administration of President Bush will have heard and will heed the message of the American people. He warns Democrats if they don't change the U.S. approach, they too will lose power.
KARIM SADJADPOUR, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: I think it is coming at a time when there has been a general consensus reached in Washington that the U.S. has to talk to Iran about Iraq's future.
VERJEE: Most U.S. officials were dismissive of the letter. A similar response to a previous letter Ahmadinejad wrote to President Bush earlier this year.
JOHN BOLTON, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N: Though I understand it's only five pages and not 18 pages like the last one, so that's a step ahead.
CASEY: There's really not a lot new here. And certainly it is something of a public affairs or public relations effort.
VERJEE: We asked the State Department if it had a problem that the Iranian president wrote this letter directly to the American people. They said no, they really don't. He's free to talk to whoever he wants. Wolf?
BLITZER: Zain, thank you. And this note to our viewers -- Zain is going to be back in the next hour for more on the Iran factor, 8:00 p.m. Eastern on "PAULA ZAHN NOW".
Still to come tonight right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, two very different takes on the carnage in Iraq and whether the Bush administration can make it go away. I'll speak with David Satterfield, a top adviser to the secretary of state on whether the White House was snubbed by Iraq's prime minister tonight.
And Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel -- he has some choice words for Colin Powell.
Plus, a war of words over Iraq, pitting a Democratic senator- elect against the president. It's getting very bitter. It's getting very personal. You're going to want to see this.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: A Democratic senator-elect makes no bones about his anger tonight at President Bush over the war in Iraq. And it's a very, very personal thing for Virginia's Jim Webb. His son, a United States Marine, now serving in Iraq and that contributed to an ice-cold exchange between Webb and Mr. Bush that's now being made public. Here's our senior political analyst Bill Schneider -- Bill.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, former House Speaker Sam Rayburn used to tell new members of Congress around here, you've got to go along to get along. Try telling that to Virginia's new senator.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Jim Webb became a Democrat and ran for the Senate for one big reason, Iraq.
JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA SENATOR-ELECT: I was an early voice warning against the implications of invading and occupying Iraq.
SCHNEIDER: Webb has special credibility on Iraq. He was a military officer who served in Vietnam, a former secretary of the Navy under President Reagan, and he has a son serving in Iraq.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SCHNEIDER: He wore his son's old combat boots during the campaign.
WEBB: I have tremendous admiration for my son and for everyone else who is serving there that they need to be led properly.
SCHNEIDER: Webb took on President Bush directly.
WEBB: But the keyword is leadership, which has been a scarce commodity among this administration and its followers.
SCHNEIDER: President Bush saw Webb at a White House reception for new members of Congress this month. Webb had this exchange with the president which he confirmed to "The Washington Post."
How's your boy, Bush asked? I'd like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President, Webb replied. That's not what I asked you, Bush said. How's your boy? That's between me and my boy, Mr. President, Webb said.
The White House incident is costing a lot of tut-tutting in Washington. A Democratic Senate staffer told "The Post", I think Webb is going to be a total pain. He's going to do things his own way -- shock, horror. Webb reassures his colleagues...
WEBB: I've spent four years as a committee counsel in the Congress. I know how the process works.
SCHNEIDER: Webb's confrontation is a striking contrast to the pictures of Democrats meeting with President Bush and pledging cooperation and bipartisanship. It's also not the way things usually get done in Washington, but it is what a lot of people voted for.
SCHNEIDER: Webb did not run as a typical politician. And it doesn't look like he's about to change now that he's gotten elected -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider reporting for us. Jim Webb, not a typical politician that is true.
Just ahead, Al Gore blasts President Bush again. Is he now setting the stage for another run for the White House?
And politically-charged penguins, find out why some conservatives are all fired up about "Happy Feet."
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Happening now, President Bush's all important meeting with the Iraqi prime minister has been put off until tomorrow. Nuri al-Maliki skips a dinner with President Bush and Jordan's King Abdullah. White House officials insist it was not related to an embarrassing new memo questioning al- Maliki's ability to run Iraq.
Meanwhile, the man who was secretary of state when the war began says Iraq's raging violence meets the standard of a civil war. And Colin Powell says he might advise the administration to use that term if he were still over at the State Department.
And in Britain right now, disturbing new developments in the case of that former Russian spy killed with radioactive poison. British Airways now says traces of radiation have been found on at least two of its planes. The airline is now working to contact, get this, 33,000 passengers who may have been exposed over the past few weeks.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
More now on our top story, the crisis in Iraq and ways to try to resolve it. President Bush's trip to Jordan for talks with the Iraqi prime minister comes amid an embarrassing new revelation, a White House memo questioning the Iraqi prime minister's capabilities and intentions in leading Iraq. Let's turn to CNN's Brian Todd. He's watching this story -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, top White House officials today stress the president does have confidence in Nuri al-Maliki. But one look at this classified secret memo from Mr. Bush's national security adviser suggests otherwise.
TODD (voice-over): A startling inside look, grave doubts among top White House officials about Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his ability to control spiraling violence. A classified memo from national security adviser Stephen Hadley obtained by "The New York Times".
Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action. If that was Hadley's position a few weeks ago, why does President Bush now signal he'll lean on Maliki for answers when they meet in Jordan?
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My questions to him will be what do we need to do to succeed? What is your strategy in dealing with the sectarian violence?
TODD: Was the release of this memo a signal to Maliki? Senior White House officials deny leaking Hadley's document. One official saying this is not helpful. One columnist agrees.
DAVID IGNATIUS, "WASHINGTON POST" COLUMNIST: It's hard to imagine something that would be more disruptive to a presidential summit meeting than a document like this, but it does state clearly this strategy premised on Prime Minister Maliki isn't working.
TODD: CNN's efforts to reach Maliki's office and members of Iraq's Parliament for reaction were unsuccessful. Maliki, who's Shia, has been accused of being too tough on Sunnis and overlooking abuses committed by Shia militants like those led by radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
The documents suggest ways he can turn that around. One of them, quote, "bring his political strategy with Muqtada al-Sadr to closure." But can he do it?
MAMOUN FANDY, INTL. INST. FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES: I think it is beyond the control of Mr. Maliki. Muqtada al-Sadr is a real player in terms of militias on the ground as well as his supporters who make the coalition that puts Maliki on top of the government.
TODD: A top White House official tells us this memo is not about the president dictating terms to al-Maliki. And the document doesn't leave the prime minister hanging. It does list several ways the U.S. can help him stabilize Iraq if he's unable to do it himself, like helping him broaden his political base from his tight circle of Shia advisers, and something U.S. commanders just ordered today, moving additional American forces into Baghdad -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, thank you. Brian Todd reporting.
And as we've been reporting in the wake of that memo, the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has canceled his scheduled meeting tonight with President Bush in the Jordanian capital. They are now scheduled to meet tomorrow.
David Satterfield is a senior adviser to the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the coordinator for Iraq.
BLITZER: As you know, ambassador, a lot of people are hearing the threats coming from Muqtada al-Sadr and his bloc in parliament, saying he shouldn't even be going to Amman, he shouldn't be meeting with the president.
And you know what? I was stunned when I heard that he boycotted this photo opportunity. The three of them supposedly showing that there was some solidarity there and all of a sudden, Nuri al-Maliki boycotting this meeting.
DAVID SATTERFIELD, SR. ADVISER TO SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, he's not boycotting the meeting. It was agreed that the meeting would not take place, the meeting wasn't necessary.
And with respect to Muqtada al-Sadr, his threats or the action taken by his parliamentarians, they haven't had any impact on the prime minister's willingness to come to Jordan in the first instance, or to meet with the president in the second. It's going ahead regardless.
BLITZER: It looks like -- and you have spent a lot of time in Baghdad, risking your life there. It looks like this guy, Muqtada al- Sadr who hates the United States, who has American blood on his hands, according to Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the first U.S. military commander there, it looks like he's calling the shots of Nuri al-Maliki's government.
SATTERFIELD: But he's not. If he were calling the shots, the prime minister wouldn't be in Jordan, he wouldn't be seeing the president. He's there, he's had a good meeting with the King and he's going to have a good meeting with the president in the morning.
BLITZER: All right, we'll see if he shows up for that meeting in the morning.
Here's what Stephen Hadley, the president's national security adviser, wrote in this November 8th memo to the president about Nuri al-Maliki. "The reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action."
Those are strong words about a guy who apparently doesn't have a whole lot of power in Iraq right now.
SATTERFIELD: The president supports the prime minister, the president has affirmed that in many meetings, in many conferences that they've had. He's going to do it tomorrow. The president knows the prime minister wants greater control over the Iraqi security forces. He wants to see a transition to an Iraqi lead on the political as well as on the military front. And that's something we've been discussing and we'll continue to discuss.
The president wants to hear from the prime minister. Where's the prime minister going on national reconciliation, on governance issues, on the political track? This is going to be a very thorough review but it's done in the capacity of a sovereign leader whom we respect, whom we want to help succeed.
BLITZER: It sounds, though, that Stephen Hadley -- and I carefully read that memo, not once, not twice, but three times. It sounds like he's not so sure that Nuri al-Maliki really wants a democracy embracing the Shia, the Sunni, the Kurds, all of the groups of Iraq, or he's simply is trying to stack the deck and create a Shiite-led theocracy aligned with Iran.
SATTERFIELD: If we had concluded that Prime Minister Maliki was following a sectarian agenda, the president would not have traveled to Amman, he would not be meeting with him. We see him as a national leader, but we see him as a national leader who has capacity issues. That's what we are trying to help on. That's what we're discussing.
BLITZER: What does that mean "capacity issues"?
BLITZER: Ambassador David Satterfield speaking with me earlier.
Still to come tonight, he had some choice words for Colin Powell. That would be Congressman Charlie Rangel. He'll speak about what's going on in the Iraq crisis. He's not very happy. That's coming up next.
Also, a hit animated movie winds up as the new battleground in the "Culture Wars." We're going to tell you what's going on. Jeanne Moos' take. You'll want to see this. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: News just coming into CNN on that missing American U.S. Air Force pilot whose plane crashed in Iraq. Carol Costello following the story.
What are we learning, Carol?
COSTELLO: It's a sad story, Wolf, the Department of Defense just releasing a picture of Major Troy Gilbert. There he is right there. He leaves behind a wife and children. We don't -- his body is still -- well, we don't know where his body is. But they did find human remains at the crash site. Tests have to be performed to find out if they do belong to Major Gilbert.
His family did release a statement. I'm going to read it quickly to you. They said, "Troy was first and foremost a wonderful husband and father. His Christian faith, personal values and work ethic guided his personal life and his career as a military officer. He was highly respected by and deeply loved by so many. At the time of the tragedy during combat operations, he was unselfishly protecting the lives of other American military members. We, his family, cherish the worldwide prayers and support during this extremely difficult time" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Our deepest condolences to his family. Major Troy Gilbert, fighter pilot, U.S. Air Force F-16. Thanks, Carol, for that.
Iraq reaching a new level of crisis tonight. The government growing increasingly unstable in Baghdad. The White House now questioning an elite memo, the effectiveness of the prime minister and the civilian death toll climbing with another 50-plus bodies discovered in Baghdad alone.
Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel had some very strong opinions on the crisis.
BLITZER: Congressman, thanks very much for coming in. I'm not going to call you Mr. Chairman yet, but pretty soon that will be the way we will refer to you.
Jimmy Carter was here in THE SITUATION ROOM yesterday, the former president of the United States, and I asked him about how big a blunder the president made in going into Iraq. Listen to this exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's going to prove, I believe, to be one of the greatest blunders that American presidents have ever made.
BLITZER: Bigger than Vietnam? CARTER: I think it's going to be a close call, but perhaps much more vividly known by the rest of the world than Vietnam was.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think? Do you agree with the former president?
REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: I could not agree with him more. As a matter of fact, I was hoping that in the interview with Colin Powell, he might share with us, what information did they give to him, to allow him with all of the credibility that he used to have, to go into Iraq? Every reason that the president gave the congress and the American people have fallen through. And the suspicion is that he and others may have known that the facts were not true.
BLITZER: Well, wait a minute, wait a minute. You're not accusing Colin Powell of deliberately lying to the American public. I assume knowing him as I do for so many years, that he honestly believed when he was told at the CIA that there were weapons of mass destruction stockpiled, and he said that before the UN Security Council, I have to assume he honestly believed it.
RANGEL: I'm not going to argue with that. But his chief of staff said publicly and it's written in a book that that was his worst day sitting with his boss at the U.N.
BLITZER: That's true. But don't you believe that Colin Powell is a man of integrity that believed what he said?
RANGEL: Yes, of course, I do. But if somebody did that to me, with whatever little integrity I had, and my chief of staff was there, obviously, telling me that that was not factual, I would be outraged. So I'm not challenging the honesty of Colin Powell.
But I question why there hasn't been more outrage, especially that now he's describing it as a civil war. The question to this, as former President Carter said, how could one man and his cabinet bring this great country into this disaster, this cesspool? You can call it a civil war, but it certainly is not a liberation force.
BLITZER: You're going to be in the majority now in the United States House of Representatives. If this situation continues to deteriorate and emerges of Vietnam where helicopters will be going into the U.S. Embassy to try to whisk remaining American troops out, what are you going to do about that as the majority in the U.S. Congress?
RANGEL: Let me make it clear, Democrats may be in the majority in the Congress but we are not a part of the executive branch. The president has heard the American people loud and clear. They're against the war. I hope this Iraqi study group reflects that type of feeling. I'm certain it will.
But I'm optimistic that, you know, I'm a little skeptical that the president is over there talking with Maliki and going to Jordan. He ought to stay at the White House and let the diplomats try to work this out. We have a heck of a wonderful opportunity with peace being negotiated between the Palestinians and Israel to get the Jordanians, the Saudi Arabians and the Egyptians --
BLITZER: Congressman, you know a lot of Americans are going to say, look, we elected these Democrats to be the majority in the House and the Senate. In large part, I think you'll agree, because of the war in Iraq, the unhappiness, the anger here in the United States, and they're going to rely on you to try to do something if the policies don't change. Here's one option that's on the table, the power of the purse, something that you can control as the majority in the House of Representatives. Is that something that you're going to tamper with?
RANGEL: Of course not. We would never do anything that would jeopardize the safety of our brave young men and women over there. The biggest tool that we have at this point in time is not the power of the purse, but the power of the subpoena. We have never had oversight of any of these things that has been said and done to get us into this dilemma that we find ourselves in. So when people come down under oath, you won't have to worry about where we got this bad information.
BLITZER: Who do you want to subpoena?
RANGEL: Anybody that's telling us things that just doesn't make any truth. But I don't think we have to go there. They're falling apart. The president is falling apart. He's calling upon his father's friends. And we may get some sanity out of this if the president stays at home and lets Condoleezza Rice and maybe bring back Colin Powell and use Jim Baker, you know. It's time that we bring in these moderate Arab country leaders and at least we're talking to them. This is their struggle, too. It's not just the United States and Israel.
BLITZER: Let me pick your brain on this extraordinary letter that the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has now written to the American people that would be you and me among them. He writes this among other things, "Now that Iraq has a constitution and an independent assembly and government, would it not be more beneficial to bring the U.S. officers and soldiers home, and to spend the astronomical U.S. military expenditures in Iraq for the welfare and prosperity of the American people? It's interesting that he's now weighing in on this debate here in the United States.
RANGEL: Well he couldn't be more right, you know. We've lost 3,000 men over there, 20,000 wounded American men and women. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. I'm not saying just close it down and come home. But it's really time to bring in those people, from the region, who understands the culture and the difference that these people have.
And to let them stop holding our coats, but to get involved in trying to find some peace there. I'm anxiously waiting for this Iraqi study report. Because I know it's not saying what the president is saying. We cannot stay there until victory is won and we have no clue as to what the victory is. And we cannot afford to stay the course. BLITZER: Next Wednesday, it's coming out. Lee Hamilton, a man you know well. You served in the House with him for a long time and James baker. Five Democrats, five Republicans. We're told they're getting close to a unanimous set of recommendations. But we'll find out next Wednesday. Charlie Rangel, always good of you to come into THE SITUATION ROOM.
RANGEL: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And up ahead, Al Gore lashes out at the Bush administration. And some say right now, sounding a lot like a candidate once again. We have some new details for you tonight.
Then, penguins and politics. We'll find out why the new kids' movie "Happy Feet" is actually causing quite a flap amongst some political conservatives. We'll tell you what's going on.
Stay with us.
You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Americans have been seeing an awful lot of Al Gore lately. But will they see him on the campaign trail coming up to 2008?
Let's turn to CNN's Allan Chernoff. He's following the Gore guessing game -- Allan.
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's a Hollywood night for Al, Gore appearing on the "Tonight Show" and being honored at a dinner as one of "GQ" magazine's men of the year. Gore is promoting the DVD release of his movie, "An Inconvenient Truth". There is speculation that the former vice president may also be promoting his political career.
CHERNOFF (voice-over): A very hip Al Gore posing on "GQ" magazine's Web site, across from Lindsay Lohan.
Gore, one of "GQ"'s men of the year, bashes President Bush in the magazine with some of his harshest criticism: "Dammit, whatever happened to the concept of accountability for catastrophic failure? This administration has been, by far, the most incompetent, inept, and with more moral cowardice and obsequiousness to their wealthy contributors, and obliviousness to the public interest of any administration in modern history, and probably in the entire history of the country!"
Gore friends and former advisers say the tough tone does not indicate he's preparing to run for president. ELAINE KAMARCK, FORMER GORE ADVISER: He's not running for president. I think he would love to have an Academy Award for the best documentary, but I don't think that's the same as running for president.
CHERNOFF: Gore denied plans to run on the Headline News program "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT."
AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have no intention of being a candidate again.
CHERNOFF: And he repeated that denial in the "GQ" interview: "I don't plan to run. And I don't expect to run. I appreciate that people think enough of me still to ask that question. It's true that I haven't gotten to the point where I am willing to completely rule it out for all time."
Gore's spokesperson told CNN the former vice president had made it clear he has no intention of running, and that his focus is on global warning not the presidency. But some former staffers hope that Gore, next year, will broaden his campaign.
KAMARCK: Look, he might change his mind in six months. Frankly, part of me hopes that he will.
CHERNOFF: Some big players in Democratic politics are also hoping. One of them argues, though, that Al Gore can gain more popularity now by avoiding presidential politics and just focusing on being a movie star -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Allan, thank you.
And, by the way, some other people who are close to Al Gore have been telling CNN that there is an increased likelihood that he'll throw his hat in the ring eventually, although they say still no decisions have been made. We'll watch this story very closely.
Jack Cafferty is joining us with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: He's going to run, OK? I would be very surprised if he didn't run. But that picture in "Esquire" -- is it "Esquire" magazine, Allan?
BLITZER: "GQ." "GQ."
CAFFERTY: Al Gore -- you know, there's just people in this world who aren't hip. And he's one of them.
Lawmakers in Florida not too happy with some remarks by Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, remarks to the effect that illegal immigration on U.S. cities, namely, Miami, Florida, is not a good thing. The question this hour, is Congressman Tancredo called Miami a third world country because of all the illegal immigrants -- aliens, down there. Our question is, do you agree with that assessment? Gayle in Colorado: "Tom Tancredo is an embarrassment to the state of Colorado. Only he would describe a city with diversity as being third world. He's a bigot who somehow managed to get reelected."
Barbara in Florida: "I live in north Miami, and Tancredo has hit the nail on the head. Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida, like his brother, keeps his head in the sand."
Tom in Maywood, New Jersey writes, "Florida proved it was a third world country during the 2000 elections. Why would anyone thing it's changed since then?"
Walter writes: "Miami is an important gateway to Latin America, indicative of the United States' strengths. Latinos influence the city the way Irish-Americans once influenced New York or Boston. Get over it. It's a good thing."
Angela in Margate, Florida writes, "I live in south Florida, and the answer is yes, we are like a third world country. You can't find a job here if you're not bilingual. Our school system is probably one of the world in the country. Our kids are graduating high school with an eighth grade education."
And David in Athens, Texas writes, "It doesn't look very third world on 'CSI Miami.'"
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile where you can read some more of them online -- Wolf.
BLITZER: See you tomorrow, Jack. Thanks very much.
Let's check in with Paula and see what's coming up right at the top of the hour -- Paula.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf.
We're going to kick off the hour talking about what's going on in Amman, Jordan this hour. The controversy over why the president did not end up meeting with the prime minister of Iraq.
Then we're going to move onto a huge police controversy here over the weekend. New York officers killed a man, firing more than 50 shots at a him even though he turned out to be unarmed. And as part of our top story coverage, we're going to take you inside a training ground where you actually get to see officers learn to make deadly, split-second decisions about when to shoot and when to hold back.
The pictures are just incredible. I think it's the closest I've ever gotten -- I've been at a lot of shooting ranges before -- to seeing just what it is cops are up against in the field.
So we're going to see you at the top of the hour, Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll look forward to it, Paula. Thank you. And still ahead, penguins and politics collide in a hit animated movie. CNN's Jeanne Moos shows us why "Happy Feet" has some conservatives very unhappy. Stay with us. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: In the "Culture Wars" tonight, controversy is growing over the number-one movie in the country. CNN's Jeanne Moos explains why some people aren't happy with "Happy Feet."
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You know things are going downhill when dancing penguin causes a political flap.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're foisting this on my kids.
GLENN BECK, TALK SHOW HOST: Tell me about it first, OK, so I know I'm walking into propaganda.
MOOS: Not everyone is happy with the blockbuster "Happy Feet." "Crappy Feet" one critic called it. Some conservatives say it's dark, disturbing environmental propaganda, pitting cute penguins against big, bad humans in the fishing industry.
BECK: In an animated version of "An Inconvenient Truth."
MOOS: But can you really compare Al Gore's global warming documentary to "Happy Feet"?
NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I half expected to see an animated version of Al Gore pop up.
MOOS: In Al Gore's film, glaciers crack, but the only cracking in "Happy Feet" is caused by bad vocals.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard an animal once do that but then they rolled him over. He was dead.
MOOS: There is no global warming in "Happy Feet," though the director readily admits to amplifying environmental themes. The penguins are starving because of over-fishing. Humans are called aliens.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever been abducted my aliens?
MOOS: Check out the six-pack holder around his neck.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is my sacred talisman.
MOOS: It ends up almost choking him to death.
(on camera): Even the "New York Times" describes the movie as "a view of hell as seen through the eyes and ears of creatures we foolishly, tragically call dumb."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yo, penguino, I'm the genius Ramon.
MOOS (voice-over): That's the voice of Robin Williams, portraying one of the lead penguins. The movie has gotten rave reviews.
ERIC BOEHLERT, MEDIA MATTERS: I just think conservatives are, you know, still cranky from the election and they pick a fight with this animated penguin. It doesn't make any sense.
MOOS: One critic even suggesting there's a gay subtext. Mumbles is an outcast because he dances, but can't sing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it just ain't penguins, OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't ask me to change, pa, because I can't.
MOOS: But don't expect Mumbles to join the ranks of actual gay penguin couples. "Happy Feet" defenders say he's no different than Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
ROBERT THOMPSON, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY: Of the 50,000 things affecting America's youth in negative ways today, I don't think the penguin movie is probably on that 50,000.
MOOS: As for kids who have seen the movie...
(on camera): What's the movie about?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happy feet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you. I love you.
MOOS (voice-over): ... "Happy Feet" seems to have gone to their heads.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me what the penguins do.
MOOS: But those "Happy Feet" are stepping on conservative toes.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: Among our guests tomorrow, Senator John Kerry and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Let's go to Paula right now -- Paula.
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