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THE SITUATION ROOM

U.S. Military Losses in Iraq Top 3,000, Bush Pays Final Respects to Ford, Saddam's Execution Reaches Internet

Aired January 1, 2007 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.
Happening now, grim passages and haunting images in Iraq. The U.S. troop death toll, now over 3,000, is weighing heavily on President Bush's next moves. And new video may make it difficult for Iraqis to put Saddam Hussein's execution behind them.

Also this hour, a presidential tribute. Mr. Bush visits the Capitol Rotunda, where Gerald Ford is lying in state for a third day. We're watching the public and political figures paying their respects.

Why did some of those political figures wait until now?

And a new year of speculation about the race for the White House. What we think we know now about the presidential field may be very different when we get to 2008.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with a new year of war, turmoil and sacrifice in Iraq. The United States military reporting the deaths of two more soldiers, bringing the total number killed since the invasion to 3,002.

The 3,000 mark was hit at the close of the deadliest month of 2006 for American forces in Iraq and as President Bush considering whether to send more troops onto the battlefield.

At the same time, Saddam Hussein loyalists are urging supporters of the executed former leader to, quote, strike without mercy against the United States, as well as against Iran.

And an uncensored video of Saddam Hussein's hanging may further stir anger and quests for revenge.

CNN's Arwa Damon is standing by in Baghdad. Our Internet reporter Jacki Schechner has more, as well.

Let's go to the White House first, Kathleen Koch with more on the president and his evolving strategy -- Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT, THE WHITE HOUSE: Wolf, Iraq will very much be the focus as the president returns to Washington today, to the White House, from his weeklong break at his ranch near Crawford, Texas, though it was certainly a working break.

The president met during the week with his national security team, working on crafting what the White House is calling the new way forward in Iraq, a new strategy, U.S. strategy in Iraq. And aides say that it is taking shape.

Now, as for the timing of that announcement, it is expected to happen sometime after Congress reconvenes on January 4th, but before the president makes his State of the Union speech on January 23rd.

Senior administration officials say that President Bush -- who went to the Capitol Rotunda today upon returning to Washington and paid his respects to former President Gerald Ford -- wanted to first get through this very important and solemn period of national mourning.

And, of course, the president also does understand now that it is doubly important to reach out to members of Congress to get their thoughts on the strategy in Iraq and share his. Certainly, this new political reality is setting in this week in Washington with Democrats taking control of Congress.

But it's even being reported in the papers -- several of the papers today -- even Republicans are increasingly wary about what is being discussed as one of the potential strategies for Iraq that President Bush is considering, the potential for surging as many as 20,000 additional troops in the short term, into Baghdad in particular.

But, so, certainly, President Bush aware he's going to have a very tough sales job ahead with this new strategy, Wolf.

BLITZER: What is the White House, Kathleen, saying about this milestone, 3,000 plus now, American troops dead in Iraq?

KOCH: Well, neither the White House nor the Pentagon really would like to get up in what they call a numbers game when it comes to the deaths of service members in Iraq.

But spokesman Scott Stanzel did say in the statement, quote, the president believes that every life is precious and grieves for each one that is lost. We will ensure their sacrifice was not made in vain.

But certainly, hitting this milestone, Wolf, is going to make it -- increase the pressure on the president to get all U.S. forces out of Iraq sooner versus later.

BLITZER: Kathleen, thank you very much.

And as Kathleen just mentioned, a number of Senate Republicans now at odds over the prospect of a short-term surge in U.S. troop strength in Iraq. On CNN's "Late Edition," Senator Arlen Specter told me, at this point he can't support such a surge, but he might if it came along with a specific plan for victory.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER, (R)-PENNSYLVANIA: I'm not going to give President Bush a blank check, but he is the president. He is the commander in chief, and I'm prepared to listen to what he has to say.

It is true that we are in a very difficult situation with American prestige on the line. And I do not want to see an al Qaeda victory, and I do not want to see the insurgents prevail. And I do not want to see us leave Iraq in a state of instability.

But so far, there has not been a plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're going to have more on this GOP split coming up in our strategy session. A lot more on this part of the story.

Meanwhile, new anger today over Saddam Hussein's execution. In Amman, Jordan, the former dictator's daughter took part in a protest over her father's hanging. Demonstrators chanted pro-Saddam Hussein and anti-American slogans.

Inside Iraq, more and more people are getting hold of an uncensored video of Saddam Hussein's death.

CNN's Arwa Damon has more now on how the pictures are spreading and the reaction to that.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT, BAGHDAD: Wolf, word of Saddam's execution spread immediately. The images of Iraq's former dictator's final moments spread even faster.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

DAMON (voice-over): It's a Bluetooth frenzy. Iraqis in this cell phone shop in Sadr City pass on the uncensored video of Saddam Hussein's execution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice of interpreter): It's something amazing. No one really believed that Saddam would be executed, because the people were so scared of him and his regime. So anything of him -- on TV or on mobile phones -- they want to see it.

It's like a thirst that cannot be quenched. Even little kids are looking for it.

DAMON: And not just on cell phones. It's also being dumped onto thumb drives.

And this man is taking the distribution one step further.

"We're going to copy it onto CD or tape and put it in the marketplaces," he says, "because there is demand for it."

In the footage that the Iraqi government released, the video ends after the noose is placed around Saddam's neck. The concern among some officials was that, if the government releases the execution in full, they will be viewed as being a brutal regime.

But then, the unedited cell phone footage appeared on the Internet, obviously shot in plain view of the authorities who were in attendance. Its distribution has preempted any rumors that Saddam Hussein might not be dead.

At Mahmoud Askar's home, a triple celebration -- his nephew's engagement, the religious holiday of Eid, and Saddam's death.

Even though this Kurdish family believes that Saddam deserved to be hanged for his crimes, they don't agree with the way that the execution was allowed to be shot and circulated.

MAHMOUD ASKAR, IRAQI RESIDENT (voice of interpreter): The way the whole thing was filmed was a bad decision by the government and ultimately helped Saddam, because the people sympathize with him.

DAMON: But sympathy was hard to find among those who found satisfaction in the brutal images of their former dictator falling to his death.

(END VIDEO)

DAMON (on camera): There were those who mourned Saddam and protested his execution, predominantly Sunnis. To them, these images only prove that it is a Shia-led government, rather than one of national unity, and threatened to deepen the already growing sectarian divide -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Arwa, thank you very much. Arwa is in Baghdad. And as she just reported, this amateur, uncut version of the Saddam Hussein execution was captured apparently on a cell phone and is now quickly moving around online.

Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner. And she's been watching this part of the story -- Jacki.

JACKIE SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this is that video that is showing up online. It's being posted over and over again. We don't know who shot it, we don't know who released it, and we don't know if the Iraqi government approved of its release.

It appears that this video first showed up on a smaller video- sharing Web site called PandaChute.com. And then it's also been posted over the course of the last couple of days on YouTube.com, one of the larger video-sharing sites, and also on Google Video.

It seems to be posted over and over again, specifically by one Web site called AnwarWeb.net. That Web site seems to be based in Finland, or at least registered in Finland. But that site itself is overloaded and you can't get on to it.

Now, Laura Mansfield is an online terrorism expert. She says this video is also showing up in Islamic forums like this one she says is based in Oman.

She's also seeing it show up on video-sharing Web sites where you can simply download the video, like on this one.

Now, we reached out to YouTube, to Google, even to PandaChute, just to get some idea of what their policies are on posting videos like this one, or other possibly graphic videos, but no one was able to get back to us with any comment -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Jacki, for that.

Mary Snow is joining us from New York with a closer look at some other important stories making news. Hi, Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK: Hi there, Wolf.

Somalia's prime minister is offering amnesty to militant Islamists who fled when their final stronghold fell today. In the final blow of a stunning turnaround, government forces backed by Ethiopian jets and tanks today advanced rapidly to reclaim Kismaayo.

Islamic forces in the coastal stronghold began to break up after a night of artillery attacks and mutiny within the ranks. Neighboring Kenya has vowed to seal its frontier to prevent extremists from slipping through.

Rescue teams are scouring a region of Indonesia where it is believed a missing passenger plane sent out distress signals. Their locations make it unclear if the Adam Air Boeing 737 was over land or water. The plane carrying 102 people vanished half-way through its two-hour flight from East Java to northern Sulawesi.

Here in the U.S., tens of thousands of customers in Kansas remain without power, thanks to the weekend's powerful winter storm. The same storm roared over Colorado last week and dumped up to two feet of snow on Oklahoma and New Mexico.

It is blamed for at least 12 deaths. Dozens of stranded motorists had to be rescued. Remnants of the storm are now dumping rain from Florida to New York, and it's also snowing in New England.

And the National Football League calls this morning's shooting death of 24-year-old Denver Broncos cornerback, Darrent Williams, a terrible tragedy. It happened in the early morning hours when a drive-by shooter opened fire on the limousine Williams was riding in.

Police are looking for a white SUV in connection with the attack. Two other people in the limo were injured -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's a shocking story. We'll stay on top of it, as well. Mary, thank you very much for that.

Jack Cafferty is off today. Jack and his "Cafferty File" will be back here in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow.

Coming up, the current president pays last respects to one of his predecessors. We're going to go live to the Capitol, where presidents and average Americans are saying goodbye to Gerald Ford.

Plus, a new year, but the same mission. Will 2007 bring any new changes in the hunt for Osama bin Laden?

And later, it may be 2007, but when it comes to politics when we've got 2008 and the race for the White House on our minds. We're going to check out the frontrunners and the rest of the pack as this new year begins.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Right now, Americans continuing to pay their last tributes to Gerald R. Ford. The late president is lying in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda for a third day.

President Bush and Mrs. Bush weren't the only high profile visitors there during the course of today. Let's go to the Capitol. Gary Nurenberg is standing by with more -- Gary.

GARY NURENBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT, CAPITOL HILL, WASHINGTON: Good afternoon, Wolf.

Just as you were going on the air, some of President Ford's grandchildren entered the Capitol Rotunda. Four of his grandchildren were there. Hannah Ford, Heather Vance, Rebekah Ford Cook (ph) and Sarah Ford Goodfellow were among those who were thanking those who went through the Capitol Rotunda today to pay respects to their grandfather.

As we talked to those who were standing in bad weather in Washington today, asking them why they were doing it, we met a number of solemn and respectful people who said their lives were touched by President Ford.

Earlier in the day, someone asked, why would you do that? Why would you stand in line on a holiday weekend when you have other things to do, in the rain, simply for 30 seconds in the Capitol Rotunda?

Perhaps the answer comes in a letter that was written by an American serviceman who was killed recently in Iraq -- a letter that he wrote to his seven-month-old son, a guide to life.

In that letter 1st Sgt. Charles Monroe King said to his son, Jordan, quote, always pay your respects for the way people lived and what they stood for. It is the honorable thing to do.

That, perhaps, motivated some of those who came here today.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

NURENBERG (voice-over): The wait in the rain did not deter thousands who felt compelled to be here -- those who didn't know Gerald Ford.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just think I wanted to honor him.

NURENBERG: ... those who did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I worked for him. I highly respect him. I just had to come down.

NURENBERG: Mr. Ford's children, Michael and Susan, accompanied by her husband, had a quiet moment at their father's casket this morning. They then stayed in the Rotunda, greeting those who stood in the lines, saying thank you on behalf of the family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was moved and touched. We've lost a great American. President Ford helped heal our nation, and the family is still helping to heal our nation.

NURENBERG: Dignitaries visited during the day. Former President George Herbert Walker Bush and his wife Barbara -- former Secretary of State James Baker accompanying them. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi paid her respects. And President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush also stopped, briefly bowing their heads in apparent prayer.

(END VIDEO)

NURENBERG (on camera): Those dignitaries you just saw really were the exception today. This former minority leader who became president, when planning his funeral, asked that his casket be carried into the Capitol through the entrance to the House of Representatives -- the people's house.

And this today, Wolf, really was a day for the people.

BLITZER: Gary, thank you very much. Gary Nurenberg reporting for us from Capitol Hill.

And this note to our viewers. Please join us tomorrow morning, 9:00 a.m. Eastern for CNN special coverage of the state funeral of Gerald R. Ford. We'll be here for that.

Up next, he's America's public enemy number one. But will the new year bring new leads in the search for Osama bin Laden? We're watching the story.

Plus, the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court says federal judges deserve a pay raise. We're going to tell you what the judges make and what they want.

Stick around. Much more in THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: As we begin 2007, here is a fact. Osama bin Laden still remains at large. Is there any chance 2007 is going to see a change in his status?

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's watching this part of the story -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON: Wolf, with Saddam Hussein now vanquished, our attention again shifts to the West's public enemy number one, and a trail that seems no warmer than it was years ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

TODD (voice-over): Barely five years after September 11 and the battle of Tora Bora, when U.S. and Afghan forces may have come closest to getting him, the world's most wanted man seems a distant shadow.

At last word from U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials, Osama bin Laden is believed to be in the mountainous frontier along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

But on which side of the border?

Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S. says this.

MAHMUD DURRANI, PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: He was in Afghanistan. He is in Afghanistan. He has never been in Pakistan.

I don't know why people say all this. It's again throwing the baby in the other side, or throwing the blame on the other side.

TODD: Afghan officials tell us they don't want to get into a back-and-forth blame game with the Pakistanis. But they have in the past disputed the idea that bin Laden is within their borders.

And a former CIA officer who was at the battle of Tora Bora agrees.

GARY BERNTSEN, FORMER CIA OFFICER: No, he wouldn't be in Afghanistan, because in Afghanistan the U.S. can bring full military force against him.

TODD: Not the case inside Pakistan, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials. The official guidance? American forces are not allowed to chase bin Laden inside Pakistan, because of political sensitivities there.

But terrorism experts have said recently they believe bin Laden is near Chitral in Pakistan's remote north.

With Pakistan and Afghanistan still bickering over where bin Laden might be and who's doing more to get him -- even arguing over their border -- how can bin Laden be found?

One expert offers a possibility.

KEN ROBINSON, MILITARY INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: The U.S. will just remain vigilant, and eventually these people make a mistake.

They try to communicate to a friend, relative or an acquaintance. They try to exercise command and control. They try to put out some type of propaganda. And then when they do, they slip up.

(END VIDEO) TODD (on camera): And, of course, there is more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye.

Last week, President Bush's homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend, told CNN there is, in her words, increased activity on the part of the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the hunt for bin Laden and, as she termed it, unbelievable cooperation from the Pakistanis -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brian, for that. Brian Todd reporting.

Up next, the race for the White House. Jeff Greenfield looks back to help us look ahead to the run-up to 2008.

Plus, from the gallows to the grave. We're going to take a closer look at the death of Saddam Hussein.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, a new call to arms by Saddam Hussein loyalists seeking revenge for his execution. They're urging Hussein followers to strike the United States and Iraq -- Iran, that is -- without mercy.

Meantime, an uncensored video of Saddam Hussein's hanging is circulating in Iraq on cell phones and out on the Internet, potentially stirring more anger.

President and Mrs. Bush pay their respects to Gerald R. Ford, lying in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda for a third day. The president's father also was among the visitors today. Ford's state funeral, which will be held tomorrow morning at Washington's National Cathedral.

And presidential campaign watchers are ringing in the New Year with an eye toward 2008. We'll consider possible New Year's resolutions for White House hopefuls.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

New losses for U.S. forces as they face a new year of war in Iraq. The U.S. death toll now has surpassed 3,000. It's up to 3,002.

By way of comparison, more than 405,000 troops were killed in World War II, more than 36,000 in the Korean War, more than 58,000 in Vietnam. Three hundred eighty-two American troops were killed in the Persian Gulf War back in 1991.

The execution of Saddam Hussein may have put a period on a dark chapter in Iraq's history, but the fallen Iraqi leader certainly did not necessarily go quietly. His ego never faltered. He was as defiant in his impending death as he was in life.

Here's CNN's Aneesh Raman.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, BAGHDAD: In life, Saddam Hussein was obsessed with his own image, and it was everywhere. Towering statues shadowed streets. Overbearing opulence accompanied every appearance.

And if Saddam was still in power, surely the same would have defined his burial. But in the end, it was instead a simple affair.

At a mosque in Saddam's home town of Awja, a coffin laid covered with an Iraqi flag. A sole picture placed close by in memory of the man inside -- a man whose final moments speak volumes of where Iraq has been and where it is headed.

Saddam stood, noose around his neck, seconds away from the same sort of death he condemned upon others. And from the witnesses came the following -- chants in honor of radical Shia cleric Muqtada al- Sadr.

Saddam smiles and asks, "Is this how you show your bravery as men?" "Straight to hell," a voice retorts.

And then came one of the final things Saddam Hussein heard in life. The name of a man killed by Saddam's regime. That of Muqtada al Sadr's father-in-law, founder of Iraq's Shia Dawa Party, the same party of Iraq's current prime minister. The hope by his Shia dominated government is clearly that Saddam's execution will bring closure but mired in division and incapable of tackling sectarian violence there is, as well, a message. That of a government taking action. The first image broadcast on state-run TV before Saddam's execution was Iraq's prime minister signing the former dictator's death sentence.

(on camera): For Nouri al Maliki, this is a rare success, a rare promise fulfilled. Days after Saddam's sentencing in November, Maliki said Saddam would not live to see the new year. And on the streets of Iraq, there is now praise for a prime minister who, over the past few months, has been blamed for so much by so many. Aneesh Raman, CNN, Baghdad.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: We're going to have much more on Iraq that's coming up. Will President Bush call for more U.S. troops to be sent to Iraq? And is his own party behind him when it comes to a possible surge in the troop levels? Find out in today's strategy session, it's coming up in a few moments.

In our political radar, you may call him governor. Eliot Spitzer was sworn in today as New York's 54th governor. In his inaugural address Spitzer called for reestablishing what he likened to the state's glory states. Spitzer also talked about ethics reform in government and an end to partisan politics.

Congress may act early this year on raising the federal minimum wage but some states aren't waiting. New laws in seven states raised the minimum wage and it kicks in today as the new year starts. The current federal minimum wage is $5.15 an hour. The new wages in the states go as high as $7.50 an hour.

In the race for the White House, the start of 2007 is only bringing more handicapping of the 2008 presidential race and speculation about the race a year from now. Here's our senior analyst Jeff Greenfield.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: I'd love to be able to tell you with exact precision what is going to happen in the year ahead, but unfortunately, I lack the gift of precognition. Otherwise, I would long ago have bought a winning lottery ticket and I'd be somewhere on a private island right now. But what I can do is offer a couple of cautionary notes about a story we will almost certainly over cover and about where big news might be coming from that we can't possibly foresee.

(voice-over): The clearest case of wretched excess is the scrum that's already surrounding the next presidential campaign. We've been polling this one literally since the last inaugural. Candidates are declaring themselves in or out earlier than ever. So futile as this is, let's remind ourselves how unreliable the picture is this far out from an election. Back in 1999, the story was how former Senator Bill Bradley was out gunning vice president Al Gore in the fundraising department. How Gore's campaign was so troubled that he pulled up stakes, shook up his team, moved the operation to Tennessee. Then in 2000 the actual caucus and primary season began and after a relatively close contest in New Hampshire, Gore won every single other contest going away and cruised to the nomination.

On the Republican side Texas Governor George W. Bush was the all but certain nominee in '99. John McCain's insurgent campaign was way underfunded with anemic poll numbers. Then came the straight talk express. The gathering momentum in New Hampshire and McCain's landslide victory in that state that turned the nomination contest into a real battle. And last time? The whole story back in 2003 was the rise of Howard Dean from obscure ex-governor of Vermont into the anti-war candidate, the champion of the net roots, who outraced everyone in 2003, dominated press coverage and surged to big leads in the polls. Then, when 2004 showed up voters actually started to pay attention. Dean finished a poor third in Iowa, demonstrated his verbal energy and never became a serious contender.

We can be more or less certain that much of what is written or said about the next presidential campaign in 2007 will have very little bearing on what actually happens when votes start to be cast. Still, less can we know what will happen in two other symbols of public power. IN the U.S. Senate where, as we've learned, a change in a single seat can change the whole balance of power. And in the U.S. Supreme Court, where the departure of any one of five justices could dramatically affect the entire court lineup.

(on camera): Humility issue is in very short supply among both journalists and politicians. But as we set off in 2007 we might want to keep in mind an old saying. It's not what you don't know that causes the problem, it's what you do know that just ain't so.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Jeff Greenfield reporting for us. Jeff is part of the best political team on television.

Remember, for all the latest political news at any time, check out our political ticker. Simply go to cnn.com/ticker.

Coming up, are Republicans divided over a possible surge of U.S. troops in Iraq? We'll talk about that in today's strategy session.

Plus, as 2007 starts, which White House hopefuls are looking good in the race for 2008? I'll ask our political experts Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan for their new year's resolutions for the presidential candidates. Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Americans are paying their respects to the 38th president of the United States, Gerald R. Ford, his body lying in state in the rotunda at the U.S. capitol. Joining us now in our first strategy session of the year are two of our CNN political analysts, Democratic Strategist Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan, the president of American Cause. Only moments ago, the former President Bill Clinton and Senator Clinton, they came by to pay their respects to Gerald R. Ford, you can see the video there. They stopped, they reflected, they certainly thought about this president who, 30 years later, to a lot of Americans, certainly looks a whole lot better than they thought he did when he was actually serving as president. All of us are old enough to remember those days. Donna, reflect a little bit as you see these pictures of Bill Clinton thinking back on Gerald R. Ford. Talk a little bit about what goes through your mind.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, there is no question as a former president, he is there not just to pay his respect, but I'm sure that President Clinton is thinking about President Ford's legacy. Decent guy, he was well-liked, respected by both sides of the political aisle. He had real personal relationships with John Dingell, the former speaker, Tip O'Neill. So I'm sure that today both President Clinton and Senator Clinton are paying deep respect to a good man.

BLITZER: It was a different era, maybe we just remember the positive but I think it really was a different era where there was more collegiality here in Washington.

BAY BUCHANAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well certainly there was, Wolf, to a great extent but you also remember that was a time when within his own party, he was challenged by Ronald Reagan, and so there was that type of feelings. But he had enormous friendships up on the hill. But I think one of the things that I would like to reflect on at this time is the fact that independent of what you thought of him politically or which side you were on in those days, what a great tradition we have in this country that we honor the people who did service. It's a very difficult job to be president of the United States and so as time passes we look for the good things that they did, how Gerald Ford did unify this country making some tough decisions to do so.

BLITZER: He did some excellent things, there's no doubt about that. Within the past hour or so, we saw the current president and Mrs. Bush come over to the rotunda to pay their respects. This followed his father and mother coming by earlier. It's been a day where average Americans, by the thousands, have been going up to the capitol waiting in line in a rain, chilly here in Washington, to do what the leaders of the country are doing as well.

BRAZILE: It's a very solemn moment. Look, I live on Capitol Hill and I often walk up and down the hill and I tell you people are coming from all parts of the country to pay respect to President Ford. I saw a young man there earlier today when I was up on the hill. He had his two little kids. He said this is history, I want them to know what Gerald Ford did for the country.

BUCHANAN: And he's able to generate all of this love, having never been elected the president and also only having been president for a little over two years. It's a great country. We look for the good as we move on out of difficult periods.

BLITZER: The funeral services will continue tomorrow morning 9:00 a.m. eastern. We'll have complete coverage from right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Tomorrow morning at the National Cathedral in Washington. Let's get on to some of the other big issues, Donna, right now. Specifically the proposal for a major troop increase in Iraq. Maybe 10,000, maybe 20,000. Some are talking 30 or 40,000 troops in the Baghdad area, the al Anbar area. But you know what, there are Republicans, members of the president's own party, who are saying not so fast. Chuck Hagel, by telling the columnist Robert Novak, "It's Alice in Wonderland... I'm absolutely opposed to sending any more troops to Iraq. It is folly." The president has a problem not only with Democrats, but with Republicans.

BRAZILE: Look, the president is coming back to a new Congress, a new attitude. And he is going to be up against not just his Republicans, but Democrats like Joe Biden that's planning to hold hearings over the next couple of weeks. Susan Collins, the senator from Maine who's up for reelection in 2008 just returned from Iraq and she is also concerned about this escalation of troops. Norm Coleman of Minnesota. Many of these senators are up in 2008 and I suspect many more Republicans will come out against a surge, escalation in our troops.

BLITZER: What do you think, Bay?

BUCHANAN: I think first of all, it is the responsibility of Congress to ask questions. They are the ones that authorized him to go to war and they are the ones who are going to fund this increase in troops. It is their job and the country expects that of them. But, secondly, it's the president's job to be the commander in chief. He has to decide how to implement this war. And if he wishes and if he thinks that it is best to raise the number of troops now, he best go for it with everything he has got. This is his last chance of actually being able to do something in Iraq. If he doesn't do it now, then he should pull everybody home.

BLITZER: But you know a lot of experts have suggested that 20,000 or even 30,000 troops probably not going to make much of a difference. If you really want to get the job done you have to have 300,000 troops or 400,000 troops in a country of 27 or 28 million people to get the job done and it's just simply going to just maybe buy a little time but it's really not going to change the fundamental picture on the ground. What do you say to that?

BUCHANAN: Well, you know there's no question. Every possible combination of things that -- have been recommended and are being debated in this country. I mean there is no question some people think we should bring them home, increase, increase by what numbers, how long should they stay? But Wolf, the bottom line is, we are now at war. This is not a debate whether we should go to war. We are at war and the president has a policy on the line. If he wishes to make certain that this policy is successful he has to take bold action now and he only has 30 to 40 to 50,000 troops. There are no two or 300 to send over there.

BRAZILE: When we reached the milestone of 3000 brave troops dead, when we reached 2000, the president said that they're going to stay until the mission is completed. Well, we're now at 3000. What is the mission? Why should we bring more troops there? For what? To be in the middle of a civil war? I think the president has to come up with a comprehensive package, something to reconcile some of the problems there, a political solution, an economic solution, but he cannot just bring in more troops because I don't believe that will solve the problem.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about presidential politics 2008. We're now in 2007. So it's appropriate we can talk about the 2008 presidential -- I know both of you have been thinking about new year's resolutions for these respective candidates. Let's hear some of yours, Donna.

BRAZILE: Well I've been thinking about Hillary Clinton. She is the front runner by all of the pundits and everyone else.

BLITZER: On the Democratic side?

BRAZILE: On the Democratic side. Some would say on the Republican because she is also leading Rudy Giuliani. But I think you are going to see more of her personal side, the mother, the daughter. You know, you're going to see Hillary appear on shows where she can show who she is as a person, not just a first lady or the senator, but who Hillary Clinton really is.

BLITZER: What I hear you saying she's not going to be here in THE SITUATION ROOM? BRAZILE: Well she should come to THE SITUATION ROOM and also go on "The Daily Show" and all the other shows. I think Barack Obama will use those upcoming hearings on Iraq to beef up his resume to talk about foreign policy, to show people that he has real experience or some ideas about what to do internationally. I think John Edwards is going to take up permanent residence in the state of Iowa so that he can win those caucuses. And look I believe people like Joe Biden, Chris Dodd and others who are contemplating running will have extreme makeovers so that they can go out there and energize the party. One other person, Al Gore, once he kissed the head of that Oscar after he wins, I'm predicting that in 2007, look for Al Gore possibly to make a last-minute entry. I'm not saying he is running but I'm saying that there is every possibility that Al Gore can unite the party and be someone that can come in at the last minute.

BLITZER: All right those are good new year's resolutions. What about you Bay?

BUCHANAN: Well I think it's interesting what Donna would suggest about Hillary. Hillary is one of the people that I had on my list that she would let us know who she is. I mean we've only known her now for how many years? She was the first lady for eight years, one of the most well-known women in the nation and yet we are now going to find out who she is. So this is clearly a makeover in the making here. But I think what Hillary needs to do is make a decision. Whether she can run, not going to run and let's stick with it. Is she going to be a liberal or a centrist. And let's decide. Is she for the war or against the war? Let's stick with whatever she decides. This is a woman who is constantly changing, it's time for her to tell the American people where she stands and stay with it. As for Obama, my recommendation for a resolution for him is that he keeps smiling. That first he goes in his closet, find out everything that's there, what he's done, thought about saying, said in the last -- since he's been 10 and reviews it because the Clinton machine has got him in their targets and they love to work the personal so he best be ready to respond to anything and keep smiling because it's that smile they want to take off his face.

BLITZER: What about on the Republican side?

BUCHANAN: On the Republican side. I think with Rudy Giuliani, his resolution should be to stay out of Iowa. They will strip him of his clothes and run him out of that state if he's not careful. He'd be wise to start in New Hampshire. McCain has to take control of that Irish temper of his. Make certain -- he has done a pretty good job but in the midst of a campaign if he lets it glow the last thing Americans want is a hot and angry candidate. Mitt Romney should downgrade his quality of his clothes. He's a little too slick for Iowa and then he should move to Iowa because that's where he can make his inroads against a McCain. And I think conservatives are looking for a candidate and I think you're going to see some candidates out there and they all, my recommendation to them is they should think Iowa because that is where a conservative can make a difference.

BLITZER: All right, good new year's resolutions and good analysis as usual guys. Thanks very much. BRAZILE: We predict that Wolf will continue to be one of the sexiest men alive. Don't you think?

BLITZER: Absolutely. Thank you very much.

BRAZILE: Tell your wife don't get mad at me.

BLITZER: Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan as all of our viewers know, are part of the best political team on television. Very, very astute observers as well.

And remember, for the latest political news at any time, check out our political ticker, simply go to cnn.com/ticker.

Coming up, a timeline of Saddam Hussein's execution. And how he was taunted by guards before his death. We're going to take you through it step-by-step. That's coming up in the next hour. And that somber new milestone for U.S. troops. More than 3,000 dead in Iraq. We'll get the take of that toll from the Pentagon. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Check back with Mary Snow for a closer look at some other important stories making news. Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the United Nations' new secretary-general is getting ready to get to work. South Korea's Ban Ki-Moon was sworn in last month. He actually took over today. But he'll spend his first day on the job tomorrow. So far the U.N.'s eighth secretary general has kept his agenda under wraps. He faces far-reaching issues including carnage in Sudan, peacekeepers in 18 countries and tensions in the Middle East.

New statistics suggest that New York City may be getting safer but not across the board. The NYPD has released year-end crime figures showing that overall criminal complaints for 2006 dropped about 4-1/2 percent. Now that includes everything from rape to robbery. On the flip side however, murders in the big apple were up by about 5 percent. The police department says crime was down in high-impact zones and that includes Times Square. Speaking of Times Square, the big ball isn't the only thing that drops in New York the last day of the year. Today, city workers are swarming over Times Square where an estimated million plus people rang in the new year last night. Mayor Michael Bloomberg promised that the 3 1/2 tons of confetti and other debris would be gone by morning.

And the New Year's Day tradition with a new twist. The 118th annual Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California had a "Star Wars" theme. Flower laden extravaganza called "Star Wars" Spectacular featured characters from the hit movie series, including 200 white helmeted storm troopers. "Star Wars" creator George Lucas was the parade's grand marshal. Wolf, looks like they had a good time.

BLITZER: A lovely parade indeed. Thanks Mary for that. Still to come, are U.S. Supreme Court justices and federal judges earning enough money? The chief justice apparently doesn't think so. We're going to discuss that controversial question, that's coming up.

And we're also going to take you back live to the U.S. capitol to see who else might show up to pay their respects to President Gerald R. Ford. That's coming up in our next hour, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts issued a year-end report today slamming the U.S. Congress for failing to raise federal judicial salaries. Roberts described the state of affairs as a, quote, constitutional crisis. For some context, let's bring in our senior producer and legal analyst Alex Wellen. And first of all Alex, what sort of salaries are we talking about here?

ALEX WELLEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well federal judges are making about $165,000. That's about the same as most members of Congress. $175,000 for the federal court of appeals judges and associate justices making about $203,000 and Justice Roberts is bringing in about $212,000.

BLITZER: So what is the fear that the chief justice is expressing? What is his problem?

WELLEN: The argument goes that over the last 25 years they haven't been able to keep up with the percentage increase of the average American worker. So the fear is, and he says, that it threatens the strength, independence and quality of the federal judiciary. The point being that they won't get the cream of the crop. They want to make sure that they get the very best judges and that they compensate them properly.

BLITZER: What does he think would happen if that doesn't go forward? What would he think would be a fair amount of money, for example?

WELLEN: Well, he was bringing in over a million dollars when he was in private practice but he's not really talking about private practice money. There are New York attorneys that make $165,000 as they start their career in New York. $200,000 is a signing bonus for some of the clerks that are out there that work for the Supreme Court and then start with private practice. They, more likely, compare it to academia. They want to be paid as much as deans and law professors and that is what they usually were getting some years ago but not any more.

BLITZER: I know Roberts took a huge pay cut when he became a U.S. Supreme Court justice from the private practice he was in, is that right?

WELLEN: That's right. He was making over a million dollars and now he is making about $210,000. So he isn't making nearly the same amount of salary but the key is that they want to bring in that money, they want to bring in the really cream of the crop that are out there and this is the only way to do it. So they're demanding that Congress take this up at the beginning of the term. BLITZER: Are you surprised Alex that he used this report to raise this sensitive issue?

WELLEN: I am a little bit surprised. I mean it's the only issue that he addressed. It is one of utmost importance that he wants them to deal with directly. He was brought in, Justice Roberts was brought in to be a bridge builder essentially. Congress and federal judiciary have had a strained relationship over the last year and the theory was that he would come in and help that relationship. So to have him come in to demand that Congress necessarily take this up, increase these salaries, people are watching very carefully and they're very surprised I think out there, especially members of Congress that this is the way it needs to be. But clearly that's what we'll be looking at, the top of this new term.

BLITZER: Alex Wellen, our legal analyst and senior producer. Thanks Alex very much. And to our viewers, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world, to bring you today's top stories.

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