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U.S. Military Investigating Insurgent Videotape of Downed Chopper; Arms Bazaar; Investigators Query Intel on Saddam, al Qaeda

Aired February 9, 2007 - 18:00   ET


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, a new warning about communist China's dangerous and escalating military threat to this country.
We'll have a special report.

And more states rebel against a national driver's license. The lawmaker who came up with the idea is furious with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.


REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R), WISCONSIN: I think he's been negligent in allowing it to go this far without giving the states some instructions.


ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Friday, February 9th. Sitting in for Lou Dobbs, Kitty Pilgrim.

PILGRIM: Good evening, everybody.

Disturbing new evidence tonight about the massive U.S. intelligence failure before the war in Iraq. Investigators have found that Pentagon officials deliberately undercut U.S. intelligence assessments on Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.

Meanwhile, insurgents in Iraq have released a videotape showing a helicopter on fire. Insurgents say the tape shows the shooting down of a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter on Wednesday. Military officials are not so sure.

Kathleen Koch reports from Washington on the prewar intelligence fiasco.

Barbara Starr reports from the Pentagon on the rising U.S. helicopter losses in Iraq.

And Michael Holmes reports from Baghdad on the black markets arms trade.

And we begin with Barbara Starr.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Insurgents claimed this video shows a U.S. Marine Corps CH-46 helicopter being shot down on Wednesday in Al Anbar Province. An incident in which all seven people on board died. At the Pentagon, the senior operations officer cautioned against an early conclusion about what happened.

LT. GEN. DOUGLAS LUTE, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS: There are some eyewitness accounts that caused professional aviation officers to believe that it was more likely, most likely, a mechanical malfunction.

STARR: Pilots nearby report they did not see a smoke trail from a missile or rocket, and they say the helicopter was flying above the range of small arms fire. But the video shows this: an apparent smoke trail from possibly a surface-to-air missile. This is now what military intelligence is focusing on.

This is the sixth helicopter down in three weeks. Four were brought down by enemy fire. And there are growing questions about whether insurgents pose a new threat.

Military aviation experts say they do not yet see a pattern. All the incidents are different. They dismiss the notion that surface-to- air missiles coming in from Iran are responsible.

BRIG. GEN. STEPHEN MUNDT, U.S. ARMY DIR. OF AVIATION: There is nothing they have that we don't know, that we don't understand what it does, and that we don't have the right equipment from preventing it from shooting helicopters down.

STARR: Helicopters, which are large, slow targets, have extensive onboard electronics designed to protect them, but in heavy combat, nothing may be enough.

MUNDT: When you get into certain conditions, it doesn't matter where you or who you are. Shoot-downs will occur.


STARR: And, Kitty, tonight military intelligence officials are examining that insurgent videotape frame by frame to try and determine if, in fact, that U.S. Marine Corps helicopter was shot down -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much.

Barbara Starr.

Well, insurgents in Iraq have killed three more of our troops. They were killed in Al Anbar Province. That's west of Baghdad.

Thirty-four of our troops have been killed so far this month. 3,117 of our troops have been killed since this war began. 23,417 of our troops have been wounded, 10,391 of them so seriously they could not return to duty within three days. Insurgents today launched a series of car bomb attacks in northern Iraq. At least 16 people were wounded in the cities of Mosul and Kirkuk.

New evidence today that insurgents can easily buy weapons in Iraq, and some of those weapons come from Iran.

Michael Holmes reports from Baghdad on the black market arms trade.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): He goes by the name of Abu Hiba (ph). He used to go to university. He's young, smart, and for two years now, a black market arms dealer in Baghdad, with no shortage of customers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Everyone demands, neighbors, militias, jihadi groups. Everyone demands.

HOLMES: He's a proud salesman and knows his wares. In this case, the heavy-duty PKC machine gun.

(on camera): Say I wanted to buy some grenades. How long would it take you to get them to me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): If you need three hand grenades, you can get them in two hours.

HOLMES: And how much?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): No more than 25,000 to 30,000 Iraqi dinars. Around $20.

HOLMES (voice over): A rocket-propelled grenade launcher? Around $130. But his biggest seller is the AK-47, the weapon of choice for most Iraqis.

(on camera): Iraq is a place where every household is entitled to have one AK-47. That's one of them there our guard is holding. You see, with all the sectarian and criminal violence, ordinary people feel that no one can adequately protect them, not the police, not the army, not the Americans. So, for about $400, they try to protect themselves.

(voice over): Abu Hiba (ph) is happy. With so many weapons around, prices are low for him. He'll store them until those prices rise.

Meanwhile, he tells us that while militia members supply him, they are often supplied from places within Iran.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): What comes in from Iran is disastrous -- big trucks stacked with mortar bombs, 135 millimeter and 136 millimeter, Iranian manufactured 120 millimeter mortars stamped 2006. HOLMES: It's not like there's a shortage of weapons in Iraq. During the invasion, American troops left vast armories unguarded, later to be looted.

Michael Holmes, CNN, Baghdad.


PILGRIM: Defense Secretary Robert Gates has no doubt that Iran is supplying weapons to insurgents in Iraq. During a visit to Spain, Gates told reporters that U.S. troops in Iraq have found weapons with Iranian serial numbers and markings.


ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Iran is very much involved in providing either the technology or the weapons themselves for these explosively formed projectiles. Now, they don't represent a big percentage of the IED attacks, but they're extremely lethal.


PILGRIM: U.S. commanders have been saying that insurgents have Iranian weapons for months. The United States has captured at least five Iranians suspected of helping the insurgents.

A new report on prewar intelligence blasts Pentagon officials, and that report says those officials undercut U.S. intelligence agencies on supposed links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

Kathleen Koch reports.


KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In prewar briefings to the defense secretary, the National Security Council, and the vice president's office, Pentagon officials insisted there was a mature, symbiotic relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, but a Pentagon inspector general's report found the intelligence community disagreed. It also disputed half of the primary conclusions reached by the office of undersecretary of defense for policy, then led by Doug Feith.

THOMAS GIMBLE, PENTAGON INSPECTOR GENERAL: The briefing did draw conclusions that were not fully supported by available intelligence.

KOCH: And the report said Feith's office left out the intelligence community's assessment. Not illegal or unauthorized, said Thomas Gimble, but inappropriate.

GIMBLE: All I can tell you is at the end of the day, when those things went forward, there was two sets of facts out there. One of them got passed over.

KOCH: Some senators were outraged. SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES CHAIRMAN: The inspector general's report is a devastating condemnation of inappropriate activities by the DOD Policy Office that helped take this nation to war.

KOCH: Others defended the Pentagon taking a critical look at intelligence findings.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Because surely there's nothing wrong with a group of people in the Department of Defense going to the secretary of defense and saying that they are concerned about the CIA product.

KOCH: Feith, who is now in the private sector, defended his office's conduct.

DOUGLAS FEITH, FMR. UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I think the inspector general is simply wrong. It is not the job of policy people to set out the intelligence community's views and then show their variance from it. That's a ridiculous suggestion, it's completely unrealistic.

KOCH: With U.S. rhetoric against Iran heating up, some at the hearing asked if intelligence could be manipulated today.

GIMBLE: I can't tell you that everything's perfect. I think there's a system in place that will allow us to get the best intelligence information if it's followed in each and every case.


KOCH: The Senate Intelligence Committee is now eying the Pentagon's prewar intelligence work to decide whether it, too, needs to hold hearings to see if laws were broken or intelligence manipulated -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much.

Kathleen Koch.

Well, there were violent clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians in Jerusalem today. Israeli police fought with thousands of Palestinian protesters near the Al-Aqsa mosque. Fifteen Israeli police officers, 17 Palestinians were injured.

Ben Wedeman reports from Jerusalem.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Stones fly. Stun grenades explode. Prayers are cut short as a holy site becomes a battleground.

Clashes between Muslim worshipers and Israeli police Friday were widely anticipated as tensions over an Israeli renovation project next to one of the most sensitive spots in this ancient city erupted into violence. This may not be the third Palestinian intifada some were predicting. There were wounded on both sides but no fatalities. But it's a reminder, nonetheless, that the conflict here is never far from the surface, and what might seem like innocuous acts can have unforeseen consequences.

(on camera): Despite Friday's troubles, Israeli officials say they may well resume renovation work in the Old City pending a review.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Jerusalem.


PILGRIM: Still to come, violence along our southern border with Mexico is escalating sharply.

We'll have a special report.

Also, the revolt against a national driver's license wins the support of an influential senator. Other lawmakers are furious.

And the campaign finance system that's been in place for presidential elections for three decades may be collapsing.

We'll have the story.


PILGRIM: More evidence tonight of escalating violence along our nation's southern border. Illegal alien smugglers are now becoming targets of heavily armed bandits who are kidnapping and sometimes killing illegal aliens.

Casey Wian reports.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In the Arizona desert near Tucson Thursday, three illegal aliens were killed, three others seriously wounded, and an unknown number apparently kidnapped after they were attacked by gunmen while traveling north from the Mexican border.

JAMES OGDEN, PIMA COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPT.: It appears that they were attacked by bandits coming through this area. And right now we have got -- Border Patrol is up in the air with their aircraft, trying to see if we have other -- we're worried that we have other -- other bodies in this desert area.

WIAN: It's at least the third similar incident in Arizona within two weeks, where armed men have tried to intercept loads of illegal aliens.

OGDEN: With this known being a known corridor, it seems that the human trafficking now is not only because of drug smuggling becoming targets, but also human trafficking is also becoming targets. WIAN: One Arizona police chief tells LOU DOBBS TONIGHT intelligence reports are circulating that heavily-armed bandits are patrolling Interstate 10, waiting for smugglers transporting illegal aliens. Once they spot a group, they move in, sometimes dressed as law enforcement, overwhelm the smuggler, and steal his human cargo. Bandits often resort to kidnapping for ransom and even murder.

Arizona's gang and immigration task force, known as GITEM, says the violence is the result of increased federal and local law enforcement pressure on the border.

COMMANDER DAN WELLS, GITEM: It's becoming increasingly more difficult for human smugglers to get their loads across the border. So, many of the smuggling organizations have turned to hijacking human loads that have already made it across the border.

WIAN: Wells says his department and the Border Patrol have seized an alarming number of AK-47 and other high-powered rifles recently.

(on camera): Officials expect violence will continue to escalate in the near future as federal and local law enforcement struggles to recapture the border from drug and alien smugglers.

Casey Wian, CNN, Los Angeles.


PILGRIM: The Real ID Act sets the national standards for issuing drivers licenses. It's a national security issue. States are required to comply in 2008. But some states are saying they won't do it, citing costs and also privacy issues. And now a Senate bill is trying to delay implementation for two years.

Lisa Sylvester reports.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The 9/11 hijackers had multiple driver's licenses and forms of identification. Different states, different addresses. The commission that studied the 2001 attacks recommended tightening license requirements.

The result was the 2005 Real ID Act. It establishes new standards for issuing driver's licenses starting May, 2008.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff testifying on Capitol Hill this week.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I think having secure driver's licenses is critically important to the security of the country.

SYLVESTER: Real ID not only makes it harder for a terrorist to obtain a driver's license, it also could curb illegal immigration. But as the deadline approaches, states are pushing back, objecting to costs and privacy concerns.

Fifteen states have introduced non-compliance legislation, and Senator Susan Collins will introduce a federal bill Monday that would stall the Real ID Act for two years and give DHS the authority to waive some of the law's provision.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: State after state has estimated that the cost of compliance with this federal mandate is enormous.

SYLVESTER: The Congressional Budget Office says the program will cost $100 million. Other estimates put it as high as $11 billion. The law's sponsor, Representative James Sensenbrenner, says states are overreacting and basing their opposition on inflated cost estimates.

SENSENBRENNER: I think the states have got an obligation to make sure that people who are carrying their driver's licenses don't have licenses from other states, don't give them to illegal immigrants, and that those driver's licenses actually say who the person who is carrying that license really is.

SYLVESTER: Sensenbrenner says states are confused and concerned because the Department of Homeland Security has not yet released new regulations that will outline the states' responsibilities.


SYLVESTER: Those new rules are expected to be made public in the coming weeks, and as for that May 2008 deadline, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff said it's not a drop-dead date. He said states actually have five years after that to phase in the new driver's license program -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: It seems the benefits are so obvious of this, Lisa. What's the argument on privacy? Or is it a state sovereignty thing, really, when you cut to the chase?

SYLVESTER: What they say -- what opponents say is what they are afraid is they don't want to see a national ID. In fact, Sensenbrenner is against a national ID as well, and his opponents say -- believe that this program is essentially one step away, that it would create a national database -- it would not create a national database. But they are concerned that it would, and that would essentially -- it would open up the door, if you -- so to speak, and would allow people access to this information, essentially keeping and tracking and monitoring Americans in this country.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much.

Lisa Sylvester.

That leads us to the subject of tonight's poll. Now, do you support a national standard for driver's licenses? Yes or no?

Cast your vote at We'll bring you the results a little bit later in the broadcast. A class action lawsuit filed against the federal government says delays in citizenship background checks violate immigration law. Now, the suit says immigration laws require that citizenship applications must be ruled on within 120 days of the naturalization test.

Some of the plaintiffs have been waiting for years. A government spokesman wouldn't comment on the lawsuit, but says they approve 700,000 new citizens every year and they work with the FBI to complete background checks as quickly as possible.

Coming up, new warnings that the United States should change its strategic focus to the Far East from the Middle East. And we'll have a special report on that.

Senator Barack Obama is expected to announce his bid for the White House tomorrow.

We'll have a report. Three top political analysts will join us.

And Karl Rove had some interesting things to say about illegal immigration.

We'll discuss those remarks.

Stay with us.


PILGRIM: New concerns tonight about the growing threat to U.S. interests around the world. A report prepared for the new Congress warns that U.S. foreign policy is too focussed on the Middle East. The report says this country must address communist China's growing power.

Christine Romans reports.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): An American foreign policy focused on Iraq and the Middle East may be diverting attention from critical developments in China.

CAROLYN BARTHOLOMEW, U.S. CHINA COMMISSION: The Chinese are not sparing any effort in moving into the void left by American inattention. Their economic -- economic activities in Asia have increased enormously. Their diplomatic activities have increased enormously.

ROMANS: A recent report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found the U.S. ignores these challenges at its peril. America's allies and adversaries perceive "... an increasingly distracted and insufficiently engaged American power."

Meanwhile, China is at a critical point, modernizing its military, building regional alliances fueled by impressive economic growth. ILAN BERMAN, AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY COUNCIL.: There is a sense that the U.S. is preoccupied with Iraq, to the exclusion of focusing on long-term adversaries, strategic adversaries. Countries like China, countries like North Korea understand very well that this has brought them a lot of breathing room that they otherwise wouldn't have.

ROMANS: The Congressional Research Service report outlines a host of regional challenges -- a nuclear North Korea, Taiwan's relationship to mainland China, and militant Islamists is Southeast Asia. "A war over Taiwan or on the South Korean peninsula has the potential to embroil the United States in a large-scale war that could be very costly in terms of lives, wealth, power and prestige."

And there are questions about whether the U.S. militarily could even handle such a threat right now.

At the same time, critics say China has long held the cards in the U.S.-Chinese economic relationship, further undermining American prestige.


ROMANS: China's rise, India's rearming, tensions between India and Pakistan, and Japan and China -- the report tells Congress that this is a critical moment to regain influence in a rapidly changing Asia -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: And we have a very high profile right now with the six- party talks going on over North Korea's nuclear program.

Where do we stand on that this week?

ROMANS: That's exactly right. There were talks wrapped up today. They are expected to continue tomorrow. And the North Korean delegate said that there were some points of agreement.

The U.S. delegation wouldn't say what those points of agreement exactly are, but it is clear they have been back and forth on these talks for some time. They are sitting down at the table together. That is our highest profile diplomatic effort in the region right now.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much.

Christine Romans.

Time now for some of your thoughts.

And let's read an e-mail from Connie in Arkansas. "I think a third party in this country is the only way we will ever get anything done and have representatives that respond to the people they represent."

And Lange in Florida writes, "There is simply no way to avoid the realization that Bush and the neo-conservative policy advisers in his White House are waging class war on Americans. The latest budget plan intentionally pits Americans of different economic classes against each other while using national security as the excuse for this unprecedented attempt to create permanent aristocrats of the wealthy and permanent servants of the middle and lower class."

And Michelle in California, "Regarding the debate on Iraq, I suggest we kick the whole damn lot of politicians out of office and put some people in there that actually care about what's best for this country instead of their own personal political agendas. Whatever happened to taking office to serve the people? I guess that sounds pretty naive."

We love hearing from you. E-mail us, We'll have more of your thoughts a little bit later in the broadcast.

And each of you whose e-mail is read here will receive a copy of Lou's book, "War on the Middle Class."

Coming up, Barack Obama is expected to join the race for the White House tomorrow, and we'll take you live to Springfield, Illinois.

And the best money government can buy. We'll have a special report on why next year's presidential candidates are choosing to pay their own way.

One hundred inches of snow blankets parts of New York State. There's even more in the forecast. And we'll have a special report.

Stay with us.


PILGRIM: New York's governor has declared a state of disaster emergency in Oswego County, where the snow has been relentless since Sunday. Now, the Oswego County airport is closed. Residents are being warned of extremely hazardous travel conditions. High winds created huge drifts, whiteouts, closed roads, schools, brought most everyday activities to an absolute standstill.

Rob Marciano reports from Oswego, New York -- Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Kitty, here along the frozen shores of Lake Ontario, the winds continue to howl. The snow today not all that bad. But that's likely to change.

Take a look at this.

Over the past couple of weeks with this cold air mass, waves have been rolling in, and ice and snow mounds have been building up along the shoreline like -- like sand dunes. And then today with the winds whipping, it's been like a sandstorm with snow. Wind-chills have been below zero.

And then over here you see chunks of ice rolling along the swell. Beyond that, white caps, big breakers, 10, 12-foot seas rolling in. And that's the culprit. That temperature in that water in the upper 30s in Lake Ontario. Then you've got this bitterly cold air mass overhead. That gets that lake-effect machine going, and it looks like it's going to continue to crank up again this weekend.

Another two feet possible on top of the six to eight feet we've already seen. Lake-effect snow warnings remain in effect until Monday morning.

Kitty, back to you.

PILGRIM: Rob Marciano reporting. Now the whirlwind of fundraising for the 2008 presidential campaign is under way and candidates are taking a different approach to funds their campaigns without running afoul of the finance campaign laws. Bill Schneider reports.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How far are you going?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About 30 years.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Could campaign finance be headed back to the future? It's expected that 2008 will be the first presidential election since 1972 where both party nominees will reject public funding. Instead, they'll raise private money, and spend as much as it takes.

Fred Wertheimer, the president of the reform group Democracy 21 remembers the days before campaign financing reform.

FRED WERTHEIMER, PRESIDENT, DEMOCRACY 21: Huge sums of money were being raised. And government decisions and government jobs were being provided in return. I mean, the government was for sale.

SCHNEIDER: Wertheimer describes what was going on in President Nixon's re-election committee.

WERTHEIMER: You know, and everyone wanted to give cash then. I mean, they were flying in from all over the country. Literally with satchels of cash.

SCHNEIDER: Why cash?

WERTHEIMER: You could literally bribe someone with the cash. If the person got caught with the cash. They could simply say it was a campaign contribution, and since they didn't have to disclose it, you couldn't refute it.

SCHNEIDER: Could it happen again?

REP. MARTY MEEHAN, (D) MA: Even the conservative estimates are you have to raise $100 million to enter the stakes. I think that opens all kinds of possibility for special interest money that may have an effect ultimately on a candidate. SCHNEIDER: Now you can no longer give $1 million, but you can raise $1 million by bundling together small contributions. The names of individual contributors have to be disclosed. The bundlers do not.

WERTHEIMER: If I am responsible for providing $1 million to you, you don't care whether it's my money or someone else's money. It's $1 million. It's $1 million worth of influence.


SCHNEIDER (on camera): Measures are already being proposed to fix the campaign finance system, but they would not take effect until after the 2008 election. Kitty?

PILGRIM: Bill, I know you've been crunching the numbers. How much cash do the frontrunners have right now? We'd be real interested.

SCHNEIDER: Well, the latest report to the FEC was done as of December 31st. Now, take a look. We have the Democrats with their cash on hand, Hillary Clinton at the top of the list, $11 million. Dodd with almost $5 million, and Biden with almost $4 million, and Barack Obama with just $500,000.

All that money comes - for the most part their senate campaigns, money left over from their Senate campaigns, money left over from their Senate campaigns that they can use for the presidential race. Here's the Republican figures. There are only two who are in the millions. Well, one, really, Giuliani. Rudy Giuliani with $3 million, most of it from his Senate committee when he ran in 200 - He did not run, he didn't enter the race but he was planning on running and John McCain at about $500,000.

Kitty, it's expected the two major party nominees, if, as expected, they do not accept public financing then each of them will raise and spend as much as half a billion dollars, $500 million, before election day next year, and if they do that, they would have to raise, on the average, three quarters of a million dollar a day between now and the election.

PILGRIM: The entrance fee is so high, are they going to make it, Bill?

SCHNEIDER: Some of them will. A lot of them will have a lot of trouble. But some of them, the ones who can raise the big money are likely to be the ones who last. That's the entry fee.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much. Bill Schneider.

Now, Barack Obama, the freshman senator from Illinois is expected to announce his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination tomorrow and the senator will be speaking in Springfield Illinois. Candy Crowley reports from there right now. Candy, why is the senator announcing tomorrow? Tell us a little bit about the timing.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the timing is just time to get started. This is something that we had been knowing was going to come. But when they announce and when they do their exploratory committees, they get a lot of press, frankly, and when you get a lot of press, you get your name out there, and even though Barack Obama for the last two years has been this huge hit on the national scene, the fact of the matter is, in name recognition he is far below Senator Hillary Clinton who is his closest competitor, so this sort of thing, a big splashy announcement in his home state, followed by a trip to Iowa, followed by a trip to New Hampshire, gets him back in the news and tries to get that mojo going.

PILGRIM: Candy, on the issues, how's he doing with his own party, is he lining up?

CROWLEY: Well, he's -- you know, he's been described as a little left of center, but he's been described by Republicans as that. A lot of people say, he's a centrist. He's one of those people that looks at an issue and then decides -- we talked to a longtime friend of his when we were in Illinois doing a piece on him, and he said, I've known this guy for 20 years, and I can't really tell you exactly where he is politically, because he tends to do -- take an issue and maybe he'll be conservative on it and takes another issue and he's a little more liberal, so as far as the rest of his party is concerned, he lines up pretty well.

One of the big issues that really helps him is the war, he's been against the war, although he didn't have to vote on it, since the very beginning and that is very appealing to the Democratic Party base, Kitty.

PILGRIM: And his demographic. Talk a little bit about it. And I know he has a tough fight against Hillary Clinton on some demographics.

CROWLEY: He does, what's really interesting about Barack Obama at this point is that Hillary Clinton, polls better among African Americans than he does. There is -- there's been a national poll that shows, in fact, that Barack Obama does better among whites percentage- wise than he does among blacks. And when we looked into just a New Hampshire poll, Barack Obama does much better with people who make $75,000 or up. That is largely affluent people, than he does with $75,000 and down.

What's really interesting, Kitty is that when you look at the campaign of Jesse Jackson in 1988, that's almost the exact opposite of the audience that Jackson appealed to which was largely low income and minority. So this is just the opposite, affluent and white.

PILGRIM: Let's talk a little bit about Hillary Clinton, she's in New Hampshire. And I know you were with her when she came out of the blocks here, a little bit earlier.

CROWLEY: It was. We were with her two weekends ago on her first trip to Iowa. This weekend, of course, is her first trip to New Hampshire. But the fact of the matter is, that there's, you get the sense that the Clinton campaign is trying to muscle people out of the race, or at least intimidate them. She had great crowds everywhere she went. It was a very slick campaign. With all the appropriate banners and the appropriate camera angles, and really a crackerjack staff. So this is a campaign, Hillary Clinton's campaign, in full swing, regardless of the fact that she has not yet had her formal announcement.

PILGRIM: It's already interesting. Thanks very much, Candy Crowley.

CROWLEY: Sure, Kitty.

PILGRIM: Joining me now are three of the nation's best political analysts, editor of, James Taranto, columnist for the "New York Daily News" Michael Goodwin, and syndicated columnist, Miguel Perez. Gentlemen, thanks for being with me.

Let's start with what Candy was talking about. We might as well go into who is ahead and who is not, and let's talk about the New Hampshire presidential primary poll, February 1 through 5. Democratic primary voters choice for nominee, it seems way too early for this, but let's put that up and take a look at it. We have Clinton at 35 percent. Obama, 21 percent. Edwards, 16. Gore, eight, others, change. Miguel?

MIGUEL PEREZ, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I'm not surprised. I am surprised, however, by what the reporter was just telling us about the black vote. I am surprised that they are not supporting Obama the way I would expect them to at this point. I guess they don't know him well enough yet.

But, still, I mean, I would think that the first presidential -- black presidential candidate who really has a shot of getting elected president is this guy. And they would -- they should be very enthused about the idea. I like what I see about Mr. Obama. And the more I get to know about him, the more I like him, and I think the African American community will go the same way.

PILGRIM: He is a child of the media still, perhaps.


PILGRIM: During his campaign.

GOODWIN: And I think the way the Democratic field is shaping up, Hillary Clinton is clearly the frontrunner and is going to have all the money in the world, and I think John Edwards on one hand and Obama on the other and the cast of thousands will kind of chip away and try to make it a two-person race, one person against her, because she is unpopular in many quarters and so, therefore, to try to capture the anti-Hillary vote and I think Obama is the best person to do that, because in many ways he's everything she's not.

He's easier, he's more relaxed, he's open, and he has that war vote that Candy Crowley mentioned so I think ultimately could emerge as a real threat to her.

PILGRIM: Edward's really aggressive, isn't he?

JAMES TARANTO, OPINIONJOURNAL.COM: He sure is. I want to make a point about Obama which is an interesting to watch in his candidacy, has been the way that the so-called black leaders have said very cool things about him, talking about people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, and I think the reason is because he's a threat to them. Because if America elects a black president or comes close to electing a black president, if he's the nominee and he gets 48 percent of the vote or whatever, it becomes really hard to argue that America is an irredeemably racist country and Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton make their livings making that argument.

PILGRIM: It's interesting. And it is going to be a fascinating debate and certainly one that is maybe overdue in this country. Bill Schneider did a big piece that we just saw on the most expensive campaign in history.

What are your thoughts on the level of money that's going on, Miguel?

PEREZ: It's obscene. It's obscene. I mean, you have to be a multimillionaire practically or be able to be able to raise multimillionaire money to be an elected official in this country, not just president, but I mean some of the senatorial races you have the same situation.

PILGRIM: Exactly.

GOODWIN: I think there are two things driving it this year. One is the front loading of the primaries which require you to raise so much money up front, because you will have to move quickly from New Hampshire and Iowa to New Jersey and California and places in the Midwest. So you can't wait to come out of the first states and then raise your money. You have to have it going in.

And the second thing, we have to be honest, most of the money goes to television. It's a great year to own a television station because what's where the bucks come in and that's where most of this money will end up.


TARANTO: We've seen in the past couple of weeks three candidates on the Democratic side, Mrs. Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama all say they will not accept federal matching money, which means they can raise as much money as they want, subject to federal fundraising limits.

I think it will be really interesting to see if John McCain decides not to take federal money. Since he has a belief that special-interest money is at the root of all evil in politics. Will he hold his campaign back to make a stand on principal?

GOODWIN: It's his law. It's the McCain Feingold campaign finance law. It is his law. PILGRIM: As long as we went through the Democrats. Let's look at the Republicans. And this week, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney moved a bit closer. Let's take who is ahead of who, and here's our list. McCain, 28 percent, Giuliani, 27, Romney, 13, Gingrich nine and the rest. Miguel?

PEREZ: I'm not worried. As long as Mr. Romney stays third, I'm OK. I think the guy is a hypocrite, I've said it in my column many times. He is against illegal immigrants but he has them mowing his lawn, and the other two guys are kind of moderate and I'm all for that.

PILGRIM: We know where he stands.

GOODWIN: I think all along it looks like a Giuliani and McCain race with many of the others running for vice president on the ticket. So right now those two are out in front. They seem to switch positions, first and second, first and second, so I don't see anyone coming up and challenging them for the dominance of the party.

TARANTO: I believe that poll you showed was from New Hampshire and not nationwide.

PILGRIM: Excuse me, let me look. I want to make sure. I think it is. Yeah. You're right.

TARANTO: And most of the nationwide polls actually have Giuliani in front. I think he really has to be viewed as the front runner at this point. I don't see how you can call McCain a frontrunner when he perennially finishes second in the polls.

And they say Giuliani is going to have trouble among the religious right and that may be true, but I was with the chairman of the Republican Party of Michigan a few weeks ago and he was saying he had Giuliani in for a dinner and Giuliani gave a talk and explained his position on abortion and gay rights and a couple of people in the audience, big shot Republican evangelical Christians from Michigan got up and said I don't agree with you but I'm going to support you, I was satisfied with your answer.

So I Giuliani's weaknesses may be less than people think they are.

PILGRIM: Let's take a break because we'll get into some other very interest stuff in just a minute so we'll have more with our panel after this quick break including what White House advisor Karl Rove had to say about illegal immigration and what he doesn't want his son doing. Interesting comment.

And "Heroes," our tribute to men and women in uniform. Tonight we meet a former green beret who distinguished himself in combat against the Taliban. Stay with us.


PILGRIM: We're back with our panel. Michael Goodwin, Miguel Perez and James Taranto. Gentlemen, we're right in the middle of the campaign season. Iraq has to be a huge issue for this. Miguel?

PEREZ: How it affects the presidential race in 2008, Mr. McCain having encouraged a surge, and now the president going along with that, partly, because I think Mr. McCain wanted an overwhelming force, but it might help Mr. McCain more than anybody else.

GOODWIN: And I think we saw in 2006, that the war is a real liability for Republicans everywhere. And so I think unless, absent a real change in America's favor in Iraq, I think that Iraq will be a burden for the Republican nominee. And now they handle it now will show up in commercials later on and everything.

So right now, I'd have to say, Iraq favors the Democratic nominee, because the war has gone so badly and America is so turned against the war.

TARANTO: If George W. Bush were run for re-election, I would agree with Michael, that he's in trouble. I don't think it is that clear that it hurts the Republican nominee, because the Republican nominee is not going to be bush, and the Democratic nominee is very likely to be somebody that has not shown any capacity for leadership, I'm thinking about Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, who both voted for the war, they had very strong statements in support of it and changed their views with public opinion.

I think the American people when they elect a president, they want somebody that is capable of leading, not somebody who is going to follow them wherever the mass of the public is going.

GOODWIN: But I think if you look at 2006 as a model at all, it is that Democrats didn't stand for anything in 2006, yet they won the Congress simply because of disgust against the Republicans and against Bush. If that patterns holds no Republican can win.

TARANTO: It's one thing to elect a congressman, it's another thing to elect the leader of the country, the commander in chief.

PILGRIM: Let's talk about what happened in the Senate. Blocked a nonbinding resolution. Let's listen to what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had to say about the impasse here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Intelligence relating to the ...


PILGRIM: All right. We don't seem to have that. The American people are not happy with the current status of the Iraq War. Republican senators are not happy about it. What to do about it creates differences of opinion and there are dramatic and different opinions among Democrats about what ought to be done at this point. Nobody's happy about the state of Iraq right now and the Senate will be engaged in this debate for the very near future.

And, yet, there was an impasse. We are going to 36 hours of debate in the House. What is Congress, what are we going to see?

PEREZ: It will help -- it will hurt the Democrats in the presidential race if they keep act like the Ringling Brothers in Congress and that's what's been happening over the last week or so, so, you know, of course, I agree, that if George Bush was running, he would not be re-elected. But if the Democrats kept acting like clowns, I mean, they have to take a position, they can't -- you know, they are divided now. They don't know what it is they are proposing nonbinding resolutions.

If they are really that much against the war, propose real legislation. Let's deal with it. Let's cut the budget -- the funding. Do something. Not just like, you know ...

GOODWIN: Look, I mean, I think the Republicans, very skillfully used the Senate rules to -- and tried to force the Democrats to take a vote on do you support the troops effectively. I think that the Democrats should have taken that gamble. They should have voted on every resolution the Republicans wanted to put forth as well as the bipartisan ones.

I think they were cowards not to vote. And I think that the people in the end will respect you for your position, but take one. And I think that not voting was a mistake for the Democrats.

PILGRIM: And yet we're stuck with this impasse.

TARANTO: I think my fellow panelists here are a little too hard on the Democrats. Not that they don't deserve it, but I think this is really an institutional problem. The Senate is not a place where leadership arises. It's -- it's -- you know, it's a body that works on consensus, that requires super-majorities to do just about anything. There's a reason senators are hardly ever elected president.

PILGRIM: All right, there's another -- that's an issue, which you know, that's very near and dear to the heart of this show, and that's immigration, and we have a comment from Karl Rove, and I wanted to bring up something that Karl Rove said the other day on the subject of illegal immigration, and rove said, I don't want my 17-year-old son to have to pick tomatoes or make beds in Las Vegas.

Now, Rove's office confirms that he made the remark, but he says they are being taken out of context and a senior administration official said that Rove was trying to make the point that low wages and low-skill jobs are vacant and causing hardships for business owners. So, what is your ...

PEREZ: I don't think that's the point he was trying to make. He was trying to say, look, the illegal immigrants are doing the jobs that Americans don't want. I don't see why everybody's offended over this or some people are offended over this, because, in fact, that's reality, they are doing the jobs that many Americans don't want, and the specific quote that he gave, my God, my grandmother picked tomatoes when she came from Cuba and my mother made beds in Miami Beach hotels," so it really hit home, and we were legal residents. So legal or illegal, immigrants do the jobs that Americans don't want to do. It really brought it home for me, that quote, because it reminded me of my own mother and grandmother.

PILGRIM: It was a very personal quote, because it brought in his family and the whole thing.

GOODWIN: And I think most parents think that way. They think about their own children and I think it's actually, in a way, interesting that he would apply that test to his own family and come out with that answer. I don't find it offensive either.


TARANTO: I do find it kind of offensive because it suggests that this kind of work is unworthy, that, you know, Rove is -- Rove's son is too good to do this sort of work, identify think that's the sort of thing a politician shouldn't say, nobody should say.

GOODWIN: Do you have children?


The one thing I will say ...

PILGRIM: Shouldn't teenagers start in the mailroom?

TARANTO: If I had a child and he wanted to make beds in hotels, fine, if that's what he wants to do. First of all, the one thing I will say in Rove's defense, at least he didn't say it was a botched joke. Second, I think what he's saying, it doesn't make sense. It's a non sequitur, if we don't have comprehensive immigration reform his son isn't going to do these jobs, illegal immigrants are going to do these jobs instead of legal immigrants.

PEREZ: Except for me it was the other way around. It was my grandmother and my mother sacrificed so I could study and I could be here tonight.

TARANTO: That's the great American dream.

PILGRIM: An incendiary comment, because it started such discussion. Thank you very much, gentlemen, for being here. Michael Goodwin, Miguel Perez and James Taranto, thank you.

Here's a reminder, now. Vote in tonight's poll. Do you support a national standard for drivers' licenses? Yes or no. Cast your votes at We'll bring you the results a little bit later in the broadcast.

And coming up at the top of the hour SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER. Wolf?

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Kitty. The case for war. Did a group of Pentagon analysts cook the books to press their case for overthrowing Saddam Hussein? Doug Feith, the man at the center of this controversy, joins us. Here he'll make a spirited defense. Also, Barack Obama, he's on the verge of making his race for the White House official. What does an Obama candidacy mean for the rest of the Democratic field? Including Senator Clinton?

And Don King joins us to share his memories of a close friend, Anna Nicole Smith. All that coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Back to you.

PILGRIM: Thanks, Wolf. Coming up next, "Heroes" will introduce you to a Special-Forces soldier whose leadership helped to defeat the Taliban government if Afghanistan. Stay with us.


PILGRIM: And now, "Heroes," which is our weekly tribute to the men and women who serve this country in uniform. Tonight we introduce you to Major Jason Amerine. He led his Special Forces team into Afghanistan and received a bronze star with valor. Bill Tucker has his story.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thirteen years ago, Major Jason Amerine was a cadet, studying Arabic at west point. Today, he's the instructor. In early 2001, he was in Kazakhstan when the events of September 11th changed his mission.

MAJ. JASON AMERINE, U.S. ARMY: We infiltrated Afghanistan in November of 2001, and our mission was to link up with a guerrilla leader who we didn't know a great deal about. The focus of our efforts were the Taliban.

TUCKER: Amerine commanded his Special Forces team of 11 and along with that of Afghan guerrilla leader Hamid Karzai, they built a force of 300 Afghan fighters.

AMERINE: Over the next couple of weeks, the tribal belt just started falling like dominoes.

TUCKER: In Terencat (ph).

AMERINE: The skies were stacked with F-18s and F-14s and we pounded the Taliban as they came into town.

TUCKER: In Chawalikat (ph).

AMERINE: We got an AC-131 and were able to fight off the counterattack.

TUCKER: But in Kandahar the team suffered losses from friendly fire.

AMERINE: Dozens of my guerrillas were killed and everybody on my team was wounded. Two were killed. TUCKER: The Taliban surrendered Kandahar on December 8th and Amerine received a Bronze Star for valor and a Purple Heart. While Amerine recovered, his career came full circle.

AMERINE: Being asked to teach at West Point definitely came as a surprise. I mean, for me, there's just never enough that we could do to help get the cadets ready for what they have ahead of them.

TUCKER: There were more surprises to come. Amerine was also selected to be an action figure as part of the Army's Real Heroes project. You can see him in action when you download the "America's Army" game.

AMERINE: For me the military was a calling. I've loved every moment of it.

TUCKER: Bill Tucker, CNN, New York.


PILGRIM: Now the results of tonight's poll. Seventy-five percent of you support a national standard for drivers' licenses. Twenty-five percent of you do not.

And we have time for one e-mail, anyway. William in Florida. "The Democrats who say or do nothing about these border guards being locked up will not get my vote. Nation, family, political party. Whoever gets my vote will have their priorities straight. The good of the nation must supercede all interests."

Thanks for being with us tonight. THE SITUATION ROOM starts right now with Wolf Blitzer. Wolf?


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