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THE SITUATION ROOM

Pentagon Touts Success of Interceptor Missile Test; Interview With Governor Bill Richardson; Newspaper Urging Cheney to Run for President

Aired April 6, 2007 - 17:00   ET

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


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And we have breaking news now.

A key aide to Alberto Gonzales has quit. It is the latest fallout in the showdown between Congress and the White House over those fired U.S. attorneys.

Also happening now, a harrowing ordeal revealed -- British military personnel now telling what really happened to them in Iranian custody, some of it possibly illegal.

Also, missile killer test success -- the Pentagon's Interceptor showing what it can do.

So why are some saying they're not impressed?

Plus, blasting Al Gore over global warming -- find out why one critic accuses the former vice president of hysteria and destroying American jobs.

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with the breaking news. Another Justice Department official about to resign in the controversy over the firing of federal prosecutors. This time, Monica Goodling, the Department's liaison to the White House and a top aide to embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

We're going to go straight to CNN White House correspondent Elaine Quijano -- clearly, Elaine, the fallout could be even worse for this administration, for the White House, for the Justice Department.

Is there any reaction from those who you're talking to?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: None just yet. Of course, I just got off the phone a short time ago with an administration official who said really this was all very new to this person.

But our information coming from our Justice Department producer, Terry Friedman (ph), who says that a letter was submitted from Monica Goodling, who, of course, was a counsel to Alberto Gonzales, the attorney general; also, the White House liaison; talking about submitting her resignation effective tomorrow, April 7th.

She gave no reason in this letter. She said to the attorney general in this letter: "It has been an honor to have served at the Department of Justice for the past five years. May god bless you richly, as you continue your service to America."

So this coming on an Easter weekend without warning, seemingly, Suzanne, certainly will raise more questions at a time when the White House, at a time when the attorney general are under increasing pressure to address lawmakers' concerns about the way in which the dismissals of those eight U.S. prosecutors were handled -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Elaine, let me ask you, Monica Goodling, she took the fifth. She is not going to testify before members of Congress.

Why -- why was that? How is that related? What did -- what was the explanation for that?

QUIJANO: Right.

Well, the White House had said, basically pointed to what her lawyers had laid out. They believe that Monica Goodling would not get a fair hearing on Capitol Hill. Quite simply, they thought a lot of the Democrats had already made up their mind. And they -- even the lawyers for Monica Goodling, even sort of pointed to the Senator "Scooter" Libby case as an example of how even if accurate or truthful testimony, they said, was presented, that could still present some sort of legal jeopardy.

So with that in mind, they announced the decision that she would not, in fact, go forward and testify, that she would take the fifth.

Now, again, this development today, on Good Friday, going into this holiday weekend, certainly only going to raise more questions that Democrats have about how the administration handled the dismissals of these prosecutors -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Elaine, thank you so much.

And now, on to another story -- mind games, isolation, aggressive interrogations. Those British sailors and marines held captive in Iran are giving new details of their ordeal, much more frightening than anyone realized. But some say they feared the worst at the hands of the Iranians.

CNN's Brian Todd joining us now live -- Brian, what kind of new details do we know today?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, we spoke to several experts on military law today. There is a question of whether the Iranians violated the Geneva Conventions. And these experts are really torn on whether Iran crossed any legal lines.

From the British accounts, you get the impression the Iranians seemed to know just how far they could go.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Again, I deeply apologize for entering your waters.

TODD (voice-over): They make claims of interrogation, mind games, overall stark treatment at the hands of their Iranian captors.

LT. FELIX CARMAN, BRITISH ROYAL NAVY: We were blindfolded at all times and kept in isolation from each other.

TODD: An Iranian official we contacted denies the charges, says these British sailors and marines were not held in isolation. But if true, military law experts say Iran may have at least skirted the brink of violating Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, prohibiting outrages upon personal dignity, humiliating and degrading treatment.

Isolation would violate the Conventions, one expert says, but only if it was for more than a day at a time and if they were deprived of food.

The British say they were fed. On this claim...

CARMAN: We were put up against the wall, hands bound, blindfolded, and people were cocking weapons in the background.

SCOTT SILLIMAN, DUKE UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: If, in fact, the cocking of the weapons was meant to be a threat that unless they talked, they would be killed, then I think that would be a clear violation of Common Article 3. If, in fact, that was just the cocking of weapons, it was not in any way tied or a threat with regard to the questioning, then it might not be a violation.

TODD: Would this have crossed the line?

CARMAN: We were stripped and then dressed in pajamas?

TODD: Not a violation if they were just told to change clothes, says an expert, and if it wasn't done to humiliate them.

The British say the only woman among then, Faye Turney, was isolated and tricked right after their capture.

CAPT. CHRISTOPHER AIR, BRITISH ROYAL MARINES: She was told shortly afterward that we had all been returned home and was under the impression for about four days that she was the only one there.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: One expert says even that kind of trickery does not violate the Geneva Conventions. But if the Iranians got overly physical with any of their captives, they would have crossed the line. None of the British servicemen today claim to have been beaten or physically coerced -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Brian Todd, thanks again for that report.

The former captives are giving even more details of their ordeal and the violent way it began.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AIR: They rammed our boats and trained their heavy machine guns, RPG and weapons on us. Another six boats were closing in on us. We realized that our efforts to reason with these people were not making any headway, nor were we able to calm some of the individuals down.

It was at this point that we realized that had we resisted, there would have been a major fight, one which we could not have won and with consequences that would have major strategic impacts.

We made a conscious decision not to engage the Iranians and do as they asked. They boarded our boats, removed our weapons and steered the boats toward the Iranian shore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARMAN: We were kept in isolation until the last few nights, when we were allowed to gather together for a few hours in the full glare of the Iranian media. On day 12, we were taken to a governmental complex, blindfolded and then given three piece suits to wear.

We watched the president's statement live on television, and it was only then that we realized we were to be sent home.

It goes without saying that there is a great deal of elation at this point. We were made to then line up and meet the president one at a time.

No one individual should be singled out, but we are now very aware of the special treatment singled out to Faye Turner. Faye is a young mother and a wife. She volunteered to join the Royal Navy and is very proud to continue to serve. She's a highly professional operator and we're incredibly proud to have her as a member of our team.

The fact that she's a woman has been used as a propaganda tool by Iran. This is deeply regrettable. She is coming to terms with what has happened to her and not only Faye and her family, but all of us are finding the press focus very uncomfortable, difficult and we specifically request you give all of us the space and privacy we need when we return to our homes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: The woman he is speaking about, the lone female captive, Faye Turner, did not take part in today's news conference.

And now to Iraq. An unprecedented deployment. An Army National Guard unit about to go back for the second time. Now, that's a first for the Guard and a possible sign of the growing strain the war is putting on the U.S. military. CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joining us live now -- Barbara, obviously this is -- this is quite bad news for some folks and it's a new development.

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is part of the Pentagon's struggle, Suzanne, to keep finding the troops to send to the front line.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

STARR (voice-over): More than 12,000 Army National Guard troops, about four brigades, will go to Iraq for a one year tour of duty beginning early next year. For the first time, the Guard will do a second combat tour in Iraq. This is not part of the so-called surge, it's just the latest effort to keep enough troops in Iraq, possibly through 2010.

But can the military keep up the pace of a prolonged deployment to Iraq?

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I have said all along that I believe the decisions on duration and everything else will depend on the situation on the ground. So the truth is, I think people don't know right now how long this will last.

STARR: For the National Guard, there is a particular strain.

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): Something is going to bust in the Guard and Reserve system. You can't take part- time soldiers with real jobs and make them into full-time soldiers and make that work over an extended period of time.

STARR: The top brass says all the troops going to Iraq will be fully trained, but there is a broader risk emerging.

GENERAL PETER PACE, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: You do forfeit some of the kind of training you would like to do just to have a little bit more readiness in case something happens that you're not expecting.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

STARR: Suzanne, the National Guard says really the biggest impact right now is on its troops left back at home. They are short. They only have about 40 percent of their equipment -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Barbara Starr, thank you so much.

And now we move on to Jack Cafferty in New York with The Cafferty File -- Jack, what are you looking at?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question has to do with an old warning that I guess we got when we were kids -- beware of the wolf in sheep's clothing.

Remember this stuff? We saw it all just yesterday, the media celebration, smiles all around. Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, posing with those British sailors and marines, trying to come off as the magnanimous benefactor who took the high ground in agreeing to release them.

Well, everything has a price. And that price, according to the British captives, was psychological abuse, mind games, being stripped, bound, blindfolded and kept in isolation.

It's the typical stuff that you would expect from a pint-sized punk like Ahma-dinner-jacket. At the end of the day, he has no place at all among the civilized community of nations. He's just another dictatorial little thug, like Hugo Chavez and Kim Jung Il and Fidel Castro. They're all the same, these people.

And now that the British captives are talking about what happened to them, it's probably worth remembering that when it comes to Iran, what you see isn't always what you get. In fact, it seldom is. And my guess is that applies as much to the enrichment of uranium as it does to the British hostages.

So here's the question -- how will reports of Iran's treatment of these British captives affect its ultimate relations with the West?

E-mail caffertyfile@cnn.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: A lot of people are interested in that, Jack.

Thank you so much.

And up ahead, harsh words for Al Gore and his global warming campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would describe Al Gore as the shaman of global goofiness and gloom and doom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: And that's not all he has to say. Find out why he is so fired up over Gore's global warming warnings.

Also, he supports the Iraq troop increase that polls show many Americans oppose.

How will that impact his presidential campaign?

I'll ask Republican candidate, Congressman Duncan Hunter.

Plus, dramatic video of a cruise ship sinking. Now the worry that not everyone survived.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: As the White House battles Congressional Democrats over war funding and the general direction of the war, my next guest supports the new Baghdad security plan.

Congressman Duncan Hunter is the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. He is also running for president, styling himself as a true conservative.

Congressman Hunter is in San Diego and he is joining me now.

Congressman, thank you so much for joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: Good to be with you.

MALVEAUX: I want to first start talking about Iraq.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid issuing a challenge, a challenge to the president and a challenge to Republicans.

Let's listen real quick.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: If he doesn't think it should be signed, rather than going around giving speeches around the country, political speeches, he should sit down and talk to us. We have compromised on issues before. He hasn't, because he's had the Congress giving him everything he wants. We don't have to do that anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Do you think that the president's strategy here is working?

We have heard very hard words from him lately, saying that this is not a civil war, but that it's a fight against evil here.

Obviously, the Democrats are taking a hard line position, as well.

HUNTER: You know, this time even the "Washington Post" had it right when they said that this bill basically takes away commander-in- chief powers from the president.

If you look at page 72 of the bill, the war funding bill that the Democrats applied all these constrictions to, it says that an American unit can't be introduced into the Iraq theater without waiting for 15 days after Congress has been given notice.

That means if you have hostages who have to be rescued by a -- by a Delta Force team, they can't move into that theater in two weeks. If you need reinforcements, they can't move in. If you have F16 aircraft coming out of Incirlik, Turkey, they can't move in without a two week waiting period. And in this war against terror, where a minute can be important, where an hour can be important, the idea that the Democrat leadership has put a two week waiting period for any troop movement on the president is absolutely unacceptable.

The president has to veto that bill and Harry Reid's statement that maybe we can work something out is -- is a little bit far fetched. This thing is...

MALVEAUX: So there is no room for --

HUNTER: ... a real constriction.

MALVEAUX: ... no room for compromise here?

Because obviously there's going to be a lot of back and forth here. And some people are suggesting the Democrats wait at least six months to see if this plan, this new Baghdad security plan will work. But in the meantime here, I mean this is a high stakes game of chicken.

HUNTER: You know, there's a lot at stake here. And I would just hope that the Democrats would go back to the great Democrat statesmen like Senator Jackson, who said that in national security, the best politics is no politics.

I think the Democrats had a big political victory as a result of the war that dampened the vote, the enthusiasm for the Republican vote. And I think they see political gain here.

Now is not the time to harvest political gain. You have to let the president run this war. He's the commander-in-chief. And...

MALVEAUX: But the...

HUNTER: ... Nancy Pelosi's trip to...

MALVEAUX: If I...

HUNTER: ... Syria, I think...

MALVEAUX: If I may...

HUNTER: ... reinforces that.

MALVEAUX: If I may interrupt here, though...

HUNTER: Sure.

MALVEAUX: ... the Democrats, however, I mean they were elected, the will of the people, the will of the people spoke, saying they want to get out of Iraq. That is a reflection of what they are taking to the president in their legislation, what they're taking to Republicans. And their strategy is to wait you out, one by one, pluck off Republicans to make sure that perhaps they've got enough Republicans to override the veto. HUNTER: You know, very clearly, they stepped too far. You can't tell a president that he can't send reinforcements in without waiting for two weeks. And I don't think the American people will like that. Anybody who has a young man or woman in uniform is not going to accept that.

I think they overstepped this line, this demarcation between Congress, which does fund wars -- but the president who runs them. And they can't run the war.

MALVEAUX: Let's take a quick look at some of these figures, these fundraising figures, quite impressive here. The Democrats, the candidates raising some $77 million to the Republicans $50 million.

HUNTER: Absolutely.

MALVEAUX: Is the party concerned here?

I mean it seems as if, looking at these numbers, face value here, perhaps there's less enthusiasm for your party.

HUNTER: Well, listen, I'm concerned, because I didn't raise that $50 million. I can just tell you this. Issues work. And, you know, even though we were outraged and outspent by McCain, Giuliani and Romney in the South Carolina big straw poll they just had, for example, we were outspent by 10 to one, we finished within one point of Giuliani and McCain and beat Romney by two to one.

So the facts are that money is important as you get down toward December and January for this largely -- where there's a lot of television to be bought.

But right now, ideas matter and that means on both sides of the aisle -- on the Democrat and Republican primaries. This is still an open race on both sides.

MALVEAUX: Let's talk about ideas. One of them, of course, immigration reform. President Bush is going to be on the Arizona- Mexican border on Monday and he has made it very clear his position here, that if there's going to be immigration reform, it will include a guest worker program.

Do you have any support for your legislation that -- that basically strips that out of the bill?

HUNTER: Listen, what the president needs to do is to simply execute the law that I wrote that he already signed in October that builds, extends the San Diego border fence, which works well, which knocks down smuggling of people and narcotics, which extends it 854 miles across Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

It's the law that the fence has to be built. So far, the president's built a mile-and-a-half of fence at Yuma, where he's going.

He needs to get his fence companies lined up, get that doggone Department of Homeland Security energized and let's build the border fence.

When you have an enforceable border, then you can start talking about adjusting the front door. But in the Republican Party, the idea of -- of creating new benefits which will cause a rush for the border while you have this very porous 2,000 mile border, has no enthusiasm.

MALVEAUX: Congressman Hunter...

HUNTER: No enthusiasm on our side.

MALVEAUX: Congressman Hunter, I'll have to leave it at that.

Thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

HUNTER: Thanks.

Appreciate it.

MALVEAUX: And coming up, we'll show you how Republican discontent with current presidential candidates is prompting some to make a desperate plea to Vice President Cheney.

And he's about to leave on a critical mission to North Korea. New Mexico governor and Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson will join us live.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Our Carol Costello is monitoring the stories coming into THE SITUATION ROOM at this very moment -- Carol, what is making news?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, Suzanne, a dramatic arrest caught on camera. New Jersey State Police say just before this morning's capture of a bank robbery suspect, the man begged them, "Please shoot me! Please kill me!"

Of course they didn't. They arrested him. An FBI agent died in a shoot-out yesterday when two other suspects were arrested. He apparently was hit by a bullet from another agent's gun.

Checking the bottom line now, a disturbing theory is surfacing on the ongoing recall of tainted pet food. A veterinarian with the Food and Drug Administration says someone may have intentionally added a chemical to a pet food ingredient to increase the protein level and raise prices. Unfortunately, the chemical is also poisonous and suspected of killing dozens of dogs and cats.

Jobs are up, unemployment is down and it's all a surprise. New numbers from the Labor Department show employers added 180,000 new jobs in March. That pushed the unemployment rate down to 4.4 percent. It was 4.5 percent in February. Economists had predicted unemployment would go up in March.

That's a look at the headlines right now -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Carol, thank you so much.

And there has just been an important test of the Pentagon's missile defense technology.

Next in THE SITUATION ROOM, see if it was a hit or a miss and why some people aren't imposed no matter what.

Also ahead, something you don't see every day -- it's a real passenger ship really sinking. You'll see more dramatic pictures here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, North Korea is in line to collect millions of dollars and the U.S. won't object. China hosted the negotiations that freed up $25 million from a previously frozen bank account. The money deal removes a roadblock to dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

Also, smoke signals from one of the world's trouble spots. Radical Islamist students burn movies, VCRs and DVDs at a mosque in Baghdad, Pakistan. Observers say it's proof that the Taliban is gaining strength in the war on terror.

And the way of the cross -- pilgrims to Jerusalem brave modern tensions to re-enact the events of 2,000 years ago.

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

It's described as being like a bullet hitting a bullet. The Pentagon investing heavily in its Interceptor missile defense system. And now word of another success.

But critics aren't impressed.

CNN special correspondent Frank Sesno joining us live -- Frank, tell us all about this test. Explain this.

FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: OK.

Well, call it missile defense, call it Star Wars.

The real question is does it work?

There was another successful test yesterday, a part of a missile interceptor.

But just how close are we to a real missile defense?

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) ROTH (voice-over): Against a night sky, a kill vehicle shoots up to knock out a pretend enemy missile.

JOHN PIKE, GLOBAL SECURITY.ORG: What's happening is that the kinetic kill vehicle is actually colliding with the incoming reentry vehicle. It's being destroyed on impact. The fireworks that you're seeing are the fragments of the warhead and the kill vehicle scattering all over the place.

ROTH: Critics say the tests in this series are too easy. But defenders say to test one component, all the other intricate components need to work.

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): It's a bullet hitting a bullet. And so any time you have a successful test, I say it's a step in the right direction.

PIKE: This program started out stumbling. Then they crawled. Now I think at last they're walking. They're not quite ready to run.

SESNO: This missile defense called THAAD is meant primarily to hit an incoming war head when it's already within 100 miles. It's designed to defend American troops overseas and population centers.

To defend the U.S. homeland against long-distance missiles, the best defense is to intercept further out, midcourse over the ocean. That would be the job of the longer-range missile shield like the one planned for Alaska.

How is that coming along?

PIKE: I don't think we're going to be terribly reliant on the midcourse interceptor in this decade. Maybe at some point in the next decade, but not soon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESNO: In other words, they're still having meant plenty of trouble. So, in the meantime, in the event of an attack, supporters of the THAAD interceptor say a local missile defense would be better than none -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Fascinating story. Thanks again.

Frank Sesno.

A critical mission to North Korea just hours away for New Mexico governor and Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson. But it's not about the country's controversial nuclear program. It's about the remains of Americans killed in the Korean War.

Governor Bill Richardson joining us live from New Mexico.

Governor, it's Suzanne Malveaux. Can you hear me?

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D-NM), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I can hear you. Nice to be with you, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Nice to have you here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

I know that you're going on this mission here. You clearly have a mission. And you're running also for president as well.

If you were president, if it was President Richardson here, and there was a nuclear North Korea, what would you do?

RICHARDSON: Well, I would do what the Bush administration is now doing, and that is having these very intensive talks with the North Koreans, where you get them to dismantle the nuclear weapons, allow inspectors in, shut down some of their nuclear reactors. And in exchange, there's basically some kind of stability, an agreement that they will not be attacked, that they get food, fuel, energy assistance from the six-party countries, Asia, countries like China, Japan, South Korea, the United States, Russia.

That makes a lot of sense. And this mission that -- it's a bipartisan mission, it's not presidential or Democrat. It's Secretary Anthony Principi, the former head of the Veterans Affairs Administration, is going with me. And our objective is to try to see if we can get some remains of the very proud and honorable servicemen that perished in the Korean War.

So, if we get some remains back, it's a sign of progress in the relationship.

MALVEAUX: There is one person who is taking issue here with the way the Bush administration is dealing with it, and he was in the administration, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton.

I spoke with him earlier this week. I want you to listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BOLTON, FMR. U.S. AMB. TO U.N.: In the case of North Korea, it is true that our pressure brought North Korea to the table, which shows why it's a mistake to give that pressure up. We had them where we wanted them. We've let them out of the corner.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: He says we're folding.

RICHARDSON: Well, he's totally wrong. And for him to basically leave an administration that backed him up as U.N. ambassador -- I had that job once. It's one of the best jobs -- and then to trash the president's policy makes little sense to me.

What the Bush administration has done is talked directly to North Korea within the six-party talks. That hadn't been done for a while. And, you know, some of us were a little critical there. But now that they're focused on direct talks within the six-party talks that hopefully will resume -- and we will see North Korea start dismantling their nuclear weapons.

You have to verify the North Koreans. You have to make sure that they live up to the agreement, because they cheated before.

But Bolton is totally wrong. And hopefully those in the Bush administration, like Steve Hadley and like Condoleezza Rice, that see an opportunity to find ways to make the area more stable, denuclearize Asia, and get the North Koreans to dismantle their nuclear weapons -- they have six or seven.

They're a very erratic country, unpredictable. So lessening tension is good.

MALVEAUX: Governor, I would like to turn, if I may, to politics here.

The fund-raising number for you surprised many people, $6 million. It was very respectable. But you take a look at the polls here, and you're at 3 percent behind Clinton, Obama, Gore, who is not even running, and Edwards.

Do you have a viable candidate here? How do you turn things around? Are you still a player?

RICHARDSON: Well, of course. I'm going to win this race. This is -- eight months from now is the first primary.

I just got back from New Hampshire. I got great response. I believe that my credentials as former ambassador, that knows foreign policy as a governor, that cuts taxes and creates jobs, as somebody that's been in the Congress and has been in the arena, a western governor, that I'm going to win.

These polls are name recognition. I don't care how much money any other candidate has. People vote. It's grassroots. It's not going to be dollars that vote.

And I feel very confident. And I'm exactly where I want to be. I'm not worried about some of you guys in Washington deciding who is going to win the nomination eight months before it happens.

MALVEAUX: Well, haven't quite decided here. But let's say if you were going to take on Barack Obama one on one in a debate, what would be the issue that you would have with him?

RICHARDSON: I don't have any issues with him. He's an exciting candidate.

I -- you know, Suzanne, I have pushed the idea among the Democrats that we should all be positive, that we shouldn't criticize each other. So I would talk about how I'm the best candidate that would bring this country together. I have foreign policy experience.

You know, Obama is a good candidate. Look at the support he's getting. But I feel I'm going to win.

MALVEAUX: And Hillary Clinton, you don't have anything to challenge her on, making news?

RICHARDSON: No. I worked for her husband. He's probably mad at me that I'm running.

He gave me two great jobs. But I think there are a lot bigger issues at stake here -- the future of the country.

I believe I can bring this country together. I can restore our luster internationally. And if I can help my country in a bipartisan way, in a patriotic way, the way we're doing with the remains of 8,000 Americans -- now, I don't know if we're going to get any, but it's a good sign that the North Koreans invited us.

MALVEAUX: Well, Governor, that was very diplomatic of you. So thank you very much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up ahead, is the global warming debate over? Not according to one voice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

He's not to be trusted. He's not to be believed. His words are more fiction than fact.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: So who is he and who is he talking about? Carol Costello explains why he calls global warming global goofiness.

Also, one newspaper is urging Vice President Dick Cheney to run for president. Why? We'll explain next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

MALVEAUX: His poll numbers are low, criticism of him run high. But who needs lots of supporters to run for president?

But as our Gary Nurenberg tells us, one newspaper is urging Vice President Cheney to seek a job promotion.

Gary, with a variety of Republican presidential candidates, why would some be urging the vice president to run?

GARY NURENBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Maybe because, Suzanne, so many Republicans seem to be humming that old song..."Is That All There Is?"

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NURENBERG (voice over): Vice President Cheney was only teasing last Monday...

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A reception like that is almost enough to make you want to run for office again. IRA STOLL, "THE NEW YORK SUN": We think he'd be a good president if he actually won.

NURENBERG: In an editorial entitled "Cheney's Chance," "The New York Sun" compared the vice president to announced Republican candidates, writing, "... Mr. Cheney is so much more experienced and shrewd a figure." And managing editor Ira Stoll says Cheney would say what other candidates aren't saying.

STOLL: President Bush hasn't been perfect, but he's actually been a really good president.

NURENBERG: Cheney has said repeatedly he will not run, but Republicans don't seem fired up about those who are running. Republicans have contributed $50 million to presidential hopefuls so far. Democrats, $77 million.

A CNN-Opinion Research poll last month shows little more than a third of registered Republicans have made their mind up about a presidential choice. Sixty-two percent said they could change their mind.

STEPHEN HESS, THE BROOKING INST.: They reflected discontent at this time with the top tier, McCain, Giuliani and Romney.

NURENBERG: Presidential scholar Stephen Hess.

HESS: It's not just that they're not just catching fire. They're all flawed candidates from the Republican activist point of view.

NURENBERG: Which is maybe why possible candidates Newt Gingrich and Fred Thompson are making such broad hints.

FRED THOMPSON, ACTOR: There's always room for one more.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NURENBERG: But does that include Vice President Cheney? It would be a heck of a campaign. But to quote Mr. Hess, "It ain't going to happen."

The talk, though, does point to a Republican hunger for something new. And something new in the Republican campaign race, Suzanne, could very well happen.

MALVEAUX: Gary, you're absolutely right. Talking to folks in the vice president's office, it ain't going to happen. But it's a very interesting possibility.

NURENBERG: It could be fun.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thanks again.

Gary Nurenberg. Now an issue involving a well-known Democrat, Al Gore, a planet in peril, and global warming gloom? It's just all ridiculous, says one man. He says all the forecasts for disaster will themselves be disastrous for one American industry.

CNN's Carol Costello in New York.

Carol, who is making these claims?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Who is making these claims? Well, his name is Bob Murray. He's one of the few CEOs in the coal industry to openly mock Al Gore and what Murray calls militant environmentalism. His words so blunt, he's attracting a lot of attention.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice over): Bob Murray is a coal miner-turned-CEO of Murray Energy Corporation. He does not hide his disdain for what he calls the global goofiness campaign. You could say he's the anti- Gore.

BOB MURRAY, CEO, MURRAY ENERGY CORP.: I would describe Al Gore as the shaman of global goofiness and gloom and doom.

COSTELLO: Murray calls Al Gore and his Hollywood friends elitists who see the working class as abstractions to push their agenda. Needless to say, he was not impressed by Gore's testimony before a congressional hearing on global warming.

AL GORE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If the crib is on fire, you don't speculate that the baby is flame retardant. You take action. The planet has a fever.

COSTELLO: Murray calls that hysteria, saying Congress doesn't understand the consequences of bills to curb global warming.

MURRAY: Every bill that's been introduced to address it is going to destroy manufacturing jobs in America. It's going to raise the electric rates for people on fixed income.

COSTELLO: Murray says 52 percent of our electricity is generated by coal, it's the cheapest way to make it. Environmentalists say it's also the dirtiest way, accounting for a third of carbon dioxide emissions, which many scientists say is the culprit behind global warming.

Murray says maybe, but if companies are forced to cut back emissions without needed technology not now available, manufacturers will simply outsource overseas.

MURRAY: It's a human issue to me because I live among the people that wear the hard hats, and I saw what happened in 1990 with the Clean Air Act. And this will be much worse. And we must prevent that, because lives will be destroyed for little or no environmental benefit. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: We must stress that most in the scientific community say global warming does exist and must be dealt with. We also called on Al Gore for a response. His camp reiterates that by saying, "To say that this is a debate between former vice president Al Gore and the coal companies is a mistake. Today the scientific community has once again spoken loudly and clearly and confirmed that global warming is real, it is caused by human activity, its consequences are serious, and that actions must be taken now to avoid the worst damage."

Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Well, Carol, does Murray believe that there is any room for compromise here?

COSTELLO: You know, he really does. What he's really concerned about are people losing their jobs.

If all of these emissions controls are being put into place all at one time, he fears that will be too expensive for companies to absorb. And what happens when that happens? They lay off workers.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Carol.

And while that energy CEO calls global warming "goofy," others say it involves a very grave situation. A new climate report from the United Nations warns that millions of people will go hungry, thirsty and suffer disease as the world's temperature rises if the world doesn't act.

The report warns of rising sea levels swallowing up some coastal cities like New York. Scientists say that climate change could mean a new dust bowl bringing on drought in the Southwest and making it even hotter, and bring on a wave of animal extinction. Experts say polar bears could vanish this century because they will live on ice that will melt.

Now that we've heard the British sailors' story of how Iran treated them in captivity, will that treatment affect Iran's relations with the West?

Jack Cafferty has your thoughts coming up in "The Cafferty File".

Plus, it isn't from the movie "Titanic". It's real. And the passengers who got off say it was very scary.

Their stories and incredible pictures are next in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: It's a frightening thought for anyone who has ever taken a cruise -- your ship crashing, then sinking. That happened in Greece. Yesterday, the Sea Diamond slammed into rocks near one of Greece's most popular tourist destinations, and it sank today, 18 hours after it sent out a distress signal. Many on board the ship were Americans. And while all the passengers are happy to be alive, many are having to relive the nightmare.

Here is CNN's Diana Magnay.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Dramatic nighttime pictures of the doomed Greek cruise ship the Sea Diamond. Rescue workers still circling long after they had evacuated those on board. At this stage, powerless to prevent the inevitable.

And here, just before 7:00 in the morning, 15 hours after she began to take in water, it's all over. All 22,500 tons of this enormous ship now lying on the sea bed near the Greek island of Santorini.

The Sea Diamond was carrying almost 1,600 people when she scraped a reef. Passengers said it all happened very suddenly.

TOM GATCH, PASSENGER: I heard the noise, and it was a loud noise, of course, and then I stepped outside of my cabin and looked, and the water was coming down the hallway. And I thought I have to go back inside to get my life jacket, but I had to open the door and didn't have time, because now the water was up over my ankles.

KATIE SUMNER, AUSTRALIAN PASSENGER: We heard a big shudder and the whole boat started to tilt. All of our glasses were sliding everywhere, and our warning that the ship was sinking of the staff running down the corridor screaming out "Life jackets!" and banging on doors.

MAGNAY: Military and commercial vessels took part in the three- hour rescue operation, and local fishermen rushed to help, while tourists on Santorini watched as this ship built as the ultimate in luxury took on more and more water.

But on Friday, the Greek tourism minister announced that two passengers were still missing.

FANNY PALLI PETRALIA, GREEK MINISTER OF TOURISM (through translator): The mother told me that it all happened within a few seconds. While one of the two children was upstairs on the deck, the rest of the family was in the cabin, which suddenly filled with water. They managed to open the cabin door, and the mother dived and got out. She doesn't know whether her husband and her daughter managed to follow her.

MAGNAY: In September 2000, more than 80 people drowned when the express Samina (ph) ferry hit rocks and sank off the Greek island of Paros. Greece has since worked hard to improve its safety record. The cruise operator says it has already launched an investigation into how this latest ferry disaster was allowed to occur. Diana Magnay, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And the search for two French passengers who are missing still continues.

Up next, Jack Cafferty and your e-mail to his question of the hour: How will reports of Iran's treatment of the British captives affect its relations with the West?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

MALVEAUX: And Jack Cafferty with us in New York -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour: How will reports of Iran's treatment of the British captives affect the country's relationships with the West?

Jay writes from Atlanta, "The West, and the rest of the planet, for that matter, now has to ask itself: Is this the kind of nation we would trust with a nuclear device? Of course, as usual, China and Russia might think nukes are just fine in the hands of a nutcase like Iran's shortcakes McAllahjad."

Maureen in Kentucky writes, "You know this is a he said-she said situation, and we know all politicians lie, regardless of what country they're from. I do know these captives were not shown shackled, blindfolded or hooded. We have not seen them chained while being attacked by dogs or naked while standing on each others' backs (i.e. in a pyramid position). Need I go on?"

Jeff in Sims, North Carolina, "We better hope it improves our relations with them. In the first place, we can't win in Iraq. Second, our allies won't support us in another war. And third, with Russia and China supporting Iran, I'm afraid we'd lose this next world war. It seems like we either have to like it or nuke it, because diplomatically we've already lost due to the administration's policies over the last six years."

"You know, there never was a payback for the taking of our hostages. So I say nuke them now and nuke them good."

CT in Illinois, "It pains me to say this, Jack, but who are we to criticize Iran for its treatment of the sailors? George Bush and friends flat-out said the Geneva Conventions are open for interpretation. At that moment, all hope of any of ours or our allies' prisoners ever being treated fairly blew up. We can't condemn others for what we ourselves engage in."

"We're America. We should have set the example." Karen in Kansas, "What relationship with Iran? The one thing I'm most afraid of is that this incident will give Bush what he needs to drag us into a no-win war in Iran like the one in Iraq."

And Janet in Tacoma, Washington, "People will compare it to the U.S. treatment of prisoners incarcerated without charges for years and wonder how the Brits got off so easy."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile. We post more of them there online, along with clips of "The Cafferty File" -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Jack, all very interesting.

Thank you very much, Jack.

We're here every weekday afternoon from 4:00 to 6:00 Eastern, and we're back at the 7:00 hour.

Now we go to Kitty Pilgrim for "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT".

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com

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