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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Bill Maher; More Melamine: Chemical Found in Fish Feed
Aired May 8, 2007 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne in Houston: "Absolutely. Drugs from Canada, Australia and Japan should be imported. I come from Canada. The suggestion that drugs are any less qualitative is totally ridiculous. How about taking a look at the foodstuffs coming from China?"
And Craig in Andover, Mass.: "Maybe if our honorable senators protected the agriculture industry with the same suspicious stubbornness as they do the pharmaceutical industry, the American farmer might be more than a nostalgic afterthought -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Jack, thank you.
And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, slammed by killer tornadoes, drenched by heavy rain, parts of the Midwest are now underwater.
Has the diversion of National Guard resources to Iraq hurt the disaster response here at home?
We're going to hear from the White House.
And they're accused of plotting to kill as many American troops as possible in New Jersey.
Were Islamic radicals targeting a training base with mortars and automatic weapons?
And from Hillary Rodham Clinton's Southern drawl to John McCain's vow to follow Osama bin Laden into the gates of hell, I'll ask the host of HBO's "Real Time" about real life. That would be the comedian, Bill Mahr. He's here this hour.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The alleged plot -- kill American troops.
A U.S. military base in New Jersey.
Federal authorities say they've foiled a terror plan by alleged Islamic radicals, as they're called, who trained with firearms in the mountains of Pennsylvania.
Let's go straight to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena.
She's on our Security Watch.
What are we learning -- Kelli?
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the FBI was tipped off in January of 2006 and made arrests last night. Officials say even though this group with no connection with al Qaeda, it was certainly inspired by it.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
ARENA (voice-over): This is the alleged target -- the Fort Dix Army Base in New Jersey.
The gun down as many soldiers as possible.
CHRISTOPHER CHRISTIE, U.S. ATTORNEY: They ultimately settled upon Fort Dix.
Defendant Serdar said he knew the base "like the back of his hands" because of his experience at delivering pizza to that base from his family's business.
ARENA: Five of the men stand accused of surveilling targets, collecting weapons and training to shoot them. A sixth is charged with helping the group get the weapons.
One defendant is quoted in the criminal complaint as saying: "It doesn't matter to me whether I get locked up, arrested or get taken away. It doesn't matter -- or I die. It doesn't matter. I'm doing it in the name of Allah."
JODY WEIS, FBI: Today, we dodged a bullet, in fact, when you look at the type of weapons that this group was trying to purchase, we may have dodged a lot of bullets.
ARENA: The men are described by authorities as Islamic extremists, three of them in the United States illegally. Officials say they acted on their own and have no connection to al Qaeda or any other terrorist group.
Investigators admit the suspects weren't the brightest bulbs. Authorities say they actually brought a video of themselves shooting automatic weapons and calling for Jihad to a video store to be copied onto a DVD. The store contacted authorities and an investigation was opened.
WEIS: And that's why we're here today, thanks to the courage and heroism of that individual. ARENA: The FBI sent in an informant to infiltrate the group, who then recorded his conversations with them, providing prosecutors with a wealth of evidence.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ARENA: So officials insist that Fort Dix was never in imminent danger. Outside experts agree. It's a pretty tough target to hit.
Still, officials say the group intended to do harm and needed to be stopped -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Kelli Arena, our justice correspondent.
A major mobilization and training center dating back to World War I, Fort Dix now serves as an Army Reserve and National Guard facility. As such, it's still one of the biggest mobilization stations in the country. It's trained and mobilized 98,000 military personnel since 9/11. Troops have deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, many other places around the world.
And we're going to be speaking with the president's homeland security adviser on this subject. That's coming up this hour.
For all the talk of an Iraq pullout, the U.S. military is maintaining its buildup. The Pentagon has notified more than 35,000 troops to prepare to go to Iraq beginning this fall.
Let's turn to our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.
What does this deployment mean -- Jamie?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the not so subtle message in these deployment orders is that there are no plans for any drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq this year.
These routine rotations put some 35,000 troops from seven bases in the U.S. and two in Germany on notice that they will begin replacing troops now in Iraq over the five months beginning in August.
For some of these troops, it's their third time back. And because the Army has a new, longer deployment policy, 15 months instead of a year, that means these troops will spend not one, but two December holiday periods in the war zone -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And it's absolutely certain these specific 35,000 troops will be heading off to Iraq? Is that right?
MCINTYRE: Well, you know, there's a couple of things that could happen in December when they review the results of this buildup. It could be that they decide they still want to keep troops there. But if it's going well, they could bring troops back and if it's not going well, they just could decide to bring troops back. And either one of those eventualities could result in not all of these 10 brigades going.
BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre watching the story for us.
Bombs laced with poison are now taking a toll among U.S. troops long after the explosions and far from the battlefield.
Let's turn to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, military doctors have a new worry about badly wounded troops.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
STARR (voice-over): Hundreds of wounded troops from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are facing a growing threat -- dangerous and sometimes deadly infections.
COL. GLENN WORTMANN, WALTER REED ARMY MEDICAL CENTER: We're seeing more of it now than we did at the beginning of the war.
STARR: As body armor improves, more troops are surviving the massive injuries caused by IEDs. But those wounds are becoming a breeding ground for drug-resistant infections.
Researchers say the infections are often so bad, troops may require more surgery or, in some cases, even amputation of arms or legs.
WORTMANN: Because they're surviving with these tremendous wounds, that allows an environment for these bacteria to flourish, and, therefore, I think our -- our infections are worse than you would see on the civilian side.
STARR: Infections in hospitals are nothing new. But one of the bacteria now showing up,
Acinetobacter, is resistant to almost all antibiotics.
WORTMANN: I can tell you here, between 15 and about 20 percent of patients that come in the door are colonized or infected with the organism.
STARR: Researchers also say some infections occur because of natural bacteria in the soil. Wounds are contaminated when there is an IED attack. There are also cases where IEDs have been deliberately filled with chemicals and animal waste -- a deadly mix for open wounds.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
STARR: And it all may get worse. Researchers say the bombs are getting bigger, the injuries are becoming more severe and the wounds are becoming more severe and the wounds are becoming more quickly contaminated -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A shocking story for us.
Barbara, thank you very much.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York -- Jack, I don't know if you were paying that close attention to Barbara's report, but this is really, really worrisome.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's probably the natural byproduct of an ongoing war effort. Each side is looking for something that will gain an advantage and, you know, it's -- it's
But, on the other hand, if the enemy can do things to our side that will prevent our soldiers from returning to the battlefield sooner, I suppose it's not unreasonable to expect that they would do stuff like that.
I don't know. Other -- stuff going on. I -- get so angry talking about that war I could get up and jump up and down and have a hissy fit.
Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani contributed to Planned Parenthood in the '90s -- a long time ago, but it could be a problem. In his federal tax returns, the former New York mayor and his wife at the time, Donna Hanover, made at least six donations to Planned Parenthood. It totaled $900.
It's something that could come back to haunt him as he makes his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Every Republican nominee since 1980 has been against abortion.
Giuliani continues to say he's personally opposed to abortion, even though he does support a woman's legal right to choose. He also says that when he was the mayor of New York, the number of abortions went down in New York City and that if he was president, he would appoint strict constructionist judges.
When asked to reconcile Giuliani's personal opposition to abortion with his Planned Parenthood contributions, a spokeswoman for the mayor's campaign says he's been consistent in his position and he's been straight with the American people about where he stands on the issues and saying exactly what he thinks.
So here's the question -- how much of a problem is it, do you think, for Rudy Giuliani that he contributed to Planned Parenthood and, at the same time, says that he opposes abortion?
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you.
Still ahead here, is Kansas getting the help it needs after those devastating storms and tornadoes?
The governor doesn't necessarily think so.
What does the White House think?
I'll ask the homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend. She's standing by live at the White House.
Could the French presidential race serve as a model for American candidates?
Rudy Giuliani likes the fact that a conservative man defeated a liberal woman in France.
What does Hillary Rodham Clinton think?
And what does comedian Bill Mahr think about all of this?
I'll ask him about everything from Senator Clinton's Southern accent to John McCain's vow to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Parts of the Midwest are under water or soon could be. The same storm system that spun off last weekend's killer tornadoes is now bringing flooding to Kansas and Missouri, Iowa and Oklahoma, as well.
Thousands have been forced to evacuation. Others are busy filling sandbags right now. And in the midst of all of this, there is a dispute over disaster relief between the governor of Kansas and the White House.
Joining us now, CNN's Brian Todd -- Brian, what is this dispute all about?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is about the governor of Kansas wanting to make a point about the National Guard in her state being short of resources, but being very careful in how she says it.
It's also about the White House, determined not to be accused of a sluggish Katrina-like response to this disaster.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
TODD (voice-over): The White House takes the Kansas governor to task for her claims that resources sent to Iraq have slowed the recovery effort for tornado victims in her state.
Press Secretary Tony Snow says White House Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend asked Governor Kathleen Sebelius three times today if Sebelius had the resources she needed.
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Fran said that it was her understanding that we had met every request the governor had made and have moved resources proactively into Kansas and into the region to anticipate requests.
TODD: The dispute began Monday when Sebelius, a Democrat, complained that much of the equipment they could have been using in Greensburg had been sent with Kansas National Guard units to Iraq.
GOVERNOR KATHLEEN SEBELIUS (D), KANSAS: We're missing front loaders and dump trucks. We're missing back hoes. We're missing bulldozers. We're missing Humvees to move people around. We're missing Blackhawk helicopters that could do aerial surveillance and move heavy and awkward equipment.
TODD: Snow ticked off what he says Kansas did have access to, in state and elsewhere, after the storm hit.
SNOW: There are, in fact, enormous resources available to the state if they do need them, in terms of 83,000 National Guard units, hundreds of trucks, thousands of lift vehicles, helicopters.
TODD: Snow says Governor Sebelius should have found whatever gaps there were in the federal response and gone to the feds and local governments, as well as outside vendors, for help.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: We called Governor Sebelius' office to get response to the comments from the White House today. So far, we have not heard back -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brian, thanks very much.
And joining us now from the White House is the president's homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend.
Thanks so much for coming in.
Well, yesterday at this time exactly, I was speaking to Governor Sebelius. She was complaining specifically about the equipment that the Kansas National Guard units took to Iraq and simply left in Iraq. And they're now back and they don't have enough equipment to get the job done.
Certainly, they wouldn't have enough if there are additional natural disasters in Kansas.
What do you say to her?
FRAN TOWNSEND, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: You know, Wolf, I'm sorry that this has been postured as though we have some dispute with the governor.
I called her today because I wanted to be sure that she and I both had the same impression, that she was satisfied that we had met every response in a timely and effective way.
And that's the case.
If the governor has additional equipment needs, we have -- I've talked to Lieutenant General Blum of the National Guard here at the Pentagon. We've made clear to the governor, if she's got needs, we will meet those needs with National Guard resources. But I would also point out, the National Guard is not the only tool that's in her -- at her disposal.
Through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, we can move resources between the states. And so have police and firemen. There's equipment that we can move.
She also has 53 additional -- 5,300 additional Guard members at her disposal in Kansas.
BLITZER: Now, she also said to me yesterday that she would like to be able to go to some other National Guard units in neighboring states, but they don't have the equipment, either. They're strapped because their equipment is in Iraq, as well.
TOWNSEND: Well, that's -- that's not exactly right, Wolf.
She can get -- she can get equipment from surrounding National Guard units. And, in fact, her adjutant general, Bunting, has already called around and said do you have equipment in case I need it?
And he's been told yes.
In the long-term, the president shares the concern about re- equipping the National Guard and has made an unprecedented investment commitment of $26 billion over six years to increase the capability and capacity, in terms of equipment, of the National Guard.
BLITZER: Let's shift gears, Fran Townsend, and talk about these suspects arrested today in connection with an alleged plot to blow up or kill American soldiers at Fort Dix in New Jersey.
In the scheme of things, how big of a deal is this?
TOWNSEND: Look, when any -- when any group of individuals gets together and starts purchasing weapons based on a plan to kill American soldiers here at home, we have to be concerned about it. It's a great day that the FBI, working with state and local officials, and this heroic shop owner who tipped local police and the FBI, that they were able to disrupt this.
BLITZER: What kind of arsenal did these suspects have?
TOWNSEND: There's no question they were looking to purchase those M16s and AK47s. They had been danger training. It was clear that they were committed. They had in their possession the last will and testaments of two of the 9/11 hijackers, Jihadist materials, photographs of bin Laden.
These guys were clearly committed to the task that they had set before them.
And it wasn't just Fort Dix. They had talked about Dover Air Force Base and the Coast Guard unit at Philadelphia.
BLITZER: Four of them were originally from the former Yugoslavia, is that right?
TOWNSEND: That's right.
BLITZER: Because something that doesn't add up, to me, at least, is the U.S. supported the Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo. We worked to protect them from the Serbs, the Christians -- and I'm not exactly clear why they would now turn against us, these former Yugoslav Muslims.
Do you understand the apparent disconnect there?
TOWNSEND: No, I do, Wolf. And I think -- it's going to take a little bit of time until we sort all this out. The government did have a cooperating witness. We did seize some materials. I think it's going to take a little time before we know the complete story.
And I hasten to add, obviously, people are innocent until they're proven guilty and this will all come out at trial.
BLITZER: All right, we'll be watching.
Fran Townsend at the White House, thank you very much for that.
TOWNSEND: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, there are safety concerns about another animal in that ongoing pet food recall story.
Our Mary Snow is standing by to take a closer look at the risks to you.
And funny man Bill Mahr -- he's standing by to join us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We'll get his satirical take on the current crop of presidential candidates and on other political topics, as well.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Our Carol Costello is monitoring stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
She's joining us -- Carol, what do you have?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's something many skeptics thought we would never see -- major Protestant and Catholic figures in Northern Ireland joined today near Belfast for a ceremony to form a power sharing government. The breakthrough came in March, when the two sides met for face-to-face talks.
Ian Paisley, of the Protestant's side's Democratic Unionist Party, was sworn in as the assembly's first minister. Martin McGuinness of the opposite side is first deputy first minister. Police in California say they've nabbed a colleague student suspected of killing a man in a fight over a video game. He is 19- year-old Jonquil Brooks, a criminology major at Fresno State University. The shooting at an apartment complex catering to Fresno State students left two other men wounded. Brooks was taken into custody after an intensive manhunt in a complex and the surrounding areas.
An Arctic seal rescued from a canal in Fort Lauderdale, Florida has died. Rescuers used a pair of nets to snare the six foot, 250- pound bearded seal and took it to Sea World for treatment. But they said it was thin and dehydrated. Biologists don't know how the seal got so far from its native waters north of Newfoundland. They speculate it may have gotten caught in an unusual current.
That's a look at the headlines right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, thank you, Carol, for that.
Coming up, what does the recent election in France have in common with the campaigns of Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton?
Our Carol Costello is standing by for that. She'll take a look at some parallels.
And get ready to laugh. Bill Mahr getting ready to give us his take on all things political. He's live. That's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, European officials voice fresh concern about the World Bank president, Paul Wolfowitz's ability to lead as pressure mounts for him to reasoning. The White House openly backs Wolfowitz, but it's staying out of the current controversy. It was learned yesterday that he broke bank rules to arrange a pay package for his girlfriend. We'll watch this story for you.
General Motors jumps on the bandwagon to combat global warming. G.M. today became the first auto manufacturer to join a growing coalition that wants a mandatory Congressional cap on carbon dioxide emissions.
And the U.S. military apologizes for the deaths of civilians when U.S. troops opened fire after a suicide attack in eastern Afghanistan. A U.S. military commander called the March incident "a terrible mistake" and asked for the families' forgiveness.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We'll get to Bill Mahr in a moment.
But first, some interesting correlations being made today about the French presidential election and the U.S. election coming up next year.
Carol Costello once again joining us from New York.
What's this all about -- Carol.
COSTELLO: Well, Wolf, it's about riding on a winner's coattails and using that other guy's win to deflect criticism from yourself.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
COSTELLO (voice-over): Who knew a French politician could so inspire an American candidate for president?
But there was Rudy Giuliani reveling in a tabloid comparison to Nicholas Sarkozy.
RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was particularly interested in this column in the -- in the "New York Post."
"A French Rudy."
I thought it was a good omen.
COSTELLO: Bet you didn't know Rudy Giuliani was following the French race for president so closely. But he was...
GIULIANI: I kept my support for him very quiet.
COSTELLO: And when a law and order plain talking conservative candidate wins, French or not, some say Giuliani could not resist.
CHRIS SMITH, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE: I mean, A, he's eager to talk about anything other than abortion, associating himself with a winner. Everybody loves a winner.
COSTELLO: But can what happened in the French election mimic our own race for president?
There are similarities. A conservative strong on security kind of guy running against a liberal woman.
And if you're a competitive conservative candidate, could you resist pointing out that the liberal woman lost?
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Hi, everybody.
COSTELLO: And some politicos say the joke may be on the Democrats, pointing out the new French president had been expected to lose. DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: But when it came down to the one-on-one, people took -- took a look at the two -- two candidates and said, you know, we sort of like the conservative better. And he won a handy election. So that was -- that's quite interesting. I would think that would give some pause to the Democrats.
COSTELLO: But the Clinton camp doesn't appear to be worried, telling us other than the fact that they're both women, they don't have much in common.
Still, Royal's failed campaign is sure to provide fodder for those who want American voters to mirror the French.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
COSTELLO: In fact, the French candidate, Miss. Royal, wanted to visit Senator Clinton during her run for president as a symbolic gesture -- you know, two women running for president.
But Clinton declined to meet Royal because her views were at odds with Senator Clinton's -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Carol Costello in New York for us.
Thank you, Carol.
Let's turn to a veteran of a late night TV talk show circuit for his take on the presidential campaign and everything else.
Joining us now, Bill Mahr, the host of HBO's "Real Time With Bill Mahr."
Bill thanks for coming in.
BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": Hey, Wolf. How you doing?
BLITZER: I should say HBO, a sister network of ours.
What do you think of this comparison, the election in France, where you had a liberal woman running against a conservative man, and the implications for Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani?
MAHER: Well, I don't think there are any implications at all. I know the right wing thinks everything is about us, but it's not.
It was the French election, with French issues and French candidates. Not everything is about America. And if he is a French Rudy, I hope he's a more effective French Rudy than the Rudy we have.
BLITZER: Hillary Clinton caused some laughs the other day when she said this -- I'm going to play this little clip. I want your reaction. Listen to Hillary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I lived about a third of my life in Arkansas. And I lived about a third of my life in Illinois. And I've lived about a third of my life on the East Coast. And I think America is ready for a multilingual president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Bill. Here is the question: Which accent do you like the most?
MAHER: Which what?
BLITZER: Which accent? Hillary Clinton accents -- her southern accent, her New York accent, her Chicago accent. Which one do you like the most?
MAHER: I love a southern accent. I'm a sucker for sweet-talking southern belle. And if anyone fits that description, it's Hillary Clinton.
BLITZER: So, you would recommend to her she put on that southern drawl a little bit more often?
MAHER: Yes. First of all, I don't think as a Democrat you can win the White House unless you have a southern drawl, or in some way sound like you just fell off a turnip truck.
BLITZER: If you look at Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, they were both former southern governors and they got elected as Democratic presidents. So you make a good point.
I want to play this other clip from John McCain at the last Republican presidential debate out at the Reagan library in California. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: On the subject of Osama bin Laden, he is responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent Americans, he is now orchestrating other attacks on the United States of America.
We will do whatever is necessary. We will track him down. We will capture -- we will bring him to justice, and I will follow him to the gates of hell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right.
BLITZER: What do you think about McCain's campaign right now? MAHER: Oh, it just sent a chill up my spine, Wolf, that he would follow him to the gates of hell. That's what we need, more tough talk. Except that, you know, we didn't really follow him to the gates of hell. We didn't even follow him to where he lives, did we?
I mean, we went off to Iraq. We're basically fighting them where they aren't.
I know Bush likes to think that he's on the offensive, and guys like Giuliani and McCain say, that's what we've got to do, is stay on the offensive. But we're not really on the offensive.
We diverted to the war to some place where the people that attacked us aren't. And now, of course, we've opened up another war -- another front in the war on terror and created more terrorists there.
But if we really wanted to get the people who attacked us, we knew where they were. They are still there today. But we don't seem to want any part of that.
BLITZER: Along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, in that tribal area around there. That is what you are alluding to?
MAHER: Yes. That's right.
BLITZER: Yes. People have a good sense of where they are, but it's a rugged terrain over there, as you well know.
MAHER: I know. But aren't we the tough guys who were going to follow them into the gates of hell?
I mean, this is John McCain, right, who said that he was able to walk down the streets of Baghdad just the way you and I can on a Sunday in Indiana? You know, with just kevlar and 101st Airborne over our head. Just like any other Sunday in Indiana. Or maybe that was the other guy who said that.
BLITZER: Yes, that was Mike Pence, who was with him in Baghdad at that time, a congressman from Indiana. But McCain made a similar kind of point.
Let's talk about Tommy Thompson, the former secretary of Health and Human Services, the former governor of Wisconsin. He caused a stir at that Republican debate by suggesting that private employers who are opposed to gay rights could fire gay workers.
And later he came on your show, Friday night, "Real Time," and you asked him about that. And this is what he said. I'll play the clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOMMY THOMPSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My hearing aid was not working, and I did not hear it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. What do you think? What did you think about that whole exchange, Tommy Thompson, what he originally said, and what he told you?
MAHER: Well, as you well know, Wolf, I do ask the questions of the guests, but I never listen to the answers. I mean, HBO pays me the same whether I listen to their answers or if I don't, so, it's BS, BS, my line. So I -- that didn't -- I don't even need a hearing aid.
No, you know, actually, we were talking about that after the show. I didn't know whether he was serious or not. It's so hard to tell when a politician is making a joke, because they are generally so bad at doing that. So does Tommy Thompson really have a hearing aid?
BLITZER: Well, maybe he was referring to...
MAHER: Do you know that?
BLITZER: I don't know if he does or he does not, but, you know, when you have to listen to questions sometimes in the ear piece that they give you -- and you have an ear piece on right now so you can hear me. Maybe he was referring to that.
MAHER: Oh, right.
BLITZER: I'm not sure if he has a hearing aid. But he did come out -- and you made a good point on your show. He did come out and say flatly, I made a mistake. I totally oppose any kind of firing of anyone based on their sexual preference or their...
MAHER: Yes. Right.
BLITZER: ... or any discrimination along those lines. And he acknowledged that, and did point out accurately that he has a good track record on those issues, as well.
MAHER: Maybe he was waiting for the translation, like at the U.N. from Chris Matthews. But, you know, there were 10 of those guys on the stage there at the Republican debate in Simi Valley. And, of course, in the Republican Party, their idea of diversity is they let an Italian in.
But three of them raised their hand when the question was, "Do you not believe in evolution?" So, you know, given that this is who we are dealing with on the Republican side, I think Tommy Thompson is light years ahead of some of the people who are bringing up the rear in that party.
BLITZER: By the way, I'm told by one of my producers that he does have a real hearing aid. So he has -- that he does have a hearing aid.
Let's talk a little bit about Queen Elizabeth II. I assume that's going to be a subject you are going to be dealing with on your show Friday night. Is it? MAHER: Well, as a comedy show, Wolf, we do like to talk about queens whenever they are in the news.
BLITZER: And Queen Elizabeth II certainly in the news this week. She's pretty popular right now. But you and I remember after the death of Princess Diana, she wasn't all that popular then.
MAHER: But of course she doesn't need to be popular, you know. She's not running for anything. She's got the gig whether they love her or they hate her. Those walls at Buckingham Palace are high.
BLITZER: Yes. She had a lovely time here in Washington, and all of us were very happy she was here.
I'm going to leave you on this note, because I know you have some thoughts on this subject. I don't know if you can see it here, but we're going to show you the president, that moment when he was dancing at the White House. You've seen it many times.
What do you think about the president -- it was for a good cause, obviously, but he really -- he really let himself go.
All right. You want to comment on that, Bill?
MAHER: Well, of course, I can't see it sitting here in my office in Hollywood, but I think I do remember what you are talking about.
You know, I don't think Jay-Z has to look over his shoulder because George Bush is coming up in the rearview mirror, but, you know, presidents, world leaders are often from time to time thrust into these kinds of situations where they have to make a fool of themselves for some reason. And I don't know why that is.
I don't -- I don't remember seeing a lot of other world leaders have to do that. There's something in the American character that wants to see our leaders humiliated from time to time, debased, especially when they are running.
I mean, they are always flipping hamburgers, or, you know, they constantly are getting out of a limousine and walking 10 feet, and then milking a cow or something. You know, I just hope that when we go to the polls next time, that we understand that we conducted a grand experiment the last eight years with George Bush. We elected a guy we wanted to have a beer with, a guy who was one of us, and maybe we need somebody who's better than us, you know?
"Elite" is not a bad word. Let's find an elite candidate, not one of us.
BLITZER: Bill Maher's problem, "Real Time With Bill Maher," airs on our sister network, HBO, Friday nights, 11:00 p.m. Eastern.
Bill, thanks for joining us today.
MAHER: Always a pleasure, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.
And up ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, what do you have in common with the family dog? Starting today, you both may have to be really careful about what you eat.
We have a report coming up.
And they're calling it potentially the greatest archaeological find since the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The investigation into the chemical culprit linked to the massive recall plaguing the pet food industry is now expanding to the human food supply.
CNN's Mary Snow joining us from New York.
Mary, what do we know?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, federal health officials say that fish intended for human consumption were fed meal contaminated with melamine. Melamine is an industrial chemical. It's found in pesticides and plastics.
Now, officials say at this point, they do not think that the fish pose any significant risk to humans, and it's unclear if the fish even entered the human food supply. Now, you may remember, melamine was found in tainted pet food that killed and sickened cats and dogs. This discovery is now a result of that investigation.
BLITZER: That tainted pet food came from China. What about this particular instance? What do we know about that?
SNOW: It's the same source. It is coming from China.
Officials saying they are tracing it to two firms in China that are already under investigation. And officials say what was believed to be wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate had actually been mislabeled and was really wheat flour contaminated with melamine.
The Food and Drug Administration says it's considering possible enforcement actions. You know, this investigation was recently expanded to human food after it was found that chickens and hogs were fed contaminated scraps. Officials have been conducting tests. They say the risk to people is extremely low, but obviously, this is an ongoing investigation.
BLITZER: And we're going to stay on top of it. Thank you, Mary, for that.
The man who runs the Chinese plant linked to the melamine-tainted food ingredients is in custody in China. CNN's John Vause spoke with him earlier today -- John. JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Tiang Fung (ph) is being held in a detention center not far from here in the city of Benjo (ph). He's been there since April 25th. Today I sat down with him.
We had a conversation. Now, Tiang (ph) has not been charged with anything, but under Chinese law he can be held for up to a month while an investigation is under way. Once that is up, authorities here can decide if they have enough evidence to take this matter to trial.
Tiang (ph) is the general manager of a company which has been accused of spiking rice protein concentrate with the chemical melamine, which is normally used in the manufacture of plastics. Now, that tainted rice protein found its way into pet food, which was then sold across the United States.
Experts say when melamine is added into animal feed, it gives the appearance of increasing the level of protein, which means it can be sold for more. Tiang (ph) today told me he had never seen melamine, he wouldn't know what melamine was, he's never heard of it being added to animal feed.
But this is, in fact, melamine country, here. It's cheap, it's in good supply, and the Chinese government has now banned melamine from being added into animal feed, into the food supply. They say they are now stepping up their export controls, especially looking for any food products that may contain the chemical melamine -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, John. Thanks very much.
The story, by the way, doesn't end there. You can tune in to "ANDERSON COOPER 360" tonight for more of John Vause's exclusive reporting from China. That airs at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 Pacific.
Still ahead, coming up in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, Brian Todd has the story of some unlikely partners teaming up to call on China to stop the killing in Darfur. Will a boycott of the Olympics be next if China does not agree? That's in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour.
And just ahead here this hour, a truly stunning discovery. An ancient tomb found in the Holy Land.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: In the years just before Jesus, he was known at Herod the Great and Herod the Builder, for his palaces, fortresses and cities, and for Jerusalem's temple. Two thousand years later, his walls are still standing. Now archaeologists say they have found his final resting place.
CNN's Ben Wedeman is at the ancient site of Herodium on the West Bank -- Ben. BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, archaeologists say this is one of the most significant discoveries in the Middle East in many years, and, in fact, it does give many Israelis a break from the current headaches of coalition politics.
Archaeologists from Hebrew University say that it is here that they have found a sarcophagus that they believe belonged to Herod the Great. For many years, they have been searching for this tomb. In fact, the dig here began in 1972, but really, in the last 30 years, the search for the tomb of Herod has been intense here, and three weeks ago, they say they found it.
What they did find is, as I said, these remains of a sarcophagus, because they believe that the sarcophagus was destroyed in anger. Many of the Jews in the area at the time believed that Herod the Great was, in fact, a puppet of the Roman Empire.
Now, Herod, of course, has a long list of achievements during his reign. He, of course, built the major Port of Caesarea, he built a palace in Jericho, and his most significant archaeological achievement was, of course, to build the Second Temple in Jerusalem.
BLITZER: Ben Wedeman reporting for us from the scene.
Take a look at this, by the way, of the kingdom ruled by Herod the Great more than 2,000 years ago. Look at how that vast territory corresponds to a modern map stretching across borders. Of course, in Herod's type, "ruled" was a relative term. Everything was done under the close eye, very close eye of Rome.
NASA scientists are very excited. They've observed a supernova, an exploding star on a scale never before seen. And they say it could be coming to a galaxy near you.
Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, once again.
Abbi, what are they seeing?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this isn't just any star. It's a star that they describe as freakishly massive. NASA's Challenger telescope picked it up.
At 150 times the mass of the sun, it's the biggest star ever, seen to explode, and represents a new kind of explosion. This is NASA animation here.
Instead of petering out, the light produced got more brighter for more than 70 days. Now, this freak star is in a galaxy 240 million light years away. So not exactly close. But scientists think that the star is similar to one in our own galaxy and say if that one exploded in a similar way, the results would be spectacular, producing light so bright that you would be able to read a book at night by the light produced -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Abbi Tatton watching that story for us.
Up next, Jack Cafferty's question of the hour. How much of a problem is it for Rudy Giuliani that he contributed to Planned Parenthood, and at the same time, says he opposes abortion? Jack with your e-mail when we come back.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends over at The Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow.
In Mongolia, a woman riding a bike wears a scarf to shield her from strong winds sweeping across Asia during seasonal dust storms.
In India, a worker carries a basket of pebbles overhead as dark clouds form in the sky.
In Switzerland, a Sotheby's employee models a tiara which is up for auction. It could fetch between $60,000 and $100,000.
And in Paris, the outgoing president, Jacques Chirac, waves to the crowd after leading his last victory day parade.
Some of this hour's "Hot Shots," pictures often worth a thousand words.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: How do you know that was Jacques Chirac? All you could see was a hand.
BLITZER: I'm told that by our producers.
CAFFERTY: Well, he wouldn't know.
BLITZER: They checked it.
CAFFERTY: Oh, they did. Because, I mean, it was just a hand, right?
BLITZER: I trust them.
CAFFERTY: Well, see, and that's -- and that's why you are where you are at.
CAFFERTY: The question is: How much of a problem is it for Rudy Giuliani that he contributed to Planned Parenthood and at the same time says he opposes abortion?
Nancy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, "I'm not for Giuliani. However, on this issue, this has always been my stand: I personally would never have an abortion, but if someone else did I feel that's their right."
David in Spring Hill, Florida, "Jack, if people actually understood that Planned Parenthood prevents many more pregnancies than refers women for abortions, maybe this would be a moot point. Planned Parenthood sponsors numerous programs designed to help underprivileged women get medical care, prevent pregnancy by providing inexpensive birth control, and referring women for counseling where needed."
John in Joliet, Illinois, "I think it causes him big problems. I hear many people say they believe in feeding the poor. I say, show me your checkbook. In other words, don't tell me what you believe. Show me your checkbook, where you spend your money, and I'll tell you what you really believe."
Harold, Suffolk, Virginia, "Jack, there's no difference between Giuliani opposing abortion and donating to Planned Parenthood and the Congress being opposed to the war in Iraq and voting to finance it."
Thomas in Jacksonville, Florida, "It's not as big a contradiction as it first appears. One can oppose abortion as a negative, unfortunate occurrence and still support a woman's right to make that choice. It's a big problem for Rudy, and that's sad. Too bad he's not a better politician. We actually know exactly what he thinks."
And Jim in Phoenix, "Giuliani is in deep weeds. You can't get the wing nut vote if you're in favor of abortion."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile, where we post more of them, along with video clips of "The Cafferty File".
You know, Mario Cuomo, when he was governor of New York, was a devout Roman Catholic. They're staunchly opposed to abortion, and yet he was the governor of a state that is very pro-choice. And his position was much like Giuliani's -- as a person and in terms of his religion, he was against it. But he was in favor of people being allowed to make that decision for themselves.
And I suppose that's maybe as good as you can do about straddling the fence on that issue. I don't know -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Should he be heartened, Giuliani, that a conservative male beat a liberal female in France?
CAFFERTY: I don't know that that translates here. I think there is a whole lot of issues in this country that are going to dictate what drives the next election. I don't know that France has anything to do with it.
BLITZER: I think you're right, Jack. Thanks very much.
That's it for us. Let's go to Lou in New York.
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