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Republicans Prepare for Presidential Debate; Controversy Over Immigration Reform

Aired June 5, 2007 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Manchester, New Hampshire.
You're in the in THE SITUATION ROOM.

In just a short while, 10 Republicans will appear here in Manchester, jockeying for elbow room on this stage and in this crowded campaign. It could get more crowded. Two top Republicans are waiting in the wing, still not officially in the race.

As the candidates try to create some space, though, will they try to distance themselves from an unpopular president?

And what role will an unpopular war play in this debate tonight?

They're already battling over immigration reform, which is sure to be a hot topic.

Here at Saint Anselm's College, the candidates trying to make an impact on New Hampshire, which holds the nation's first primary.

But voters across the nation will be watching very closely.

And we've gathered the best team on television to bring it all to you in the coming hours.

Among the candidates here in Manchester, three are well ahead of the pack. Polls show Rudy Giuliani is the frontrunner, followed by John McCain and Mitt Romney.

Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

She's here.

She's watching all of this, together with us -- what do McCain and Giuliani specifically, Candy, need to do tonight?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: McCain needs to have a good night. This is the final month of the second quarter. You remember that John McCain's fundraising numbers for the first quarter paled in comparison to the others. So he needs a spark. He needs something to keep this campaign going. Obviously, it will go into the third quarter, but he really needs to have a good performance tonight.

Rudy Giuliani -- it's interesting to me whether -- I think others will try to kind of draw him in. I think he -- he would like to have another moment, as he did in the last debate, when he took on Ron Paul because of what was said about 9/11 and the causes of it. So he needs to have a good debate, as well.

But how they're going to play against each other, I think, will be the most fascinating part.

BLITZER: Because a lot of people expect there will be fireworks between McCain and Romney on the issue of immigration.

But where do you see -- where do you see Giuliani getting attacked?

On the issue of the social issues, specifically, for example, his support of abortion rights for women?

CROWLEY: Well, there's that. But I also think that McCain is going to try to pin Giuliani down, as well, on where he stands on immigration. Because so far Giuliani has said well, it's a matter of terrorism. That's what immigration reform is about. He had a slightly different view of immigration when he was -- and illegal immigrants -- when he was mayor of new York.

So I think McCain really wants to pin him down on that and that might prompt some fireworks.

BLITZER: All right, Candy, stand by for a second.

I want to take a closer look at the top three candidates then and now. Back in April, Rudy Giuliani had a solid lead in our poll of polls, an average of the major nationwide polls, first place, with 36 percent of Republican votes. John McCain and Fred Thompson, by the way, in second and third place.

Giuliani still holds the lead in our latest poll of polls, but he dropped 6 percentage points, while McCain and Thompson had held sort of steadily.

Fred Thompson, by the way, not even formally in the race yet, but he is a candidate for all practical purposes already.

This clearly is going to be a critical night for Massachusetts -- former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who is widely seen at being at the bottom of that so-called top tier of candidates.

Let's bring in our John Roberts.

He's watching all of this, as well.

What does he need to do, Romney?

And I know you've been doing serious reporting on this.

What does he need to do tonight to get himself higher up?

JOHN ROBERTS, CO-HOST, "AMERICAN MORNING": He needs to get known, is what he needs. If you take a look at the polls in Iowa, he's doing quite well there. In some polls here in New Hampshire, he's actually running second. A recent American Research Group poll had him just ahead of Rudy Giuliani, still substantially behind John McCain.

But when you look at those national polls, he's running about 9 percent. He's got a tremendous money machine. He's got a great campaign machine, a lot of veterans from the Bush campaign in 2000, even some people from the McCain campaign -- Vin Weber among them. A lot of very, very smart people from Capitol Hill working for Mitt Romney.

But he's really an unknown quantity across the country. Here in southern New Hampshire, there's a lot of bleed-over from his time as Massachusetts governor. But you get north of Concord and people are saying, Mitt?

Mitt who?

We don't know a whole lot about this guy.

Then, there is this idea that well, maybe his record as Massachusetts governor wasn't as good as many people say it was. So he's going to have to defend that. And then conservative publications are wondering if he is just a rhino -- a Republican in name only.

Is he a real conservative?

So he's got to get out there tonight. He's got to get himself known. He's got to look like he's got a good answer on every subject that's thrown his way. And he has to burnish his conservative credentials, as well.

And one of the ways he's doing that is every time he brings up John McCain and immigration, he throws the words Ted Kennedy in there, which is really poison for McCain, when you're trying to illuminate your conservative credentials.

So watch for him tonight to try to prove that he's the real conservative.

BLITZER: Whether he says McCain-Kennedy or McCain-Feingold, those are code words to the base out there...


BLITZER: ... this is a guy who makes deal with all these liberal Democrats.

But how aggressive should he be tonight -- do you expect that he will be in going after his Republican challengers?

ROBERTS: I don't know that he's going to actually go after them as much as he is going to stand his ground and defend himself. And we saw that in the last 24 hours, where John McCain was down in Coral Gables, Florida. He took some not so veiled shots at Mitt Romney's changing positions on immigration. The Romney campaign came right back out and batted that down. And more, rather, than attacking John McCain, as McCain was attacking Romney, just restating what Romney's position is. So he's the sort of guy who likes to take the high road. He doesn't like to get down in the weeds and get mud on him in these fights.

So I think watch for him to stand his ground, defend his positions, but not necessarily attack John McCain. But watch for him to throw the names Kennedy and Feingold around again tonight. I'm sure he will.

BLITZER: John Roberts will be anchoring "AMERICAN MORNING" from here in New Hampshire, in Manchester, tomorrow morning, is that right?

ROBERTS: And we hope to have you back on again, Wolf, too.

BLITZER: Well, I don't know...

ROBERTS: Give us a little post-debate analysis.

BLITZER: I've got to fly back to Washington at some point.

John Roberts of CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING."

Candy Crowley, thanks very much.

Both of you are staying put.

Don't leave.

We've got a lot of political coverage coming up in the next few hours.

Over the -- of all the current GOP candidates, by the way, only Ron Paul and John McCain have previously run for president. Paul headed the Libertarian ticket back in 1988 and finished a very distant third in the national vote behind Republican George H.W. Bush and Democrat Michael Dukakis.

McCain won the 2000 New Hampshire primary by more than 40,000 votes -- in a small state like that, that was considerable -- but lost the Republican nomination to George W. Bush.

Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, by the way, he's on the floor behind me right now. He's getting a little bit of the lay of the land from our Washington bureau chief, David Gorman.

He's showing all the candidates the podium where the town hall meeting will be. This is a good opportunity for them to get a feel, a little bit, of this arena and what it's going to be like with nine other Republican presidential candidates on the stage later tonight.

Jack Cafferty is joining us from New York once again with The Cafferty File -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, Wolf, when that Republican debate kicks off in less than two hours up in New Hampshire, there will be 10 candidates and Fred.

Fred Thompson -- he's not going to be there because he's not a candidate. But he's going to be there. The former Tennessee Senator turned "Law and Order" star has not formally entered the race yet, but last week he set up a preliminary campaign committee. Thompson says he hasn't made a formal decision, but some think he could enter the race as early as next month.

And this might be some incentive to do just that. In national polls, Fred Thompson is running third behind frontrunners Rudy Giuliani and John McCain.

It speaks volumes, I think, that a guy who isn't even a candidate is more popular than some of the candidates.

But it means -- it should mean, too, that it ought to be a slam dunk -- you should pardon the expression -- for Thompson to go ahead and jump into the race. The polls suggest there are a lot of Republican voters out there who are not satisfied with the current crop of candidates.

Some experts do wonder if Thompson's relatively late entry into the race would give him enough time to raise enough money and put together an effective enough organization to propel him to the nomination.

Here's the question -- former Senator Fred Thompson is not participating in tonight's debate, but how will he affect the Republican presidential field?

E-mail your thoughts to or go to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Less than two hours to go, as you can see from that countdown clock.

Jack, thanks very much.

Still ahead, what promises to be a heated debate on immigration reform. Our own Lou Dobbs goes up against a key architect of the controversial bill, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. They strongly disagree. They'll have their own debate coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also, President Bush the elephant in the room for the Republicans who want to succeed him. At least that's what some are suggesting. We're going to show you how his problems are impacting their campaigns.

And three Republican candidates break away from the pack on a hot button issue. That would be evolution.

Stay with us.

We're live in Manchester, New Hampshire and this is THE SITUATION ROOM. COMMERCIAL

BLITZER: Welcome back.

We're less than two hours away from tonight's Republican debate here in New Hampshire. We're counting down to that debate. Ten Republicans will be on the stage. You can see it right there.

But there will be two other elephants sort of in the room tonight, figuratively speaking, of course. That would be President Bush and former Senator Fred Thompson. He hasn't formally declared yet, but he's scoring rather highly in the polls. He's doing well. And by all -- for all practical purposes, he's a candidate himself.

Joining us now, our CNN senior legal analyst, Jeff Toobin, and conservative strategist, Amy Holmes.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

Let's talk about Fred Thompson.

I want to play a little clip of what he said and then we'll discuss the role he could play tonight.

Listen to this.


FRED THOMPSON (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: We're in the hunt for a red November.

What do you think?


BLITZER: He, of course, was the star of -- one of the stars of "The Hunt For -- " or "Red October," if you will.

What do you think of this Fred Thompson phenomenon that has emerged?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You know, there's a great history of American political candidates who peak when they announce. And then they actually have to run for president.

And you know what?

It's hard to run for president.

Standing up there with those nine people -- nine other people -- it's hard. It's hard to distinguish yourself. And, frankly, you know, I think he's got to do that before there's any boomlet.

And, you know, he has a history of, you know, a build -- a great buildup, whether it's the China hearings. They were going to be a terrific success and then they turned out to be not much of anything. Let's see if he can be a real candidate rather than just someone just taking pot shots from the outside.

BLITZER: Because when you're running for president, the pressure on you, the spotlight is -- is enormous on you.

AMY HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Right. It increases exponentially. But Fred Thompson has been doing something very interesting. He's been really reaching out to conservatives. He's been publishing very regularly on "National Review" online magazine.

And Fred Thompson, if you see from the polls, he's already pulled even with Mitt Romney without spending a dime.

So there is great excitement. You have to also remember that among Republican voters, they still have not yet coalesced around any one of these frontrunners. So Fred Thompson has a real door open there for his candidacy.

TOOBIN: And he has a big advantage in that the two leading candidates in the polls right now, Giuliani and McCain, disagree with the Republican -- the majority of Republican voters on key issues, whether it's McCain and immigration or Giuliani on abortion and gun control and gay rights.

So, you know, the conservative part of the party, which is most of the party, is still looking for a candidate.

BLITZER: Senator Thompson, though, was a partner of Senator McCain on McCain-Feingold, on campaign finance reform, which he strongly supports and which a lot of conservatives hated.

HOLMES: They do. But, again, as Jeffrey is saying, that the other frontrunners also have their problems with even more fundamental issues for Republican voters in terms of life issues and taxes. And tonight, I think we're going to hear eve a lot more about taxes.

Remember that New Hampshire is an anti-tax state. So that's something to look forward to.

TOOBIN: And I'm not sure McCain-Feingold has the resonance, the excitement that -- that, you know, immigration has right now. Immigration is an issue that really convulses people. I mean, you know, our colleague, Lou Dobbs, has shown, you know, what -- how much passion there is on that issue.

I don't hear a lot of people talking about McCain-Feingold. So I don't think Thompson has a huge problem with that.

BLITZER: When I hear you -- when I hear you saying McCain- Feingold, with all due respect to Senator Russ Feingold, it's not McCain-Kennedy and...

TOOBIN: That's right.

BLITZER: Immigration reform. TOOBIN: Exactly.

HOLMES: Exactly.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the other so-called elephant in this room, George W. Bush.

Are we going to hear from these candidates tonight a lot of references to the current president of the United States?

HOLMES: Well, Wolf, we certainly haven't in the previous debates. They talk about Iraq. Iraq is the number one issue for Republican voters. But they're talking about if they become commander- in-chief. And they certainly don't want to tie themselves to a president whose approval ratings are so low.

Republicans are still behind him, but George Bush isn't their greatest ally tonight.

BLITZER: How important is it -- or of you -- maybe it's not -- for them to try to distance themselves from the president?

TOOBIN: At this point, it's probably not that important, because they've got to worry about getting the nomination first.

But you heard Hillary Clinton Sunday night. All she wanted to talk about was George Bush. She's already running against George Bush. Whichever one of these candidates, or Senator Thompson or Newt Gingrich, who gets the nomination, Hillary Clinton, if she is the nominee, or any Democrat, is going to be running against George W. Bush. And they know it.

BLITZER: But on the issue of immigration reform, the president supports what McCain, what Kennedy, what they're trying to do. So a lot of these conservatives who hate this immigration reform, they're certainly not going to be running with him on that.

HOLMES: No, they're not. And McCain has put himself in a difficult position on the immigration. There's a new poll that just came out with Scott Rasmussen saying that half of Arizona voters oppose the immigration bill. So tonight you're going to hear a lot of debate about that.

McCain has decided that the best defense is an offense. And he's been going after Romney for being a flip-flopper on the immigration issue.

So expect this to, I think, pretty much blow up tonight.


TOOBIN: It's going to -- I mean it's going to be a much more contentious debate than the Democrats were. They really disagree about fundamental things in the way that the Democrats don't.

BLITZER: We'll see. TOOBIN: I hope.

BLITZER: It's coming up very soon. We'll be watching it.

TOOBIN: You'll be in charge.

BLITZER: I don't know.

It'll be -- we'll see closely what happens.

TOOBIN: Well, we will.

BLITZER: Jeff, Amy, you'll be here, as well.

HOLMES: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, guys, for that.

What's going on on the floor right now?

Let's take a picture and see what's happening down on the podium behind us, if we can.

Is anything happening?

Oh, there it is.

There we see the former governor of Virginia, Jim Gilmore, the former chairman of the Republican Party. He's one of the presidential candidates. He's checking out that podium tonight. He'll be there among the 10 Republican presidential candidates.

Still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, President Bush in Russia's backyard, as rhetoric between Moscow and Washington is dramatically heating up. Relations getting frosty.

Can he defuse the latest missile tension?

Also, they're heavy hitters on the opposite sides of the border battle. That would be Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who helped craft the current reform bill, and CNN's own Lou Dobbs. They're about to square off on immigration reform right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Stay with us.

We'll be right back.

And remember, there have been...


BLITZER: We're less than two hours away from tonight's Republican debate here in New Hampshire.

We'll get back to all of that in just a moment.

But there's other important news we're following.

As Russian President Vladimir Putin threatens to point missiles at the United States and its friends, President Bush is trying to ease tensions out of this week's talks in Europe. But he also engaged in some tough talk himself earlier today in the Czech Republic.

Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, has the story from Prague -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the countdown is on as to when these two leaders will meet, President Bush and Putin. That is going to happen Thursday.

But right now, the showdown has really reached a fevered pitch. That is why we heard from President Bush today, trying to lower the volume.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): President Bush to Russia's leader Vladimir Putin.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The cold war is over. It ended.

MALVEAUX: The message for Putin -- back off. Take it easy.

BUSH: As I've told President Putin, Russia is not our enemy.

MALVEAUX: President Bush's comments come after days of heated rhetoric between U.S. and Russian officials.

The culmination?

Putin's threat to aim Russia's missiles at U.S. military installations and European allies.

The fight is over President Bush's plan to build a missile defense system in Russia's backyard -- Eastern Europe. Putin considers it a threat. But Mr. Bush is trying to convince him otherwise.

BUSH: It's a purely defensive measure aimed not at Russia, but at true threats. My message will be, you know, Vladimir -- I call him Vladimir -- that, you know, you shouldn't fear a missile defense system.

MALVEAUX: And the president offered the Russians a front row seat.

BUSH: Please send your generals over to see how such a system would work. Send your scientists. Let us have the ability to discuss this issue in an open forum. We'll be completely transparent.

MALVEAUX: To get the system up and running, Mr. Bush needs Russia's neighbors to Cooperate. One of them is the Czech Republic, where the president wants to set up a radar, a key component of his missile defense system. That drew praise from the Czech president, but protests on the streets.

Poland will be another stop for Mr. Bush, where he hopes to station the system's missile interceptors. President Bush argues it's all about fighting the war on terror. On the eve of the summit, he tried to make that case again, promoting what he calls his "freedom agenda."

He also criticized Putin for backsliding on democratic reforms.

BUSH: In Russia, reforms that were once promised to empower citizens have been derailed with troubling implications for democratic development.


MALVEAUX: President Bush and Putin's standing among world leaders will be tested at the G-8, as both are vying for support over apparently competing issues and agendas. And it is Thursday that these two leaders will meet face-to-face to confront that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux in Prague for us.

We're here in Manchester, New Hampshire, now just a little bit more than an hour-and-a-half away from the Republican presidential debate.

God and war the subject of one of the questions put to Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama, last night in our CNN SITUATION ROOM special on faith and politics.

CNN's Soledad O'Brien broaches the subject.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you thing that god takes sides in a war?

For example, in the war on terror, is god on the side of U.S. troops, would you say?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I always remember Abraham Lincoln when, during the Civil War, he said we shouldn't be asking whose side god is on, but whether we're on his side. And I think that's the -- that's the question that all of us have to ask ourselves during any battle that's taking place, whether it's political or military, is are we following his dictates?

Are we advancing the causes of justice and freedom?

Are we our brother's keeper, our sister's keeper?

And that's how I measure whether what we're doing is right.


BLITZER: And later, we'll also hear excerpts of what Senator Clinton and former Senator Edwards told Soledad, as well. A fascinating, fascinating discussion last night.

Coming up, top Republicans are already battling over immigration reform.

What that will -- will that bring some added drama to tonight's Republican presidential debate?

We'll speak about that with CNN's Lou Dobbs. Stay with us.

And evolution versus creation -- that debate divided the country almost a century ago. Now it's back as a hot button issue for Republican candidates.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, sentencing for Lewis "Scooter" Libby. The vice president's former chief of staff getting 30 months and a quarter million dollar fine for lying in the CIA leak investigation.

Also, an indicted congressman stepping down from a key position. Democrat William Jefferson of Louisiana says he's temporarily giving up his seat on the House Small Business Committee, one day after he was indicted on 16 counts, including racketeering, money laundering and obstruction of justice.

And Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama warns of "a quiet riot" brewing among African-Americans, saying the Bush administration has done nothing to diffuse tensions that led to the 1992 Los Angeles riots, tensions Obama says have been exacerbated by Hurricane Katrina.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Manchester, New Hampshire.


It's one of the most contentious issues facing the country right now and one creating deep divisions across the political spectrum, especially among conservatives. We're talking about immigration reform and the controversial bipartisan bill now in the Senate.

Joining us now from Capitol Hill to talk about it, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who played a key role in crafting this compromise agreement. And in new York CNN's own Lou Dobbs. He's a very outspoken opponent of this compromise bill. Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us. Carolina who played a key role in crafting this compromise agreement.

And in New York, CNN's own Lou Dobbs. He's a very outspoken opponent of this compromise bill.

Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us.

Senator Dodd, convince Lou Dobbs, if you can -- excuse me. Senator Graham.

Senator Graham -- excuse me.

Convince Lou Dobbs, if you can, that this comprehensive bill is not amnesty for those 12 million or so illegal immigrants here in the United States.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don't believe I can. And I like Lou. We agree on China. But if amnesty is that you have to come forward to identify yourself and your family's going to get deported or put in jail, nobody will do that.

Under the bill, you come forward and identify yourself as being here illegally, you get a plea bargain, you pay a fine, you go through a criminal background check, you have to hold a job. That's a plea bargain.

You do get to stay, but you don't get to be a citizen unless you leave the country and start over again. But if amnesty is defined as everybody who came across the border illegally will be deported or put in jail, then I can never get there.

BLITZER: All right.

Lou, did he convince you?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": The senator, as perceptive as he is, of course, realized that I would not be persuaded by that, nor do I believe Senator Graham will -- tens of millions of Americans.

The fact is the so-called Z visa holder, it is really a permanent temporary visa. Under the terms of this legislation, the government has 24 hours in which to do a background check. After that point, that person must be given legal status. And amnesty, in my judgment, means giving legal status to those who are here illegally. And this legislation would do so to anyone who could get a sworn affidavit that they've been in the country before January 1st of 2007.

If that isn't amnesty, I don't know what is. And the fees that have been described as a penalty are less than most illegal aliens pay a coyote to get them across our southern border.

GRAHAM: If I may, he's wrong about how you become a Z visa holder. You have to come out of the shadows, you get a probationary visa, you go through a criminal background check. If you committed a felony or three misdemeanors, you're ineligible. You have to pass two English exams.

But he's right about this: you can have a Z card indefinitely, but if you want to get a green card, which was the problem of last year's bill, you've got to go back to the country from where you came. So that's a dramatic improvement, I believe.

DOBBS: An improvement...

BLITZER: It's going to be an issue, Lou -- Lou, it's going to be a huge issue tonight in the debate. We're a little bit more than an hour -- a little bit less than an hour and a half from that debate starting tonight. And we've already seen strong words exchanged between Senator McCain, who like Senator Lindsey Graham supports this compromise, and Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, who clearly doesn't.

DOBBS: Right.

BLITZER: How significant do you think, Lou Dobbs, this issue of immigration reform will be hovering over this Republican contest?

DOBBS: I think it will be an immense issue, because I think the Republican Party has within the context of this legislation the ability to destroy its own viability in 2008. And the reason I say that, today the "USA Today"-Gallup poll reveals that opposition to the legislation in the Senate is running 3-1. More than half of the people surveyed have no opinion on it, don't feel they know enough about it.

That, in and of itself, is difficult for me as a journalist because I believe the Senate is ramming this legislation through. There have been no committee hearings. There is a fight going on at this very moment in the United States Senate to constrain the number of amendments. This bill is literally being processed in the United States Senate.

And Senator Graham, I'd love to hear what you say about this. It's -- I mean, if I've ever seen a railroad, this thing is running. It's off the tracks, but it's a railroad.

GRAHAM: Well, John McCain's going to tell everybody in the field tonight that, if you've got a better idea, come forward. Lou...

DOBBS: I'm here.

GRAHAM: Lou, we're not going to put 12 million people in jail, and we're not going to deport them. I believe that. For me to say otherwise, no matter how pleasing it might be, would be me lying.

I don't believe we're going to put 12 million people in jail, we're not going to deport them. And I do believe the disaster for this country is to leave our borders broken, to not verify who is here. Because if you're here to work, we can get you right with the law, but if you're here to kill us, I want you to stop hiding among the 12 million.

Don't pass this on to the next generation of politicians. Don't expect someone to be braver than we are. We should have done this 20 years ago. We've been debating this far too long.

If you kill this bill, then you're -- then you're the author of chaos, because the current system is chaos.

DOBBS: OK. Then let me take on the role of being the author of chaos, because I've said for some time that neither you nor any of the other 99 senators, nor the 435 members of this Congress, or this president can positively substantially and substantively reform immigration law unless you control immigration. And you cannot control immigration into this country if you do not have control of our borders and our ports.

GRAHAM: I hear that.

DOBBS: And this legislation talks about triggers but does not secure a single border or port.

In point of fact, this Z visa program, the probationary Z visa program, is, in point of fact, an amnesty that proceeds from enactment or within 18 months of enactment, depending on which way the final wording comes out.

BLITZER: All right.

DOBBS: And does not have our border secured. And that is -- that is a fundamental weakness of this legislation.

GRAHAM: I think it's the fundamental strength.

BLITZER: Senator Graham, I want you to respond, but I also want you to respond in the context of what Lou was suggesting, that this issue of immigration is going to split the GOP at a critical moment.

GRAHAM: It's split -- it's split the Democratic Party.

DOBBS: Exactly.

GRAHAM: We have people on the Democratic Party going crazy because we're going to have merit-based immigration. In the future, you have to get points to come into this country. The more points you get is based on your education level, your ability to learn English and to hold a job.

We're going to have a competitive immigration system. We're going to break chain migration.

Both sides are upset. The AFL-CIO doesn't like the bill, Lou doesn't like the bill. "The New York Times" calls it repugnant. Pat Buchanan says it's a sellout. Sounds pretty good to me.

The bottom line, is we are going to secure the borders before we let the 12 million people have legal status. We're going to verify employment.

And Lou, this is one think I really agree with you on -- if you are trying to find out who is here and how they get a job, the Social Security card can be faked by midnight. I can get a Social Security card printed up by midnight. We're going to replace that card with a tamper-proof identification system.

The reason they come is to work. And if you can control who gets jobs, then you've really solved the immigration problem.

Forty-five percent never came across the border. They overstayed their visa. We need to know who's here, why they're here, and if they want to work, they're going to work on our terms, not theirs.

DOBBS: That sounds good, Senator, and were it only the case. The fact is that you and I, as much as you and I have studied this issue, we do not know how many illegal aliens or illegal immigrants or undocumented workers, if you prefer, are in this country.

GRAHAM: Illegal immigrants.

DOBBS: There is no cap on the number of illegal aliens in this country who will receive the opportunity for immediate amnesty. In point of fact, Social Security cards will be issued to Z visa holders, correct?

GRAHAM: No, no. They would get a tamper-proof identification card that will be...

DOBBS: And we'll be paying -- and will be paying, as with legal status, into the Social Security system.

GRAHAM: Absolutely. Finally. Finally, they will be paying taxes. They will be paying into the system.

They get no benefits for their illegal behavior before, but if they are here in a legal status, they will be paying taxes, they will be paying into Social Security. And I want to know who they are. I don't want them to be here among us.

DOBBS: I understand. But Senator, the fact is, and you know that the Heritage Foundation, but not the Congressional Budget Office nor the General Accountability Office, even though this legislation has been in front (ph) of the Congress and the president has been advocating it for two years, has run a complete fiscal impact statement or analysis on the impact of this legislation.

The Heritage Foundation has on one part of it. And that is what happens when these illegal aliens who have become U.S. citizens -- and the estimate is anywhere from 11 million to 12 million -- the impact on our retirement system alone, along with Medicaid and Medicare, will be $2.6 trillion over a 30-year period.

The fact is...

BLITZER: All right. I want Senator Graham -- Senator Graham, I need you to respond, but very quickly because we're out of time. Lou has got to get ready for his own show that's beginning at the top of the hour.

GRAHAM: And I recommend you listen, because it's a good show.

CBO says it's a net plus because you'll be collecting taxes and fines. But at the end of the day, people that came here came here with nothing. And some of them today are some of the most successful people in the world.

It's never a drain on your country to have hard-working people. What's a threat to your country is to have criminals roaming around you don't know about. We're going to keep the hard-working people and we're going to put the criminals in jail.

BLITZER: A preview of what we can expect tonight...

GRAHAM: Bye, Lou.

BLITZER: ... a little more than an hour so from now at this Republican debate. Senator Lindsey Graham, Lou Dobbs.

Good of both of you to join us. Obviously both of you know a lot about this subject. You've been studying it at a great, great length.

DOBBS: Wolf, I can't tell you how I hate giving Senator Graham the last word, but we'll be glad to defer after all those kind words he said about our broadcast.

Thank you all.

GRAHAM: Well, he's a good guy.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Thanks very much.

GRAHAM: And he's right on China.

BLITZER: And we'll be watching Lou's program right at the top of the hour.

Lou, thanks very much.

Still ahead, a stunning revelation from Hillary Clinton on her faith as Democrats speak about moral values.

And it's divided Americans for generations, a culture clash portrayed as God versus science. Where do GOP candidates stand in the battle over evolution?

Much more of our special coverage leading up to the Republican presidential debate right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: We're just a little bit more than an hour away from tonight's Republican debate here in Manchester, New Hampshire. One of the Republican candidates who will be debating here is being singled out for his stance on abortion. That would be the former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani.

Let's bring in CNN's Tom Foreman. He's watching this.

Tom, who's criticizing Giuliani, specifically for his position on abortion?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, some of the same folks who criticized candidates last time around. It's tough running near the front. You are going to catch a lot of elbows. That's where he is right now. And that's what's happening to him on this issue.


RUDY GIULIANI (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I personal oppose it. I support a right of choice.

FOREMAN (voice over): That's Rudy Giuliani's stance on abortion, a position that's predictably under attack now by the Catholic bishop of Providence, Rhode Island. "Rudy's public proclamations on abortion are pathetic and confusing," he writes. "Even worse, they're hypocritical."

Those blistering words came from Bishop Thomas Tobin in a column in "The Rhode Island Catholic," a church newspaper. Tobin goes on to write that, "Rudy's preposterous position is compounded by the fact that he professes to be a Catholic. As a Catholic, we are called, indeed required, to be pro-life."

And he compared Giuliani to Pontius Pilate, who Tobin said, "... found no guilt in Jesus, but for fear of the crowd... handed Jesus over to be crucified."

Giuliani's campaign is not commenting on the bishop's biting column. But the former New York City mayor has previously taken issue with such attacks.

GIULIANI: Some people say that that's inconsistent. I really disagree with that.

FOREMAN: When it comes to abortion and the '08 field of Republican contenders, Giuliani stands alone.

GIULIANI: I hate abortion, but ultimately, since it is an issue of conscience, I would respect a woman's right to make a different choice.

FOREMAN: At the first Republican debate, he was the only candidate to not fully support the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

GIULIANI: It would be OK to repeal. It would be OK also if a strict constructionist judge viewed it as precedent.

FOREMAN: He clarified his position, but a rival slammed him during the second debate.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If something is morally wrong, let's oppose it.

FOREMAN: So, will we hear more of that tonight?

Here's New Hampshire's Republican Party chairman.

FERGUS CULLEN, NEW HAMPSHIRE REPUBLICAN LEADER: The abortion question keeps coming up in part because the answer seems to be changed a little bit every time he's asked a question. I think the campaign understands that.

(END VIDEOTAPE) FOREMAN: So far, Tobin appears to be the first Catholic bishop to speak out on this. Giuliani isn't the first presidential candidate, however, to face such protest. In the last presidential campaign, 12 bishops wanted to ban John Kerry from receiving communion. Kerry, of course, backed abortion rights, too -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman reporting.

Thank you.

It may not necessarily be number one on the issues list for most voters, but make no mistake about it, many are paying close attention to the candidates' stances on another hot-button issue. That would be evolution.

Our chief environment correspondent, Miles O'Brien, is joining us now.

Miles, how are the candidates handling this issue?


On the one hand, you have so-called values voters, Christian conservatives who believe the Book of Genesis is historically accurate. On the other hand, you have voters who are persuaded by mounds of scientific evidence supporting evolution.

The dilemma led to a now-famous show of hands at the first Republican debate at the Reagan Library a month ago.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm curious, is there anybody on the stage that does agree -- believe in evolution?

O'BRIEN (voice over): On the first day they created a stir. Three Republican presidential hopefuls raising their hands when asked who did not believe in Charles Darwin's theory.

Since then, the trio have done some evolving, adding some words and nuance to the body language. Each in his own way saying, you don't have to make a choice between the bible and the origin of species.

Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo said evolution explains changes in life, creationism explains its origin.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister, said, "God put the creative process in motion. He may have used some sort of evolutionary process."

And Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas penned an 856-word op-ed piece, writing, "If belief in evolution means simply assenting to small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say that I believe it to be true." It's not the first time in recent memory this has popped into a presidential campaign.

In 1980, a reporter asked candidate Ronald Reagan if he believed in evolution. The president to be said he had many questions about it, and that recent discoveries down through the years have pointed up great flaws in it.

But that was it. These days, the issue may have more traction.

In Kentucky, they've just opened the doors on a high tech museum that depicts the biblical account of history and rejects evolution. After all these years and all that scientific proof, Darwin is under fire. And values voters may very well remember who raised his hand.

But a big question remains. In these times of war and uncertainty, what does it all have to do with being president?


O'BRIEN: Of course, you could say presidential campaigns often get bogged down in issues that are a little more than a distraction. All those who agree, raise your hand -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Miles. There you are.

He's raising his hand.

Up ahead, Jack Cafferty and your e-mail on his question of this hour. How will former senator Fred Thompson affect this Republican presidential field, even though he isn't participating in tonight's debate?

We're just a little bit more than an hour or so away from the start of this Republican debate here in Manchester, New Hampshire, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: We'll check back with Jack Cafferty in New York for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question is, former Senator Fred Thompson is not participating in tonight's debate, but we wanted to know how you thought he might affect the Republican presidential field, which he is thinking apparently about joining.

Steve writes from Pennsylvania, "Jack, with the religious right wing lunatic fringe bothered to distraction over Rudy's insufficiently militant anti-abortion stance, Fred Thompson, capable of playing the part of an ardently pro-life president, presents an attractive alternative -- as their next White House puppet."

D.P. in Florida, "Fred Thompson's looming large in all the candidates' minds, not just the Republicans. He has charisma and a straightforward honesty that our country needs after the last eight years of damage."

James in Virginia, "Senator Thompson's not going to affect the Republican debates tonight or any other night because he's as worthless as all the other candidates."

John in Michigan, "Fred Thompson's exactly what Republican voters are looking for. He's the conservative that none of the others except Huckabee are. Sadly, Huckabee would be a better choice, but he doesn't have the name recognition or the money to win."

And Andy in Nevada writes, "Jack, when Fred Thompson announces his candidacy, and he will after the debates, the other Republicans will feel a disturbance in the force. He's already third in the polls and he has the name recognition and the experience, and he's also struck a responsive chord with the public. As near as I can tell, he also has some common sense, which seems to be in short supply in the rest of the field."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to We post more of them online, along with video clips of "The Cafferty File" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you very much.

Just ahead, as we count down to the Republican presidential debate, a delicate question and a startling disclosure from Senator Hillary Clinton as she talks about her faith.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Last night, leading Democratic candidates appeared at a special forum on faith and politics in Washington. Senator Hillary Clinton was asked the delicate question by CNN's Soledad O'Brien about how her faith got her through her husband's indiscretions.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I'm not sure I would have gotten through it without my faith. And you know, I take my faith very seriously and very personally. And I come from a tradition that is perhaps a little too suspicious of people who wear their faith on their sleeves. So that a lot of the...


CLINTON: ... a lot of the talk about and advertising about faith doesn't come naturally to me. It is something that, you know, I keep thinks of the Pharisees and all the Sunday school lessons and readings that I had as a child. But I think your faith guides you every day. Certainly mine does. But at those moments in time when you're tested, it is absolutely essential that you be grounded in your faith.

For some people, being tested leads them to faith. For some people, being tested in cruel and tragic ways leads them away from faith.

For me, because I've been tested in ways that are both publicly known and those that are not so well known, or not known at all, my faith and the support of my extended faith family, people whom I knew who were literally praying for me in prayer chains, who were prayer warriors for me and people whom I didn't know, who I would meet or get a letter from, sustained me through a very difficult time. But I am very grateful that I had a grounding in faith that gave me the courage and the strength to do what I thought was right, regardless of what the world thought, and that's all one can expect or hope for.



BLITZER: Senator Clinton speaking with our Soledad O'Brien here in THE SITUATION ROOM last night.

Remember, we're here in THE SITUATION ROOM weekday afternoons from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern. We're back at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. But tonight, in one hour, the Republican presidential debate. You're going to want to see that.

Until then, let's go to Lou. He's in New York.


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