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Castro Goes Public; Cuba Book Ban; Like the Cold War: Tough Talk Ahead of Summit

Aired June 6, 2007 - 17:30   ET


And Jordan in Texas. "Pardon me for asking, but you must be jesting. Bush will be forced to pardon him when Uncle Dick has him into his office when he gets back this week from his summer internship in Europe. The most secretive government in modern history is winding down and surely will take care of their own when the time is right."

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Jack thanks. And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now. Deadly weapons from Iran found first in Iraq, now in Afghanistan. Is Tehran arming America's enemies? And who's calling the shots?

Who is responsible for the transatlantic TB scare? The affected lawyer tells lawmakers it's not his fault. Was there a blunder at the border? I'll beak live this hour with the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff.

And a book about Cuba aimed at five-year-olds has Florida grown ups in a frenzy. An appeals court joins the battle over a school board ban. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Fresh concern right now over the Pentagon that Iran is arming America's enemies. U.S. officials have long complained about explosives and weapons reaching insurgents in Iraq. Now deadly devices have been found in Afghanistan.

Let's go straight to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. She is watching the story for us. What do we know about the weapons, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, top U.S. commanders are now confirming that in recent weeks two convoys if Iranian weapons captured weapons inside Afghanistan. The question is what is going on?


STARR (voice-over): Iranian weapons shipped into Iraq and Afghanistan are not just a threat to U.S. troops. But now are seen as an effort to stop any diplomacy between Washington and Tehran by rogue members of Iran's all powerful Revolutionary Guard.

TRITA PARSI, NATIONAL IRANIAN AMERICAN COUNCIL: These elements are probably fearing a diplomacy with the United States far more than their fear sanctions on Iran. And I think they may be somewhat concerned that the talks in Iraq may actually end up being successful.

STARR: It was just days ago that U.S. and Iranian officials met in Baghdad, the first time in nearly 30 years the two sides have sat down. The U.S. made clear the weapons shipments had to stop. They have not.

LT. GEN. RAYMOND ODIERNO, CMDR., MULTINATIONAL CORPS, IRAQ: We still see them shipping weapons, money and conducting training for extremists here in Iraq. It has not stopped.

STARR: The U.S. is finding armor penetrating bombs, rockets and other weapons, some with labels indicating they were made just a few months ago inside Iran. There's still no direct evidence the Iranian regime itself is behind any of the weapons shipments, but in Afghanistan, the threat of sophisticated Iranian weapons may be growing.

LT. GEN DAN MCNEILL, COMMANDER OF ISAF-NATO: We have intercepted at least two convoys that have contained munitions or weapons. Some of the munitions and weapons are clearly of Iranian origin.


STARR (on camera): And Wolf, what was in those convoys? Well, officials say they found mortars, weapons, and plastic explosives with phony markings on them packaged to look like American C-4 explosives.


BLITZER: So is it fair to conclude from all of this that U.S. troops are battling Iranian armed surrogates, if you will, in both Iraq and Afghanistan?

STARR: You know, Wolf, surrogates might be exactly the right word. Fighters clearly backed by Iran, financed by Iran and trained by Iran. That seems to be the growing conclusion by top commanders in both countries, Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr is watching this at the Pentagon. Thanks, Barbara.

The young lawyer at the center of the transatlantic tuberculosis scare gave long distance testimony as lawmakers looked into failures in border security.

Our homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve is joining us. What have you learned, Jeanne?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Andrew Speaker told a Senate committee he had done nothing wrong.


ANDREW SPEAKER, TB TRAVELER: I didn't go running off or hiding from people. It's a complete fallacy and it's a lie.

MESERVE (voice-over): On the phone from his isolation room in Denver, Speaker explained why he went to Europe.

SPEAKER: I was repeatedly told that I was not contagious.

MESERVE: But the health official who had jurisdiction says Speaker was told he should not travel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was Mr. Speaker prohibited from traveling? Was he ordered not to travel? And the answer to that was no.

MESERVE: No, because public health officials said they did not have the authority to stop him. The head of the CDC said her organization might have tilted too far in assuming Speaker would do the right thing.

DR. JULIE GERBERDING, CDC DIRECTOR: We gave the patient the benefit of the doubt at several points here, and in those cases we failed to take the aggressive action that we could have used.

MESERVE: On the House side, a mea culpa for the failure to stop Speaker when he entered the U.S. weeks later.

COMMISSIONER W. RALPH BASHAM, CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: CDP had an opportunity to detain him at the border and we missed. That missed opportunity is inexcusable.

MESERVE: Officials said a border officer disregarded clear and unambiguous instructions to stop Speaker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have got 12 grandchildren. I don't know of any one of them that would not have known what to do in that situation.


MESERVE (on camera): It was learned today that the border officer, an 18 year veteran, has had his gun taken away and been put on administrative lead. And that others may bear some responsibility. Turns out when Speaker was at the inspection booth, officials say the alert popped up on computers elsewhere at the same border crossing.


BLITZER: Are any procedures, Jeanne, being taken right now as a result of this incident?

MESERVE: Yes, Wolf. Previously when a front line inspector saw an alert on the computer, they could override, they could pass someone on through. Now supervisors are going be looped into that process.


BLITZER: Thank you very much. We're going to be speaking with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff later this hour. This subject certainly will be on the agenda. Later tonight, by the way, the TB infected groom and his family tell their side of the story to our own Larry King. Plus the CDC response to their account of the incident. All that coming up on LARRY KING LIVE tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

We're just getting in some disturbing news out of Kansas involving the case of that missing girl, Carol Costello is watching for us. Carol, tell our viewers what we now know.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, Wolf. Sadly there are no miracles here. Police in Kansas say they have found the body of 18 year old Kelsey Smith. This is in Overland Park, Kansas. She disappeared four days ago as she left a Target store around 7:00 p.m. Police officials have been searched a wooded area near that Target store for a couple days. Sadly, they did find a body and they say forensic evidence has led them to believe that this is indeed this girl's body.

Let's listen to more of what police officials had to say.


CHIEF JOHN DOUGLASS, OVERLAND PARK POLICE: At approximately 1:30 p.m. today, investigators discovered a body in the search area. Pending completion of forensics examination, we have reason to believe that we have found Kelsey Smith.


COSTELLO: So they did indeed find Kelsey Smith. No suspect so far, but the store surveillance tape did record a man forcing her apparently into a car, but he's very hard to identify. So police are still asking for the public's help to find any suspects. Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Carol.

Sad story, indeed.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, "The U.S.'s plans to build a U.S. missile defense shield in Europe are arrogant and threaten to usher in a new Cold War." Those are the words of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. He believes that putting these anti-missile sites in Poland and the Czech Republic will make Europe a target again.

He points out that polls show that 70 percent of the Czech people don't want the missile shield in their country. Gorbachev also says this, "There is the possibility that self confidence, arrogance will lead to a situation similar to that with the war in Iraq. The United States is driving itself into a corner. They've lost credibility in the world." Unquote. Mikhail Gorbachev.

Meantime, President Bush insists the Cold War is over. He told reporters in Germany, today that Russia is not going to attack Europe. That despite President Vladimir Putin recent threats to retarget missile on Europe if the U.S. goes ahead with its anti missile shield plan, which is a apparently meant to protect Europe from Iran. Mr. Bush said Russia is not an enemy although he once again criticized Russia's checkered past on democratic reform and human rights.

For his part, Putin has accused the U.S. of starting a new arms race. This is just swell, don't you think? We have trouble with Russia now, which we haven't had for a number of years. The question is this, is President Bush reigniting the Cold War with Russia? E- mail or go to Wolf?

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack. Up ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, a Democratic presidential candidate raising a red flag about race. Find out what Senator Barack Obama is saying about African Americans and what he's now calling quiet riots.

Also, controversial comments by a Major League baseball star drawing fire from some Latinos. We're going to have details of what he said.

And Fidel Castro's TV interview. His longest since being sidelined by surgery. What does it reveal about his health and a possible return to power? Much more of our news coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama suggesting there's a disconnect and a serious disconnect in the African American community, and he's invoking the memory of the deadly 1992 Los Angeles riots. CNN's Mary Snow is joining us with more on the story. What exactly is the senator talking about here?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Obama is talking about the despair in the inner cities that goes ignored.


SNOW (voice-over): He calls them quiet riots in poor black communities. Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama says unlike the L.A. Riots 15 years ago that gained so much attention, these go unnoticed.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These quiet riots that take place every day are born from the same place as the fires and destruction and the police decked out in riot gear and death. They happen with a sense of disconnect settles in and hope dissipates.

SNOW: Obama told a conference of black ministers that Hurricane Katrina exposed some of those quiet riots.

OBAMA: This administration was color blind in its incompetence, but everyone here knows that the disaster and the poverty happened long before the hurricane hit.

RONALD WALTERS, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: Barack is digging down a little deeper into some of the issues that affect the black community, really responding to some of the criticism that has been lodged, not just against him, but the whole sort of presidential field of Democratic candidates.

SNOW: Criticism that issues affecting the black community are absent from the political debate. Racial issues have been a theme for Obama on some occasions, including a speech from Selma, Alabama to mark the civil rights movement.

OBAMA: Don't tell me I'm not coming home when I come to Selma, Alabama. I'm here because somebody marched for our freedom.

SNOW: Now, Obama is bringing attention to quiet riots in his efforts, say political observes, to deal with social conditions in the ghetto. And it comes amid fierce competition for black voters.

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You have got Hillary Clinton because of her long-time association with Bill Clinton, and you've got Barack Obama who are both pulling on the heart strings of African American voters.

SNOW: And John Edwards' focus on poverty is also adding to that competition.


SNOW (on camera): And so much is at stake, observers say, because this race is seen as the first one in a long time where there's serious competition in the Democratic primary for the black vote.


BLITZER: Mary Snow watching this for us, thank you, Mary.

The baseball slugger Gary Sheffield is known for speaking loudly and carrying a big stick. Now he's taking a swing at some Latino ballplayers, and that has many crying foul. Let's go back to Carol Costello. Carol, what is this controversy all about?

COSTELLO: Well, Wolf, it's about what or who is driving African American ballplayers way from the game. Right now, only eight percent of ballplayers are African-American, 24 percent are Latino in what is arguably the most American of past times.


COSTELLO (voice-over): He's one of the most feared hitters in baseball and one of the most controversial. Gary Sheffield says Latinos are pushing other African Americans out of the game because they can't speak English and can't talk back.

In "G.Q. Magazine" Sheffield said, "It's about being able to tell Latin players what to do, being able to control them. Where I'm from, you can't control us. These are the things my race demands. So if you're equally as good as this Latin player, guess who's going to get sent home?" And Sheffield is offering no apologies. GARY SHEFFIELD, DETROIT TIGERS PLAYERS: They want to say it's controversial, take it that way and everything, so be it.

COSTELLO: How would you characterize Gary Sheffield's comments.



FALCON: Yes. Yes. And more disappointing because it's coming from an African American.

COSTELLO: At Shea Stadium, where the Mets were playing the Phillies, Sheffield's comments resonated. The general manager for the Mets is Latino. Omar Manaia (ph) has been accused by some fans of Latinizing the team.

Thirteen of 25 Mets are Latino.

CARLOS GOMEZ, NEW YORK METS PLAYER: Some friends tell me today, why did Sheffield say that? I said, he I can't believe he said that. He's not racist.

ABRAHAM NUNEZ, PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES PLAYER: I don't say I like it but he's speaking his mind. That's the way he feels, he's the one who has to deal with that, not me.

COSTELLO: But is Sheffield merely saying out loud what many Americans think?

FALCON: There's that debate going on around immigration where there's that whole trend of many African Americans believe that Latinos are taking over jobs they should be getting.

COSTELLO: But other Latino players agree with Sheffield. Shortstop Carlos Guillen who plays with Sheffield in Detroit says Latinos are controlled by the same fear many immigrants have, being sent home.

"Latin players, if they get released, go back to their country with nothing. You lose everything. You lose your life. You're done."

So is Sheffield's comment right or racist? On this one, it appears there's no easy answer.


COSTELLO (on camera): Well, consider this, Bud Selig, baseball's commissioner, just received a global diversity award from the United Nations. We caught up with him there and he told us this is America and everybody is entitled to their opinion, and I'm very proud of what baseball has done. Wolf?

BLITZER: But he didn't want to specifically talk about what Gary Sheffield said?

COSTELLO: No, he did not. He said he has known Gary Sheffield for long time. It's a free country. But baseball has done a lot for diversity, Wolf. They're in Latin America, they're in China, they're in Japan, and they're really cracking the inner city now, trying to get more African American kids interested in the game of baseball.

BLITZER: Carol Costello, thanks very much. She's watching this story for us.

Coming up, my interview with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll talk about the battle over immigration reform and the serious border concerns raised by the TB health scare.

Plus, we'll have details on the effort to ban a book about Cuba because of what is not in it. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Coming up, we're going to show you the dramatic video from earlier today when a man simply jumped out, trying to get onboard the pope's so-called popemobile for a very, very dramatic encounter. We're going to show you exactly what happened. That's coming up in a moment.

In the meantime, though, an animated version of the London's controversial 2012 logo has been removed from the Web over fears it can cause seizures. Let's go to Abbi Tatton, she's been watching this. It's been a tough week for this new Olympic logo. Hasn't it, Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really has, Wolf. A troubled three day history of this, the London 2012 logo. The latest, a British epilepsy group is saying that it's received numerous reports of people having seizures after watching this animation that accompanied the launch. This animation has been taken off the official Web page of the London Olympic Committee, but the logo itself is staying put despite a tide of resentment since its launch on Monday.

Front page headlines in the British pants. Dynamic, modern, or just pants? By way of explanation, pants is British slang for not very good at all. Circulating on video and photosharing Web sites parodies. My favorite has to be this one which is the London 2012 logo versus "Saved by the Bell."

Responding online to criticism the London Olympic Committee has said on their Web site, we said we would be bold. We will be. Would you want it any other way? Well, 43,000 people who have signed an online petition said, yes, they would.


BLITZER: Thank you. It is a little weird, that logo. I don't know what they're thinking, but maybe we'll get to like it. Who knows? And thanks very much. And thanks for the translation from British into English for our viewers. Carol Costello monitoring some other stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM. Right now, Carol, tell us what you have.

COSTELLO: Well, I have a little bit more on that major security breach you were talking about, Wolf, at the Vatican. Check it out on the widescreen once again. You see a man trying to jump into the back of the popemobile. You see it in just a second. There he is. You see him in the highlighted area. He jumps over the barricade, almost makes it into the back of the open air vehicle carrying the pope before security guards tackled him. You see they got him there. It doesn't look like the pope was even aware of what was happening behind him.

A Vatican spokesman says the 27-year-old German man has a history of mental illness. He's now being held at a psychiatric hospital in Rome. The pope, as you see, is just fine.

We're monitor reports from Kansas City, Missouri where authorities now say Kelsey Smith's body has been found. The 18 year old had been missing since Saturday. She was abducted from a Target store parking lot captured on surveillance tape. No suspects yet, only the surveillance tape I told you about that shows a man forcing a woman into a car. But it's very difficult to see what he looks like.

Also there is an update on a story we were following. The Washington, DC judge suing his dry cleaner for $67 million over that lost pair of pants. Well, he's reducing his claim now, and he is seeking only $54 million under his interpretation of a local consumer protection act. He accuses the dry cleaner of fraud and misleading customers based on signs in the store saying satisfaction guaranteed and same day service.

And the bottom line on Wall Street, a down day for the three major indexes. All losing ground amid concern about interest rates. The Dow slipped almost 130 points, the NASDAQ, was down 24 points and the S&P 500 lost more than 13. That's a look at what is happening now, Wolf.

BLITZER: Remember what I always told you. What goes up ...

COSTELLO: Must come down.

BLITZER: We'll be watching the markets. Thanks very much.

Coming up, Fidel Castro is back in the public eye, but is he back? Castro himself gives some clues in a lengthy TV interview. And President Bush siding with Democrats in the immigration reform fight. Is he on the wrong side of his own party.

I'll speak about it with the Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. He'll be here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, that controversial immigration reform bill bogged down in the Senate, now facing a threatened filibuster by Republicans who want to amend it. I'll talk about it in just a couple of minutes with the Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. He's here.

Also, reports of Turkish soldiers crossing into Iraq to battle Kurdish militants now being denied. The White House along with Iraqi and Turkish officials say there was no border crossing. Contradicting reports by U.S. military officials.

And the U.S. troop increase in Iraq is now almost complete. The fifth and final U.S. Army brigade now in Baghdad and poised to begin operations in about a week. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Cuba's Fidel Castro is back in the spotlight. Almost a year after illness forced him to hand temporary power to his brother, he's appeared in his first full television interview.

Let's go straight to our State Department correspondent Zain Verjee. Does this indicate, Zain, that Castro is ready for a comeback?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't seem so, Wolf, though he is on the air again, and he looks strong.


VERJEE (voice-over): It's a Castro media blitz. A 50-minute one-on-one interview, the longest since his surgery last year. This tops off an on camera with a visiting Vietnamese leader, a few poses for the papers, opinion columns.

Fidel Castro looks and sounds better in his red, white and blue track suit, but gives no sign he's coming off the bench. His brother, Raul will run Cuba, and the U.S. hasn't been happy about it.

SEAN MCCORMACK, U.S. STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: Certainly, we don't want to see a transition from one dictator to another. We think the Cuban people deserve better.

VERJEE: After a number of intestinal surgeries, Fidel Castro even talked about his health, a state secret in Cuba.

FIDEL CASTRO (through translator): There are no secrets anymore.

VERJEE: He's crediting his improvement to diet. At times, he even sounds like a health buff.

CASTRO (through translator): A very well-balanced diet really does produce good results. For the fist time, I have them.

VERJEE: Most of the talk looked back with what seems to be references against U.S. plots against him.

CASTRO (through translator): It's quite a coincidence that I'm here talking with all of the plans that were made against me.

VERJEE: Castro rattled off statistics, meandered between topics, like education, health, conservation. An echo of the old Fidel.

Ishmael (ph) watched the interview in a Havana cafe and thought he looked very good and his mental capabilities were there. Watching at home, Augustus (ph) says he should come out like this so people see he is not dead, he is alive.


VERJEE: The State Department spokesman says it's hard to analyze Castro's health just by looking at the videotapes and says it's not really clear what the Cuban government is trying to accomplish by doing this -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, what else are U.S. officials saying about this videotape that's now emerged?

VERJEE: Well, the ones that we have spoken to say that Castro is looking better, but they also say that his old glory days are over. They note, too, that he's missed a lot of important events, like the May Day celebrations, and they have also mentioned, Wolf, your interview with the head of the Cuban National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon, who said essentially -- or rather he didn't say that Castro would return to power -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ricardo Alarcon was here in THE SITUATION ROOM last Friday.

Zain, thanks very much.

Fidel Castro, according to Zain, looking strong.

A book about life in Cuba written for children has angered a lot of adults in Florida. In Miami today, a U.S. appeals court weighing whether to let the school district ban the book.

Let's go to CNN's Rusty Dornin. She's watching this story for us.

Where do things stand right now, Rusty?

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the appeals court judges are considering it, but Wolf, banning a book usually involves when someone is angry over what is written in the book. In this battle over censorship, it's all about what was left out of this children's book in Miami.


DORNIN (voice over): Juan Amador knows the repressive regime of Fidel Castro. He says he spent four years in a Cuban jail as a political prisoner.

In '95, he arrived in the U.S. after he escaped Cuba on a raft. So when he saw this book in a Miami-Dade school library available for his daughter to read, he was furious. "Vamos a Cuba," or "A Visit to Cuba," never mentions Fidel Castro or political oppression, but it does show a lot of happy, beaming children.

JUAN AMADOR, CUBAN EXILE (through translator): It's wrong to have a book full of lies. But what is criminal is to expose children to those lies.

DORNIN: Amador complained to the school board. Miami has the largest population of Cuban exiles.

After a heated controversy in the spring of 2006, the school board banned the book, which targets 5 to 8-year-olds, for the sin of omission. Because it doesn't mention Castro or political oppression, they said it's educationally unsuitable.

FRANK BOLANOS, FMR. SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER: This book should never have been allowed to be inserted in our public school libraries.

DORNIN: Crying censorship, the student government and the ACLU challenged the ban, calling it a violation of the First Amendment involving free speech.

HOWARD SIMON, ACLU: If people are able to remove things from the library shelves if they find it objectionable, the library shelves are going to be empty pretty soon.

DORNIN: Last summer, a federal judge ruled the school board's decision to yank the book off the shelves illegal because it was based on political motives, not academic. The school board appealed the decision.

In a federal appeals court, judges focused on this page. The translation: "People work, live and play in Cuba just like you do." "That's simply not true," one federal judge told the ACLU lawyer, adding, "There is forced labor for children in Cuba."


DORNIN: Omitting that from the book two of the three judges said is like having a book about Nazi Germany or Hitler and not including something about the Holocaust. But the ACLU lawyer reminded the judges that indeed -- that the geography of Cuba is what this book is about, the daily life, not about Castro or the regime. There is no word on when the judges will issue their decision -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Rusty, Thanks very much. You'll stay on top of this story for us.

Still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff. He's here. We'll talk immigration reform, border security. That's coming up next.

Also, lightning strikes at last night's Republican debate just as Rudy Giuliani responds to a bishop's criticism. We'll have that and other literally electrifying moments. And is the Cold War making a comeback? If you listen to the talk between President Bush and Vladimir Putin about nuclear missiles, you might think so. We'll take a closer look at the issues.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: A showdown is looming in the Senate over the controversial immigration reform bill. Republicans threatening a filibuster if the majority leader, Harry Reid, makes good on his vow to limit debate and amendments to the bill.

Joining us now to talk about that and more, the Homeland Security secretary, Michael Chertoff. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Mr. Secretary, thanks for coming in.


BLITZER: You think this is a good idea, to limit debate, limit amendments, and get to a vote on this bill in the Senate very quickly?

CHERTOFF: I think the Senate is going to have to balance the desire to make sure that everybody has a reasonable opportunity to offer amendments against the fact that you do need to get this thing done in real time. I'm actually optimistic that as people sit down and they really focus on what needs to get done before the final vote, that we will wind up presenting a final vote which gives sufficient opportunity to raise the various amendments.

BLITZER: Because you know a lot of Republicans -- and it was evident at the debate last night that I moderated in New Hampshire -- simply don't like this proposed compromised legislation. Even your good friend, the former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani.

Listen to what he said.


RUDY GIULIANI (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The litmus test you should have for legislation is, is it going to make things better? And when you look at these compromises, it is quite possible it will make things worse.

BLITZER: He's the front-runner right now for the Republican presidential nomination.

What do you say to Mayor Giuliani?

CHERTOFF: Well, Wolf, one thing I don't do is get involved in kibitzing on presidential debates. But I will tell you this bill actually is a lot better for a lot more people. And the alternative is the status quo, which I think everybody recognizes is a failure. It's only going to get worse if we don't address the situation. This is the moment in time I think the Congress is ready and the public is ready for a solution that moves us significantly forward in addressing a 30-year-old problem.

BLITZER: Because the critics will argue it's a lot better for the 12 million illegal immigrants here in the United States because their status will be legalized, but it's not necessarily a lot better for the American people.

CHERTOFF: Well, the bill is much tougher on enforcement. It sets up an employment verification database for the first time. It reconfigures our immigration system, can make it based on what's good for America's national interests.

And with respect to the 12 million, Wolf, my question is, what is the alternative solution? Deport everybody? That's not going to happen.

Let them sit here? Well, I call that a silent amnesty. So I think this is the only approach to the problem that addresses all of the elements of it and does it in an honest and forthright manner.

BLITZER: But so many Republicans and conservatives simply hate this notion of a compromise immigration reform piece of legislation. Tom Tancredo, a House member, listen to what he said last night.


REP. TOM TANCREDO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I'm willing to do whatever is necessary to try to stop this piece of legislation. And that includes go after any Republican that votes for it, because the Republicans can stop this.


BLITZER: What do you say to fellow Republicans who are outraged because they simply feel this is amnesty?

CHERTOFF: What I say, first of all, is it's not amnesty, because there is punishment and there is probation, which is the very opposite of an amnesty. But I...

BLITZER: They say that's a mere slap on the wrist.

CHERTOFF: Well, I mean, I guess what they're saying is they want more punishment. But again, I say to them, what's your alternative? What are you going to do about the 12 million?

Are you going to leave them there in the shadows, continuing to break the law, not paying their taxes, or are you going to bring them into a regulated system, have them acknowledge their wrongdoing, have them pay a fine and put them on probation?

We're offering a solution. Others are offering criticism and complaint. And I think in the end, the American public wants this problem fixed. BLITZER: Let's talk about the border incident, the guy with tuberculosis crossing the border from Canada into the United States, even though he was on a watch list. Even though the border agent saw that he was on a watch list, he let him in.

Listen to Jane Harman, a congresswoman from California.


REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: This is a bad story. The anthrax attacks that killed five people and infected 17 more people happened 16 -- six years ago. Meanwhile, we have had all kinds of exercises to deal with situations like this. And our first real case, and we flunk.

How did he get over the border?


BLITZER: All right. So what's the answer?

CHERTOFF: Well, I think the answer is, it is disappointing to see that we had a human failure here. The good news is we did construct a system that worked.

He got put on a watch list. It happened very quickly. I have seen the warning that was on the list. It was clear. There was no mistake about what had to be done.

We have encountered the rare but unfortunately always present issue of human error. So what are we doing to deal with it?

First, there has to be accountability. We immediately referred it to the inspector general. He's conducted an investigation. There's going to be appropriate action, including discipline. That's got to work through the process.

BLITZER: Against the specific individual.

CHERTOFF: Against this individual.

The second thing we've done is we've now removed disgression. We have changed the actual configuration of the computer system so that to override the lookout, you have got to automatically give notice to the supervisor in secondary (ph) that will prevent an abuse of discretion in the future.

Third, we've got to look more generally at how we work with our international partners. You know, we only have the ability to put people on watch lists coming into our country. It would have been good if we had a system that allowed us and the Canadians to have a common picture, so the Canadians could have picked this individual getting into Canada.

And that's why we have to work to make sure that our northern border is enhanced in terms of the security we put up there. BLITZER: Michael Chertoff is the secretary of Homeland Security.

Thanks for coming in.

CHERTOFF: Good to be here.

BLITZER: Coming up in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, by the way, President Bush and Bono. Find out what's bringing them together at the G8 summit in Germany.

And still ahead this hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM, lightning strikes at the Republican presidential debate, leaving the candidates to crack a few jokes.

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


BLITZER: Electricity in the air, literally, at last night's Republican presidential debate in Manchester, New Hampshire. There were more than 140 lightning strikes in the area, some of them affecting the wireless microphones the candidates were using.

Take a look at what happened as Rudy Giuliani was talking about a Catholic bishop's criticism of his abortion stance.



BLITZER: That's the lightning that's having an affect on our system.


GIULIANI: They're going to leave me alone, John.

Well, I guess I'm here by myself.

Look, for someone who went to parochial schools all his life, this is a very frightening thing that is happening right now.


BLITZER: The other candidates ran with Giuliani's joke, stepping back, as you saw, from him. And Mitt Romney brought it up again at a party following the debate.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I drove in there tonight. You didn't see us because we had this car with all of the dark windows. But I came -- oh, look. There go the lights.

Rudy Giuliani must be around here somewhere. (LAUGHTER)


BLITZER: By the way, there's nothing unusual about last night's lightning. The National Weather Service says New Hampshire averages, get this, 20,000 strikes a year. But that's only a fraction of the 25 million lightning strikes that the entire United States gets each year.

Still, the odds of being killed by lightning are minuscule, 30 million to one

Not bad.


BLITZER: Is America heading for a new Cold War with Russia? President Bush is getting ready for what promises to be a tense meeting with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. And it comes amid tough talk on nukes and missiles.

Joining us now, our world affairs analyst, the former defense secretary, William Cohen. He's the chairman and CEO of The Cohen Group here in Washington.

It sounds like echoes of the Cold War. What do you think?

WILLIAM COHEN, FMR. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, the rhetoric is heating up, but I think President Bush is following -- should follow the path of be resolves, but be restrained in the use of that rhetoric.

I was in Munich when President Putin gave a speech in February. And it was a blast out of Siberia. And what it did was to unite the Europeans closer to the United States than we could possibly have done. So his rhetoric and his actions are proving to be quite chilling as far as the Europeans are concerned.

What we have do is engage Russia more. I would try not to conduct diplomacy through speeches, but rather sit down with the Russian president, explain why we're doing what we're doing. After all, back in the year 2000, I was talking with my counterpart, Marshal Sergeyev, in ways in which we could cooperate on a missile defense system, because everyone recognized that rogue states like North Korea and Iran posed a threat to Europe, to Russia, to us. And that was an element of cooperation.

BLITZER: Why does he see it as such a threat to Russia, this missile defense system that the U.S. and the allies want to build in Europe?

COHEN: It's not a threat to his security as such, because it's quite limited. Russia can overwhelm anything that we put as a defensive system. He knows that and the Russians know that. I think what he's concerned about is that Russia has not had a great deal of respect in recent years. They're gaining that now because of the price of oil and what's happening in their economy.

In fact, if we were really to send a message to the Russians, it would be we are moving toward energy security. And that needs to happen with the Europeans as well, because President Putin has used oil and gas as a weapon, sending a signal to Ukraine and to others that they're prepared to do that.

BLITZER: Does this tough talk from Putin strengthen him domestically because it sort of revives the good old days when there was a real Soviet empire? It was a superpower?

COHEN: Oh, I think it does. I think his popularity has certainly gone way up. And he is going to be stepping down, presumably, unless they change the constitution.

But he is trying to consolidate his power, put in place those people who will support his policies in the future. And he has great domestic support.

The real issue for the rest of Europe and for the United States and the rest of the world is, are we heading down toward a path where he's going to try to constitute the Soviet empire under the Russian flag? And if so, what can be done about that?

I think we need to talk very seriously with him, keep these negotiations up, discussions up. Offer him a way that he can participate in this missile defense system. And I believe President Bush has said that publicly, but work with him to say, this is not a threat to you.

If you really want to reduce the threat, let's -- help us more on North Korea and Iran. Because we need to control Iran from going forward with a nuclear weapon. Russia's in a position to help us even more.

So, there are ways to deal with this. He's toughening the rhetoric. We ought to be very firm, but not engage in any war of words with him publicly. Just sit down and talk about it in a diplomatic setting.

BLITZER: And the Bush administration would certainly like the Russians to become more assertive in helping the U.S. deal with Iran and its nuclear program.

Secretary Cohen, thanks for coming in.

COHEN: A pleasure to be here.

BLITZER: And up next, the viewers weighing in on this question, answering Jack's question, if President Bush is reigniting the Cold War with Russia.


BLITZER: When it comes to pets, the presidential candidates are divided. In our last hour, we learned which contenders own dogs and which are petless.

Now it's time to reveal the cat lovers.

The Associated Press finds just two candidates own felines. That would be Joe Biden and Bill Richardson.

Sam Brownback, the Kansas senator, is on the fence. He owns two dogs and two cats, as well as fish.

When it comes to pet projects, no one -- I repeat, no one -- tops John McCain and the McCain family. Two dogs, two turtles, one cat, one ferret, three parakeets, and 13 saltwater fish.

Jack Cafferty in new York with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: That's kinky. You know...

BLITZER: He's got a lot of kids.

CAFFERTY: ... there are worse litmus tests for candidates for the White House than those who own critters and take care of those helpless little dogs and cats, and various -- I like people who own pets. I have a bunch of them myself.

The question is, is President Bush reigniting the Cold War with Russia?

Darren in Michigan writes, "Without a doubt. I wonder how Bush would feel if Putin wanted to set up a missile defense system in Canada to help keep Mexico from becoming a world threat?"

Clifton in Front Royal, Virginia, "No, but many in the media are trying to ignite it, at least to make it another political issue to divide the country."

Jerome writes, "What we need is a constitutional amendment to allow a vote of 'no confidence' for a sitting president. Impeachment is too hard, the election too far away, and the man too dangerous."

Jack in South Dakota, "Jack, this is one that Bush is actually not fumbling. Vladimir Putin is by far more dangerous to world peace than Osama bin Laden. Trusting or believing him about anything is risky for the U.S. and Europe. The next two years will make that painfully clear."

Jacquelyn in Chicago, "I Don't think so. Our decider likes hot wars and has dreams of mushroom clouds dancing in his head. Really, really great presidents drop nukes, you know."

Tim in Beverly, Massachusetts, "Remember the Military Industrial Complex? We've got to feed the beast, and a good thing like the war in Iraq isn't going to last any longer than the Bush administration, so let's get the Cold War going again and let the good times roll."

Peggy in Tennessee, "Any time a person or country challenges Bush, he retaliates like a spoiled child. If he butts heads with his friend Vladimir, we'll all be hiding under our desks again."

And Cy (ph) writes this, "Quoting the president now, when I look into your eyes, Vladimir -- he lets me call him Vladimir -- I can sense that something has changed. You used to laugh at my jokes about the French, but now I think you're laughing at me. Where did our love go?"

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

I think I butchered the accent pretty much, Wolf.

BLITZER: That's -- not bad. Not bad.

See you back here in an hour, Jack. Thanks very much.

We're here weekday afternoons 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern, back for another hour at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, an hour from now.

Among other things, we'll be talking about President Putin and U2's Bono. Among other things, they're gathering in Germany.

Let's go to Lou in the meantime in New York.


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