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Domenici's Break with Bush's Iraq Strategy. White House Reaction to Clinton's Remarks About the "Scooter" Libby Sentence Commutation.

Aired July 5, 2007 - 16:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, HOST: Happening now, a new GOP defection on Iraq. Senator Pete Domenici breaks with the president and calls for a new military strategy.
Is he giving aid and comfort to Democrats?

I'll get reaction from freshman Senator John Tester.

Plus, the White House versus the Clinton's -- Spokesman Tony Snow returns fire at the former president. This hour's tit for tat charges about clemency, pardons and whether the presidents act above the law.

And the bottom line in the Republican presidential field fundraising isn't what it used to be and that's a good thing for Democrats.

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

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

First this hour, another leading Republican is breaking with President Bush on Iraq. It is part of the drip, drip of GOP frustration that's further eroding support for the president and the war.

We begin with our Congressional correspondent, Andrea Koppel -- Andrea, tell us more on the Senator who is breaking ranks and what this means for the president.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Suzanne. It is New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici, a veteran Republican lawmaker and now the third senior Republican Senator in just the last couple of weeks to come out against the president's strategy in Iraq.

Today, Senator Domenici said that while he did not support an immediate withdrawal from Iraq or a cut in funding for U.S. troops, he does now support a new strategy, one that was laid out in the Iraq Study Group report earlier this year, one which would force a withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by March of 2008.

Now in a statement, Domenici explained that he is unwilling to continue the current strategy. He says: "I have carefully studied the Iraq situation and believe we cannot continue asking our troops to sacrifice indefinitely while the Iraqi government is not making measurable progress to move its country forward." Now, before Congress left on its July 4th recess, we had Indiana's Dick Lugar and Ohio's George Voinovich who became the first Senators in their party to publicly call for Mr. Bush to bring U.S. troops home -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Andrea, I understand that politics always plays a role in this.

Domenici up for re-election in 2008.

What other Senators might be in the same situation and turn the position against the war?

KOPPEL: Well, there are a huge number. Just about 50 percent of all the serving Republicans in the Senate right now are up in '08. And just sort of off the top of my head right here, we've got at least a half a dozen of them right there on your screen John Sununu of New Hampshire, Gordon Smith of Oregon, John Warner of Virginia, Norm Coleman of Minnesota and Susan Collins of Maine. All of them have expressed reservations with the Iraq policy, with what's happening now. Many of them are in close races in their home states. And certainly that is part of the Democrats' strategy, Suzanne. That's why next week, when Congress comes back from the July 4th break, Democrats are going to be bringing a number of amendments up for votes on the floor that have to do with Iraq, along with the defense spending bill. And they're going to be forcing Republicans to take those unpopular votes, putting them in lockstep with a very unpopular president -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Andrea, that certainly could make it a lot tougher for President Bush, as well.

Andrea Koppel, thanks again.

And at the White House today, the 5th of July fireworks from Press Secretary Tony Snow. He is laying into Bill Clinton's comments about President Bush and his decision to spare "Scooter" Libby from going to prison.

The former president told a radio interviewer in Iowa that the Bush administration believes the law is, "a minor obstacle."

Today, Snow is returning fire, suggesting Clinton has nerve to blast Mr. Bush when Clinton himself granted a slew of controversial pardons. Snow told reporters: "I don't know what Arkansan is for chutzpah, but this is a gigantic case of it."

Snow also used an op-ed piece in "USA Today" to defend the commutation of Libby's 30-month sentence in the CIA leak case.

Let's bring in our own White House correspondent, Ed Henry. Obviously, this is political, somewhat, we can only imagine that Tony Snow has something behind making these comments today -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes, Suzanne. You know Tony Snow. He's taken the gloves off here. The White House is in a pickle. They need to rally conservatives.

What is an easier target than to open fire on the Clintons?

And that's what he's doing here. He believes in principle, as well, that the Clintons are being hypocritical because of the pardons at the end of the Clinton administration.

But I asked Tony Snow, but are you saying now that two wrongs make a right?

And he insisted, no, because he believes that Mr. Bush didn't do anything wrong with the commutation of "Scooter" Libby.

But the White House seems to be having it both ways. They're lashing out at the Clintons. But you'll remember after those Clinton pardons, there were some safeguards added to the system so this wouldn't happen again.

But what Mr. Bush appears to have done is to do an end run around all of that -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Ed, as you know, "Scooter" Libby today paid the $250,000 fine for his conviction on perjury and other federal charges. And it really was the most substantial piece of his punishment after Mr. Bush commuted his prison sentence. But then there's this growing controversy, Ed, over this other penalty for Libby, and that is probation.

What is happening with that?

HENRY: Well, it's interesting, Suzanne. It turns out that Mr. Libby might not have to serve probation after all, and that could undermine one of Mr. Bush's key justifications for this action.


HENRY: (voice-over): To make the case Lewis "Scooter" Libby is not getting a slap on the wrist, the president claims he will serve two years of probation.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I felt the punishment was severe, so I made a decision that would commute his sentence but leave in place a serious fine and probation.

HENRY: But now the judge says Libby can't serve probation because his sentence was commuted before he did any prison time.

"Strictly construed," Judge Reggie Walton wrote this week, "the statute authorizing the imposition of supervised release indicates that such release should occur only after the defendant has already served a term of imprisonment."

White House Spokesman Scott Stanzel acknowledged he hasn't read the July 3rd order, but nevertheless tried to insist Libby's probation is not in dispute. SCOTT STANZEL, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We believe the attorneys, the judge and the probation office can work out those details.

HENRY: But a clemency experts sided with the judge's interpretation and said the president may have erred by not first running the commutation by his own Justice Department.

MARGARET LOVE, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT PARDON ATTORNEY: One would have thought he would have consulted with the Justice Department, the people who are the experts on federal sentencing.

HENRY: Their own argument under fire, the White House is lashing out at Bill Clinton's handling of pardons after the former president charged the law is a "minor obstacle to this administration."

STANZEL: The hypocrisy demonstrated by Democratic leaders on this issue is rather startling. When you think about the previous administration and the eleventh hour fire sale pardons, it's really startling that they have the gall to criticize what we believe is a very considered, a very deliberate approach to a very unique case.


HENRY: Now, Tony Snow insisted today this was not a White House misstep on probation. He said they believe they're on solid legal ground. But later he added there is some gray area in the law.

So it's clear, this is not so black and white as everyone thought at the beginning -- Suzanne.


And it certainly seems, Ed, that the White House wants to keep this debate going here, at least to try to rile up some of the -- the Republicans that the president might have lost some support on other issues.

HENRY: Well, yes, you're right. It's interesting, at the beginning of all of this on Monday night, when it first broke, they didn't bury it at 8:00 or 9:00 at night. They put it at 5:30, 5:45 p.m. right before the evening news. They wanted conservatives to know they were getting out there on this -- Suzanne.


Thanks, Ed.

And coming up, a top ground commander in Iraq hints that U.S. forces won't be leaving in significant numbers anytime soon. But one Democratic senator wants the war to end now. We'll speak with John Tester.

Also ahead, there is someone new in Hillary Clinton's corner. We'll tell you who's endorsing her presidential campaign and whether it's likely to matter. And an animated turf war over the new Simpson's movie. And U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy is taking sides.



MALVEAUX: Another sign today that U.S. troops won't be pulling out of Iraq in any significant numbers this year. It comes from a top ground commander who spoke exclusively today with our own CNN Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.

Jamie is now with us -- and, Jamie, what is the news, the update from this officer?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, U.S. commanders insist that the surge is working after two-and-a-half weeks, but insist that holding on to the hard-earned gains of that time will require that the 30,000 additional U.S. troops remain in Iraq for the time being.


MCINTYRE: (voice over): The latest call came in an exclusive interview with Major General Benjamin Mixon, in charge of Iraq's Diyala Province, where Al Qaeda forces have just been run out of the capital, Baquba.

MAJ. GEN. BENJAMIN MIXON, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL DIVISION NORTH: All of this has been made possible with the additional forces that have been given to me as a result of the surge.

MCINTYRE: (on camera): Well, General, how long can you maintain that given the fact that there's a lot of pressure back here in Washington to begin some kind of significant drawdown of U.S. forces, if not at the end of this year, then certainly by early next year?

MIXON: Well, we obviously cannot maintain that if the forces are withdrawn. And that would be a very, very bad idea to do a significant withdrawal immediately.

MCINTYRE: (voice-over): For the generals, it's a battle against a rising tide of disillusionment in Congress. Veteran New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici has become the latest Republican, following Senators Richard Lugar and George Voinovich, to call for a change of direction in Iraq to bring the troops home.

(on camera): No doubt you're aware that some people in the United States, many people, perhaps, their patience are wearing thin with the war.

MIXON: I can understand the -- the patience issue. Over here, quite frankly, we would like to see things move along more quickly.

However, a counterinsurgency operation is a long fight.


MCINTYRE: Here's the thing, Suzanne. The generals know when General Petraeus issues his report in September, it's going to be a mixed bag and that's going to increase pressure for a withdrawal of U.S. troops.

But they also know -- we also can tell with U.S. commanders in the field telling General Petraeus that the surge needs more time, it's highly likely that we'll hear a similar message from the top general when he gives that report in September -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Jamie, it seems that the Bush administration has also been changing the language. It's evolved from an assessment to a snapshot, suggesting that it really is just a moment in time that they're going to take a look at this. But they are really projecting, perhaps, it's going to take much, much longer.

MCINTYRE: You know, every signal points to the fact that when we see this report in September, it's simply going to say the strategy is working, but we need more time. There isn't anything, at this point, that indicates that the U.S. military is on the verge of recommending any deep cuts in U.S. troop levels, at least until April of next year.

MALVEAUX: OK, thank you, Jamie.

And joining us now, Democratic Senator John Tester, freshman of Montana.

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

I understand you had to disrupt your farming this afternoon to come and join us, so we really appreciate it.

SEN. JON TESTER (D), MONTANA: It's good to be here.

MALVEAUX: I want to start off first, Senator, to tell you about Senator Pete Domenici, the announcement that he made today, that he essentially wants a change in strategy here. He is not calling for immediate withdrawal of troops. He says he supports the troops. He's not talking about withdrawing funds. But he says that he wants those troops out by March -- March 2008.

Does it seem like the president essentially is losing his grip on the Republicans, on his support?

TESTER: Yes, it does. And, you know, I mean this -- this sentiment has kind of been building since the first of the year, when I got sworn in. And people have expressed some problems what's going on in Iraq from the Republican side of the aisle. And I think Senator Domenici stepping up today is a good sign.

You know, we've been at this war for four or five years now and I think we -- the military has done a great job. I think that they've accomplished what they have needed to accomplish. You know, we've caught Saddam. We've executed him. We've had -- we've open elections and we've looked for those weapons of mass destruction and they aren't there.

So I think it's -- it is really time to figure out a new plan for Iraq and start bringing our troops home.

MALVEAUX: And Jamie McIntyre just reported he spoke with the ground commander, who essentially told him it is going to take much longer, that that time is not coming any time soon to pullout U.S. troops. You say that the military has done a good job. But obviously the commanders feel that that job is going to last a lot longer.

TESTER: Well, you know, we're caught in the middle of a civil war there. And I think that Iraq is a big country. And the reports that I've received is they have had -- they have successes here and there in Iraq, and I think that speaks well of the military.

But -- but, overall, I don't think we're making the strides we need and I think it's time the Iraqis take over their own -- responsibility for their own government and their own security and we bring our boys and women that are in the field home. And --

MALVEAUX: Now, as a member --

TESTER: And really focus -- really focus on the war on terror, which is Afghanistan, the war we've forgotten about, and redouble our efforts there, because -- they're -- they're starting to regroup and reequip there. And I think that -- I think it's important that we stay focused on the war on terror.

But Iraq, I think -- I think we've done our part and it's time to move on.

MALVEAUX: Now, Senator, you have called for de-authorizing the war as opposed to de-funding because you say it hurts the troops. But ultimately Congress could end this war now. Secretary Gates had said so, if you just pull the funds.

Why not do that?

TESTER: Well, I mean, we pull the funds and then what happens?

Are the funds taken from somewhere else?

I think -- I think the best thing to do is -- is what I've requested the president do for a couple of years now, and that is, is develop a plan that works for Iraq and for this country. And that has resulted in an escalation policy. And I just -- I really think that, you know, we've done our part. I'm not going to undermine the troops by undermining their funding.

We'll de-authorize the war, hopefully, if Congress will do that, and make the president come and state his case again come October of this year as to why it's important we're -- we need to be there and what we're going to accomplish when we get done there.

And I can tell you this, that I think, from my perspective, we have accomplished what we need to accomplish in Iraq. And it's really time to refocus -- refocus on the real war on terror and -- and move forth from there. That doesn't mean we forget about Iraq.

No, I think we need to maintain a, you know, a fly-over operation there to make sure that -- that the terrorists don't re-establish. But over -- overall we -- I think we're done. I think we've accomplished the mission. I think it's time to bring our folks home.

MALVEAUX: And, Senator, why not take the option here of de- funding this war on a scale, eventually, where you have month by month and you can assess what is happening on the ground without hurting the troops?

That is something, obviously, Congress could do.

TESTER: I'm not sure that the president would do that. I'm -- I would be concerned that he would trim funds in training, trim funds for armored vehicles and body armor before he really started to -- to deescalate the war.

MALVEAUX: But couldn't you just wind down those funds if he decides he's going to take it from different places, pull more money?

TESTER: Well, you know, the military budget is a huge budget. And -- and has been -- as has been pointed out to me, there's plenty of places to pull money from here or there if you want to keep the people and keep our troops in Iraq. And the president has stated previously that they're going to be there until after he's gone in the presidency.

So my idea was, you know, take the authorization and reverse it and make the president come back. And if he can't, the troops come home.

MALVEAUX: I want to talk about some of the goals the president laid out. You said that essentially we've gotten the job done inside of Iraq -- Saddam Hussein, the regime, is over; no weapons of mass destruction.

TESTER: That's right.

MALVEAUX: There is a government that's in place. But right now, when you look at the state of the Iraqi government, you've got a bloc of Sunnis who are essentially boycotting the government, as well a blocs from Sadr's Shiite camp, as well.

So how does the United States pullout now, say they've gotten the job done, when you don't have a functioning government inside of Iraq?

TESTER: We'll never have a functioning government there as long as we're there hold -- propping it up. And I think -- you know, this -- this civil war has gone on for, you know, for centuries, literally centuries. And -- and it really is time that the Iraqis start taking control of their own government. And I think the only way that's going to happen is if we remove ourselves from that situation. And I honestly believe that.

As long as we're there, I think that they're going to tend to rely on us more than they ought to be. They ought to be relying on themselves at this point in time. We've been there a long time.

MALVEAUX: Senator John Tester, thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

TESTER: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: And still ahead, burning like a heat wave -- we are tracking record temperatures across the country and who's finally getting some relief.

And the latest on Al Gore's son after his arrest on drug charges.

Does his dad have anything to say about his son's predicament?



MALVEAUX: Carol Costello is off today.

Zain Verjee is monitoring the wires and keeping an eye on the video feed from around the world.

She joins us now with a closer look of the other incoming stories that are now making news -- Zain, what are you watching?


Oklahoma and Kansas are getting what Texas wishes it could -- relief. Floodwaters are slowly subsiding in Kansas and Oklahoma after heavy rain. But in Texas, experts forecast up to three inches more rain. Some 1,000 homes in Texas have already been damaged or destroyed by flooding.

Meanwhile, many across the West could welcome some rain. It's hot in several cities. A sizzling heat wave is baking Las Vegas, with temperatures expected to reach a record high there of 116 degrees. Parts of the southern California desert are forecast to top 115 degrees and parts of Oregon are expected to hit 107.

A spokesman for his father says Al Gore III is being treated after his arrest on drug charges in Los Angeles yesterday. Police stopped the 24-year-old for speeding and say they found marijuana and several prescription drugs that he did not have prescriptions for. On NBC's "Today Show," former Vice President Al Gore calls it "a private family matter" -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Zain, thanks for the updates.

And coming up, will the real Fred Thompson please stand up?

We'll look at the would-be presidential candidate's dueling images.

And Senator Ted Kennedy jumps into a cartoon clash that would make Homer Simpson proud. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: Happening now, some people say their summer travel plans are in jeopardy and they are blaming the government. There's a massive backlog in the processing of passport applications.

What is the government doing and is your summer fun at risk?

Picture perfect -- it takes a lot of work to make things look so natural at events for the first lady. We'll take you behind the scenes to a highly orchestrated affair.

And it's the city whose noise level never sleeps. New York is cracking down on loud sounds, even that little jingle from the ice cream man's truck.

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

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

Another big name endorsement today for Hillary Clinton. Former House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt announced his support for the senator from New York. The longtime former Congressman from Missouri could help Clinton out in the neighboring state of Iowa, where she's battling John Edwards for voters.

Gephardt's a known commodity in Iowa. He ran the -- he won the caucuses, rather, when he first ran for president in 1988. But he didn't fare nearly as well when he made another stab at the White House in 2004. He dropped out of the race one day after finishing fourth in the caucuses.

Our Mary Snow is following the story -- and, Mary, overall, do these big name endorsements really even matter?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, the answer is yes and no.


SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: She is clearly the right leader, ready to chart a new course for America. And I look forward to working for her election and to calling her Madam President.

SNOW: (voice-over): New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez enforces fellow Senator Hillary Clinton.

STEVE FORBES, "FORBES" MAGAZINE: I'm here today to formally announce my endorsement of Rudy Giuliani to be the next president of the United States.

SNOW: And former Republican presidential candidate and magazine publisher Steve Forbes backs Rudy Giuliani.

STUDENT ROTHENBERG, "ROTHENBERG REPORT": Campaigns use endorsements and like endorsements because they're trying to create a sense of momentum, a sense of a bandwagon effect.

SNOW: If an endorsement translates into fundraising or grassroots support, then it matters.

But do such big name endorsements ever change a voter's mind?

ROTHENBERG: With high profile races where voters see and hear candidates on a regular basis and evaluate them themselves, endorsements don't matter for a lick.

SNOW: And, sometimes, they can backfire.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm very proud and honored to endorse Howard Dean to be the next president of the United States of America.



SNOW: When former Vice President Al Gore endorsed Democratic front-runner Howard Dean in December 2003, the Dean people saw that as a sign that the mainstream was backing their grassroots campaign.

ROTHENBERG: Some people apparently saw that as Howard Dean as now no longer the insurgent reform candidate. He's part of the establishment, and they saw that as an unappealing quality.

SNOW: And, one month, later Howard Dean lost in Iowa and New Hampshire.


SNOW: So, when do endorsements make a difference? Usually, in less high-profile elections, when voters don't really know the candidates very well. In such cases, they often rely on endorsements -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Mary, thank you very much.

And, for many, he is the answer to their political prayers, a conservative from a reliably Republican state with widespread name recognition and a familiar TV face. But are Fred Thompson's politics everything his fans think they are?

Our CNN's Joe Johns has been looking into that.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If Fred Thompson decides to run for president, he's likely to hear a lot more of this.

QUESTION: How do you run as an outsider if you have had all that experience?

FRED THOMPSON, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: I have never used the word outsider.

JOHNS: Thompson's career as a Senate lawyer, U.S. senator, and a lobbyist for big corporations...

THOMPSON: Got a cap on that old bald head...

JOHNS: ... doesn't jive with his folksy, anti-Washington image. That image emerged during his 1994 Senate race in Tennessee. Thompson rode around in a rented red pickup truck, and attacked Washington in relentless campaign ads.


THOMPSON: They have no idea, do they, the career politicians? We need somebody on the inside of that place fighting for us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fred Thompson is no political outsider. I mean, that label is just a mistake. Fred Thompson is known on Capitol Hill as the access man.

JOHNS: Thompson spent two decades as a big-time lobbyist.

THOMPSON: So, I have probably a half-a-dozen lobbying clients who wanted a seat at the table.

JOHNS: But questions are likely on the campaign trail about some of his former clients: former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was accused of endorsing the use of burning tires soaked in gasoline as a way of killing opponents; the Tennessee Savings and Loan League, which had Thompson push for S&L deregulation. That legislation hastened an industry collapse and a $150 billion taxpayer payout.

Thompson also raised money for Scooter Libby, whose sentence was just commuted by the president.

But will any of this matter to voters?

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Amongst Republican primary voters, the issues that we're talking about are very popular. Defending Scooter Libby is a hugely popular cause amongst Republican conservatives.

JOHNS: If he gets the nomination, he will draw fire from Democrats, who just charge that Thompson is -- you guessed it -- a Washington insider.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


MALVEAUX: And, as Fred Thompson's Washington past gets more attention, people are also revisiting Thompson's career as an entertainment. Books and movies featuring Thompson are fetching a high price online.

Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

Abbi, how are people cashing in?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Suzanne, if you're looking for a copy of Fred Thompson's 1975 book, it's going to cost you on and other online book sellers. You can find the book.

At that point in time, this is Thompson's account of his role inside the Senate Watergate Committee. He was chief minority counsel. There he is pictured on the front cover.

The book is now out of print and copies are going online for up to $300. That's for a pristine copy. Another used copy, the cheaper versions, are still running almost 200 bucks.

After that role, Fred Thompson went back to Tennessee to practice law. And after that is when his movie career started. His first, his debut movie was "Marie" in 1985. He played himself in this true story depicting a Tennessee whistle-blower whom Thompson represented.

You can find that one, too, online, VHS only. And the copies are going to run over $50, up to 100 bucks. There are other roles. And that was the one that started his movie career. Blockbusters then followed, "Die Hard 2," "Days of Thunder," of course the TV series "Law & Order."

If you are looking for some of his other roles online, you might be finding them a little bit cheaper, like the 1994 classic "Baby's Day Out," in which he played an FBI agent. That one, Suzanne, can be yours for a penny.


MALVEAUX: OK. And, obviously, a lot of free publicity for him, even before jumping into the race.

Thank you so much, Abbi.

Abbi Tatton, Joe Johns, and Mary Snow are all a part of the best political team on television.

And, remember, for the latest political news at any time, check out the Political Ticker at

And coming up: Barack Obama's fund-raising bonanza is doing his party good. We will compare the Democrats' latest fund-raising hauls to the traditionally better-financed Republicans.

And it's John Edwards by a hair. There's new word about the Democrat's controversial cut and how much it cost.


MALVEAUX: In the presidential money race, second-quarter fund- raising totals out this week tell us a lot about how individual candidates are doing.

We are also seeing a reversal of fortune between Republicans and Democrats.

Here's our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.

Bill, what do the second-quarter figures tell us about how the parties are faring?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Suzanne, that, for the first time in many years, Democratic candidates for president are raising more money than Republican candidates.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Happy Fourth of July.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): You think the voters are uninterested and uninvolved this early in the campaign? Think again.

SHEILA KRUMHOLZ, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: This is a record-breaking amount of money, and this is a record-breaking cycle. This will be like no other presidential election before.

SCHNEIDER: Look at the amount of money being raised. In the second quarter of the year before each of the past three presidential elections, the total amount raised was well under $100 million. In the second quarter of this year, the top six candidates, three in each party, raised more than $110 million.

This year is unusual for another reason: Democrat candidates are outpacing Republicans. Second quarter of the year before the 1996 election, Republicans outraised the Democrat, Bill Clinton. Well, Clinton was running unopposed for the Democratic nomination. Second quarter of 1999, Republicans way outraised Democrats, even though both party nominations were contested. Well, eight Republicans were running and only two Democrats.

Second quarter of 2003, Republicans again raised more money, even though nine Democrats were running, and George W. Bush was unopposed. Second quarter of this year, taking the top three candidates in each party, for the first time in recent years, Democrats outraised Republicans, by more than $26 million.

HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I'm delighted by the vast amounts of money that the Democrats are raising, compared to the Republicans.

SCHNEIDER: The figures suggest Democrats are more enthusiastic about their candidates. JOHN DICKERSON, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "SLATE": You get these stories of people who come to these Obama events and say, I haven't much been interested in politics, but, here. I will give you the money out of my handbag. That gives a sense of momentum. It gives a sense of movement.


SCHNEIDER: The fund-raising totals suggest Democrats are more engaged and motivated. Ever since their midterm victory last November, many Democrats have been ready to vote for president right now -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Bill, does it seem like this momentum is going to continue?

SCHNEIDER: Well, so far, it's held up all year long. And, of course, as President Bush's numbers drop, Democrats get more and more angry and more and more ready to vote and give money.

SCHNEIDER: OK, thank you so much, Bill Schneider.

And up next in the "Strategy Session": The White House keeps the Scooter Libby saga in the news.


SCOTT STANZEL, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: There's much hypocrisy in Washington, D.C., but it seems to me that the hypocrisy demonstrated by Democratic leaders on this issue is rather startling.


MALVEAUX: Is it a smart tactic to call Democrats out over the issue? Or is it rallying the base?

And the endorsement game -- the Clinton camp announces another new backer. But why hasn't Vice President Gore jumped at the chance? All that coming up with Donna Brazile and Terry Jeffrey -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: The current White House blasts a former White House. Bush administration officials are taking straight aim at Bill Clinton's pardons, even as it defends its controversial commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence.

And joining me now for today's "Strategy Session" are CNN political analyst and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, and Terry Jeffrey, editor at large of "Human Events."

This controversy just goes on and on and on. First, we see Bill Clinton attacking President Bush. And, then, today, Tony Snow, in no uncertain terms, jumped into the fray here. This is in the White House informal briefing off camera. He says, "I don't know what Arkansan is for chutzpah, put this is a gigantic case of it."

Now, it seems to me, Terry, like the White House wants to keep this going, that there's a reason why we're still arguing over this.

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, "HUMAN EVENTS": Well, that's a great line by Tony Snow, and actually is a gift for the Republicans for Bill Clinton to jump into this.

Not only did Bill Clinton do 140 pardons when he was president, including Marc Rich, including Puerto Rican terrorists. Bill Clinton himself, his very last day in office, besides working on those pardons, he was cutting a plea deal for himself with independent counsel Robert Ray. He agreed to admit that he had made false statements in a federal court proceeding. He agreed to surrender his Arkansas law license, so Ray wouldn't be indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice.

This guy is shameless.

MALVEAUX: Donna, do you think this is a transparent attempt by the White House, essentially, to rally the base?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the White House would like to have it both ways. On one hand, they want to appear that they followed procedures, which they did not. The president did not consult with the Justice Department.

He did not look at the federal sentencing guidelines, which normally should hold in situations like this. This is far different than what happened in 2001, when Bill Clinton -- you may not like what Bill Clinton did, but he followed procedure.

MALVEAUX: Let's take a quick listen. This is Al Gore on "The Today Show," quite passionate about this issue.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But do you think she represents...

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not ready to sit down and give you an assessment of all the -- all the candidates.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why not? You can assess them, can't you?

GORE: Well, I'm focused on...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't have to endorse, but...

GORE: I'm focused on trying to get this message out about the climate crisis.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MALVEAUX: OK. That SOT is actually about the fact, the case here that they were trying to see if Al Gore was going to endorse Hillary Clinton. For some reason, he just didn't go there.

Why not, Donna? Why not?


DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He knows all of the candidates.

And I'm sure that, over the next couple of months, he will look at the candidates and decide if he would like to endorse. He's a super-delegate, so, he has time to endorse.

Look, Al Gore is focused on the 7/07/07 concert which will be held this coming Saturday. They are still signing people up to give house parties across the country, You should hold a house party.

MALVEAUX: There's a plug in there.

BRAZILE: I'm holding a house party...

MALVEAUX: Well, what...

BRAZILE: ... because we need to bring more attention to this major issue.

MALVEAUX: But why -- why hold this off here? I mean, why dangle this little carrot here? If he's loyal to Hillary Clinton, why not just say...


MALVEAUX: ... give her the endorsement?

BRAZILE: Why endorse Hillary Clinton, when you're friends with Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Barack Obama? Why endorse now? He has time.

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, "HUMAN EVENTS": Well, you know, the truth is, Hillary Clinton is about to run away with the Democratic primary race. In every state...

BRAZILE: Not yet.

JEFFREY: ... she's opening a huge lead, except Iowa, which is her weakest state. Yet, two of three most recent polls in Iowa, she's ahead of John Edwards.

If John Edwards can't beat Hillary in Iowa, she's going to be the nominee. The wild card in this race is Al Gore. Al Gore is the one guy who maybe, later on, could actually jump into this at the last moment and have some chance of stopping Hillary Clinton. I think a lot of people would be surprised at how many Democrats in this town would prefer that Hillary Clinton not be the nominee of her party.

BRAZILE: Well, I agree that Hillary is leading in 36 of 38 of the primary polls that have been taken today. But let's not rule out Barack Obama. He's running a very strong campaign.

He's the candidate of change -- 258,000 donors that he can put to work to knocking on doors, getting people out to vote. So, this race is still wide open on the Democratic side.

JEFFREY: Well, you know, Barack Obama is doing an excellent job raising money. But, for some reason, it isn't translating into the polls.

And, right now, he's not on the radar screen in Iowa. In Iowa, it's between Clinton and Edwards. New Hampshire, Hillary is way ahead. South Carolina, Obama starts to show up in the polls. But, in Florida, which is going to have a primary that same day, Hillary is ahead by 20 points.

MALVEAUX: Well, let's talk about the endorsement that she got today of Dick Gephardt, and whether or not that any -- really makes any difference at all. Obviously, it does build some momentum for someone who doesn't have name recognition.

But -- but this, you know, Hillary doesn't necessarily need that. Does it benefit in any...


BRAZILE: Well, I was Gephardt's deputy campaign manager in 1988, when he won the caucuses. He came in fourth place in 2004.

But Dick Gephardt is one of the most respected Democrats in the country. Although he no longer holds public office, he has great ties to organized labor. And that could really help Hillary's campaign secure the nomination.

MALVEAUX: Well, who is the big endorser? Who is the big get here, an endorsement that would really matter to these candidates, Terry?

JEFFREY: Well, I think Dick Gephardt is very helpful to Hillary Clinton. For one thing, he comes from Missouri, which is a key swing state in the general election.

He's potentially a very shrewd vice presidential pick for Hillary Clinton, if she gets the Democratic nomination. She is someone who could expand her base, help her win some of those swing states in the Midwest that are crucial between -- you know, in a presidential election.

So, I think he was a good get for the them.

BRAZILE: She doesn't really need an endorsement. She needs to go out there and convince the American people that this is not another four or eight years of Bill Clinton. This is four or eight years of Hillary Clinton, who will bring about much-needed change in this country.

JEFFREY: The good thing for my party about the emergence of Hillary is that she has very high negatives, not just across the country with Republicans. She has high negatives in her own party, even though she is likely to be the nominee.

Given that the war is likely to be the dominant issue and it's going to be tough for the Republicans to beat a Democrat in '08, it will be helpful if Hillary Clinton is the nominee, because it will motivate the conservative base and people who really don't like her to get out and vote.

BRAZILE: But her positives, strong leader, someone who is decisive, will outweigh all of those negatives that you mentioned.

MALVEAUX: And, Donna, who is the big Republican, the big get, the endorsement for Republicans?

BRAZILE: Well, clearly, if Ronald Reagan could be reincarnated, he would be the big Republican.



BRAZILE: But, since he's not coming back, I would say Nancy Reagan would also -- would help jump-start one of these Republicans.

MALVEAUX: OK. Nancy Reagan. Well, we will give her a call, see if she has anything to say on the situation.


BRAZILE: Hello, Mrs. Reagan.


BRAZILE: They need help.


MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you so much, Donna Brazile and Terry Jeffrey.

And still to come: Summer travel plans are at risk for thousands of people, and they are angrily pointing fingers at the State Department.

And new chatter about terror, in the wake of the U.K. car bomb plot -- is there a clear link or a serious threat?


MALVEAUX: They are 14 cities spread across the country, each unique, but with two things in common. They all share the same name, and they all want to host the premiere of what promises to be a summer blockbuster movie.

Our CNN's Jason Carroll is live in New York.

Jason, what is the movie that all these cities are battling over?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the movie is "The Simpsons." And some of these cities that are trying to win are so small, they don't even have a movie theater. But that's not going to stop them from trying to bring a summer blockbuster to their town.



HARRY SHEARER, ACTOR: You can see the four states that border Springfield, Ohio, Nevada, Maine, and Kentucky.


CARROLL (voice-over): It could be one of the summer's hottest movies. The television series "The Simpsons" is about to hit the silver screen.

But don't look for a Hollywood premiere. "The Simpsons," which is based in a fictional Springfield, USA, is looking for a real Springfield to roll out its red carpet.

Bart, not the show's character, but the deputy mayor of Springfield, New Jersey, hopes his city will be chosen.

BART FRAENKEL, DEPUTY MAYOR OF SPRINGFIELD, NEW JERSEY: My name is Bart. My wife's name is Lisa. We have put up with comments about that for years. So, now it's time to capitalize on that, and get everybody to vote for us as the Springfield of "The Simpsons."

CARROLL: There are 14 Springfields in the United States vying for the opportunity to host the premiere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to Springfield, Louisiana.

CARROLL: 20th century FOX asked each city to submit a video, explaining why it should be chosen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our search brings us to Portland, Oregon, hometown of series creator Matt Groening. Following the route Matt took to reach Hollywood, Matt passed through only one Springfield.

CARROLL: Senator Ted Kennedy personally pitched Springfield, Massachusetts.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Join us in Springfield, Massachusetts. Just think, after 400 episodes, you will even be able to enjoy some real chowder.

CARROLL: True to "Simpson" form, people in Springfield, Tennessee, relied on self-deprecating humor to sell their town. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "The Simpsons," all they do is cut down government employees.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's hardly enough time to get the paperwork processed, get the paperwork in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let alone find time to land a man.


CARROLL: Jokes aside, the mayor in Springfield, Illinois, says a win could translate into tourist dollars for the chosen city.

TIM DAVLIN, MAYOR OF SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS: So, if adds a million, if it adds $2 million, if it adds $500,000, the fact is that it's more money to be able to do the things that we want to be able to do in Springfield.

CARROLL: Fans can vote online at for their favorite Springfield.

As for the fictional Springfield, it hit theaters July 27.


DAN CASTELLANETA, ACTOR: I will teach you to laugh at something funny.

NARRATOR: "The Simpsons" movie.



CARROLL: Ah, Suzanne, I'm sure you just can't wait.


CARROLL: Voting for this one...

MALVEAUX: You got to love "The Simpsons."


CARROLL: Got to.

Voting for this one ends on July 9. The winning city is chosen on the 10th. As for the cities that are too small to have a movie theater, like in Springfield, New Jersey, they plan to have an outdoor movie premiere, with a giant projection screen -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Oh, that's great.

OK. Thanks, again, Jason Carroll.

The 14 Springfield fighting over the "Simpsons" premiere are only just a fraction of the cities with that name. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 46 cities, towns, townships, and other populated areas that have Springfield in their name.

And two New Yorkers top our "Political Radar." Senator Hillary Clinton of New York and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani are far and away the front-runners of a new poll of neighboring New Jersey voters. Clinton is in first place in the Democratic primary matchup. And Giuliani comes out on top among Republican voters in the new survey by the university.

If Clinton and Giuliani face off in the general election, the poll shows that Giuliani would edge out Clinton in the Garden State. But, if New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg were to jump in as an independent candidate, the survey says he would grab 18 percent of the vote, leaving Clinton and Giuliani virtually deadlocked.

Al Gore says he's kind of fallen out of love with politics. And the former vice president said again today that he has no intention of running for president. Gore says he's involved in a different kind of campaign, to raise awareness of global warming. Gore made his comments this morning on NBC.

You can hear more from the former vice president tonight, when he's a guest on "LARRY KING LIVE" at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

And more hair-raising details about the cost of cutting John Edwards' hair -- a $400 trim the Democrat got earlier this year caused a stir on the presidential campaign trail. Well, now the stylist behind the cuts tells "The Washington Post" 400 bucks actually was a bargain. It turns out Edwards got a haircut from the same stylist during the 2004 campaign that cost the former vice presidential nominee a whopping $1,250.

"The Post" reports, the cut was so expensive because the stylist traveled to Atlanta and lost two days of work. The Edwards camp says, an assistant paid the stylist back in 2004 and that Edwards wasn't aware of the cost.

And, in other hair news, Senator Hillary Clinton found herself in need of a hairdresser during her Iowa campaign swing this week. According to CNN affiliate KIMT, retired stylist Linda Miller came to the rescue.

She spent about a half-an-hour doing Senator Clinton's hair and makeup, and got to know the presidential candidate up close and personal.


LINDA MILLER, RETIRED HAIR STYLIST: I was totally prepared not to like her, because I have different views. And everything read and heard about her, I thought I wouldn't like her.

But you know what? I was enchanted. She's wonderful. I really liked her. She said she liked it. And, then, when I went downstairs to help her assistant with a fax machine, she said, "Did Hillary like her hair?"

I said, "She said she would like it, but she would say that anyway."

And she said, "No, she would tell you if she didn't like it."



MALVEAUX: And here's one reason Senator Clinton may have liked Miller's work. We are told that she didn't charge her a cent, calling it a campaign contribution.