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THE SITUATION ROOM

Bin Laden Tape; Petraeus Report Preview; Laura Bush Surgery; Obama's "Stinky" Talk; Fossett Among Rich Risk Takers

Aired September 7, 2007 - 17:00   ET

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


CAFFERTY: And David in Denton, Texas says: "Scaring the hell out of the public and doing nothing about it is par for the administration. I don't fly. Like you, I've been everywhere, done everything. I don't worry about security. What does worry me, though, is your calling Wolf a handsome man."
Wolf.

BLITZER: That worries me a little bit, too, Jack.

Thanks very much.

And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, Osama bin Laden's apparent message for Americans. A new videotape only says President Bush -- and I'm quoting now -- harvests nothing but failure. He blasts Democrats for not stopping the war and in a strange twist, even rails against Hollywood.

A potentially controversial decision on Iraq -- no -- repeat no -- not one American troop should leave Iraq, at least until March or April. Sources say that's what top U.S. military commander, General Petraeus, in Iraq, is going to advise President Bush.

And it's one of the most notorious missing child cases ever. Now police try to convince little Madeleine McCann's mother to confess. That's what relatives are saying.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

It appears the world's most wanted terrorist is back. In our CNN Security Watch unfolding right now and only days before the anniversary of the 9/11 nightmare, the man behind the attacks appears to be on brand new videotape. On it, he talks about President Bush's failure. He says Democrats have failed to stop the war in Iraq and he mentioned dates and events that suggest the tape could be relatively new.

Let's go straight to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena.

She's watching all of this unfold -- what are the analysts, Kelli, telling you?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the man on the tape certainly looks like Osama bin Laden and officials say that they have no reason to believe that it is not. But as you said, they're scouring it just to be sure.

Now, in his message he makes no overt threat against the United States and he does make several references to recent events that seem to prove that this tape is new. For example, he mentions the mortgage crisis here in the United States, the 62nd anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki back in early August. He even mentions an ABC report that aired in July.

And terror experts say that bin Laden is talking to two audiences here. First, the American people, to which he has a lot to say about Iraq. Now, in one passage he says: "People of America, the world is following your news in regards to your invasion of Iraq, for people have recently come to know that ever several years of the tragedies of this war, the vast majority of you want it stopped. Thus, you elected the Democratic Party for this purpose. But the Democrats haven't made a move worth mentioning."

And his second audience is, of course, his followers, Wolf, who experts say need to hear from bin Laden every now and then for inspiration.

You know, it's a very dangerous thing for him to do because any tape could eventually be traced back to disclose his location. And so he does this very sparingly. And, you know, Wolf, it's no coincidence this message came out right around the September 11 anniversary. This is becoming something of a habit for Al Qaeda.

BLITZER: And right now, I take it the intelligence community, they're -- they're going through it to make sure that the voice is, in fact, Osama bin Laden...

ARENA: That's right.

BLITZER: ...it's not someone impersonating his voice.

ARENA: That's right. Lots of video, audio analysis going on, you know, about everything, not just that, but, obviously, a lot of other intelligence gathering, as well.

BLITZER: We're going to do our own analysis of the tape later this hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Kelli, thanks very much.

ARENA: You're welcome.

BLITZER: We also now have a clearer idea of what the top U.S. military commander in Iraq is going to say about troop levels. Those who know General David Petraeus say his decision is made. Thirty thousand troops came into Iraq. That would be a buildup that started back in January. Right now, in all, there are 168,000 U.S. troops spread out throughout the country.

The word coming from General Petraeus is right now expect all of them -- all of them to stay put, at least for now.

Let's go to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.

He's been working this story for us.

You broke this story earlier -- Jamie McIntyre.

The general seems pretty determined.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

Well, here's what our sources say you're going to hear from General Petraeus when he goes public on Monday. The surge is working, not as fast as he expected. And it's too soon to bring troops home.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): CNN has learned that when General David Petraeus meets with President Bush and reports to Congress, he will recommend maintaining the current higher U.S. troop levels in Iraq until spring, when the surge will begin to be phased out. And officials familiar with the thinking of the top commander strongly dispute published reports in the "New York Times" and "Washington Post" suggesting General Petraeus would be OK with pulling back or bulling out one brigade -- roughly 4,000 troops -- in a nod to critics in Congress.

That's nonsense, one military official told CNN, insisting Petraeus believes this crucial time, every brigade is important.

In an April interview with CNN, General Petraeus promised, as he has many times, to give the unvarnished tooth about the prospects for success.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCINTYRE (on camera): If in September you think the surge strategy is not working, are you going to be able to tell that to the president and, presumably, the Congress?

GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ: Not only will I be able to, Ambassador Crocker and I will do it. We have an obligation to the young men and women who are out there giving their all to do just that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCINTYRE: Some of the general's thinking is revealed in a letter he sent to all troops in Iraq on the eve of his Congressional testimony. In it he acknowledges while the security improvements have been dramatic in some areas, such as Ramadi and Anbar Province, overall, progress has been uneven and the Iraqis have not used the breathing space to embrace reconciliation.

He concedes: "It has not worked out as well as we had hoped. We are a long way from the goal line. It's clearly taking more time than we initially expected."

(END VIDEO TAPE)

MCINTYRE: Now, Wolf, President Bush is the decider and he could decide to pull a brigade out of Iraq. But if he does it, Wolf, it will not be on the recommendation of General Petraeus, our sources say.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much.

We're going to watch this story.

And Jack Cafferty has got some thoughts on the same subject -- Jack.

You know, a lot of people thought that he would come up with at least a modest symbolic reduction. But apparently he's determined to see that 162,000, 165,000 troop level stay in force.

CAFFERTY: Well, I guess we'll know more next week. But before they had any idea of what was in the report, Democrats were dismissing next week's Iraq progress report by General David Petraeus. In fact, the Democrats have taken to calling it "The Bush Report" and expect it to say that the surge is working.

Some also believe that the Petraeus report was potentially compromised by the White House's involvement in putting it together.

Republicans are crying foul. A spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner told the "The Washington Times" -- quoting here: "Are these leaders asking the American people to believe that the testimony of a commanding four star general in the U.S. Army should be discarded before it's even delivered?"

However, the Democrats counter, saying they put more stock in that report by the GAO that says Iraq has failed to meet 11 of 18 benchmarks; along with a report by a commission of retired senior U.S. military officers that says Iraq's army will not able to take over internal security from U.S. forces any time in the next 12 to 18 months.

Here's the question -- is it wrong to the Democrats to dismiss General Petraeus' progress report on Iraq before he even delivers it?

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

BLITZER: Did you notice, Jack, that the Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, even has now started questioning General Petraeus, saying, you know, in years past, he was wrong on a lot of other assessments and he might be wrong this time, as well, which is something that's pretty extraordinary for a political leader to be going after a four star general like that.

CAFFERTY: Especially in light of the fact that since the Democrats have had control of the Congress, they have done nothing to alter the U.S. position concerning the war in Iraq. Now they're criticizing the generals in the field, which is just baloney, and -- and yet, you know, they haven't -- they haven't addressed voters' concerns about the war in any meaningful way in almost a year.

BLITZER: Stand by, Jack.

We're going to be getting back to you soon.

Other news we're following, including a horrible story. The soccer star David Beckham and even the pope are among the many people around the world who have been very, very worried about a missing little girl. Now, there's a disturbing -- there's a horrible twist in the Madeleine McCann case that involves her mother, who some say is now a suspect in her death.

President Bush caught up in a very awkward moment himself. A world leader challenges him to respond about war.

And looking for a thrill -- amid the search for Steve Fossett, we examine how the rich and famous can't ensure safety in some of their own death-defying adventures.

Lots of news happening here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Blood evidence collected, a mother grilled for hours and a startling turn of events today in the case of a missing British girl. Three-year-old Madeleine McCann vanished in early May while on a family holiday in Portugal. Now, Portuguese police are said to want her mother to confess to her death.

Mary Snow is standing by in New York.

Let's go to the scene.

Paula Hancocks is joining us from Portugal -- Paula, update our viewers on what we know right now.

This is a fast-moving story.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, right now Gerry McCann is being questioned inside the tiny police station in this small town in southern Portugal that is behind me. He's been in there for some six hours. He's expected to come out very shortly.

Now, we understand from the spokesperson of the McCann family at this point he's being talked to as a witness. But, of course, we will be expecting to hear more from his lawyer when he comes out very shortly.

But, of course, an extraordinary turn of events for the mother, for Kate McCann. She walked into the police station this morning as a witness. She walked out several hours later as a formal suspect.

Now, we've also been hearing from Kate McCann's sister-in-law, who has said that it was an extraordinary state of affairs. While she was in there, she was actually offered a deal by police.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY ITN)

PHILOMENA MCCANN, MADELEINE'S AUNT: They tried to get Kate to confess to having accidentally killed Madeleine by offering her a deal through her lawyer, which was, as you see, that you killed Madeleine by accident and then head up and then disposed of the body. Then we can guarantee you a two year jail sentence or even less. You may get off because people feel sorry for you. It was an accident.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANCOCKS: Now, it's been 127 days since Madeleine was first reported missing and the family of Madeleine and the McCanns insist that they are innocent, insist that this line of investigation the Portuguese police have taken is utterly ludicrous.

But what we're hearing from the spokesperson from the McCanns is that the Portuguese police believe they have evidence of specks of Madeleine's blood in a car that was rented by the McCanns, but a car that was rented 25 days after they reported her disappearance. And, also, the lawyer says that they found specks of her blood on an item of clothing of Kate McCann, as well, that had been handed into the police.

So, certainly, this saga is by no means over. Gerry McCann expected to come out any moment. Kate McCann now sitting in her villa about a half an hour from here, knowing that the Portuguese police are looking at her in a very different way now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a shocking, shocking turn of events, Paula.

All right, stand by.

We're going to be getting back to you as soon as we get some more information on this case that has stunned the world.

Little Madeleine McCann disappeared back in May. Criminal investigation experts here in the United States are surprised that her mother was not questioned more thoroughly a long time ago.

Let's go to Mary Snow.

She's watching this story for us.

How do procedures, in this case in Portugal, compare to an investigation that would take place, presumably, here in the United States -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, experts say because law enforcement here has learned, unfortunately, from its own tragic cases of missing children, there are procedures immediately put into place within the U.S. that may not be implemented as quickly in other countries, including Portugal.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) SNOW (voice-over): Four months after his daughter Madeleine's disappearance, it is Gerry McCann, the girl's father, who points out that until Thursday, his wife had only been interviewed by police once before. It's not that he is questioning his wife. He strongly denies Kate had anything to do with their daughter's disappearance.

At issue is why Portuguese police didn't interview Kate McCann more thoroughly earlier on. And U.S. experts agree, saying that would have been standard procedure.

ERNIE ALLEN, NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN: It is surprising. And certainly in this country, one of the first things that law enforcement would do is question the parents -- question those who are around the children.

SNOW: Take the case of Polly Klaas, who was abducted from her home in 1993 and was found dead months later. Her father Mark says he and other family members were questioned by police and cleared within a week of Polly's disappearance.

MARK KLAAS, KLAAS KIDS FOUNDATION: We took polygraph exams. We answered all their questions until they were satisfied that we had nothing to do with it, and then they moved on.

SNOW: Critics, including the McCanns, have questioned the way police in this small resort town of Portugal where Madeleine disappeared have handled the case throughout. The hotel room where the McCanns stayed, for example, was not immediately secured after the McCanns vacated.

John Walsh, who has become an advocate for missing children after his own son disappeared, calls the case a nightmare.

JOHN WALSH, "AMERICA'S MOST WANTED": This police agency, this small agency -- and I'm a big supporter of law enforcement -- has made mistake after mistake -- not taking DNA, not securing this crime scene, not asking for international help. When you're in trouble and you're a small agency, you ask for help -- Scotland Yard, other agencies within Portugal.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

SNOW: Now, the Portuguese police did eventually ask for help, since it was British sniffing dogs that found the traces of blood. But it did take months for those dogs to be brought in.

Now, as for the Portuguese police, they have kept quiet and are not commenting on the case as the investigation is in progress -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Mary, for that.

Since Madeleine McCann disappeared, there has been an enormous outpouring of support around the world. The soccer star, David Beckham, filmed a video urging people to be on the lookout for the little girl. Harry Potter author J.K. Rawling reportedly pledged half of the $6 million reward money offered for Madeleine's safe return. She also allowed posters of Madeleine to be distributed with the release of her latest book.

In late May, the McCanns met with the Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. The pope pledged to pray for their daughter's safe return.

The effort to find Madeleine McCann has also spilled onto the Web, where her father has been updating supporters on these latest developments.

Let's go right to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton -- what is Gerry McCann, Abbi, saying on the Web?

ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, he's dismissing any suggestion that his wife was involved in his daughter's disappearance as ludicrous, writing in his online diary at the official Web site for Madeleine, which has been up since May, writing last night after his wife was questioned on what was then day 126 since Madeleine went missing.

Now, the popularity of this site reflects how big this story has been in Europe. We spoke to the Web site operator today. He said that in one day alone this summer, more than 25 million hits went to this site. It's a site mainly to publicize photos, downloads, posters of Madeleine in 28 different languages, an effort that spilled out on YouTube, where Gerry and Kate McCann appeared in this video last month, publicizing their efforts across Portugal. In it, Kate McCann is critical of authorities in Europe for their slow response in missing kids' cases -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thanks very much.

Abbi Tatton reporting.

They hoped to wow crowds, but something went who horribly wrong. A stunt plane crashes while practicing for one of those popular air shows. We're going to tell you what happened.

And a story every parent should be concerned about. It's about that toy recall involving Barbie doll accessories and millions, millions of other toys. The heads of Mattel and Toys"R"Us -- they're soon going to have to answer some very tough questions.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in with Carol Costello.

She is monitoring some other stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let's start with a sad story, Wolf. We're just getting word of a fatal air show crash. A stunt pilot died during a practice run in preparation for a show at the Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia. The show was scheduled to get underway in just a few hours. The Geico Skytypers team was rehearsing its last maneuver when that plane went down.

More than 20,000 mourners have viewed the body of the late opera star Luciano Pavarotti since last night. Italy's president is among the thousands to file past Pavarotti's coffin at the cathedral in his hometown. Pavarotti died yesterday of pancreatic cancer. His funeral is scheduled for tomorrow.

Author Madeleine L'Engle, best known for her children's book, "A Wrinkle In Time," has died. Her publicist says she died of natural causes at a nursing home in Connecticut. In all, she wrote more than 60 books that highlighted her Christian faith. Madeleine L'Engle was 88 years old.

Back to you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Carol.

A man who appears to be Osama bin Laden rails against the United States.

We're going to have that videotape for you. It's believed to be directly from the Al Qaeda leader.

Might it, though, offer some clues about his health or even his whereabouts?

We have analysts standing by.

An uncomfortable moment for President Bush -- a fellow leader presses him about war, causing an unusual back and forth exchange. We'll go to Australia for that.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, the CEOs of Mattel and Toys"R"Us are scheduled to testify before a Senate panel next Wednesday. They'll be questioned about a string of recalls for millions of toys. Tuesday, Mattel issued its third major recall since August involving toys containing lead paint.

The former Enron chief executive, Jeff Skilling, wants a new trial. He says the Justice Department used coercive tactics to convict him. Skilling has been in prison since December, serving a 24-year sentence. A rough day on Wall Street. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged almost 250 points, to close at 13,113. The dip came on news of the first decline in jobs in four years.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's get back to our top story. It appears to be the latest message to Americans from the world's most wanted terrorist. A new tape believed to be from Osama bin Laden unleashing some scathing criticisms against President Bush, Democrats and the war in Iraq.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says Al Qaeda traditionally does release a tape like this to mark the 9/11 anniversary that's coming up on Tuesday.

Let's go to our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, who had chance to sit down with the homeland security secretary -- Jeanne, you asked Secretary Chertoff about this new videotape.

JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that's right.

And when I spoke to him midday, he would not even confirm the existence of the videotape. The transcript is a diatribe against the Bush administration, large corporations and the war in Iraq, which is characterized as "a failure."

"One solution," it reads, "is to continue to escalate the killing and fighting against you. This is our duty and our brothers are carrying it out. And I ask Allah to grant them resolve and victory." A reference to the anniversary of the being of Nagasaki and Hiroshima indicated the tape was made in August.

And Chertoff says any tape will undergo heavy analysis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I wouldn't overstate the significance. Obviously, people are always interested in trying to figure out if he's alive, if he's healthy. One of the things you want to do whenever you get a tape is try to determine whether it's been PhotoShopped or whether people have integrated different tapes from different types of film into a single broadcast. So all of this is going to be looked at by experts.

But, again, I wouldn't overemphasize the significance of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: Chertoff said more than a bin Laden tape, the recent terror arrests in Denmark and Germany indicate this is a time of increased threat. That's a win for the good guys, he said. But it's not a time for us to hang up our cleats. Rather, Chertoff said, we should be extra vigilant -- Wolf. BLITZER: All right.

Jeanne, thanks very much.

Let's get some more now on this new videotape and what, if any, clues it might provide.

Joining us, our CNN national security adviser, John McLaughlin. He's a former deputy director of the CIA. And security analyst Clarke Kent Ervin. He's also a former inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security.

John, I'll start with you. You've had a chance to read the entire transcript, as both of us -- all of us here have.

When you saw it, as a former deputy director of the CIA, what did you notice?

What jumped ought at you?

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, what jumped out at me was the granularity in the -- in the transcript, Wolf.

He talks about everything from the mortgage crisis in the United States to a lament by a British soldier against the war in Iraq back in July to various books that have been written here. So he obviously has a lot of time on his hands and is reading and putting things together.

BLITZER: Because he goes through a lot of detail. He mentions a lot of names. He speaks specifically about "neo-conservatives" who got the U.S. involved in Iraq and all of that.

MCLAUGHLIN: But, you know, he once said to Mullah Omar before 9/11 that 90 percent of the preparation for war is in the media. So, to large degree, what bin Laden is doing here is showing up, being there, just making the tape.

Fanatically, what stands out to me is his emphasis on Iraq. This is their most profitable propaganda theme. And for his followers, it will be important that he links it up -- and this is kind of buried in there -- he links it up to the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan. He's subtly making the point that we can win here.

BLITZER: Right. Just as the U.S. lost, he says, in Vietnam and the Russians lost in Afghanistan, the U.S. is going to lose now in Iraq. That's the point he makes.

Look behind you see both of you. You see the October 2004 picture of Osama Bin Laden. That was the most recent videotape that came out until now, three years ago. His beard is gray. Now, he's done a dye job on his beard. I guess he wants to look a little bit more youthful to send a message, hey, look at me, I'm strong, I'm healthy, I'm young.

CLARK KENT ERVIN, FORMER DHS INSPECTOR GENERAL: Exactly. He's got a candy media advisor obviously. He is really the living, breathing proof of what the NIE said just a few weeks ago, the National Intelligence Estimate, the consensus of the intelligence agencies. Al Qaeda in general and Bin Laden in particular, back in business, stronger than anytime since 9/11, poised to attack the United States again and determined to do so and to maximize the death and injury and economic damage that results from any future attack.

BLITZER: And assuming the CIA does confirm this is him, its his voice and all the indications I think are that it is, take a look at this little graph, this translation of what he says, "Despite this brazen attack on the people and leaders of the west, especially Bush, Blair, Sarkozy and Brown," Gordon Brown, the new prime minister of Britain, "Still talk about freedom and human rights with a flagrant disregard for the intellects of human beings." So if in fact this is him, he's clearly alive because he's referring to events that have recently occurred. Sarkozy's election, Gordon Brown's election, for example.

He says that he's making this tape just a few days after the anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which was August 7, 8, 9th in that time frame.

MCLAUGHLIN: So yes, it's a recent tape. What comes through is his media savvy here, even the beard. You and I compare these pictures but in the world of followers that he's appealing to particularly people just learning about Bin Laden, they won't be doing this comparison. They will just be seeing what he show them here.

BLITZER: We're not going to play the tape for our viewers but on the internet it's going to be all over the place. His followers will be able to listen and get inspired.

As a former official of the department of homeland security, what will authorities, law enforcement, the intelligence community here be looking for in terms of potential messages that he might be sending out to trigger some cells or whatever?

ERVIN: That's exactly what we're doing, Wolf. They are trying to not only authenticate the tape but also to see whether there are any hidden messages. Obviously that's very difficult to do. But that's exactly what the intelligence analysis are doing as we speak.

Incidentally, this comes against a backdrop of a number of reports that suggest the United States is very vulnerable. Just yesterday the GAO, the Congressional Investigative Office, out with reports saying the department of homeland security that is supposed to protect from us Bin Laden is failing to meet its objectives. Fewer than half have been met. Further, a new report suggesting this terror watch list is riddled with errors that there are people who aren't terrorists and there are people who should be on the list that aren't.

BLITZER: Without revealing classified information obviously and information that could help Bin Laden and al Qaeda, what can you tell us about what the analysts at the CIA, your former colleagues, what are they going to be looking for specifically in terms of trying to pinpoint where he is and where this tape might have occurred for example?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, people will look primarily to see if they can determine anything about his health. It is almost impossible because of the bland backdrops that they use in these tapes to use anything in the video to determine location. So principally you're going to get a sense for his health.

BLITZER: There have been reports he has kidney problems and supposedly was on dialysis. Is any of that true?

MCLAUGHLIN: Nobody knows to tell you the truth. You will hear conflicting reports. Intelligence people have never established with certainty whether he has that kidney problem or not.

BLITZER: I'm going read another quote speaking about CIA analysts. Listen to the detail he gets into, Osama Bin Laden, he says, "And if you would like to get to know some of the reasons for your losing of your war against us, then read the book of Michael Scheuer in this regard." Michael Scheuer, a former CIA analyst, not only an analyst but the guy was in charge of trying to find out where Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda was all about. He's giving Michael Scheuer a plug, if you will.

ERVIN: That's right. Well, the three of us know Michael Scheuer very well. He is keen on the notion that it is not who we are, it is not American values or culture that animates Bin Laden and al Qaeda it is what we do. The fact that we are in Muslim lands, that we're in Iraq, that we're elsewhere in the middle east, that we support Israel, these are the policies that leads Bin Laden to want to attack us. And so implicitly he's calling for us to change those policies.

MCLAUGHLIN: It's important that we not take that message literally because I'm quite certain that if we were to change those policies, this would not prevent him from trying to mount future attacks because what he's trying ultimately to do is not only get us out of those lands but also to occupy and control those lands.

BLITZER: And we're going to be speaking with Michael Scheuer here in THE SITUATION ROOM during our 7:00 p.m. eastern hour. We'll get his analysis and I'll ask him how he feels about getting a shot out from Osama Bin Laden.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

ERVIN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're also getting word now that the first lady, Laura Bush, is about to undergo outpatient surgery. We're going to give the details to you when we come back.

And Michelle Obama revealing some "stinky truths about her husband," Senator Barack Obama. Could she use some tips on running for first lady?

And wealthy thrill seekers. We're going to take a closer look at why a person like Steve Fossett is driven to take life threatening risks.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're just getting this in from the first lady's press secretary. Mrs. Laura Bush, according to the press secretary, will undergo elective outpatient surgery tomorrow to relieve the pressure on the pinched nerves in her neck. This is considered not major surgery. Outpatient surgery, the main reason she didn't join her husband on the trip to the Asia Pacific Summit in Australia was because of the pinched nerve. She's going to undergo this treatment tomorrow and that should be that. Hopefully it will be successful. We wish her a successful outcome, of course, on this outpatient surgery that the first lady will have tomorrow here in Washington.

Barack Obama's wife, Michelle, is auditioning for first lady and she's giving voters a few surprises in the process. The latest twist what you could call a stinky story about her husband.

Carol Costello standing by to explain. All right. We did a little tease. You've got to tell our viewers what's going on.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, Michelle Obama is trying to convince women out there that she is you and her husband is just another normal guy but there is such a thing as TMI, too much information.

Barack Obama, snore-y, stinky, two adjectives you normally would not attach to a man running for president but thanks to his wife, it's right there, in October's issue of "Glamour" magazine. Michelle Obama says, "We have this ritual in the morning. They (the kids) come in my bed and if dad isn't there because he's too snore-y and stinky, they don't want to get in bed with him." When this odiferous description hit the "New York Times," its blog site went crazy with readers alternately revolted like this one who wrote, "Did it ever occur to Mrs. Obama that some of us out here in this great country of the USA are rooting for her husband to be the Democrat nomination for president? Please don't screw it up. We don't need to know those details. Please, please make your husband look presidential." To readers who tried justification, "Maybe this is her way of turning off the Obama girls."

MICHELLE OBAMA: Our children.

COSTELLO: Some political observers say maybe stinky was over the top but Mrs. Obama is normally effective in playing her role.

BETH FRERKING, THE POLITICO: What she's saying to America and particularly American women voters is you have the public man and you have the private man. I will make sure that that private person is taken care of so he can be the best public representative and president that he could possibly be.

COSTELLO: In that same "Glamour" article, Mrs. Obama did that quite effectively saying she refused to defy her husband. "People have notions of what a wife's role should be in this process, and it's been a traditional one of blind adoration. My model is a little different." Than say Nancy Reagan's. Still the stinky comment illustrates the road to becoming first lady can be treacherous.

Take John Kerry's wife, Teresa. She certainly came across as well, different. Or Rudy Giuliani's new wife who caused waves within his campaign team before taking a less prominent role. Even successful first ladies had it rough, Hillary Clinton.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: You know I'm not sitting here some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette.

COSTELLO: Some considered her insincere and power hungry.

As for Michelle Obama, will her take as every woman resonate successfully? We'll see.

It is interesting if you are a political wife and you stay too far in the back ground, that doesn't work either. Remember Howard Dean? We never saw his wife. She removed herself from the fray until the end and then it was too late.

BLITZER: She didn't do many interviews. I did interview her once, Dr. Judy Dean. And actually, she's a doctor. She's a physician. She didn't want that kind of publicity but she was largely invisible but occasionally we did get to see her. Thanks very much, Carol, for that report.

There was a very awkward moment for President Bush today. The president of South Korea publicly challenged him today. It involved a push to formally declare an end to the Korean War. President Bush said that would happen when North Korea stops its secretive nuclear weapons program and that prompted this exchange.

PRES. ROH MOO-HYUN, SOUTH KOREA (through translator): I believe that they are the same thing, Mr. President. If you could be a little bit clear in your message to them.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can't make it anymore clearer, Mr. President. We look forward to the day to end the Korean War. That will happen when they get rid of the weapons program and the weapons. Yes. Thank you.

BLITZER: Our white house correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is out covering the president's trip. It was tense I take it between the leader of the South Korea and the leader of the United States.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You actually heard President Bush say thank you, sir, at least three times trying to wrap up that exchange. Essentially what happened here is that the South Korean president very much involved in the six-party talks to try to get North Korea to disarm. Very much wants to see these two countries come together. Wanted President Bush to make it crystal clear how that was going to take place. What was going to happen. President Bush also saying, look, we are not going to move forward and officially end this war in any kind of treaty until Kim Jong-il verifiably disarms, dismantles his nuclear weapons program.

White house officials afterwards looking at that feeling that testy exchange said, look, there was not tension between them. That they are in agreement here. They said it was lost in translation. But Wolf I think what happened here is this will play actually well in domestic politics in South Korea. They are looking for someone who is willing to stand up to the United States.

BLITZER: The president getting ready to come back. He's going to have an incredibly busy week when gets back here, Suzanne. He's got to deal with this Osama Bin Laden tape but he's also got the General Petraeus recommendations suggesting no U.S. troops should leave Iraq at least until next March or April. He's got to decide to accept that. By all accounts, he will accept that. He's got some major work to do once he gets back here.

COSTELLO: Absolutely. What you're going to see is General Petraeus as well as Ambassador Crocker laying out the case before congress as well as the media. President Bush also making his case before the weekend to the American people. Essentially saying a couple things. What we've heard recently in Iraq saying that, look, there are conditions here that might be right for more U.S. troops to come home but it is very doubtful, Wolf, that we're going to get those kind of details about exactly when that's going to happen.

BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux on the scene for us in Australia. Thanks, Suzanne.

Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show. That begins right at the top of the hour. Lou, what are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you.

We'll be reporting tonight on the Bush administration's continued defiance of the world of Congress and the American people. The Bush administration ignoring protests about threats to American safety and security and in the dark of night, the Bush administration permitted Mexican trucks unlimited access to our highways. We'll have that story.

And federal agents breaking up a marriage fraud ring selling green cards to illegal aliens, incredibly a government official responsible for enforcing immigration laws among those who are charged. We'll have that live report.

And the toy industry refuses to take responsibility for those dangerous imports from communist China. Toy companies demanding new safety guidelines for their products after allowing a flood of toxic imports into this country and three of the countries best political analysts and strategists join me tonight. We'll be discussing all the week's top political stories and there are many. Please join for us that.

All of the day's news and great deal more at the top of the hour here on CNN.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: No shortage of news, Lou. Thanks very much. Lou Dobbs coming up in a few moments.

Up ahead, he's rich, he pushes the envelope and he's not alone. As the search continues for Steve Fossett, we're going to take a closer look at what thrives the wealthy to go to extremes.

General David Petraeus expected to choose the status quo with troop levels when he reports on Monday to Congress. Is it wrong for Democrats to dismiss his report on Iraq before he even delivers it? We're taking his e-mail. Jack Cafferty, on the Cafferty File, standing by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Light teams are back at work for what's being called a painstakingly hard search for the missing aviator, Steve Fossett. The area they are now scoring has grown to 17,000 square miles in Nevada and California. They have covered about half of it so far. The search area has been divided into 8.6 square mile grids so nothing is missed. The search employs high tech toys such as satellite technology to spot Fossett or his plane. But the main technique is simple. Each pilot and co-pilot looks out the window. They're searching for Steve Fossett. When he went missing, Fossett was scouting sites for a possible attempt at a land speed record. He already holds a number of flight, ballooning and sailing records. He's also a multimillionaire and is hardly the first person of wealth to go to such extremes.

CNN's Dan Lothian is joining us now. Dan, I know you have been looking into this story. What is it that drives these wealthy individuals to take such risks?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well you know Wolf, basically, they have been successful in business that they want to try their hands at some of these hobbies. It used to be that the wealthy turned to expensive fast cars and fast boats to get their thrills. They haven't abandoned those toys but for many it's just not enough.

The rich and famous living on the edge paying three to $400,000 to push the limits in the sky buying and flying these high tech hot air balloons.

ANDREW BAIRD, CAMERON BALLOONS: They want to go travel a few thousand miles and spend a few days and experience that kind of ballooning. I mean that type of ballooning is, if you will, camping in the sky.

LOTHIAN: Steve Fossett didn't just camp in the sky. He broke records. Others like extremely wealthy investors and oil magnets who mostly want to remain anonymous are buying up private submarines paying from a million to tens of millions of dollars to dive deep into the ocean or they rocket into space and back for $20 million like wealthy businessman Dennis Tito.

DENNIS TITO, MILLIONAIRE ASTRONAUT: It's everything and well beyond what I would have expected.

LOTHIAN: Even as millionaires and billionaires search for the next pricey thrill, high net work magazines like this one are reaching out to them with features on space adventures. Other internet sites advertised $10,000 per person Yukon dog sled vacations in treacherous conditions.

What is it that drives these people to constantly push the envelope, to do something bigger and better and more dangerous?

PROF. JOE TECCE, BOSTON COLLEGE: People who have taken risks in their lives and have made a lot of money have been rewarded and so with that track record they are willing to take more risks as time goes on.

LOTHIAN: Boston College psychologist, Joe Tecce, who has studied risk taking behavior and says often the super wealthy get bored with every day life.

TECCE: And do something to show that I'm still alive, vibrant, and really on top of my game.

LOTHIAN: And he says some have a sense of being invincibility. Professor Tecce points out that advances in technology have made it possible for people with deep pockets to push the limit going higher, deeper and faster.

Wolf.

BLITZER: Fascinating. Dan Lothian reporting for us. Thanks, Dan, very much.

We want to know what you think as well on this question. Is it wrong for Democrats to dismiss General Petraeus's report on Iraq even before he delivers it? That's the question Jack has been asking. Your e-mail when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There is Jack Cafferty with the Cafferty File.

Hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the question this hour is it wrong for Democrats to dismiss General Petraeus' progress report on Iraq before he even gives it?

Michael writes from Tennessee, "Of course it's unfair to dismiss the report of a four-star general, General Petraeus, before he has a chance to give his testimony. Quit the political correctness in this war and let our men fight! These liberals initially voted for this war such as Hillary Clinton and John Kerry to name a couple. So these people need to quit wishing for defeat in order to further their own political agenda."

Dan writes, "The Democrats are playing politics as usual. They should have gotten the message by now: the American people aren't buying it anymore. General Petraeus' approval rating is four times that of the Democratic-controlled Congress. It's time that we value the general's opinion a lot more than Pelosi's, Reed's or Durbin's."

Curtis in Philadelphia, "I don't know Jack. How do we know that Petraeus isn't just a nom de plume for Bush, Cheney and company? While this current Congress isn't the best and the brightest, this current administration has been proven to be a bunch of liars."

Buddy in Boise, Idaho, "What general in his right mind would want fewer men under his command in Iraq? Who didn't see this coming? It is all moot come the spring of 2008 when we simply won't have any more to give Iraq militarily. The Pentagon and this administration know the jig is up in six months anyway and whatever resources we have or don't have, the America citizenry will be asked to expect very little for all that has been spent and lost on this mismanaged Iraq embarrassment."

And finally, Brendan in Annapolis, Maryland, "Of course we should dismiss the general's report ahead of time. If the White House saw it before we did then we should discard everything he says. He is only giving the White House and Bush what they want, more time. This has to end some time and all they do is add more time after more time."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. We post more of them online, along with video clips to brighten up your weekend, Wolf.

BLITZER: You know what we're going to do on Monday, Jack?

CAFFERTY: What's that?

BLITZER: We're going to promote your new book, "It's Getting Ugly Out There." There it is. "It's Getting Ugly Out There, the Frauds, the Bunglers, the Liars, and Losers Who are Hurting America." It will be in -- we don't want to do this until it's in bookstores. It's going to be in bookstores on Monday?

CAFFERTY: It is going to be in bookstores on Monday. It's available, however, if you just simply cannot wait, it is available online. You can order it right this very minute and they will probably have it to your house by Monday.

BLITZER: This is what I want to you start thinking about, Jack. You know what?

CAFFERTY: What?

BLITZER: A sequel because it's still getting ugly out there even after this book has gone to press.

CAFFERTY: Well, it is but I don't know if I've another one in me. This one took lot out of this old body of mine. I hope people enjoy reading it.

BLITZER: Stand by. We'll talk about it on Monday, Jack. CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. See you also back here in an hour.

Let's take a look at some of the Hot Shots coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow.

And we'll begin in Switzerland, spectators wait for an opening ceremony to begin at a stadium in Zurich.

On the go lon height (ph), an Israeli woman shades herself from the sun while walking past an observation point close to the Syrian border.

In Afghanistan, a boy flies a kite from what remains of a house destroyed in the country's civil war.

In Germany, two cheetahs doze in the grass at the zoo in Cologne.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots, pictures often worth a thousand words.

One hour from now, 7 p.m. eastern, a lot more on the new Osama Bin Laden tape. Michael Scheuer, the former CIA analyst on Osama Bin Laden, he'll be among our guests.

See you then. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

LOU DOBBS TONIGHT starts right now.

Lou.

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