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Michael Mukasey's Nomination to Succeed Gonzales at Risk; Hillary Under Fire

Aired October 31, 2007 - 19:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou.
Happening now, political torture. Michael Mukasey's nomination to be attorney general is at risk, the issue -- waterboarding. Is it torture? As the Senate panel finally moves toward the vote, an outspoken Democrat, though, is keeping oddly quiet right now.

Also tonight is Hillary Clinton the Democrat Republicans can't wait to run against? The new matchup with Rudy Giuliani may give her primary rivals more reason to attack.

And a new Republican sex scandal. A conservative state senator now accused of soliciting gay sex and wearing women's lingerie.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tonight, Michael Mukasey may be Washington's new poster child for political fortunes that turn on a dime. The White House insists Mukasey's nomination to be attorney general is not in jeopardy. But a top Senate Republican says it is absolutely at risk. A delayed committee vote now expected early next week.

Let's turn to our congressional correspondent Jessica Yellin. She is watching this story for us. What's the latest, Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, to give you a sense of the confusion and uncertainty up here surrounding this confirmation, one senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee tells CNN he believes Mukasey will be confirmed ultimately. But one of his Democratic colleagues says he certainly does not have the votes right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice-over): Two more Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee now oppose the confirmation of Michael Mukasey over his response to a question about waterboarding.

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: He has failed to recognize that waterboarding is clearly a form of torture. I will oppose this nomination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We cannot lose our way when it comes to the choice of the next attorney general. As good a person as he may be, his response to this question, this basic and fundamental question of what our policies of interrogation of prisoners leaves me no alternative but to oppose Judge Mukasey's nomination to be attorney general of the United States.

YELLIN: Still, others say they are undecided.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need to think more about it.

YELLIN: At issue, when asked whether waterboarding is torture, Mukasey offered his personal view of the controversial interrogation technique writing these techniques seem over the line or on a personal basis repugnant to me. But since he was never briefed of on U.S. interrogation programs, he insists he can't say whether the practice is legal or not. That was enough for one key Republican.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I feel more comfortable voting for him after the letter than I did before. There are a couple of issues I would like to flush out, but I think he'll get all the Republican votes.

YELLIN: But key Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are defending the nominee and insist Democrats are just looking for an issue.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: My Democratic colleagues cannot insist that Judge Mukasey be independent toward a Republican president but compliant toward a Democratic Senate. What kind of crazy topsy- turvy confirmation process is this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What this debate boils down to is politics.

YELLIN: These Senate Republicans and the White House insist Mukasey will be confirmed. One person who is staying unusually quiet, generally outspoken New York Senator Chuck Schumer, Mukasey's chief Democratic sponsor. He now tells reporters he's still reviewing Mukasey's answers and won't comment on how he plans to vote.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: Wolf, and one sign that the White House considers positive today Senators McCain, Warner and Graham sent Mukasey a letter saying they support his nomination and his confirmation, but they ask him to repudiate waterboarding when he becomes attorney general. Wolf?

BLITZER: The committee, I take it, is supposed to meet and vote on this nomination next Tuesday?

YELLIN: That is what is planned. It could always, though, be pushed back.

BLITZER: Jessica Yellin on the Hill for us. Thanks very much.

She ran the public relations operations over at the State Department trying to change the Muslim world's image of the United States. Now Karen Hughes, a close confidant of President Bush, is leaving her post. Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She's watching this story for us. Sounds like mission at least so far not accomplished.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. It's far from accomplished. Some would say it failed. But the question is, is it really a job that can even bring results?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): She was assigned to win the hearts and minds of the Muslim world. Her boss, Condoleezza Rice, praised her 18 months on the job. But Arab media didn't give her high marks. Octavia Nasr monitors the Arab media all day long.

OCTAVIA NASR, SENIOR EDITOR, ARAB AFFAIRS: This is seen as big news in the sense that the role that Ms. Hughes played and the mission that she was entrusted with, which is changing the image of the U.S. in the Arab and Muslim world, they feel that that was a failure.

SNOW: Early on, Hughes took what she called a listening tour of the region. There were occasional slip-ups. In 2005 in Egypt, Hughes was quoted as incorrectly saying the U.S. Constitution contained the phrase "in God we trust." Hughes is credited with nearly doubling the public diplomacy budget. She created P.R. rapid response centers to monitor news and respond to it, sending more Arabic speakers to be interviewed in the region.

PROF. FAWAZ GERGES, SARAH LAWRENCE COLLEGE: I would give her (B) on performance and (D) on results because there has been little really positive results in the U.S. in improving the U.S. image in the Muslim world. And I think it's not her fault.

PROF. BRIGITTE NACOS, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: To be fair to Karen Hughes, I think it is an impossible job. If you do public diplomacy, you cannot divorce it from the actual policies.

SNOW: As opposition to the war grows the opinion abroad of the U.S. drops. The Pew Research Center in June found the favorability ratings of the U.S. is less than 50 percent in Middle Eastern countries, except Israel. One crisis management consultant doesn't fault Hughes but does fault the idea of selling the U.S. as you would a product.

ERIC DEZENHALL, CRISIS MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT: I think that Americans have a very delusional notion that you can spin an audience that doesn't want to be spun. The fact is, is that P.R. is not quite that powerful.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: What is powerful, say those who deal with damage control is to set realistic expectations. Until foreign policy changes, perception of the U.S. won't -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary thanks very much. We're going to have more on this story later this hour. Let's check in with Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, there's a point at which political correctness crosses over to the dark side and becomes absurdity. A British public school has ordered teachers and students to dress up as Muslims for a day to promote multiculturalism. Most of the students at the school are Christians. The British newspaper "The Sun" reports the elementary school is belatedly celebrating the end of Ramadan.

The head of the school tells "The Sun" she hasn't heard of any complaints, but a relative of one of the teachers says the staff members have to go along with it or else they'll be branded racist. Adding quote, "who would put their job on the line? They've been told they have to embrace the day to show their diversity. But they are not all happy", unquote.

So here's the question. Should a public school be allowed to order teachers and students to dress like Muslims? E-mail us at CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. Wolf?

BLITZER: Jack, thank you. Jack is coming up shortly as well.

They are both tough, outspoken New Yorkers. But -- and it would surely be a slugfest if Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani fought each other for president of the United States. But who would win? We have some brand new poll numbers that are just coming out right now.

Also, scandal strikes again. For the third time in three months, a Republican lawmaker is accused of soliciting gay sex. It allegedly involves blackmail, money for sex and a man dressing up in women's lingerie.

And it's a church that praises the death of American soldiers and demonstrates at military funerals. Now that church is going to have to pay for some of its acts.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The view for Republicans isn't looking very good these days. Their hold on the White House is shaky as we near almost exactly one year before the presidential election. And to make matters worse the chairman of the president's party recently quit. I spoke with the man heading up the GOP right now, Mike Duncan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: What happened with Mel Martinez, your partner? He was the chairman, the Republican senator from Florida. A lot of people thought he was made the chairman of the Republican Party to bring in a lot more Hispanics and others, but all of a sudden, he resigned last week. What was that a sign of? MIKE DUNCAN, REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIRMAN: Well, Mel had never intended to serve the full time and Mel was the general chairman of the party to be the spokesman for the party. He did a great job. He raised a lot of money. We're going to make budget this year. A lot of people have missed that in the story this year that we're out raising the DNC substantially. Mel was a big part of that. He did over 100 interviews for us during the year, was a great spokesman for us and will continue to represent his home state in Florida.

BLITZER: But a lot people felt he had the rug pulled out from him, especially in reaching out to the Hispanic community over this issue of comprehensive immigration reform which he, like the president, supported but a lot of other Republicans hated it. They called it amnesty, the pathway to citizenship. Was that the final straw that forced him out?

DUNCAN: Mel made this decision on his own and his timing was his timing, and he made it. He was a wonderful general chairman that made a tremendous contribution while he was there. And I appreciate his help.

BLITZER: The Republican candidates, the presidential candidates, they keep citing the name of Hillary Clinton. In fact, you yourself in your statement that you released today, reacting to the Democratic presidential debate last night referred to Hillary Clinton specifically by name, not the other Democratic candidates. Listen to what Senator John Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina, said last night. Listen to this.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Another perspective on why the Republicans keep talking about Senator Clinton is they may actually want to run against you. And that's the reason they keep bringing you up.

BLITZER: Is that true? Do you want Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic presidential nominee?

DUNCAN: Wolf, I am not involved in that. We put out statements on all the candidates. I'd be happy to talk about John Edwards' tax policy and what he is wanting to do to middle class America. I think if you go back and look we put out statements every day showing the problems with the Democratic candidates. They all have weaknesses and flaws, and we try to point that out. We saw a lot of those flaws last night.

BLITZER: But is she your dream candidate for the Democrats? Because a lot of pundits, as you know, have suggested she can unite the Republican Party a lot more than maybe even a Republican presidential nominee could unite the Republican Party.

DUNCAN: Oh, they have so many dream candidates. You know how many times will you have a candidate that talks about seeing a UFO, Wolf? I don't think that happens in modern history very often. I'm not going to pick the Democrat candidate. We're just being prepared. We're ready for what they have to offer and we're very optimistic. BLITZER: That was a reference of Dennis Kucinich, the congressman from Cleveland who said he once saw -- he believed he once saw a UFO. Let's talk about what some Republicans say happened during the first six, six and a half years of the Bush administration, the six years when there was a Republican in the White House and the Republicans had the majority in the House and Senate. And I'll put some numbers up.

The national debt when the president took office was $5.8 trillion. But now it's gone up. It's almost doubled, at least to $9 trillion. And this is money that our children and grandchildren are going to be owing to the Chinese, the Saudis, all the wealthy states out there who are taking these loans from the United States. So what happened to the fiscal conservatives that were so important to the Republican base?

DUNCAN: Wolf, I could get into a long explanation about the percentages and why we actually are bringing down the debt and over the next five years what's going to happen. But the bottom line is, what other president has faced a calamity like 9/11? We had the economy go down during that period of time. He brought us back with a great tax program and we're making progress. The percentage -- I can go into all these percentages, but he's giving hope to the American people.

BLITZER: But the point is that when the president had a Republican majority in the House and Senate he got all these bloated appropriations bills, never vetoed any of them, even though they were a lot more appropriations, pork barrel spending, money going for all sorts of projects that he himself wanted and all of a sudden, the Democrats are now in the majority and he's discovered his veto pen.

DUNCAN: Well the Democrats are in the majority. They can't deliver him tax bills. I mean let's talk about the fact that they've not delivered what their responsibility to give budget bills to the president. They've not been able to do that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Mike Duncan, the chairman of the Republican National Committee speaking with me earlier.

Some Christian conservatives are now sending another stunning message to Rudy Giuliani. They do not like his support of gay rights and abortion rights, and they are getting ready to pull the trigger to voice their discontent. We're going to share those numbers with you.

And critics compare him to Darth Vader. Will Vice President Dick Cheney actually dress up for Halloween? You may be surprised to hear what President Bush says today, the words Dick Cheney and Darth Vader, that and a lot more coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in with Carol Costello. She is monitoring some other important stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. Hello to all of you.

State Department workers fearful of the violence in Iraq are filling a town hall meeting. They lashed out at a new policy that could force some to serve in Iraq or else lose their jobs. One calls that a potential death sentence. State Department officials say the policy is necessary because there aren't enough workers volunteering to go to Baghdad.

A tropical storm watch is now posted for parts of southeast Florida. People there are being urged to keep an eye out for Tropical Storm Noel blamed for dozens of deaths in the Caribbean. It's been dropping torrential rains on Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic and it is now taking direct aim at the Bahamas.

And here's a Halloween scare for you and it's no trick. The government is announcing a very last-minute recall of fake Halloween teeth. They may contain as much as 100 times the allowable amount of lead. And no surprise, they are made in China. They are called "Ugly Teeth". An eight-piece pack sells for about two bucks. If you or your kids have them, do not wear them tonight -- back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Good advice. Thanks very much, Carol.

Tonight also there is some striking new evidence that the religious right is very uneasy about Rudy Giuliani and his support for gay rights and abortion rights. A new Pew poll surveyed White House -- excuse me -- surveyed white evangelical Republicans and, get this, more than half, 56 percent say they would consider voting for a conservative third party presidential candidate if Giuliani and Hillary Clinton were the GOP and Democratic nominees.

Let's bring in our chief national correspondent John King. He's watching this for us. So what does this mean for the Republican race as it is shaping up, John?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a striking number, Wolf, because we've had the conversation of Christian conservative leaders saying that if Rudy Giuliani wins the nomination, those leaders say they would consider a third party candidacy. The question always was what about rank and file white evangelicals have in the country. Would they follow such a call to have a third party?

This evidence from the Pew is that at least some would now -- some would say well anyone says they are open to a third party candidacy, any Democrat, any Republican in a vacuum says they are open to it, but let's look at the contrast. Pew asked all Republicans, would you consider a third party candidacy.

Forty-four percent of all Republicans say yes. Fifty-one percent said no. Then you go to white evangelicals, 55 percent, a much higher percentage say, yes, they would consider a third party candidacy. That gap right there, Wolf, 11 points, tells you that if there is such a third party candidacy, if Rudy Giuliani wins the nomination, that there would be a potential audience for a significant vote. How much of a vote? We don't know. But it wouldn't take much to slant the race.

BLITZER: So how much of a threat potentially is this to Rudy Giuliani?

KING: Well it is a threat in the short term in that his rivals already, we saw John McCain (INAUDIBLE) we were talking about it earlier today are in the mail in Iowa, in the mail in South Carolina. We'll see it in TV ads soon saying that they are the anti-abortion conservatives. You should nominate them. So his rivals will use it as an electability issue.

And the flip side of that is if you are somebody out there whether you have the support of Dr. James Dobson or the Family Research Counsel or any of the institutional groups or you are just an anti-abortion candidate, political person out there in the states, you are looking at these numbers saying there is a huge audience. If he gets the nomination, I can run a campaign, a statement campaign, a message third party campaign, so if you're thinking about it, these numbers would say do it.

BLITZER: But almost certainly, almost all of those votes would be drained from the Republican nominee Giuliani as opposed to Hillary Clinton. And it would almost be a sure fire bet that she would get the presidency.

KING: There is no question. It's a huge hypothetical right now. We should treat it as such. But if there is an anti-abortion, social conservative third party candidacy, by all accounts, ask a Republican strategist, ask a Democratic strategist, they think 90 percent, at least 80 percent of the votes would come from the Republicans.

BLITZER: All right, John. Thanks very much -- late numbers coming in from Pew Research.

After the latest Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton has this surprising critic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Let me say as a supporter sympathizer and somebody who loves her dearly, this was not her best performance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So if James Carville says that, just how badly did Clinton do? I'll ask journalist Carl Bernstein, and other members of our political roundtable.

Plus, it's scandal after scandal with allegations of gay sex and more. Tonight, the stunning allegations against a state lawmaker and how the Republican Party may be reeling.

And would you vote for a candidate who said he saw a UFO? Just in time for Halloween, a close encounter in the presidential race.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, a Maryland jury has just awarded almost $11 million to the father of a Marine killed in Iraq. He sued a fundamentalist Kansas church notorious for picketing military funerals, saying the deaths are punishment for U.S. tolerance of homosexuality.

Also NASA right now vowing to reveal results of a secret study showing airline near collisions are much more common than anyone realized. NASA initially withheld the data saying they frighten the flying public.

And Google -- check it out -- just keeps on going. The company's stock closed above $700 a share today less than a month after topping $600 a share. Wow.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A conservative Washington State representative has just resigned amid a gay blackmail scandal. Carol Costello is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with this story. It involves allegedly blackmail and all sorts of other sordid details.

COSTELLO: It is such an ugly story, Wolf. You know one of the Log Cabin Republicans who represent gay Americans call it another example of the shameful effects of a life lived in the closet.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): It has been a truly scandalous few months for the GOP. For the third time in three months, a Republican lawmaker is accused of soliciting gay sex. This time it's Washington State Representative Richard Curtis, whose defense sounds a lot like Florida State Representative Bob Allen's, and Iowa Senator Larry Craig's.

UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: I am not gay.

COSTELLO: Craig pled guilty to disorderly conduct and THEN tried to change his plea. As for Curtis, he told "The Columbian" newspaper he did not have sex with the man and is not gay. But here's what Spokane police told me. On October 26th, Representative Curtis dressed in women's lingerie, picked up a young man in a Hollywood erotic boutique. The rest of the story is contained in a graphic 50- page police document.

The young man alleges Curtis offered him $1,000 for unprotected sex at a nearby hotel. And, he says, at the conclusion of the sexual activity, Curtis fell asleep. Police say Curtis' sex partner, Cody Castagna (ph), then took his wallet in order to extort money from the representative and threatened to publicly expose Richard Curtis' gay lifestyle to his wife. At that point, police say Curtis called on an officer to investigate. Police say Curtis hoped the incident would go away once police nabbed a suspect. Instead, the media got wind of the case and they found Curtis' alleged sex partner who promptly went public with his attorney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am freaked out, you know. He gave me his wallet.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why would he give you his wallet?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As collateral.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: For?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The money that he promised me.

COSTELLO: It is a particularly ugly drama unfolding around yet another conservative Republican lawmaker. Like Florida State Representative Bob Allen who has pled not guilty to a charge of soliciting gay sex in July and Senator Larry Craig, Curtis is married with children and votes conservatively, voting against a domestic partnership bill and a bill that would have outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: And as you said, Wolf, Representative Curtis did resign after this story hit the airwaves. I received an e-mail from the representative saying quote, "Events that have recently come to light have hurt a lot of people. I sincerely apologize for any pain my actions may have caused. This has been damaging to my family, and I don't want to subject them to any additional pain."

BLITZER: Carol, thank you very much. What a story.

Hillary Clinton is used to being a political punching bag, but tonight, she may feel more bruised than ever after the latest Democratic presidential debate. Here's our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wolf, literally and figuratively Hillary Clinton was center stage, a familiar but last night not an altogether comfortable place.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. CHRIS DODD, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Fifty percent of the American public would say they're not going to vote for him.

CROWLEY (voice-over): It was her roughest debate yet and arguably not her best, though Camp Clinton thinks she more than held her own in the face of incoming from almost everywhere.

Still, her Democratic opponents think Hillary Clinton handed them plenty of ammo to fit the current narrative. The issue, said one rival camp, is candor.

There was this discussion, of why publicly Clinton only talks fiscal responsibility when asked about Social Security, but privately told the voters she would consider raising Social Security taxes on the wealthy.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But everybody knows what the possibilities are, Tim. Everybody knows that. But I do not -- I do not advocate it; I do not support it.

CROWLEY: Pounce.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is part of the politics that we have been playing, which is to try to muddle through, give convoluted answers.

CROWLEY: And there was this back-and-forth on giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, as proposed in New York.

CLINTON: It makes a lot of sense. What is the governor supposed to do? He is dealing with a serious problem.

I just want to add, I did not say it should be done, but I certainly recognize why Governor Spitzer is trying to do it. And we have failed. We have failed.

DODD: No, no, no. You said, yes, you thought it made sense to do it.

CLINTON: No, I didn't Chris, but the point is what are we going to do with all these illegal immigrants?

CROWLEY: Pounce.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Unless I missed something, Senator Clinton said two different things in the course of about two minutes.

CROWLEY: Clinton aides argue her statements over time and in context are perfectly consistent, not to mention that everyone on the stage has apparent contradiction in their own records, but she's in the front-runner spot and the klieg lights are hotter there.

CLINTON: You know, Tim, this is where everybody plays "gotcha."

EDWARDS: I think it is crucial for Democratic voters and caucus- goers to determine who they can trust, who's honest, who's sincere, who has integrity.

CROWLEY: To be continued on the campaign trail.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (on camera): Looking to make this argument political rather than substantive, the Clinton campaign put up a Web ad this afternoon. It underscores her front-runner status and tries to trivialize last night's criticism. The ad is called the politics of pile-on. It features Clinton's rivals repeatedly saying her name. Wolf?

BLITZER: Candy Crowley reporting for us. Thank you, Candy.

And this programming note. The next Democratic presidential debate happens November 15th in Las Vegas, Nevada. I'll be moderating that debate in the key western state. The Democratic candidates in Vegas with me November 15th.

Tonight, a Halloween edition of our political ticker. Check out the costume retiring Republican Senator Chuck Hagel wore to a Foreign Relations Committee hearing today. That's a mask bearing the likeness of his Democratic colleague, Committee Chairman Joe Biden. And a "Biden for president" t-shirt as well. Perhaps Biden was impressed. He joked, how about Hagel for vice president. I know they are close friends.

On this Halloween also, President Bush is suggesting Vice President Dick Cheney is living up to his nickname of Darth Vader. Listen to what Mr. Bush told an audience here in Washington today about his vice president and the allusion to the heavy breathing villain of "Star Wars."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH., U.S. PRESIDENT: This morning I was with the vice president. I was asking him what costume he was planning. He said, well, I'm already wearing it. Then he mumbled something about the dark side of the force.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Vice President Cheney has said before he doesn't mind being likened to Darth Vader. He jokes it's one of the nicer things his critics have often called him.

Remember, for the latest political news at any time, check out our political ticker. Just go to cnn.com/ticker.

Hillary Clinton versus Rudy Giuliani. There are new polls emerging tonight. And they are showing who has the edge. Would it be to the advantage of Clinton's rivals, the information in those polls? That and a lot more coming up in our political roundtable. Jack Cafferty standing by to participate in that.

And she ran the hearts and minds operations as it was called over at the State Department trying to improve the U.S. image in the Muslim world. Does her departure mean failure? That would be Karen Hughes. We'll talk about that as well. Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It would pit one tough New Yorker against another. If Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani become their parties' presidential nominees and run against each other, one poll says Giuliani would win. But wait, wait, another poll says Hillary Clinton would win. Tonight we focus on which seems to be the better prediction.

My three panelists joining us from New York. The conservative columnist and Republican strategist Rachel Marsden, Jack Cafferty who needs know introduction, and Carl Bernstein, the author of the Hillary Clinton biography, "A Woman in Charge" and, of course, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who helped break the Watergate scandal a long, long time ago.

Guys, thanks very much for joining us. Jack, look at this, the Pew Research Center just has a brand new poll if the 2000 election were held today, who would you vote for. Clinton, Hillary, that is, gets 51 percent. Giuliani, Rudy, 43 percent. But wait? Earlier in the day there was a Quinnipiac University poll that showed Giuliani with 45 percent, Clinton 43 percent, the margin of error very, very close. What do you think about the possibility of a Hillary Clinton- Rudy Giuliani brawl?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I think it would be -- it will be the rumble in the jungle that happened between Foreman and Ali. It was supposed to happen in New York several years ago when Hillary was elected to the Senate. Rudy was mayor then. But for a diagnosis of prostate cancer then our lives might be different because as I recall, Rudy was favored to win. He would have been in the Senate, not in New York City on 9/11. She would have been, who knows where.

As far as the race is concerned, I don't especially like either one of them. Rudy Giuliani sounds an awful lot like George Bush and I'm sick and tired of being told to be afraid. I'm not afraid. The American public doesn't tend to be afraid. We're not a fearsome or fearful people. And Hillary Clinton will get my attention when she agrees to release the records that so far are being kept under lock and key for the eight years that she was the first lady of the United States. What is she hiding?

BLITZER: That's a good question for Carl Bernstein. He's written an excellent biography of Hillary Clinton. What do you think, first of all, Carl, about the possibility of a Hillary Clinton-Rudy Giuliani match-up?

CARL BERNSTEIN, JOURNALIST: I think we've got too many polls. And we're paying too much attention to them. Which is exactly what both Giuliani and Hillary Clinton want us to do. They want it to appear inevitable that they are going to be the nominees. All these polls are are a momentary snapshot, partly self-fulfilling prophecies and we ought to pay little attention to them.

BLITZER: You know both of these candidates, though, Carl, what do you think? Who would win?

BERNSTEIN: I think anybody that would tell you at this point that they know is smoking something. I think that there is probably a big Democratic advantage right now in the way the country is postured given the years of George Bush's presidency. But more important, I think something happened last night that's far more important than these polls. And that is that this notion of inevitability about Hillary Clinton being the nominee before there's even one primary or caucus might have had a real roadblock thrown at it by bringing out, to use the Halloween theme, the real skeleton in the Hillary Clinton closet, which is the question of her truthfulness and candor. Her opponents have been waiting for it in both parties. It's out there.

Bill Richardson, rightfully, said this could be a big problem down the road for a Democratic nominee, if it's Hillary. And it's now out there, and I think it's going to become a huge issue. And Jack just said, you know this whole question about these records of Hillary's correspondence to her husband, among other things, on substantive issues in the Clinton presidency, that's not going to go away. So I think we've got a whole new element we better look at here, not polls.

BLITZER: What do you think, Rachel?

RACHEL MARSDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think the strategies that Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani are totally different from one other at this point. It's really interesting. She was in the ring yesterday but the other guys were all throwing punches at her and she was shadow boxing with George W. Bush almost strictly addressing Bush and his policies.

And it's almost as though she was doing that to avoid being pinned down on any particular issue at this point. And I think what Hillary's practicing right now is what we call in political strategy in very technical terms the finger in the wind strategy where she's going to decide which way the wind is most likely to blow before, as we get closer to the election before finding a position, whereas Rudy, what he is doing, is he is very clear in what his philosophies are, what he believes and he's going to spend the next year explaining those policies. It's more a position of leadership.

BLITZER: Rachel, what did you think of the line from Joe Biden when he said Rudy Giuliani when he has a sentence there's a noun, a verb and 9/11. That's about all he can say?

MARSDEN: I think the Democrats, that's something they can't really attack him on. I'm sure they are probably wisely steering clear of that. But he is coming out on other issues and it's not the only thing he's talking about. And I don't think it's fair for the Democrats to characterize it that way.

BLITZER: Just wait. They're criticizing him on that. They'll criticize him on a lot of other stuff as well.

BERNSTEIN: Can I address this question?

BLITZER: Carl hold on one second. I want to take a quick break. We've got a lot more time and we've got a lot more to talk about. We'll get more with our panelists in just a moment.

Carl Bernstein, Rachel Marsden, Jack Cafferty. In just a moment. Who should take over the job of promoting America's image around the world now that Karen Hughes is leaving? Plus, the president's pick for attorney general is being picked apart by the U.S. Senate. Why Michael Mukasey's nomination may be in big trouble. That, a lot more with our roundtable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: ... is our nation's chief law enforcement officer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: One of President Bush's closest friends was supposed to improve America's image during her time over at the State Department. Now Karen Hughes is set to leave. Did she succeed or fail at changing the minds of the anti-U.S. crowd around the world? Let's get back to our panel. Conservative columnist Rachel Marsden, Jack Cafferty and Carl Bernstein, the author of the Hillary Clinton biography, "A Woman in Charge."

Jack, what do you think, mission accomplished for Karen Hughes?

CAFFERTY: Mission impossible expecting her to be able to change the American image in the Middle East is like asking her to empty the Atlantic Ocean with a teaspoon. You can't do it. And here's why.

The very same State Department that Karen Hughes works for yesterday granted some sort of immunity to Blackwater security guards who are the subjects of a murder investigation in Iraq in Iraq for allegedly killing 17 innocent Iraqi citizens. If the State Department is willing to give immunity to American private mercenaries who are accused of murdering innocent civilians, how the hell can you expect anybody to sell the American image on the Arab street? Can't do it.

BLITZER: Not an easy job, Carl.

BERNSTEIN: Why not just give it to the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders or Dick Cheney himself and send them over to Islamabad. You know, the problem has to do with our policies. And with this presidency. It doesn't have to do with making Karen Hughes try to do something that's an impossible task.

BLITZER: Is it impossible to improve America's image around the world, Rachel?

MARSDEN: I think it's happening already. I'm not sure if the people in the Middle East, just the general folks on the Arab street are following the situation with Blackwater as closely as Jack Cafferty is, but I think, you know, Bush did the most counterintuitive thing last fall when he decided upon the troop surge. And it was what everybody was not recommending for him to do. Everyone was saying pull the troops out.

He sent more in and it's working. And that's how you win hearts and minds. And it makes me nervous when I hear conservatives talking about hearts and minds because I think right away of Lyndon B. Johnson pulling the troops out under a general, Westie Westmoreland, who won every battle in Vietnam. And that was a guy who kept repeating hearts and minds, hearts and minds. He didn't win them, did he?

BLITZER: Carl Bernstein remembers that period quite well.

BERNSTEIN: I just heard a rewriting -- a rewriting of history from somebody who wasn't born then. Doesn't remember ...

MARSDEN: Oh, come on. Can't use that against me.

BLITZER: You probably weren't even born then yet.

BERNSTEIN: I was going to say.

BLITZER: I want your opinions. Start with Carl. Who should get this job to be in charge of what they call public diplomacy, improving our image around the world?

BERNSTEIN: I would think some people who really know the Arab world ought to figure in it prominently. Hillary Clinton has said if she were elected, she more or less would put Bill Clinton in such a role. You know, we have great, great resources in both parties who can plead the American cause. But if the American cause is going to be our war in Iraq, it's a hopeless job.

BLITZER: Jack, you got a candidate?

CAFFERTY: Well, yeah. How about President Bush starts trying to sell our American image in the Middle East. And the way you do that is you stop starting wars with Middle Eastern countries that haven't done anything to you. There's saber rattling about Iran. They invade Iraq, who had no al Qaeda, no WMD, had no role in 9/11. You aren't going to get these people to think we're wearing any white hats while you are pillaging their country, wrecking their infrastructure and trying to get your hands on their oil.

BLITZER: You got a candidate, Rachel?

MARSDEN: I think George Bush is doing fine. Looking back in the rear-view mirror, I think history will prove him right. Like I said, everything looks better in the rear-view mirror. People hated Reagan when he was in office. People hated Joe McCarthy and they said he was wrong about what he was doing. Turned out based on Verona Project that he was right. So I think history will prove George Bush right as well.

BLITZER: Very quickly, Jack ...

BERNSTEIN: I want to go back on Joe McCarthy for a minute.

MARSDEN: Of course you do.

BLITZER: What do you think about this issue of water boarding, torture and the attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey?

CAFFERTY: I think -- I feel sorry for Michael Mukasey. I think he's trying to tread a minefield laid down for him by that sycophantic little yes weasel Alberto Gonzales. He wrote the memo in secret saying the Geneva Conventions didn't apply to American military when it came to enemy combatants. Who wrote secret memos saying the president of the United States didn't have to follow the FISA court laws when it came to spying on Americans.

That kind of subterfuge of the American rule of law is an entirely separate issue from whether or not water boarding is torture or whether or not surveillance under these conditions or those conditions is a good idea. Now Mr. Mukasey can't say waterboarding is torture because if he does, liability sudden accrues to a whole lot of folks and who knows what the consequences are. Meanwhile, Gonzales is wandering around happy as a clam. He ought to be in jail for what he did. He didn't answer questions on Capitol Hill. He didn't cooperate with the subpoenas. He couldn't remember anything when he was asked and then he's allowed to resign and walk out into the sunshine. I feel sorry for Mr. Mukasey.

BLITZER: Rachel, can you beat that.

MARSDEN: Well, I think we have to define torture. One man's torture is another man's CIA-sponsored swim lesson. But one issue with what Jack Cafferty said about enemy combatants, these are not prisoners of war. They are enemy combatants.

CAFFERTY: But that's not the point.

MARSDEN: But that's perfectly legal as per the Peace of Westphalia to line them up against the nearest wall in the battlefield and shoot them.

CAFFERTY: That's not the point. You don't write secret memos -- you don't write secret memos saying the Geneva Conventions, which we signed on to after a long time ago, no longer apply, so we can carry out some other agenda. That's not the way this country works. Whether or not you line these people up against a wall is a separate issue. I don't care what you do with them, but you got to respect the traditions and the laws of this country and this president hasn't done that.

BLITZER: Rachel, hold your fire because you'll be back. Carl Bernstein will be back. Jack's not going anywhere because he's going to come back ...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: ... with the "Cafferty File." Thanks, guys, very much.

Who has got the outer space vote? Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Would you vote for a presidential candidate who had said he'd seen a UFO?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Jeanne Moos coming up with some close encounters of the presidential kind. And Jack is coming back. He's asking if a public school should be allowed to order teachers and students to dress like Muslims. Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Check back with Jack Cafferty for the "Cafferty File." Jack?

CAFFERTY: It's been much too long, Wolf. The question, should a public school be able to order teachers and students to dress like Muslims? There is a public school in Britain that has actually done this.

M. in Huntington, New York - "I can't believe my ears. What if we asked all teachers to wear a cross around their neck on Good Friday? What would happen then? I'm disgusted."

Alex writes, "Only if all Muslims would agree to remove the burkas from women, put on short dresses and have the men shave their beards and wear Western clothes for a day. Then, sure, everyone is practicing religious diversity."

Eric in South Carolina. "Maybe they should have had kids and teachers in the seventies dress in blackface to lower tensions during the school bussing crisis. That makes about as much sense as this idea does. Thanks for showing how stupid political correctness can be."

Mike in Boston writes, "The answer is a firm no. I'm disgusted beyond belief. I truly thought the British had more going on upstairs than that. It looks to me like they've swallowed all the mind-numbing P.C. diversity trash that we've been force fed here. I don't like it. My children wouldn't be allowed to stay in such a school. With all due respect to our Muslim brothers and sisters, I'm sure they wouldn't want their kids dressing like Roman Catholic priests for a day. Ramadan, study it? Yes. Appreciate it as a holiday of another historic and pious tradition? Yes. Why not? I'm all for it. But there it ends."

M. Writes from Spring, Texas. "Muslims are anti-women and pro bigotry against many people. I'd let my child dress up as a Muslim after the Muslims let all those women in burqas wear average everyday Western clothes when they go to school. But most of them don't go to school, do they?"

And Chuck writes from Georgia. "I'm really not sure, but I am sure what would happen if they were instructed to come to school dressed like Mary, Joseph and Jesus. Can you say ACLU spitting nails?"

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 of "The Cafferty File." Wolf?

BLITZER: Jack, thank you. See you back here tomorrow. Good work.

Close encounters of the presidential kind. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a "Moost Unusual" look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MOOS (voice-over): If politics seemed alien to you before, now a UFO has landed in the presidential race.

(on camera): Would you vote for a presidential candidate who had said he'd seen a UFO?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably.

MOOS (voice-over): What do you expect from a guy dressed up like Shrek? The candidate in question is long shot Dennis Kucinich.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you see a UFO?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I did. And the rest of the account -- I -- it was unidentified flying object, OK? It's unidentified. I saw something.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even if he saw one, maybe it wasn't a smart idea to bring it up.

MOOS: Kucinich has his friend Shirley MacLaine to thank for that. In her new autobiography she describes how Kucinich went out on her balcony in Washington State and saw a triangular silent UFO hovering, that it was a moving experience.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It sounds like a little bit of instability to me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kind of like Shirley MacLaine. They are interesting people, but I don't want them to be president of my country.

MOOS: But Kucinich has company. Jimmy Carter saw a UFO, even submitted an official report on it though debunkers say he really saw was the planet Venus. Even Ronald Reagan reportedly saw a UFO while flying in a small plane. Fourteen percent of Americans have reported seeing UFOs. They are all over YouTube. Shaped like discs, often all blurry. The best looking UFOs are almost always fake. And though beam me up Dennis was ridiculed on the Web, he was rewarded with a long post-debate smooch from his wife. And more than half of the folks we asked said they would vote for a candidate who'd said he's seen a UFO.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, why not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would prefer that to a candidate who says he doesn't believe in evolution. MOOS: In fact, of the 20 people we questioned, three said this.

(on camera): Have you ever seen a UFO?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Personally, sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought I saw one when I was 15.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Moved like an insect. It just went there and there and there and there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saw an object fly, make a 90 degree turn.

MOOS: Halloween and UFO encounters. Perfect together.

(on camera): He called it a moving experience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I could tell you a few things about a moving experience. I'm having one right now.

MOOS (voice-over): This guy was dressed up as a port-a-san. Though he appeared to be carried, those are his legs. The naked ones are foam fakes.

(on camera): Have you ever seen a UFO?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no. Ooooohhh.

MOOS: You are a UFO.

(voice-over): Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Leave it to Jeanne. This programming note.

Remember, November 15, the next Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas, Nevada. I'll be moderating that debate November 15 in Vegas.

And mark your calendar, starting Monday, one year from Election Day, 2008, THE SITUATION ROOM will be on for three hours back-to-back from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. Eastern. LOU DOBBS will then start at 7:00. That starts Monday. Till then - till tomorrow, that is. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Up next, Rick Sanchez with OUT IN THE OPEN.

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