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Michael Bloomberg Interview; Diplomats Wary of Being Forced into Iraq Duty; Hillary Vulnerable?
Aired November 1, 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, President Bush plays the 9/11 card to try to rescue his choice for attorney general, but Democratic support for Michael Mukasey is fading. Will fear help save his nomination?
Also Hillary Clinton's opponents want to know if she's hiding something. We're going to tell why papers from her years as first lady are staying under lock and key.
And New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg calls it craziness. He is jumping into the fire storm over drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants. This hour he tells us whose side he is on.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
President Bush says nothing less than America's national security is on the line right now in the battle over his choice to be the next attorney general. It's another in your face slap at Democrats who are either iffy about Michael Mukasey or outright against him.
Let's go to our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. She's watching this story for us. The president making the connection today between Mukasey and national security.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, this is really a familiar strategy. It is one that has worked in the White House in the past. Essentially they are banking on the possibility that the Democrats will back down from this confirmation battle if they claim this debate as one of national security.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): In the battle to save his attorney general's nomination, President Bush pulled out a familiar weapon from his arsenal. He invoked the horrors of September 11th and introduced the possibility of a fresh attack.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The terrorists who struck America that September morning intend to strike us again.
MALVEAUX: The message to the Democratic controlled Congress was simple. Approve his nominee Judge Michael Mukasey or potentially take the fall for not providing his administration with the people and tools needed to prevent another attack.
BUSH: The job of attorney general is essential to the security of America.
MALVEAUX: Mr. Bush also called on Congress to renew legislation to give his administration broader leeway to wire tap potential terrorists without a warrant. The president went even further, accusing lawmakers of not only shirking their responsibilities, but kowtowing (ph) to antiwar groups some who gathered outside the speech site.
BUSH: Some in Washington should spend more time responding to the warnings of terrorists like Osama bin Laden and the requests of our commanders on the ground and less time responding to the demands of MoveOn.org bloggers and code pink (ph) protesters.
MALVEAUX: Mukasey's nomination is being held up over his refusal to say whether the interrogation technique of simulating drowning or waterboarding is legal or whether it is tantamount to torture. Mr. Bush says it's a question Mukasey can't answer because he's not yet qualified to be briefed on top secret interrogation methods but the president insists it's all legal.
BUSH: The procedures used in this program are safe. They are lawful. And they are necessary.
MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, the president is trying so hard to save this nomination. He did something very rare today. That is he held an off camera on-the-record preview with reporters of his speech. Now his White House press secretary said that he was inspired by a recent photo he saw of President Eisenhower holding one of these traditional pen and pad sessions in the Oval Office. But Wolf, considering that we're six and a half years into his administration, it strongly suggests this is a president that not only is willing to use a different method, he needs to do something very different to push this nomination through -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux, thank you.
A fourth Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee now says he'll oppose Mukasey's nomination. That would be Senator Edward Kennedy. He accuses Mukasey of dodging a straightforward question about whether waterboarding is torture.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: After six long years of reckless disregard for the rule of law by this administration, we cannot afford to take our chances on the judgment of someone who either does not know torture when he sees it or is willing to pretend so to suit the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Another key Judiciary Committee member, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said today he is still undecided about Mukasey. The panel, by the way, is expected to vote on the nomination Tuesday.
A confession today from the top Democrat in the House of Representatives, the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said if a pollster asked her to rate the U.S. Congress she would probably agree with Americans who give the chamber low marks. That's not the upbeat take Pelosi and other Democrats were offering earlier in the day.
Let's go to our congressional correspondent Jessica Yellin. She's watching this story for us. Democrats marking what they are calling a milestone of sorts.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are, Wolf. Today the first anniversary of taking power here in Congress, the Democrats touted their own accomplishments and branded Republicans as obstructionists.
YELLIN (voice-over): It was a campaign-style rally for Democrats marking the first anniversary of their return to power.
REP. RAHM EMANUEL, (D), ILLINOIS: In one short year we've made real progress and won real victories for the American people.
YELLIN: The anniversary comes as Democratic leaders are stymied on almost every issue before them including children's health insurance, the wire tap law and spending bills. But they offer a ready explanation for the gridlock.
REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MAJORITY LEADER: This do-something new direction Congress has been blocked far too often by a do-nothing president and his Republican congressional accomplices.
YELLIN: And today Senate leader Harry Reid echoed that message saying of the president never had we had anyone so unwilling to negotiate on anything. American's approval of Congress is at historic lows. Even Speaker Pelosi has suffered. According to a new field poll in her home state of California, her approval rating has fallen 13 percent since March. But Democrats insist polls show they are doing much better than their Republican counterparts.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Which party can bring needed change, 48 percent Democratic, 26 percent Republican?
YELLIN: Republicans maintain these internal fights hurt both parties.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: At the end of the day, if the American people see us working together, Democrats and Republicans on their behalf, all of our numbers will go up.
YELLIN: But right now, there's not a lot of working together on Capitol Hill and Democrats believe blaming Republicans for the deadlock could be a winning strategy for 2008.
(END VIDEOTAPE) YELLIN: And, Wolf, Democratic Party strategists also say that Americans now realize that Democrats need a larger majority in Congress to get things done and they plan to use that as an argument to elect more Democrats next year -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jessica Yellin on Capitol Hill. Thank you.
Let's go up to New York and Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, it's called the Foreign Service for a reason. It's because the people who work there are expected to serve in foreign countries. Get it, Foreign Service. But apparently some State Department employees who are only too happy to cash the check from the State Department don't think the term "foreign service" should apply to Iraq.
In a case of the tail trying to wag the dog, these mouth contents (ph) are whining that they don't want to be assigned to the embassy in Baghdad. It's OK for 160,000 of our troops to be sent there, to sleep in the dirt and get shot at everyday, but these elitist bureaucrats want none of it, even though they are assigned to work in the largest and newest U.S. embassy in the world, a place that is supposed to have amenities of a small town that include a swimming pool, a barber shop, fast food restaurants and a beauty salon.
Now granted there's a war going on and war zones are dangerous places, but if you agree to work for the Foreign Service and are only too happy to cash the paycheck that the Foreign Service gives you, why then wouldn't you expect to go where they send you. It's unfortunate, but not all personnel in the State Department can serve either in Washington or on the French Rivera.
So here's the question. Should U.S. diplomats be forced to serve in Iraq? E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you. Jack will be back shortly with our round table.
New York's mayor now praising our own Lou Dobbs. Listen to this.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well Lou is an old friend of mine who I agree with very seldom, but nevertheless in this case Lou happens to be right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You're going to want to hear what Michael Bloomberg is talking about. It is something many say concerns our security -- Michael Bloomberg here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Also you could say her rivals are chanting stop Hillary Clinton. Some Democratic presidential candidates consider Iowa hallowed ground for their presidential fortunes. And the funny man Stephen Colbert has a serious problem on his hands. It involves what he calls a presidential campaign but what some in South Carolina consider a total joke.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: New York Governor Eliot Spitzer (ph) wants to let people who are in the country illegally drive legally in his state. Some of our viewers know that is driving CNN's Lou Dobbs to issue some serious concerns, strong opposition to what the governor is now proposing.
Here in THE SITUATION ROOM the New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is now weighing in.
I want you to listen to this whole uproar now in your state, New York State, over drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner seemed to trip up in her explanation where she stands at the Democratic debate the other day. Listen to what our colleague Lou Dobbs though says about the New York State governor. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Let me point out to you that this is only occurring after the good governor or Prince Eliot (ph), as he seems to think of himself, has met the opposition, not only my humble self, but nearly three-fourths of the New Yorkers surveyed in recent opinion polls who say this governor is completely out of his mind on this issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Should illegal immigrants -- there may be a million of them in New York State -- have -- get drivers' licenses, New York State drivers' licenses?
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: I do not believe they should. I think and I've expressed to the governor an objection that I've had to it and my police commissioner has had to this for a long time when I've been asked this question. The governor's first proposal I thought was inappropriate and should not have been enacted. And I told him so privately, which is the way I should deal with him. His second proposal of three different kinds of licenses are something that I have -- I think is a step in the right direction, but I still don't think that it is where we should be.
The bottom line is we should be giving drivers' licenses to people, knowing who they are and making sure that they have a right to have them. And we should make sure particularly, when it comes to guns that you can only use a secure driver's license to buy guns. After all, we have a crazy system, Wolf, in our country.
We have people on the can't-fly list because they are potential terrorists that can buy guns. And we've just got to stop this craziness. If we have a secure license to get in and out of this country, we certainly should have a secure license to be able to buy guns.
BLITZER: Am I hearing you right? On this issue of drivers' licenses in New York State, you tend to agree more with Lou Dobbs than Eliot Spitzer (ph)?
BLOOMBERG: Well Lou is an old friend of mine, who I agree with very seldom, but nevertheless in this case Lou happens to be right.
BLITZER: Can you rule out -- I just have to ask you one final political question -- rule out the possibility that you would run as an independent presidential candidate?
BLOOMBERG: Is this a Shermanesque (ph) question?
BLOOMBERG: Let me tell you something. You're asking the wrong question. What you have to ask is why can't we get the candidates that are running and there are plenty declared candidates, both Republican and Democrat, why can't they stop this partisan bickering in Washington? Why can't they address the issues?
Why do we have this continued money and influence kind of politics that's wrong? We have a country that has serious problems internationally and domestically and we have a Congress that is not willing to be accountable. We have a Congress that ducks on every issue. We have a Congress that wants to tell you there's something for free when there really isn't.
And I think asking each of the existing candidates rather than going looking for new ones that's what you should do. You as part of the fourth of (ph) state should find out where they stand and have them answer concretely what they would do in the case of each of these issues.
BLITZER: I'm not hearing a Shermanesque (ph) answer.
BLOOMBERG: Well because you're asking a person who is not a candidate. I've got 791 days left to go in my job and I plan to finish that.
BLITZER: You plan to finish it...
BLITZER: Is there is any chance you'd run for president this time around?
BLOOMBERG: Look, this country does not need another candidate and I am not a candidate and I've told you -- I'm going to speak out though. I have every intention of speaking out and traveling around this country and trying to get people to say look, you who are running, tell us what you'll do and how do you stop this constant fighting that has immobilized Congress, both parties and instantly both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
We've got to get a federal government that gets us to rebuild relations internationally in a global world because we have to fight terrorism globally and trade globally and have science globally. We have got to have answers to how we're going to fund medical care and Social Security and I don't hear any of this stuff.
BLITZER: That's because a lot of people are clamoring and they would like to see -- they are not happy with the Democrats. They are not happy with the Republicans. Michael Bloomberg, you got a lot of money. You could be that third-party candidate that some people want.
BLOOMBERG: I am very flattered that you would even bring it up, but nevertheless there are plenty of candidates that will be able to raise lots of money and they'll have a spirited battle. And it is up to the fourth of (ph) state to make sure that that battle is informative to the public.
BLITZER: Michael Bloomberg speaking with me earlier.
By the way, in our hot seat tomorrow, the consumer activist and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader. He will talk about his legal fight underway right now with the Democratic Party. I'll also ask him if he wants to run for president again. If you have a question for Ralph Nader, by the way, you can record it on video and submit it to CNN.com/SituationRoom. Maybe we'll play your question for Ralph Nader tomorrow.
Her last debate performance got only lukewarm reviews, if that. Is that hurting Hillary Clinton in Iowa where the crucial caucuses are now only nine weeks away? We're going to take you there live in the CNN Election Express. Also, single women voters, we're going to show you why they could be the ones who decide who is the next president.
And he disappeared for three weeks, now a former mayor makes a shocking admission in court.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What's going on, Carol?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: A couple of things, Wolf.
Tennis star Martina Hingis (ph) abruptly retired today while denying what she called monstrous accusations that she tested positive for cocaine during this year's Wimbledon Tennis Tournament. Hingis describes herself as frustrated, angry and absolutely 100 percent innocent. She won five major tennis tournaments in the 1990s and was attempting a comeback from injuries.
In his first public appearance since last month's abrupt resignation, Atlantic City's former mayor went to court today. Robert Levy pleaded guilty to lying about his military record to get more money in veteran's benefits. He collected almost $25,000 more than he deserved. He will be sentenced later. Levy mysteriously dropped from sight for three weeks back in September after reporters started asking about his service record.
A veteran of one of the most famous missions of World War II died today. Paul Tibbets piloted the (INAUDIBLE) the B-29 that dropped the world's first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan in 1945. It killed 80,000 to 140,000 people and helped end the war. Tibbets was 92 years old. He requested no funeral or head stone to discourage protesters. Back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks, Carol, very much.
In Iowa, some Democrats are working hard toward one goal, stopping Hillary Clinton in that state. But they don't have long to do it. Iowa's presidential caucus is only nine weeks away. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider is with the CNN Election Express out in Iowa. That bus is crisscrossing the country, stopping in states important in this entire field.
Bill is joining us now live. Are we seeing a change in the Democratic contest since the last Democratic presidential debate?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well Hillary Clinton's rivals sense a little blood in the water. They're ready to move in for the kill.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): If her rivals want to stop Hillary Clinton, they have to do it in Iowa where the Democratic race is a dead heat. Did her performance in the debate this week hurt her? David Yepsen of "The Des Moines Register" thinks so, but not primarily because of her position.
DAVID YEPSEN, "THE DES MOINES REGISTER": What gets her in trouble is waffling, is equivocating, is not being clear.
SCHNEIDER: John Edwards is releasing a new TV ad in Iowa drawing an obvious contrast.
JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is time for our party, the Democratic Party to show a little backbone, to have a little guts.
SCHNEIDER: The criticism of Clinton has residents with Democratic caucus goers, because it reinforces their one big doubt about her. Is she electable?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any time anything happens it reinforce Clinton's negatives or bad perceptions of her, will raise questions they knew about, well maybe she can't win in November.
SCHNEIDER: Clinton is fighting back by accusing her opponents, all men, of piling on. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I seem to be the topic of great conversation and consternation and that's for a reason.
SCHNEIDER: On Wednesday when the government workers union endorsed her, the president of the union said this.
GERALD MCENTEE, AFSCME PRESIDENT: Some of you may have seen last night's debate. Six guys against Hillary and I'd call that a fair fight.
SCHNEIDER: On Thursday, she made this comment when she visited Wellesley College (ph), her alma mater.
H. CLINTON: In so many ways, this all-women's college prepared me to compete in the all-boys club of presidential politics.
SCHNEIDER: Did playing the gender card pay off in Iowa?
YEPSEN: When Senator Clinton plays that gender defense I think that's something a lot of women caucus goers can relate to and understand. They have all been in situations where the men were kind of ganging up on them.
SCHNEIDER: In 2004, just over half of Democratic caucus participants here in Iowa were women according to the state party. That's an awfully big voting group, Wolf.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider with the CNN Election Express. Bill, thank you.
By the way, the Election Express is bringing all the excitement of the presidential race and the issues you care about to your back yard, from Iowa our campaign bus heads to the Democratic Convention city of Denver, Colorado. Then it's on to Las Vegas where CNN's Democratic presidential debate and from there the bus treks to St. Petersburg, Florida for the CNN YouTube Republican presidential debate, lots of traveling for the CNN Election Express.
Coming up we're digging into Hillary Clinton's secrets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Candidates who can feel things run into the problem of people believing where there is smoke there's fire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is the senator hiding anything about her years as first lady? We're going to tell what we've learned about those documents under wraps. And President Bush adds terror fears into the mix and a brawl over his attorney general nominee. Our round table takes on questions about torture, its scare tactics, on both sides.
And one state decides if Steven Colbert's (ph) presidential campaign is really a joke. The funny man may not necessarily be laughing, then again maybe he is. Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, the Dow Jones industrial average plunges 362 points, the fourth biggest drop of the year, the new interest rate cut apparently is not enough to calm investor worries about the mortgage meltdown, consumer spending and oil prices.
Also an upbeat assessment from the number two U.S. military commander in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ray Odierno (ph) says the troop's increase is achieving what he calls and I'm quoting now, "some momentum". He also says there are quote, "some signs of normalcy returning to the Iraqi people".
And stunning fallout from last week's California wildfire, a new study says all of that smoke released as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as all of the state's power plants and vehicles combined.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Hillary Clinton says her year as first lady make her uniquely qualified to return to the White House as president. But her Democratic rivals suggest there may be something from the Clinton administration that she's hiding.
Let's bring in Brian Todd. He's digging deeper into the story. He's watching it. Clinton's opponents certainly are pouncing on this issue, Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are at least starting to, Wolf. This fight is over the release of records from when Hillary Clinton was first lady, which were turned over to the National Archives when the Clintons left office. With only two months until the first votes are cast, the question of how soon the records will be released has become a very political one.
TODD (voice-over): Barack Obama accusing Hillary Clinton of delaying the release of White House records.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Not releasing I think these records, at the same, Hillary, as you're making the claim that this is the basis for your experience I think is a problem.
TODD: At issue, thousands of documents related to Senator Clinton's time as first lady; memos, letters, her daily appointment schedule that might shed new light on her failed healthcare effort as well as White Water and the Monica Lewinsky affair. Clinton says that's not up to her and her husband. It's up to the national archives.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: They're moving as rapidly as archives move. There's about 20 million pieces of paper there. They are moving and they are releasing as they do their process.
TODD: The national archives began processing Clinton material just last year for release. They have a back log of requests, from historians, journalists, to review 10 million pages of Clinton materials and only six archivists to do it.
LEE WHITE, NATIONAL COALITION FOR HISTORY: The question becomes the archivists really just doesn't have the resource to process the material.
TODD: But Bill Clinton has a hand in this as well since they're sent all papers from their term in office before their release. According to the Clinton library, Bill Clinton's reviews have delayed the release of documents by, on average, eight months. The issue could provide an opening for rivals for critics of the former first lady.
ROGER SIMON, THE POLITICO: Candidates who conceal things run into the problem of people believing whether there's smoke there's fire.
TODD: But even if President Clinton told the archives today, release anything you want, don't hold your breath. Experts say requests to presidential libraries are taking years to process. Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Brian Todd reporting. Young, single women increasing their support to Hillary Clinton. Can they do for her let's say what evangelical Christians did for President Bush? CNN's Carol Costello is here in THE SITUATION ROOM watching this. This is an incredibly important demographic for Hillary Clinton.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's so important, Wolf. I mean if Hillary Clinton can persuade these young single women to vote for her, many say she'll win. And those who oppose Clinton know that. That's why they're calling these young women voters stupid.
COSTELLO: 2008 could well be the year of the woman. Or rather the single, anxious female. According to new research by Emily's List, a political network for democratic women, they might just put Hillary Clinton in the White House. Emily's List conducted a survey of young likely democratic women voters in three primary states; Georgia, New Jersey and Arizona. Forty-nine percent say they will vote for Clinton. And they are excited a woman is in the running. Is that a record?
MAREN HESLA, EMILY'S LIST: It may be a record given how crowded the field is right now.
COSTELLO: This is not lost on Clinton herself who preached to the choir as she stumped at Wellesley College.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: In so many ways this all women's college prepared me to compete in the all-boys club of presidential politics.
COSTELLO: Maybe Clinton is wasting her energy. This particular group may be anxious about the war, healthcare, and equal pay but they are notoriously difficult to get to the polling booths, prompting some to say they are more interested in showing off than in true political activism.
For this the online magazine "Jezebel" dubbed them the elusive, slutty, anxious female, that's slutty in a political sense of course. Not surprisingly, conservatives don't like this particular type of voter either. Author Ann Coulter called them stupid, going on to say it was her pipe dream to take away a woman's right to vote and she was not the only one saying that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shouldn't be allowed to vote on those grounds.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's moronic.
COSTELLO: Even feminist author Naomi Wolf who worked on Al Gore's 2004 campaign described SAF's as bubbly, kind of like Melanie Griffith's character in the movie "Working Girl." But being pigeonholed this way makes some young women steam.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is ridiculous.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't agree with this.
COSTELLO: And there was angry sarcasm about who they might vote for, too.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe Hillary. But I'm an idiot.
COSTELLO: Of course all of this stupid girl talk may drive female voters to the polls. Hillary Clinton certainly hopes so.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much. Carol Costello watching the voting block, this demographic for us.
This programming note, by the way, on November 15th, I'll be in Las Vegas, Nevada to moderate a debate in that key western state among the democratic candidates, November 15th in Las Vegas. A quick check on our political ticker right now. The man credited with turning around one of the nation's top car makers is trying to rev up democrat Bill Richardson's presidential campaign. The former Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca says he's backing the New Mexico governor citing his experience as a U.N. ambassador and energy secretary. On his personal blog, Iacocca also says he just likes the guy. Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota is throwing his support behind Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani. The former St. Paul mayor tells the Associated Press he's backing the former New York City mayor because of his stance on security and because he can get things done. Coleman may be trying to help himself as much as he's trying to help Giuliani. Coleman is trying to improve his standing with swing voters in Minnesota in the run up to what's expected to be a very tough re-election campaign for him next year.
South Carolina's Democratic Party says Steven Colbert's presidential campaign is indeed a joke. Party officials voted 13-3 to keep the comedian off the democratic primary ballot. Colbert has ruled out trying to get on the republican ballot in his native state because it's too expensive. Democrats don't want to be mocked by the mock news man. One party official accused Colbert of "trying to use South Carolina democrats as suckers to further his comedy routine." Remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can always check out our political sticker at CNN.com/ticker.
Some angry New Yorkers want to stop their governor from giving illegal immigrants drivers' licenses. We'll ask a panel of experts what's going on. Among them, our own Jack Cafferty.
And working in Iraq is, "a potential death sentence." That's what some U.S. diplomats are saying and they're furious that some of them could be forced to work there.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: President Bush plays the terror card as he tries to rescue the embattled nomination of his pick for attorney general. Judge Michael Mukasey once a seeming shoe-in for the job but not necessarily any longer as senators are demanding he say definitively whether or not water boarding is torture. Joining us now to talk about that and more in New York, our CNN contributor Roland Martin, along with CNN's own Jack Cafferty, here in Washington, Diana West, a "Washington Times" columnist and the author of a book entitled "The Death Of A Grown-Up." Diana, Roland, welcome very much. Jack is always here and welcome to Jack as well. Here's what the president had to say in making the case today in part for Mukasey's nomination. Jack, listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: Bin Laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as Lennon and Hitler before them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He says at issue right now is the national security of United States, the war on terror and he needs an attorney general. The Congress and the Senate has to confirm him right away.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He had an attorney general. Alberto Gonzales, remember him? That's a different story. There are a couple of huge ironies in the Mukasey nomination. This retired federal judge won't answer the question whether or he thinks not water boarding is illegal. He may be protecting the president of the United States against prosecution under the war crimes act by his refusal to answer that question. There's a long detailed piece in the "New York Times" written about learned souls and legal experts that suggest that if a retired judge would say water boarding is illegal, it's torture, that there are potential liabilities that would immediately accrue to anyone who either practiced or approved water boarding. That could reach, according to some legal experts as high as the Oval Office. The other irony is the mechanics of the nomination itself in the judiciary committee. The Senior Senator from New York, Chuck Schumer would do an interview with a parking meter if there was a camera present. You could find Chuck Schumer at 2:00 on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of a snow storm to talk about anything, will not talk about the Mukasey nomination. He's been very quiet. Why? Because if the vote breaks down along party lines and the judiciary committee, Chuck Schumer who recommended Mukasey be the next attorney general, might have to cast the deciding vote and he might vote against it.
BLITZER: All right. What do you think, Diana?
DIANA WEST, COLUMNIST: Well, there's a lot to respond to there. I think for starters, I would say that I would take issue with this notion of this being a 9/11 card. I mean we are in a period of resurge in Islam, global jihad, I mean this is a serious period. The President does need an attorney general. Some of us knew that this would come up once Gonzalez was gone and we would see the democrats playing politics and trying to keep the attorney general seat empty. I don't think this is so much about Judge Mukasey trying to protect the president from prosecution, I do believe many other legal experts would say the president would always have immunity here. What I like to see, is people really start thinking about what is torture. If putting people into human size shredders, as Saddam Hussein did, is torture then water boarding which my senior military sources tell me you wake up feeling fine the next day, it is not torture.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Hey Diana?
MARTIN: In the same speech President Bush gave today, he said that we should trust generals on the ground in Iraq to tell us what we should do. Guess what? Unlike you and me, while we trust member of Congress who is actually being tortured, John McCain who spent five and a half years in Vietnam. One second, John McCain said water boarding is torture. Now who would you rather believe, someone who has never experienced torture or a member of Congress who is actually being tortured? I'm going with John McCain on this one as opposed to those who haven't.
WEST: John McCain's torture is nothing like water boarding. Anything we do is always going to be more humane.
MARTIN: Now you know what he felt? You know what he felt?
WEST: I don't need to know what he felt. I do know that I -- no, it's -- that's ridiculous. No one can have any opinion about anything.
BLITZER: But, Diana, John McCain does say that water boarding is torture. And Lindsey Graham, who is a republican senator from South Carolina, himself a military air force attorney, lawyer in the air force, he says it's illegal.
WEST: Yes, I know that. But this is not -- John McCain is not king and is not the only voice on this.
CAFFERTY: Neither is George Bush.
WEST: He is not the only voice on what constitutes torture.
MARTIN: Well, if the president said we should believe the generals on the ground and trust in Iraq, I'm going to believe someone in Congress who actually experienced torture.
BLITZER: Let me bring Jack in. Specifically the reference that the president made to Lennon and Hitler, I think he's referring to the appeasement and the days leading up to World War II and now that the democrats are not being keen enough ...
CAFFERTY: Where does he get this stuff? We're talk about confirmation hearing in congressional committee for a cabinet officer and he's babbling about Lennon and Hitler. I mean come on. I'm tired of being told to be afraid. The people are tired of being told to be afraid. Just get off of it. Either win the argument on the merits or go away and leave me alone.
BLITZER: What do you think, Diane?
WEST: I don't think it's a matter of being told to be afraid. I think it's a matter of trying to get people to connect events on the ground with the entire era that we're living in. We're in the era, I said this earlier, of global jihad.
MARTIN: No, no, there's a chain of groups.
Diana, the reason I'm laughing, you said, to make the connection, the problem is, the Bush administration is trying to make the unnecessary connections in terms of who had to deal with 9/11, whether Saddam or al Qaeda, and all different stuff. American people frankly have gotten tired of every time there's an issue that comes up, when credible questions are being raised, he does indeed pull out the Osama card. BLITZER: I got to take a break. Go ahead.
WEST: Well I was just going to say, it's not an Osama card. This is a serious real threat. There's a force abroad that would like to see the global take over. It's already happening in Europe not only with terror. We're seeing Sharia creep along in all kinds of western countries. And it's coming here. The president might not realize that.
CAFFERTY: You prevent this from happening by invading Iraq? How do we prevent it from invading Iraq?
BLITZER: Hold that thought for a moment. Because we have to take a quick commercial break. When we come back, should New York issue drivers licenses to illegal immigrants? Our round table panel getting ready to tackle that. And the New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he's weighed in on the subject. Plus, you thought the approval ratings for Congress couldn't get any lower, even the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is piling on. Yes, she said she disapproves the way Congress is doing its job right now. We'll tell you what's going on.
BLITZER: Republicans in the New York State Assembly are now suing the Governor Eliot Spitzer over his plan to issue driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. They're calling it risky and irresponsible. Spitzer says it will help track illegal immigrants since the federal government can't. We're back with our panel. Our CNN contributor, Roland Martin, our own Jack Cafferty and "Washington Times" columnist, Diana West. Jack, here's this little exchange I had with the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, just a little while ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Should illegal immigrants, there are maybe a million of them in New York state get drivers licenses, New York state drivers list licenses in.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: I do not think they should. I expressed to the governor an objection I had to it and police commissioner had to it for a long time. The governor's first proposal, I thought was inappropriate and should not have been enacted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think, Jack, about this whole issue that's really emerging, big-time issue not only in New York but around the country?
CAFFERTY: Well, two things have really crystallized the attention on this. One has been Hillary Clinton's inability to answer questions about whether or not driver's licenses for illegal aliens in New York is a good idea and the other one is CNN's Lou Dobbs who has been on this subject nightly on this network talking about it for weeks and is finally, because of Lou's efforts is getting movement against this idea. One of the great betrayals of the government to the people of this country is failure to enforce existing laws against illegal immigration. State of Oklahoma just passed a series of laws that are very similar to the federal ones against illegal entry, hiring illegals, all of the things that are illegal under federal statutes but go virtually ignored. They talk about the war on terror. We have unsecured borders. We have 3,000 people a day coming across the borders. We don't know who they are. We don't know why they are here. Yes, a lot of them are honest legitimate folks looking to make a buck. But there are an estimated 600,000 felons in the United States illegally, 12 to 20 million illegal aliens. It's a disgrace.
BLITZER: What do you think, Roland?
MARTIN: In most states in this country, we deny ex-felons the right to vote. Here we have a governor who is saying that if you have broken the law, if you are an illegal immigrant, we are going to give you a drivers' license. That makes absolutely no sense. And frankly Governor Spitzer, what he should have done is taken this to the general assembly and said you guys vote on this issue. Put it to the people's representatives as opposed to making executive decision and circumventing all legal processes. He has a right to do it but the people's house should have made the decision. Not solely the governor.
BLITZER: What about that, Diana?
WEST: We're all in agreement. I mean this is actually very harmonious.
I think what's fascinating about this is the way this issue is suddenly crystallized for people. I think a few years ago, you would not have seen this kind of a black and white look at this particular bit of lawlessness in the people at large. I think people have become so educated in terms of what immigration problems are and I take great heart from that. I think it resounds very badly, however, for Hillary Clinton. I don't think that any national candidate can succeed who is someone who is going to condone lawlessness and breaking laws as a public official. It breaks people's faith in the laws.
BLITZER: Hold on a moment.
WEST: And it breaks people's faith in our leadership.
BLITZER: I want Jack first to respond to Nancy Pelosi. Congress' approval ratings are really bad but listen to what she said today, Jack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: I know Congress has low approval ratings. I don't approve of Congress because we haven't done anything -- we haven't been effective in ending the war in Iraq. And if you ask me in a phone call as ardent a democrat as I am, I would disapprove of Congress as well.
BLITZER: What do you think, Jack?
CAFFERTY: She should disapprove of Congress. She's part of the reason that the Congress has failed. I looked up the duties of the speaker of the house today. She sets the calendar for the votes on bills when they come to the floor, when they're debated, when they're voted on. That includes appropriation bills for the war in Iraq. The House Appropriations Committee is controlled by the same democrats that Nancy Pelosi is a member of their party. The appropriation bills for the war in Iraq have to clear that committee before they come to the floor for a vote. It's within the power of the democrats in the House of Representatives to cut of the funding for the war in Iraq. They won't do it. They don't have the guts to do it and yet they promised electorate that's what they were going to do.
BLITZER: Very quickly, 10 seconds.
MARTIN: It's not a surprise that people are not happy with Congress. This is the first time the president had to deal with democrats controlling Congress. It's been harmony for most of his presidency. And so we should have expected grid lock. It was natural.
BLITZER: All right. Diana.
WEST: I think that this shows what happens when you come to office and you come to power, with a very empty platform which was simply the democrats ran against Bush and they didn't have strategy to get out Iraq. They're finding out you can't just pull the plug.
BLITZER: Diana West, Jack Cafferty and Roland Martin, guys thanks very much. Jack Cafferty is going to be coming right back for the Cafferty File.
Angry and worried, U.S. diplomats are in revolt.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a potential death sentence and you know it. And then another thought. Who will take care of our children? Who will raise our children if we're dead or seriously wounded?
BLITZER: Should they be forced, the diplomats in the U.S. State Department to serve in Iraq? Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Jack's here for the Cafferty file. Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour, should U.S. diplomats be forced to serve in Iraq? We got a lot of mail on this. Ellie writes from Cincinnati, "I think it's absolutely disgusting the question even needs to be asked. Do they think our servicemen and women want to be in Iraq for 15 months at a time either? I think not. Honestly, I think it's a disgrace and I'd simply fire every last one of them who has a problem with signing up and doing the job they agreed to do."
Reid, a member of the U.S. Air Force, "Sir, my brother (Maj. USAF) is stationed for one year in Iraq and I'm deployed to CENTCOM, and my wife is a government employee working overseers. We all volunteered. My answer to these employees: got to Iraq or quit! My brother and I didn't have the option but we'll protect them when we get here."
Mike in Minneapolis, "Simple question, simple answer. Yes, diplomats should be forced to serve in Iraq. It's actually offensive that diplomats are basically saying that it's all right for U.S. men and women to die in Iraq but they are somehow better than all of them."
Liz writes from Fairfax, Virginia, "Absolutely not! There is no diplomacy to be had in Iraq."
Steven in Du Quoin, Illinois, "Yes, right alongside the Bush twins."
Jim writes, "Dear Sir, I work as an occupational therapist on active duty in the U.S. Army. My colleagues and I are proudly serving overseas in Iraq. We took the oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. It would be interesting to know what oath the Foreign Service workers take. Yes, the personnel are obligated to serve in the areas they are needed and work toward improving the quality of life of the Iraqi people."
And Harold in Anchorage, Alaska sent this, "Where are the T- shirts that says 'Don't Iraq me, bro?"
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. There are more of them online along with video clips of the Cafferty File. Wolf.
BLITZER: You know I sensed an undertone, at least not only me but people who heard that town hall meeting. There's just a lot of opposition to the war in Iraq. And maybe this whole issue is coming to the fore saying I don't want to serve there because they're opposed to what the U.S. is doing, at least some of those diplomats.
CAFFERTY: Well, I'm sure they are but they work for the federal government and probably not every soldier in uniform in Iraq thinks it's a great idea to be there either. But they volunteered as the people that join the Foreign Service and you know either walk the walk or don't. But you can't have it both ways. You can't get the paycheck and not do what you are asked to do. I mean quit if you don't like it.
BLITZER: Jack thanks very much. I'll see you back here tomorrow. Jack Cafferty in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Mark your calendar. Starting next Monday, one year from Election Day, THE SITUATION ROOM will be on three hours back to back, from 4:00 p.m. eastern to 7:00 p.m. eastern. Lou Dobbs will take over. All that starts on Monday.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Up next a CNN special investigation, "The Noose."
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