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Interview With President Bush; Republican Presidential Candidates Prepare For CNN/YouTube Debate

Aired November 28, 2007 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And happening now: a President Bush exclusive. I go one-on-one with the president about his ambitious goal for peace in the Middle East. You are going to want to hear what he has to say about responding to any attack on Israel by Iran.
Also, the whole world will be watching you. You will be asking the questions at our CNN/YouTube Republican presidential debate, but will you be satisfied with the candidates' answers?

And questions swirling right now around Rudy Giuliani. It involves how he spent some government money as mayor and the woman who later became his wife.

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

He's pursuing one of the most ambitious goals of his presidency, pushing a historic plan to try to end years of conflict in the Middle East. And in the middle of it all, President Bush takes some time to sit down with me.

We spoke earlier today over in the Map Room at the White House. It was an exclusive interview, and we talked about his new and direct involvement in negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. We also talked about Iran and what the United States would do if Iran attacked Israel.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I were an Israeli, I would take his words seriously.

BLITZER: Would the U.S. respond militarily on behalf of Israel if Israel were attacked by the Iranians?

BUSH: I have made it clear that the -- absolutely, that we will support our ally Israel if attacked by Iran.

BLITZER: What does that mean?

BUSH: Well, you know, I hope it doesn't happen, but you know, you are asking me to answer a hypothetical. My answer is, and they have got to understand that we will support Israel if Iran attacks them.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: I also asked President Bush what he will do personally to try to make sure the new Israeli/Palestinian peace negotiation process actually works. That interview, that's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM later this hour. You're going to want to hear his answer.

Also, what happens next could change a lot in the Middle East. But it will be very, very tough negotiations. President Bush is pledging that the United States will help.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Ed Henry. He's joining us right now.

And the president got involved even today in trying to get this process going, Ed.


The president has faced criticism that this is too little, too late. That's why he jumped right in today to show he's personally invested this time.


HENRY (voice-over): The day after Annapolis, President Bush continued his new hands-on role trying to broker Middle East peace.

BUSH: I appreciate the commitment of these leaders to working hard to achieve peace. I wouldn't be standing here if I didn't believe that peace was possible. And they wouldn't be here either if they didn't think peace was possible.

HENRY: He met in the Oval Office with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to being trying to turn the tentative agreement signed at Tuesday's Annapolis conference into an actual accord.

BUSH: Yesterday was an important day, and it was a hopeful beginning. No matter how important yesterday was, it's not nearly as important as tomorrow and the days beyond.

HENRY: Behind closed doors, Mr. Bush prodded the leaders not to lose sight of the ultimate goal by getting bogged down on emotional issues.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There would be days when it looked like things were really tough, but that if you keep your eye on the big picture, that you can help make sure that you will have a successful negotiation.

HENRY: But they dodged the tough issues in the written agreement at Annapolis, such as whether the two states would share Jerusalem as a capital.

AARON DAVID MILLER, FORMER U.S. MIDDLE EAST NEGOTIATOR: The J- word, for example, Jerusalem, was not mentioned. And I think that's emblematic -- as understandable as it is, given their constraints, it's emblematic of the mountains that need to be climbed if this thing is going to actually work.


HENRY: Now, the president is making clear that, despite his involvement, he can't climb those mountains. That's up to the Israelis and the Palestinians, but he's willing to be the facilitator to try and help move this along -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry at the White House, thanks very much -- Ed reporting.

Pakistan's leader today made good on his pledge to hang up his military uniform. Pervez Musharraf gave up his longtime post as army chief, but he's keeping his job as president and for now he's keeping in place the emergency crackdown that's stifled dissent.

A key U.S. anti-terror ally since the 9/11 attacks, General Musharraf is set to begin a new presidential term tomorrow. He's promised parliamentary elections in January. President Bush told me today that he appreciates the fact that President Musharraf kept his word about taking off his military uniform. But Mr. Bush says he must also suspend emergency rule before those elections.

Middle East issues will surely be a topic in a historic face-off in Florida. It will be the first time the Republican presidential candidates come together to answer your questions sent via the Internet. And that will happen a little less than two hours from now, our CNN/YouTube Republican presidential debate.

Here with a preview is CNN's Dana Bash. She's in Saint Petersburg, Florida, watching all of this unfold.

I guess they are still prepping. They have got a little bit of time left before they go on stage.


As you can imagine, the debate hall here is buzzing with the candidates' campaign teams, their staff, their spinners. You know, it's been about five weeks, actually, since the Republicans last debated. And tonight's format certainly invites the kind of debate that is volatile and unpredictable as the GOP race itself.


BASH (voice over): Eight Republicans will be on this stage tonight with the fate of the GOP presidential race anyone's guess.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: we have done a little prep. I'm in good shape.

BASH: Mitt Romney's pre-game show was a made-for-the-cameras moment -- touch football with his five sons. These days, harpoons are what this front-runner and several early contest states has been catching and throwing, back and forth with Rudy Giuliani on everything from health care to tax cuts to fighting crime.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Governor Romney had a very poor record in dealing with murder and violent crimes as governor. And I think that's not just an isolated situation.

ROMNEY: He has now done this time and again, making up facts that just happen to be wrong, and facts are stubborn things. The truth of the matter is that during my administration, the FBI's crime statistics show that violent crime was reduced in Massachusetts by seven percent.

BASH: Just five weeks until the first votes, Republicans are fighting over major differences on defining issues from immigration to abortion.


FRED THOMPSON, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I'm proud to have had a 100 percent pro-life record.


BASH: On the air and in the mail to voters. This, from Mitt Romney's slamming Giuliani's immigration record as New York mayor. John McCain sent this to South Carolina voters, insisting he's best to beat Hillary Clinton.

But it's Mike Huckabee who's now the X-factor in an already complicated GOP race. The former Arkansas governor is building evangelical support in Iowa, challenging Romney's lead there and taking increasing fire from others in the so-called top tier.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Fred Thompson issued six press releases before 10:00 Sunday morning.


HUCKABEE: And that's the most activity we have seen out of Fred in the entire campaign.


BASH: Now, the candidates were all here earlier today inside the hall checking out the scene, especially the stage, just to kind of get a feel for what to expect later tonight.

Wolf, it is really impossible to overstate how high the stakes are in this debate, really because of the timing. Iowa, the votes there are just 36 days away. And these candidates, as you just saw, they have really been going at it from afar. Now they have a chance to do that face to face, shoulder to shoulder. Certainly, the format will make it different, but there's no question it will be very spirited tonight. BLITZER: All right, we will be watching together with lot of people, not only the U.S., but around the world. Thanks very much, Dana, for that.

So, what does it take to put on a debate like the one tonight? You can check it out. Go to for an exclusive sneak peek with behind-the-scenes video and blogging from the best political team on television,

I know Jack Cafferty goes there all the time.


BLITZER: You love the Ticker, too, don't you, Jack?

CAFFERTY: That's my screen saver on my computer.


CAFFERTY: My guess is, Senator Obama's going to win Iowa, and he's going it win it by a surprising margin -- that's the world according to Newt, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He said in a TV interview that he has got a hunch the emotional energy Barack Obama's campaign is generating is more powerful than that of Senator Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

Gingrich added that he has great respect for Clinton and the Clinton machine, but he said that, at least in Iowa, Obama is building what Gingrich calls a really heavy head of steam.

He also talked about former President Bill Clinton hitting the campaign trail on his wife's behalf, saying -- quote -- "I think there's a double-edged sword when President Clinton shows up, because he also reminds you, do you really want two presidents in the White House? And do you really want Mrs. Clinton to have to rely on President Clinton to have to win?" -- unquote.

A recent poll shows Obama leading in Iowa 30 percent over Clinton's 26 percent. That poll also shows that most likely Democratic voters in Iowa say they're more interested in a new direction and new ideas, instead of strength and experience. And that's a good sign for Barack Obama.

Here's our question then. Do you think Newt Gingrich is right? He is predicting Barack Obama will win Iowa by -- quote -- "a surprising margin" -- unquote. E-mail your thoughts. Prognosticate. or go to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, stand by. We got our roundtable coming up at the half-hour as well. Jack Cafferty with "The Cafferty File."

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. That's right at the top of the hour. Stand by for that.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM: President Bush in a stare- down with the president of Iran.


BUSH: This is a leader that announced he wants to destroy one of the parties that we are trying to support.


BLITZER: My exclusive interview with President Bush and his direct warning to Iran's leader. How far would the U.S. go to protect Israel? That's coming up.

Also, new questions about some questionable expenses, as they're being called, by Rudy Giuliani. Did he use public funds for some very private purposes?

And the wraps are off thousands of secret documents shedding new light on President Richard Nixon's fall from power -- much more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: President Bush calls it a hopeful beginning for Israeli and Palestinian leaders. He gave them a 40-nation peace conference and a ceremonial send-off today. Now the hard part begins, trying to work out a final peace deal. And that means very painful concessions for both sides.

Earlier today, I sat down over in the Map Room at the White House with the president for an exclusive interview.


BLITZER: Our interview is being seen all over the world. Do you have anything you want to say directly to the Israeli people who are worried perhaps that the U.S. might squeeze Israel, pressure Israel into making concessions that could undermine their security?

BUSH: Well, first of all, the vision that I hope emerges as a result of these negotiations will be -- the implementation of the vision will be subject to a road map. In other words, I would never expect a country to allow terrorists to be on their border. I mean, it is -- the big threat in the Middle East is terrorism and radicalism, and I understand that.

And therefore I believe that the best way to defeat those terrorists and radicals, however, is through a vision based upon liberty. And so my message to the Israelis is, it is in your interest that your prime minister negotiate with the Palestinians a democracy.

But it is also -- they also have got to understand, and so do the Palestinians, that before that democracy comes into being, certain conditions have to be met. And I happen to believe it is in the security interests of both people to conclude this agreement.

BLITZER: How much of a problem is the fact that Hamas was, after all, democratically elected, they control Gaza right now, and they hate what you are trying to do?

BUSH: Yes. That is -- you know, part of the way to solve a problem is for there to be clarity. And the fact that they hate the thought of a democracy should say to the world what the problem with Hamas is.

I mean, what is their vision, is my question to the Palestinian people. Ultimately, if this can be done, the state can be laid out, what the state should look like, then it gives people like President Abbas a chance to go to the Palestinians and say, you can have their vision of violence, or this vision of peace; take your pick.

BLITZER: What about the Iranians? They weren't invited to this conference even though a lot of Arab and Muslim countries were. What was the thinking in saying, you know what, to the Iranians who do have a lot of influence in that part of the world, you can't come?

BUSH: You know, they just -- they would be not constructive. This is a leader that announced he wants to destroy one of the parties that we are trying to support. And if you listen to their comments, they weren't going to come anyway. They were very non-supportive of the process.

BLITZER: Well, let me read to you what Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, said today, and I will quote him: "It is impossible that the Zionist regime will survive. We are disappointed that some individuals fell victim to the sinister Zionist regime. They are mistaken if they thought that this summit will bring any achievements for them."

Now, do you want to react to that?

BUSH: Just made my point. This is a man who doesn't believe in democracy and freedom and peace. And this was a conference of people who were supportive of the idea of a democratic state living side-by- side with Israel.

It is a send-off of two leaders to negotiate this state, a vision that has taken a while for people to accept. I'm the first American president -- I think the first American president ever to have articulated the vision. I did so.

Because I understand that a democracy on Israel's border is important for Israel's security, and that very democracy is important for the Palestinians to have a hopeful life. But it is also important for the broader Middle East, because there is a struggle going on between a free society and a society envisioned by radicals and extremists, many of whom are funded by Ahmadinejad.

BLITZER: Do you believe he would really like to destroy Israel?

BUSH: If I were an Israeli, I would take his words seriously.

BLITZER: Would the U.S. respond militarily on behalf of Israel if Israel were attacked by the Iranians?

BUSH: I have made it clear that the -- absolutely, that we will support our ally Israel if attacked by Iran.

BLITZER: What does that mean?

BUSH: Well, you know, I hope it doesn't happen, but you know, you are asking me to answer a hypothetical. My answer is, and they have got to understand, that we will support Israel if Iran attacks them.

BLITZER: Syria is a country that the State Department still has on its list of states that sponsor international terrorism, yet they were invited to attend. What was the thinking behind that?

BUSH: The thinking was because some of the Arab nations requested that Syria come. And we wanted to make sure as many Arab nations came as possible, and -- which was quite an accomplishment for the secretary, I might add, to have convinced those nations to arrive.

And I thought it was a very important signal for both the Palestinians and the Israelis to see the Arab nations there in the room, supporting a democracy living side-by-side in peace with Israel.

BLITZER: So was it good that the deputy foreign minister of Syria showed up?

BUSH: I didn't think it was harmful at all.

BLITZER: Because, whenever I think of that, I think of the words you said on 9/11 -- and you said this from the Oval Office -- "We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them." So, if Syria is a country that harbors terrorists...

BUSH: Yeah, we have our differences with Syria; no question about it.

I also happen to believe that a democracy in the Palestinian territory will advance the interests of people who care for peace. And we care for peace.

BLITZER: But do you think there's an opportunity, now, for the Israelis and the Syrians to negotiate a deal over the Golan Heights?

BUSH: That's going to be up to Israel and Syria.

BLITZER: Well, what do you think?

BUSH: I think what they ought to do is focus on a Palestinian state, Wolf. That's what we're focussing on.

BLITZER: A year ago, September, when we spoke up in New York -- you were there for the U.N. General Assembly -- you told me that absolutely -- that was your word -- you would authorize U.S. troops to go into Pakistan if you had actionable intelligence on Osama bin Laden's whereabouts or other top-ranking al Qaeda members. Is that still your position?

BUSH: Yes.

BLITZER: Hasn't changed?

BUSH: No, hasn't changed.

BLITZER: Mr. President, thanks very much.

BUSH: Yes, sir.

BLITZER: Good luck.

BUSH: Thank you.


BLITZER: Quite a rally on Wall Street today, stocks surging in a stellar session. We're going to show you what sparked it all and where the Dow landed.

Also, there are new details tonight of Michael Vick's punishment for dogfighting. You will find out what it's going to cost him.

Stick around -- lots more coming up, including our roundtable, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

What's going on, Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, all smiles on Wall Street. Stocks rally for a second straight day. The Dow soared 331 points, closing at 13289. Analysts attribute the surge to investors' hopes that the Federal Reserve will lower interest rates this month.

A rare suicide bombing outside of Baghdad, rare because it was carried out by a woman. U.S. military officials say the woman was wearing an explosives belt when she approached an American patrol yesterday and she blew herself up. Seven U.S. soldiers and five Iraqi civilians were hurt.

Michael Vick is agreeing to pay almost $1 million to care for dozens of pit bulls found on his property in Virginia. The former NFL quarterback pleaded guilty in August to a federal conspiracy charge of bankrolling a dogfighting operation from that property. The $928,000 dog care payment is part of a plea deal. Vick still faces state dogfighting charges in Virginia.

That's a look at the headlines right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: Carol, thank you for that.

New questions tonight about some questionable expenses, as they're being called. Did Rudy Giuliani spend public money on some very private matters when he was mayor of New York? Our John King is investigating.

Also, Republican candidates getting ready for their presidential debate. They're also getting ready to answer your YouTube questions. Our roundtable will have a preview.

And his Watergate leaks helped bring down President Nixon. But was the source known as Deep Throat almost chosen for the top job at Nixon's FBI? The wraps are off some once secret documents.

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


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

Happening now: newly revealed documents raising questions about former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's spending habits. And it's coming only hours before tonight's CNN/YouTube debate among Republican presidential candidates. Final preparations under way right now. We will have a preview.

A remark by former President Bill Clinton about the war in Iraq drawing scrutiny. He said recently that he opposed the Iraq war from the beginning. His wife, Senator Hillary Clinton, voted for the military action. We are going to take a closer look at how the differences of opinion could impact her campaign.

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

We're just a little bit more than 90 minutes away until the CNN/YouTube debate. The Republican presidential candidates will be on the stage.

But, right now, there's a new development that could potentially be rather embarrassing for Rudy Giuliani. He's being asked to explain some questionable expenses from his time as the New York City mayor.

Our chief national correspondent, John King, is joining us now live from Saint Petersburg, getting ready for the debate.

But what are you picking up about this story, John?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the questions involve tens of thousands of costs for security and travel related to Giuliani's security detail back in his final year or so as mayor of New York City. And one of the reasons questions are being raised about these costs is because they were allocated to obscure offices within the mayor's office, not directly allocated, as you might expect, to the New York Police Department.

And some of the trips in question were to go out from New York City to the Hamptons to visit his then girlfriend Judy Nathan. She is now of course his third wife, Judy Nathan. At the time of some of these early trips, however, Giuliani was still married to his second wife, Donna Hanover.

Now, this story was broken earlier today by "The Politico" news organization. It received several of the records. CNN has now confirmed and received those records as well.

And these costs were -- again, tens of thousands of costs for travel expenses and the cost of the security details were not put in the police department. They were billed to obscure agencies like the New York Loft Board or the Office for People With Disabilities. Those are within the mayor's office, but not where you would expect costs for his police department security detail to be paid.

The city comptroller began to question these costs during an audit in 2002 and wrote a letter to Giuliani's successor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

And he said this in that letter: "The mayor's office refused to provide my auditors with supporting documentation for the payments. Therefore, they were unable to verify that these expenses were for legitimate or necessary purposes."

Now, that letter went on to say that these type of travel expenses, especially those allocated into accounts where the comptroller thought was not appropriate, went up dramatically in Giuliani's final year or so in office.

He said this: "Specifically, the non-local travel-related expense charges increased from $245,896 in fiscal year 2000 to $618,014 in fiscal year 2001 -- a 151 percent increase.

Now, we've been asking the mayor's office and the mayor's campaign staff -- his former staff when he was the mayor -- about this all afternoon. They refused, Wolf, to go on camera.

Tony Carbonetti, though, who is with the campaign now and was Rudy Giuliani's deputy chief of staff and the chief of staff when he was mayor, did tell CNN this. He said these expenses were all legitimate expenses incurred while protecting the mayor, which is a 24-7 enterprise. He could not tell us, though, why costs were allocated to these obscure city offices -- again, offices like the Loft Board, offices like the Office for People With Disabilities. Tony Carbonetti telling us he did not know why they were allocated that way. He says he's trying to get those answers.

I will tell you, though, Wolf, as we look into this, a spokesman for the former mayor, David Dinkins, and the current mayor, Michael Bloomberg, say they do not allocate their security costs like these ones here now being -- the questions being raised about Mayor Giuliani -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Stand by, John. I want to continue this conversation with you.

And with our own Jack Cafferty. He's joining us in our roundtable. He's the author of "It's Getting Ugly Out There". And it getting ugly out there, Jack. And our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. She's down in St. Petersburg, as well.

So based on the information that John is now reporting, Jack, what's your initial reaction?

CAFFERTY: If any of this is true -- if it is what it looks like it might be -- then -- then he ought to go find something else to do, because my guess is this is too big to overcome. If taxpayer money was used to finance sleepovers at Judy Nathan's and they were lying about it, well they're lying about it. And they were, in effect, using taxpayer funds for private trips to his mistress's apartment without telling anybody. City hall, at the time this was going on, was asked -- because he was always supposed to be on the clock, he was always around -- where is the mayor?

And they said oh, he's spending time with his son or he's playing golf.

They were lying about it. And if he was staying overnight at Judy Nathan's house out in Long Island while he was married to Donna Hanover, well, that's called adultery. And if it's true, this is not the type of family values orientation that the Republican Party needs just now, if you get my drift.

BLITZER: We get your drift. But, remember, this is just preliminary. We're just getting initial...

CAFFERTY: I said if it's true.

BLITZER: ...reports on this. It's going to require a lot more reporting, obviously, before we can draw any hard and fast...

CAFFERTY: I didn't draw any confusions.


CAFFERTY: I said if it's true.

BLITZER: If it's true. You kept saying that, which is absolutely true.

But, Gloria, what's your take?

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think you have to look at what Rudy Giuliani's weaknesses in all of the polls that we've done during this campaign. And his Achilles' heel is really the question of honesty. And, as Jack says, if any of this is true or if there is some sense that Rudy Giuliani was hiding these expenses because he didn't want people to know about the trips to see Judy Nathan, then I do think it goes to that question of honesty. And I do think it starts unraveling a whole ball of yarn here that other Republican candidates will clearly start taking advantage of.

Who knows, they might do it tonight. BLITZER: John, is it too early to say that the ramifications of this could really be enormous in terms of the Republican presidential contest?

KING: I think it is too early to say that, Wolf, in part because Rudy Giuliani has been out front in telling voters all across the country that he made mistakes in his personal life and he wants to be forgiven for them, and voters should take those into account.

It was also no secret -- and Jack can tell you this -- at that time in New York City, that while he was still married to Donna Hanover, he was estranged and that the New York media was already reporting about his relationship with Judy Nathan.

One other thing that Giuliani campaign aides do say -- and this is some of the credit card bills here. This is an American Express statement. Is that it's not only trips out to see Judy Nathan that were billed to obscure city agencies. There was other travel, as well, including trips taken by Donna Hanover -- who was still then the first lady of the City of New York.

So they say perhaps there are accounting questions here and transparency/open government questions here. But they insist they weren't trying to hide anything, Wolf. What they say is if he was trying to hide it, he would have put it in the police department budget, because if you ask for those records about the mayor's security, the police department tells you to go away.

BLITZER: Jack, what do you think?

CAFFERTY: I just -- you know, one of these things where if it quacks a like a duck -- I mean this -- this is starting to look like a duck. I mean I don't know what to think, except that this doesn't fit the profile of the Rudy Giuliani that I thought was a pretty stand up guy during all the time he was mayor of New York. And I kind of hope none of it's true. I know he was seeing Judy Nathan. Everybody in New York knew he was seeing Judy Nathan. And he and Donna Hanover may have been estranged, but they were both still living at Gracie Mansion, and so were the kids, at the time this was going on. So estrangement has a different definition, I suppose.

BLITZER: You know, we're going to take a break, Gloria. But I would be surprised -- and I want you to weigh in -- if any of the other Republican candidates tonight at the CNN/YouTube debate raise this issue.

But what do you think?

BORGER: Well, I think it's a little tricky for them to raise it. But if Anderson Cooper gets to ask a follow-up question to one of these YouTube questions, who knows?

Anything can happen.

I don't think, for example, that Mitt Romney would raise it against Rudy Giuliani. I could be wrong. But it is, you know, this story broke just hours before this debate. And it is kind of the buzz out here. And I think what the Giuliani campaign is scrambling to do is to come up with some accounting -- some real accounting for the American public about how their taxpayer dollars were spent.

BLITZER: All right...

BORGER: Because that's what the American public really cares about.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by, because we've got a lot more to talk about in our roundtable, including Bill Clinton's controversial remarks about the war in Iraq.

What impact will they have on his wife's campaign?

We'll talk about that in our roundtable.

That's coming up.

Also, a surprise revelation about "Deep Throat" in secret Nixon papers released today. We're going to show you how he almost got promoted by the president he helped topple.

And candidate confidence on display -- it's the phrase they just can't resist using. We'll tell you what it is and a lot more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Former President Bill Clinton now says he opposed the war in Iraq "from the beginning." And that's shining some hot spotlights right now on Hillary Clinton's vote to authorize the war, as well as his own record of support.

Let's go back to our roundtable.

Let's start with Jack Cafferty.

What do you -- what do you make of this, Bill Clinton saying I opposed the war from the start?

CAFFERTY: Well, you know, maybe he did, maybe he didn't. The point that matters to me is he was a private citizen at the time the war started. He wasn't president and he wasn't a member of the United States Senate. Hillary was. She voted for the war. And now, as a candidate for president, she has to defend that vote.

I don't think it matters one way or the other what Bill Clinton thinks he may have said about his support for the war. It's irrelevant.

BLITZER: This any embarrassment, John, to the Clinton campaign?

KING: Well, if he said it so strongly at the time, Wolf, I don't recall him ever saying it so in public before the war. Where it could be an embarrassment is her greatest weakness is with left, because, as you noted, she did vote to authorize the war. She has not been as critical as the others, like Senator Edwards, for example, who voted the same way but has apologized for that vote. That has always been her weakness with the anti-war left. They think that she's more hawkish, if you will, more muscular than the other Democratic candidates. So the more we are discussing the fact that she voted for the war in Iraq, the more repair work she might have to do on the left.

BLITZER: You know, Jack, there's no doubt that he brings a lot to Hillary Clinton's campaign, but there's a downside, as well, potentially.

CAFFERTY: Well, we talked a little bit about that last night, that he's obviously one of the most charismatic politicians in the country's history. I mean you put him in a room full of people and he makes magic. He really does. And I didn't particularly care for him as president.

However, that being said, when you start remembering the Clinton years in the White House, they're not all good memories. And so he's a constant reminder of the good and the bad when he's out on the campaign trail.

BLITZER: I think, Gloria, if you remember, at the last Republican debate there were a lot of mentions by the Republican candidates of Hillary Clinton...

I think we're losing Gloria. She's coming in and out.

I'll throw the question to John then.

John, there were a lot of references by the Republican candidates to Hillary Clinton, not many to the other Democratic candidates.

Do you expect the same thing tonight?

KING: Yes, I do, in part because they do expect even though she has stumbled somewhat and even though many Republicans are reconsidering their assessment that she is certain to be the Democratic nominee and now say they think she is likely to be the Democratic nominee, not only do they want to prove to their Republican base that they will be tough against Hillary Clinton if she is the Democratic nominee.

As you know, Wolf, as popular as Hillary Clinton is among Democrats, she is as unpopular among Republicans. So it's nice red meat at a time all of these Republican candidates are trying to gin up their own supporters and trying to win over new votes, as well.

CAFFERTY: You know, one other quick point, Wolf, before we get out of here. Rudy Giuliani should be very, very grateful that at the upcoming debate tonight the questions have already been selected and are on videotape because this little story we were talking about a few minutes ago, that would dominate an open discussion, is my hunch.

But he's not going to have to deal with that, at least in the third degree, tonight.

BLITZER: Let's get the last word on all of this from Gloria.

I assume you can hear us, Gloria, although your shot was coming in and out from where you are over there in St. Petersburg.

Button all this up for us.

BORGER: Well, first of all, on Bill Clinton, I want to say, I keep thinking is he running for president again?

I think there's a little bit of a danger here in Bill Clinton starting to look like the candidate again.

And as for tonight's debate, you know, I think anything goes.

The questions are from the American public. We'll have to see what their interested in. We know, as Jack said, what we're interested in tonight. But I want to -- I really want to hear what the public wants to know tonight.

BLITZER: I think a lot of people want to do that, as well.

We want to hear from the candidates, we want to hear from the public.

Guys, thanks very much.

Gloria and John will be with us throughout the night covering this.

Jack -- he's not leaving yet, either, because he's got The Cafferty File coming up.

CAFFERTY: No, I'm leaving.

BLITZER: Stick around.

A surprise revelation about Richard Nixon and the source known as "Deep Throat," whose leaks helped derail his presidency.

CNN's Tom Foreman is joining us now live -- Tom, a fascinating historical story.

What are you learning?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, two years ago, we learned who "Deep Throat" was. Now we learn how very close Nixon came to awarding him a key appointment in his administration.


FOREMAN (voice-over): The secrets he's filled helped lead to a president's resignation.

But why did Mark Felt, a top official at the FBI, become "Deep Throat" and leak the story of Watergate?

His family offered this.

NICK JONES, GRANDSON OF MARK FELT: My grandfather, Mark Felt, Sr., is a great American hero who went well above and beyond the call of duty, at much risk to himself, to save his country from a horrible injustice.

FOREMAN: New documents released by the National Archives show that in 1973, Nixon received a stack of letters from supporters of Mark Felt recommending that Nixon promote him to leave the FBI. For example, one agent wrote, according to the Associated Press: "Mr. Felt is a man of outstanding loyalty, character, reputation, habits. The fidelity, bravery and integrity of Mr. Felt are unquestioned."

Instead, Nixon passed him over and Felt left the bureau soon thereafter. That rejection might look like the cause for Felt's exposure of Nixon. But "Deep Throat" began leaking Watergate information a year before Nixon passed him over for the top job.

RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Quite clearly. He hoped to be appointed head of the FBI. Perhaps by revealing the information in this way he kept the flexibility of being able to pursue his ambitions, while at the same time getting important information about serious misconduct into the public domain.

FOREMAN: Although Felt waited decades before divulging his identity as "Deep Throat," the unmasking brought old animosity to life.

G. GORDON LIBBY, WATERGATE CONSPIRATOR: Mr. Felt was a sworn law enforcement officer who divulged to others the confidential files of the FBI.


FOREMAN: Among the other files released today from the Nixon era, there's a job application from Dick Cheney -- age 28 -- according to the Associated Press, where he lists a dozen jobs that he's had at that age and he admits to two convictions for driving under the influence. Like the old joke, Wolf, imagine how high he would have risen without hose mistakes.

BLITZER: Right. It didn't hurt his career apparently, too much.

FOREMAN: No, apparently not.

BLITZER: All right.

Thanks very much.

Tom Foreman looking at some his history for us -- fascinating history.

Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show. That begins right at the top of the hour. Lou is joining us from Chicago tonight.

What are you working on -- Lou?


We're in Chicago tonight. Coming up at the top of the hour, we're reporting on one of the most reckless examples of a sanctuary state for illegal aliens. That state is the State of Illinois. The state refusing to allow the federal government to enforce some of our immigration laws. We'll be reporting on that.

One of the illegal alien lobby's most outspoken leaders is Congressman Luis Gutierrez. He will be among our guests here tonight.

And some states, such as Arizona, are trying to uphold the rule of law and to stop the harsh effects of illegal immigration. But the pro-amnesty lobby and the corporatist supremacists, they're doing everything possible trying to block Arizona's enforcement. We'll be having a discussion on that and a report.

Our illegal immigration crisis, of course, likely to be one of the top issues in tonight's CNN/YouTube GOP presidential debate in Florida.

There are also startling allegations tonight about the personal conduct of Rudy Giuliani.

Is it a fair attack or is it just simply another attack?

We'll preview the debate with three of the country's sharpest political analysts and strategists.

Join us for all of that and all the day's news, coming up.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Lou.

Lou is coming up in 12 minutes. The debate comes up in an hour and 12 minutes.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, John Edwards' ticket wish list. Find out what the presidential candidate wanted from his alma mater and why the school doesn't want to talk about it.

Plus, the Democratic Party chairman trying to get in on the action in tonight's CNN's YouTube Republican debate.

Stick around.



BLITZER: In tonight's Political Ticker, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is a huge fan of his alma mater, the University of North Carolina. Just how big is apparently, though, a secret. When Edwards started a poverty think tank based at UNC back in 2005, he also asked about getting season tickets to Tar Heel sporting events. But the Associated Press now saying details of that request will remain under wraps. Neither the Edwards' campaign nor the university says it's releasing the document detailing his so-called ticket wish list.

Questions for tonight's CNN/YouTube debate are popping up from some surprising places. Even the head of the Democratic National Committee is getting in on the action. Howard Dean submitting his question to the Republican candidates, just like a lot of other people did -- almost 5,000.

Dean's question is this: "Why should the country consider a vote for a Republican candidate a vote for change?"

Remember, for the latest political news at any time, check out our Political Ticker at

Jack Cafferty -- he's got The Cafferty File in New York -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Are they going it run Dean's question tonight, do you know?

BLITZER: I have no idea. We -- that's a -- only a few people know. I'm not one of them.

CAFFERTY: You're not in the loop?


CAFFERTY: Me, either. Me, either.

A question -- is Newt Gingrich right?

He's predicting that Barack Obama will win Iowa by -- his words -- "a surprising margin."

Alex in Colorado: "I never thought I would agree with Newt, but I do on this. Obama's campaign is the only one to operate with a legitimate sense of fresh politics and the majority of Americans are gasping for fresh air. In addition, he's generating a lot of support from young voters, many of whom cannot be contacted by traditional pollsters. He's a force to be reckoned with."

Ryan in Florida says: "Newt Gingrich is most certainly wrong. Senator Clinton will win Iowa by several points and the game is over. It's just too tough to beat the Clinton machine."

Sean in Mesquite, Nevada -- a thriving metropolis, Mesquite -- about 28 people and some rabbits. No offense. I like Mesquite. I've been there. "I think Newt is right. I was a Hillary Clinton supporter until recently. Her double speak and constant bashing of Obama over what she says is his lack of experience was the last straw for me."

Jeremy in California: "I think Gingrich is just trying to influence the election in order to get the overall weaker Democrat elected. He knows Hillary is the stronger candidate to beat the Republican nominee and he's just trying to undermine her."

Doug in New Hampshire: "yes, Obama will win Iowa. Clinton is just full of empty rhetoric, while Obama is full of hope and a much needed change of direction."

And Martin in Boca Raton, Florida: "The Newt is just that -- a newt. There's no way Obama is taking Iowa."

If you didn't see your e mail here, you can go to We post more of them there, along with video clips of The Cafferty File. Wolf has the complete box set at his house, don't you?

BLITZER: It's an amazing set. I love every minute of it.


BLITZER: All right, Jack, see you tomorrow.

We'll digest this debate tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

CAFFERTY: You got it.

BLITZER: And thank you very much.

More than a dozen people are running for president. Only one will get the job.

So why are they all saying, "When I'm president?"

It's a question for CNN's Jeanne Moos, when we come back.

Stick around.



BLITZER: Here's a look at some of this hour's Hot Shots.

In Israel, soldiers keep an eye on Jerusalem's Old City.

In Venezuela, a protester points his slingshot toward police.

In Rome, taxis block the main avenue leading to the Coliseum.

And in Bolivia, protester from the dark side.

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

During an interview the other day, Senator Hillary Clinton sounded supremely confident when asked about her chances of winning. That got CNN's Jeanne Moos thinking. She takes a Moost Unusual look at how the candidates, even those at the back of the pack, can't resist a certain phrase.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You probably think there can only one president of the United States at a time, right?

Then how come they're all saying...


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I am president of the United States of America.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I am president, it won't be good enough for me.

MOOS: They say it without a trace of doubt. In speeches...


MOOS: They even say it in commercials.




MOOS: Saying when I'm president with such certainty is a mouthful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It depends on your ego and how narcissistic you are.

MOOS: Spoken like a true psychoanalyst -- which she is. Forget humility.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How about if I am president of the United States?

MOOS (on camera): What's wrong with if?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly. It's not a bad word.

MOOS (voice-over): If you're running for president, it is.

EDWARDS: I'll tell you what kind of torture will be tolerated when I'm president of the United States -- no torture will be tolerated.

MOOS: Even dark horse candidates put their names on administrations that probably never will exist. SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That I find highly offensive and will not happen in a Dodd administration.

MOOS: But talk about confidence. Listen to Hillary's response to Katie Couric.


KATIE COURIC, HOST: If it's not you, how disappointed will you be?

CLINTON: Well, it will be me.



MOOS (on camera): Cocky or confident?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Arrogant. But she gets that from her husband.


COURIC: I know that you're confident it's going it be you, but there is a possibility it won't be. And, clearly, you've -- you have considered that possibility.

CLINTON: No, I haven't.


MOOS: Critics gleefully jumped on Hillary once, when she mentioned being president again -- though she was never quite president the first time.

CLINTON: That's what I am going to try to do as president again.

MOOS: Though maybe she just meant she was making the point again, not planning to be president again.

Just think of all the losers who have been proven wrong.

BOB DOLE, FORMER SENATOR: When I'm president of the United States.

MOOS: Not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In fact, I could say that more convincingly.

MOOS (on camera): Let's hear it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I'm president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I'm president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I am president of the United States. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And when I'm president of the United States...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I'm president.

MOOS: When I'm president. When I'm president. When I'm president. But our favorite usage dates way back to 1932...

(voice-over): At least Betty Boop actually went on to become President Boop.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Only Jeanne Moos does those kinds of reports.

Thank you, Jeanne.

And thanks to our viewers for joining us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're only about an hour away from the CNN/YouTube debate. Stay tuned for that.

But coming up right now, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.