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Russia, Georgia Reach Cease-Fire Agreement; Pelosi Flip-Flop on Offshore Drilling?

Aired August 12, 2008 - 18:00   ET

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


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: Georgia and Russia sign off on a cease-fire deal, after five days of brutal fighting. This hour, Georgians remain defiant against Moscow's show of force and their dispute over land has not been resolved.
The U.S. is sending Russia a stern message about its aggression. Are President Bush and the men who want his job on the same page? The best political team is standing by.

And hackers threaten to reveal a way to get free subway rides for life, but transit officials stop them in their tracks.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Russia pulls back its firepower and a cease-fire is reached, but some parts of Georgia may be forever scarred by Moscow's punishing assault.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

We got word just a short while ago of the breaking news from the region. Georgia's president has agreed to a truce plan announced by Russia and France today.

Let's go straight to CNN's Matthew Chance in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi -- Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, thanks very much.

Well, some more developments here in Tbilisi. We have got the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, here in town on the final leg of his efforts to try and bring to an end this extremely bitter conflict that's taken place between Russia and Georgia.

There seems to be a lot of progress having been made, but at the same time elsewhere across the country, a great deal of tension still in the areas very close to the combat zones. We're having reports still, according to the Georgians, of continued sporadic clashes throughout the course of this day, after the Russians declared an end to their military operations against Georgia, between Georgian and Russian forces.

And so, even though there's a great deal of relief in the capital, Tbilisi, this evening, that this war appears to have come to some kind of conclusion or an early at least kind of cease-fire, there's still a lot of tension elsewhere in the country -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Matthew Chance, thank you so much, out of Tbilisi, Georgia.

Amid efforts to end the conflict, efforts to help those who are suffering. An untold number of residents are trapped in the warfare, trying to survive, but forced to choose between nightmarish options.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It was very frightening to leave. I was afraid that my baby may be fired at on the road. It was better to die down here than to be burned alive on the street.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This is the youth camp. It is not militarily or strategically important. You can see that they are dropping bombs. Why are they killing our children? I think they do not know what they are doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: President Bush is trying to show Russia that its Soviet-style aggression is unacceptable. His options are limited, however.

And the presidential candidates may be making matters even more complicated.

Here's our White House correspondent, Ed Henry.

And, obviously, John McCain, Barack Obama stepping on President Bush's message, a little bit of back and forth here, huh, Ed?

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Suzanne.

Administration officials insist that the policy, when you look at what everybody is saying on the campaign trail and here at the White House, it's not really that different in terms of the approach, but the rhetoric is certainly much more harsh out there on the campaign trail.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY (voice-over): One day after President Bush demanded an end to what he called Russia's brutal escalation of violence in Georgia, a more measured tone from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: It is very important now that all parties cease fire. The Georgians have agreed to a cease- fire. The Russians need to stop their military operations, as they have apparently said that they will.

HENRY: Using the word apparently shows how much the White House is struggling to get a handle on Russia's real intention. QUESTION: Are you weighing any military options, U.S. military options?

HENRY: There are few good options. U.S. military options could dramatically escalate tensions, and it's unlikely the United Nations will take tough action to stop Russia. So Rice focused on steps the U.S. can take to aid Georgia rather than specifics to stop Russia's invasion.

RICE: We are reviewing our options for humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Georgia. But the most important thing right now is that these military operations need to stop.

HENRY: The presidential candidates are not being so diplomatic, with Republican John McCain going much further than the White House in denouncing Russia on WIPF Radio in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's very clear that Russian ambitions are to restore the old Russian empire. Not the Soviet Union, but the Russian empire.

HENRY: Democrat Barack Obama, who interrupted his vacation Monday to lash out at Russia on camera, released a tough written statement Tuesday. Now is the time for action, not just words, Obama said of Russia. It is past time for the Russian government to immediately sign and implement a cease-fire.

Both candidates also keep calling Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, and are not shy about what they tell him.

MCCAIN: And I told him that I know I speak for every American when I say to him, today, we are all Georgians.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Now, there's an old adage how during a crisis it's best for America to speak with one voice. Right now, it certainly seems like there are three voices -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Ed, what was most telling today, we saw the Georgian president at that huge rally, and he mentioned John McCain, saying that, you know, John McCain said, we're all Georgians today.

How is the White House responding to this? He didn't mention President Bush.

HENRY: Well, you're right. It's interesting because he didn't mention President Bush. And there was a huge roar from that crowd in Tbilisi when John McCain's came up. It gives you an idea that they're even paying attention to the U.S. presidential campaign.

White House officials basically say, look, we know the campaign is playing out, but we don't think that's interfering right now with the diplomacy -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, Ed, thanks so much. HENRY: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: On top of the bloodshed in Georgia, there is this disturbing reality for people all over the world: oil pipelines smack dab in the conflict zone in the midst of an energy crisis.

Here's CNN senior business correspondent Ali Velshi.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, let me give you a sense of why this is important.

It's really just about a million barrels of oil that goes through Georgia every day, but right now we only have about a two-million- barrel surplus in the world. We make about 87 million barrels of oil in the world every day. We consume about 85 million.

Let me show you on a map what we're looking at right now.

You can see Georgia is the green country in the middle. It is between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. The Caspian sea is entirely landlocked, so if you get oil out of there, you've got to get it out by pipeline.

The countries around it, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran. The West needs a way to get the oil out, so it used to go through that blue pipeline you see which goes through Russia to a port on the Black Sea.

But what happened is, about five years ago, the western-led consortium decided to build a pipeline that goes through friendlier countries, Azerbaijan, then Georgia, then through Turkey, and over to the Mediterranean, where that fuel goes to Middle Eastern and European countries. That pipeline is shut down, but it wasn't shut down because of this fighting. It was shut down last week because Kurdish rebels had attacked that pipeline and set fire to a portion of it. That's most of the oil.

BP, which leads this consortium, has also shut down that line which goes from Baku on the Caspian Sea, the red line which goes to the Black Sea. So, right now, of the four pipelines that run through Georgia, three of them are shut down. About a million barrels of oil is not getting through. Oil markets are not reacting strongly to this news, but we'll continue to monitor it for you -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Ali.

Jack Cafferty now joining us at this hour with "The Cafferty File."

Jack, what are you watching?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has flip-flopped on the issue of offshore drilling. I had written that she changed her mind, but she flip-flopped. That is what it is, because, up until now, Pelosi called this idea a hoax. Offshore drilling was off the table. She has refused to allow it to come up for a floor vote in the House of Representatives.

Now she's suggesting that she would be open to doing that, but there are strings, lots and lots of strings. Pelosi says a vote on offshore drilling would have to be part of a larger energy package that include things like releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. She indicated she might back a package that includes drilling if things like renewable energy resources are included. Plus, she's like orthodontic work for her grandchildren thrown in as just a little bonus.

Americans got hammered with record high gas prices this summer. Republicans have been pushing hard for a vote to lift the ban on offshore drilling. Some Republicans even stayed in Washington during the summer recess to continue to demand that vote.

It's one of the few issues the American people seem to agree with the Republicans on, which is why Pelosi decided to change her mind. The mind changes with the wind direction, and the wind on offshore drilling began blowing against her. A recent poll shows 69 percent of Americans favor offshore drilling. Only 39 percent oppose it. Pelosi is following in the footsteps of Democratic nominee Barack Obama, who also recently reversed his position on offshore drilling, saying he would be open to drilling if it's part of a larger energy package.

And John McCain also opposed offshore drilling, before flip- flopping, and supporting it, too. Don't you just love how they all stand firm on their principles?

Here's the question. Should the ban on offshore drilling be lifted? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, thanks, Jack.

A Russian diplomat accuses Georgia's president of war crimes, but says the U.S. is handling him with kid gloves.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VITALY CHURKIN, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: You must stop treating Mr. Saakashvili as a naughty child.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: The Russian ambassador to the United Nations accuses Georgia's president of genocide in my one-on-one interview. You will hear it, coming up.

Also, the powerful speaker of the House now facing a challenge from a well-known war protester.

And some would-be hackers hope to show passengers how to cheat a big city transportation system, but a judge shows them there is no such thing as a free ride.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MALVEAUX: Russia has agreed to stop its powerful military assault on Georgia, the two countries both agreeing to a provisional cease-fire.

Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, is condemning Georgia's leadership over its actions in South Ossetia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: First thing, it's been reported that the Russian foreign minister has essentially said that Georgia's president must go. Is this the position right now of the Russian government?

CHURKIN: It is our recommendation, yes, because we think that he has performed some horrific acts towards the people of South Ossetia. Some major crimes against humanity have been committed which can be qualified as genocide and ethnic cleansing.

And it would be good for everybody, for him, his country and the international community, if he were to go.

MALVEAUX: So, what does that mean? What does Russia do? Is there any action that your government is taking to make that happen?

CHURKIN: No. It is just our recommendation. We are not going to deal with him directly. Of course there are others in the Georgian capital, other people with whom we can talk in the government of Georgia.

MALVEAUX: With all due respect, this is obviously a democratically-elected government, with the president the head of it. What makes you think that Russia is in a position to determine their leadership?

(CROSSTALK)

CHURKIN: Russia -- we are not determining their leadership. We are expressing our opinion. Of course, it's for the people of Georgia ultimately to decide who is going to be their president.

MALVEAUX: Secretary Rice said earlier today that the violence, the military operation must cease. What is the situation on the ground now? Have your forces pulled back?

CHURKIN: Well, first of all, President Medvedev have given orders -- has given orders to our armed forces to end the peacemaking operation in Georgia. And secondly, there was a meeting in Moscow between President Sarkozy of France and President Medvedev, and they came up with six principles for the settlement of the situation there.

And one of the principles is that fighting must stop. The other is that there should be freedom of -- access to humanitarian assistance.

The Georgian forces must go back to their initial bases. Russian forces will go back to the lines where they were on August 6th. Russian peacekeepers will stay.

However, they will be taking measures to make sure there is heightened security, until there is an international arrangement for that. And then there's going to be international discussion of the future status of Abkhazia and Ossetia, and heightened security for them.

MALVEAUX: I want to point to an op-ed here from the last president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, who essentially says that he believes that perhaps Georgia got a wink and a nod in terms of its own operation to move forward, a green light from the West.

He said specifically that "Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili was expected unconditional support from the West and the West had given him reason to think that he would have it."

Do you agree with him?

CHURKIN: Well, this is a long quote, and I don't have to subscribe to every word Mikhail Gorbachev has to say. But what is clear is that the United States has had a very close relationship with Mr. Saakashvili.

Now we are told the United States is going to try to sort out how come he started this operation without, according to them, direct green light from the United States. But let me tell you what...

MALVEAUX: Do you have any proof? Do you have any proof of that, there were any signals coming from the United States that gave the green light?

CHURKIN: Well, we do not want to believe that the United States has given a green light to this adventurous act, but our American colleagues are telling us that they're investigating now what may have happened in the channels of communication for Mr. Saakashvili to have behaved in such a reckless manner.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: We are monitoring all of the developments in Georgia and Russia right now. More on the story just ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

There is no such thing as a free ride, not in Boston's subway at least. A federal judge made three college students cancel their presentation on how to hack into the city's subway fare system.

CNN homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve is following that story.

And essentially what are the students going to do?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, in a presentation slated to be delivered last weekend at a hacker convention, three MIT students laid out ways to add money to fare cards used in the Boston subway system. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE (voice-over): The presentation, titled "Anatomy of a Subway Hack," bragged, "You now have free subway rides for life."

The Boston transit system, the MBTA, worried that it could lose thousands of dollars in fares, went to court and got a temporary restraining order, stopping the students.

DANIEL GRABAUSKAS, GENERAL MANAGER, MBTA: The unfortunate thing is that we were forced to act because we didn't know what we didn't know.

MESERVE: The students discovered what they claim are MBTA fare card vulnerabilities doing research for an MIT course. They say they never planned to reveal to the public all the information needed to hack the system.

ZACK ANDERSON, MIT STUDENT: Absolutely not. And that's really important. We purposely left out some key details.

MESERVE: Anderson said it was never their intention to defraud the MBTA.

Because the students provided their sanitized slide show to hacker convention participants before the restraining order was issued, their presentation is widely available on the Web. And now the details the students withheld are available, too.

How? In a confidential document, the students gave the MBTA specifics on how to hack the fare system. But the MBTA said it presents little to no original information about fare card vulnerabilities and made the document public as part of a court filing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: The transit system is pressing to find out if the students are holding back even more information to determine if they really did discover a way to hack fare cards. The students say they did, and claim the information the MBTA has already put in the public domain could give anyone the tools to do it -- Suzanne, back to you.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Jeanne.

The U.S. sends messages about the conflict in Georgia, but are they mixed messages? President Bush and the candidates all giving their opinions on what's happening, and what should happen.

Barack Obama may need an umbrella. One conservative group prayed for rain of biblical portions to drown out his moment in the spotlight, but that's unleashed a flood of criticism.

And the wife of megachurch evangelist Joel Osteen accused of an attack on a flight attendant. But there are serious questions about this claim. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MALVEAUX: The House speaker does an about-face on oil drilling. Are Democrats bowing to political pressure on voters or are they trying to pull a fast one on Republicans?

John McCain suggests he speaks for all Americans about the conflict in Georgia. The best political team is standing by to talk about that.

And a new Olympic controversy, not steroids, but lip-synching.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: First, she took a hard line. Now House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is softening her stance on an offshore drilling vote, or is it a flip-flop?

Also, John McCain on the conflict in Georgia, saying he speaks for all Americans. But are we sending mixed messages? All of this, plus the best political team on television.

Plus, a prayer for rain prompts a deluge of criticism. Who is beseeching the heavens to open up on Barack Obama?

Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Suzanne Malveaux, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Soaring energy costs have put a spotlight on the issue of offshore oil drilling. Many experts say it would have minimal impact on prices, but there are some Republicans, including presidential candidate John McCain, who are demanding that Congress act. And now Democrats may be softening their opposition.

Carol Costello is following that story.

Carol, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seems to be changing her stance here a little bit.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I know. It sounds awfully a lot like a flip-flop, doesn't it? But is it? Republican lawmakers have been protesting Speaker Pelosi's refusal to allow a vote to lift a moratorium on offshore drilling.

They were at it again today, including John McCain. And they seem to have won.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): Score one for John McCain. All that taunting actually worked.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Come back off your vacation, go back to Washington, fix our energy problems, and drill, and drill now. Drill offshore and drill now.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

COSTELLO: He was at it again today. And why not? The Democrats have flip-flopped, compromised or pulled a bit of political trickery, depending on how you look at it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi now following Barack Obama's lead by saying she would consider allowing Congress to vote on offshore drilling when it reconvenes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Would you vote yes on a package that includes drilling?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I would not -- it depends on how the drilling is put forth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Like all compromises, this one has its drawbacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")

PELOSI: It depends on how that is proposed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: It does include a limited amount of new offshore drilling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")

PELOSI: If we can get great things in terms of renewable energy resources.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: President Bush definitely saw it as political trickery.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Democratic leadership should bring up a clean bill, give the members a chance to vote up or down on whether or not we should proceed with offshore drilling, and not insert any legislative poison pills.

COSTELLO: But others say the Democrats are sincerely compromising because the people have spoken. According to a CNN/Opinion Research poll, 69 percent are in favor of offshore drilling.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: It doesn't matter what your position was three weeks ago, as long as your position today is the right position.

COSTELLO: But Republicans say, if Nancy Pelosi was really sincere about legislating, she would come back from vacation, call a special session, and get it done.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: Now, it is important to keep in mind, a few months back, John McCain was also against offshore drilling. The difference? He flip-flopped ahead of the Democrats, and the issue has paid off for McCain -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, Carol, thanks so much.

Joining us to talk about all of that and more, CNN's Jessica Yellin, CNN's Jack Cafferty, and David Brody, senior national correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network. They are all part of the best political team on television.

Now, all of you -- I mean we've heard Carol's report here. Obviously, there's a lot of back and forth on this. John McCain was the first one to change his position. I guess we'll start with you, Jack.

Does anybody come out clean in any of this?

CAFFERTY: Well, I think, you know, obviously, as Carol suggested, McCain probably gets the lion's share of the mileage on this issue because, according to the polls, Americans think drilling offshore is a good idea. I don't know whether it is or not.

My problem is with Speaker Pelosi deciding whether or not the rest of the people we elect to Congress are allowed to vote on this stuff.

Isn't that why we elect them?

I mean she said she couldn't do anything about funding the war in Iraq, but she said impeachment is off the table and she won't allow a vote on offshore drilling. But she was very happy to allow all the votes to fund the war after telling us they would cut off the funding for the war.

So I've got problems with the way Speaker Pelosi handles her office.

MALVEAUX: Jessica, what do you think this says about the role of Barack Obama?

Is she essentially following him?

Has he become the leader of the Democratic Party?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, sure, he's the leader of the Democratic Party. And, in fact, I think one of the reasons she was opposing offshore drilling before was to give Barack Obama cover if he wanted to maintain that position.

But, you know, Nancy Pelosi is a political realist. And like Barack Obama, she's recognizing that if this issue has the kind of popularity it does with the American public, she's willing to fold it into a larger push for what she wants and what Obama wants. And, hopefully, they're trying to neutralize, in their view, John McCain on this issue. So this is just pure politics and it's what you'd expect in an election year.

DAVID BRODY, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: Yes, and, Suzanne, I would say -- I would echo that and also say that, you know, Nancy Pelosi is obviously a very smart woman, also a very smart politician. I mean she realizes the train has left the station pretty much on that. And John McCain was on that train earlier than Pelosi. And as Jack pointed out, that's exactly -- so he'll get some more of the lion's share of credit here, if there is any credit to go around. They all have pretty much flip-flopped to a certain degree.

So, look, the polls show 70 percent of Americans are for this. And when you have those type of numbers, you realize the 2008 election is less than 90 days away, which means you'd better get your house in order pretty quickly.

CAFFERTY: But isn't this such an American approach to these problems?

We're having this debate over offshore drilling. The consensus is seven to 10 years before we get any gasoline. There are no refineries available in this country to refine the oil that we would get offshore into gasoline. We haven't built a new one in 20 or 30 years. But because the announcement of doing this might drop gasoline prices by a quarter, there's a national drumbeat to let's rush headlong into drilling some more offshore.

That isn't going to solve our problems 20, 30, 40 years down the road. But that doesn't matter to us. We want it now.

MALVEAUX: So, Jessica, what do you think?

Do you think it's pretty transparent to the voters that this is all political, as you said?

And do you think that there are -- people look at changing positions and hold the candidates accountable, that they punish them for changing their minds, for so-called flip-flopping?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, on your first question, my answer would be yes. I think that the voters would see through this, that it takes too long to get the oil for it to make too much of an initial difference. Except the polls show otherwise. So maybe people are just feeling so squeezed, they're sort of desperate for any option and if this might have a short-term effect, they want it.

And as for whether this is flip-flopping or just compromise, like a mature adult reaches consensus, I think that really has to do with the opinion you have going in. If you already think John McCain is a moderate, a reasonable person, a negotiator who has good intentions, then you see his position on this as just that -- noble or correct, you know, grownup. The same with Obama and the same with Pelosi.

But if you were suspect of them to begin with, then you're suspect of why they're doing this and you see it as a flip-flop.

BRODY: And, also, Suzanne, remember here that a while back, it was the Democrats saying that the Republicans were the do nothing Congress. The last thing Pelosi needs is any sort of labels and tags and narrative created that they're the do nothing Congress and now the Democrats are in charge.

MALVEAUX: OK. We'll get back to you guys in just a bit.

The candidates speak out on the conflict in Georgia, but the message they're sending may be confusing.

Plus, CNN I-Reporters offering an insider's view of a dramatic day in the Georgian capital.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I know from speaking this morning to the president of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili, whom I have known for many years, that he knows that the thoughts and the prayers and support of the American people are with that brave little nation. And I told him that I know I speak for every American when I say to him today, we are all Georgians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: We're back with the best political team on television -- CNN's Jessica Yellin, CNN's Jack Cafferty and David Brody, senior national correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Jack, I noticed you were laughing during this, so why don't you start here.

What did you make of this?

CAFFERTY: Well, I just, you know, it brings a tear to your eye, doesn't it?

He doesn't -- a number of -- a couple of things. One, he doesn't speak for me. Two, I don't think all Americans are Georgians. Three, Georgia started this with its incursions into South Ossetia back before the Russians got involved. Yes, the Russians went over the top in their response, but Georgia started this problem by going into South Ossetia. Georgia would like South Ossetia to become part of Georgia. South Ossetia wants to be independent.

So all of this hand wringing about that poor little country, Georgia, might be overdone. And the other thing is, I think we have a president who speaks when it comes to foreign policy. It's nice that McCain and Obama have opinions on this stuff and as much as I'm not a great fan of George Bush's, this is his -- this is his purview, not theirs.

MALVEAUX: Well, David, do you think both these candidates, who spoke with the president of Georgia, kind of stepped on his toes a little bit here or is this a confusing, conflicting message going on?

BRODY: Well, a little bit. But I agree with Jack. I mean, the president of the United States is the president of the United States. However, at the same time, this is a huge foreign policy test for both -- not just John McCain, but really for Barack Obama -- you know, how tough will Barack Obama be when it comes to not just his words, but a little bit more in terms of what he will do. What would the plan of action -- I think a lot of people want to see exactly what some of the steps he would take.

You know, it's funny, on that comment about how every American is a Georgian today. I mean, clearly, it was a flub of a line. But it goes to McCain's sense of patriotism. You know, he mentioned the brave little nation and I'm sure he was trying to compare it a little bit to America in its infancy, you know, the little engine that could standing up. I think that's where McCain was getting all of that from. It, clearly, was a flub, though.

MALVEAUX: And, Jessica, I want you to weigh in here, because we heard the president of Georgia actually say in his speech before this rally that he had talked to John McCain and how happy he was about it that all Americans are Georgians.

Who comes out on top here?

Obama has talked to him, McCain has talked to him.

I mean does anybody win here?

YELLIN: No. I think the big problem is that America's voice -- it doesn't matter which voice is speaking -- doesn't really carry that much sway right now. And the problem is, is it's the Europeans who are taking the lead there because America can't speak with enough force or isn't willing to exact the kind of forces needed, whether it's diplomatic force included, to get something done there.

So both these candidates and the president should addressing that problem, especially these two candidates -- what is the U.S. going to do to reposition itself, to have more influence in this region, particularly with Putin.

CAFFERTY: Jessica, maybe you know about this. I didn't see it today. Sarkozy went to Moscow and met with the Russians and tried to do something.

Have the British or the Germans done anything with regard to the deal? YELLIN: They are letting Sarkozy take the lead because of French interests in the Soviet -- in Russia, excuse me -- and the sense that Sarkozy will have more influence with Putin right now. That's my sense.

CAFFERTY: Well, yes.

MALVEAUX: And Sarkozy being the president of the E.U. (ph), I guess, is taking kind of the lead on all of these discussions.

I wonder, Jack, if there is still some sort of difference between how McCain and Obama are being viewed when it comes to national security, foreign policy issues, considering Obama released a statement today. He's in Hawaii. McCain we saw again on camera.

Do you think it makes a difference?

CAFFERTY: Well, yes, it does make a difference. And I think McCain won this round. One, Obama is in Hawaii. Two, his initial response was fairly tepid. Three, he made it wearing a golf jacket and it looked like he just came off the golf course -- hardly presidential stuff.

So McCain wins this time, while Obama is out of the 48 contiguous states, as opposed to the shellacking he got the last time Obama was away.

MALVEAUX: David...

BRODY: Yes, Suzanne...

MALVEAUX: The last word, David.

BRODY: I was going to say, Suzanne, there is a little danger here for McCain. Already we've heard, you know, the whole thing about being in Iraq for a hundred years or whatever it takes. And, obviously, that isn't what he exactly meant. But the point here is that he's already talked about the old Russian empire. And McCain has to be careful that he doesn't come across in a way that his campaign does not want him to come across.

MALVEAUX: All right...

CAFFERTY: That's a good point.

MALVEAUX: Jessica Yellin, Jack Cafferty, David Brody, we've got to leave it there.

Thank you so much.

BRODY: Thanks.

MALVEAUX: Thousands of Georgians rallied with President Mikheil Saakashvili and leaders of five nearby countries.

One of our I-Reporters on the ground captured it on all camera. Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton -- Abbi, what are you seeing?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Suzanne, these pictures from Andro Kiknadze, that he's uploaded to iReport.com earlier on this evening.

What he said is the mood right inside the crowd there was one of frustration, that Georgians feel they can't do anything about what's happening -- the situation with Russia right now. And he's saying that they don't feel that the international community is doing enough to support them.

These pictures have been sent in by Kiknadze over the last few days. You can see the people rallying outside the parliament, waving Georgian flags, singing folk songs. Kiknadze said earlier: "I'm almost crying because I'm seeing my country is falling."

You can see many more of these pictures at iReport.com -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Abbi.

A prayer for rain with a political motive -- one group is hoping to see the Democrats' favorite drenched.

Plus, not everything was as it seemed as the opening ceremonies in Beijing -- the real story behind this show stealer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show right at the top of the hour -- Lou, tell us what you're working on.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Suzanne, thank you.

Russia's invasion of Georgia -- Moscow's most aggressive challenge to U.S. interests since the end of cold war.

Which nation could be Russia's next target?

Where is the leadership in both the European Union and in this country?

We'll have complete coverage.

Also, an astonishing example of your government at work tonight. Your government spending more than $50 million to give illegal aliens free flights home to Mexico. But that program has done absolutely nothing to end any part of our illegal immigration crisis. We'll have that story.

And a stunning reversal by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the issue of offshore oil drilling. Pelosi following Senator Obama, flip- flopping, back-flipping, whatever you want to call it, dropping her outright opposition to a vote on drilling, just as I predicted. We'll have that report.

And three of my favorite radio talk show hosts join me to talk about all of that and a great deal more, at the top of the hour, right here on CNN. We'll have all of the latest news, as well, from an Independent perspective.

Please join us -- Suzanne, back to you.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Lou.

We're looking forward to the show.

Our Carol Costello is monitoring the stories that are incoming in THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol, what are you looking at?

COSTELLO: Well, Suzanne, Taliban insurgents claim responsibility for the bombing of a Pakistani Air Force truck, which killed at least 12 people. Local police say a 5-year-old girl in a nearby vehicle was among the dead. The Taliban says the attack is in retaliation for a Pakistani military offensive in a northwest tribal area, which killed dozens.

First, a Florida cop turned in his badge. Now, two others have been fired after this video showed them beating a suspect. The West Palm Beach man suffered a broken jaw and bruised eye in the May incident. He was arrested for allegedly robbing a pharmacy of hundreds of OxyContin pills. The officers say they were defending themselves after the suspect tried to bite and spit on them.

The lawyer for a Boston man accused of kidnapping his daughter now says his client admits to knowing a California couple who disappeared back in 1985, although not very well. The lawyer previously said the mystery man, Clark Rockefeller, didn't remember anything before 1993. Rockefeller is being investigated in the disappearance of that couple. Los Angeles police believe Rockefeller is really a German man who has gone by several aliases.

And digitally enhanced fireworks, now lip-syncing.

What is next?

Is China going too far in its quest for the perfect Olympics?

This little girl captivated millions with her performance at the opening of the Beijing Olympics. But organizers now admit she was not singing at all, she was lip syncing. The real voice belonged to a girl the Chinese say did not have the looks to appear on stage.

Ooh, it just breaks your heart. They're little kids.

MALVEAUX: Yes.

COSTELLO: Back to you -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: They're both beautiful little girls.

CROWLEY: Absolutely.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Carol.

COSTELLO: Sure.

MALVEAUX: Jack Cafferty again joining us -- Jack, what do you have?

CAFFERTY: One of them was a little more beautiful than the other. That's why they did that.

The question this hour is should the ban on offshore drilling be lifted?

Steve in Atlanta writes: "Don't lift the ban. The American people support it because they want cheaper gas. People rarely can see beyond their bank accounts. What's best for the future is to have high gas prices and move toward alternative energy. Cheaper gas doesn't accomplish that. We elect leaders to do what's best for society long- term, not what makes the whining masses happy short-term."

Vicki in Oberlin Park, Kansas -- I used to live there -- "The ban on offshore drilling should be lifted after the oil companies prove that there's no oil on the sites they already lease. And they should agree to build new refineries and agree not to sell the oil to other countries."

Lisse in Tucson, Arizona: "Read this week's "New Yorker". Offshore drilling will provide 18 months of oil in what is a world market. Is it worth it?"

Ken writes: "Just where are we going to drill offshore for oil, within the palatial estate views of the power elite or where we second class citizens live? You can bet your Benjamins on this answer."

Russ in Illinois: "Yes, Jack, it should be lifted, providing it's part of a larger plan for renewable energy and if the president releases oil from the Strategic Reserve. The Dems are giving ground now and it's time for the Republicans to give a little, as well."

Tim in Florida writes: "No. It should not be lifted. The black goop is destroying our environment. Save what's left for grease. We need electric vehicles now. We hate the oil companies and the oil men who keep slithering into the White House, Congress and the Senate. And we have had enough."

Stephen in Pensacola, Florida writes: "Lift the ban if you want to permanently destroy Florida's hosing market. Imagine the rush to buy Gulf-front drilling rig view condominiums."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for yours there among hundreds of others -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thanks, Jack. On our Political Ticker, Barack Obama is hammering John McCain in the Florida ad wars. "The Wall Street Journal" reports Obama has aired more than 9,700 local television commercials in that battleground state, at a cost of about $6.5 million. John McCain hasn't run any campaign spots in Florida, and yet the Republican has a slight edge over Obama in state polls.

Here is an update on Obama's Hawaii vacation. We are told that he's been jogging, golfing. He's visited his grandmother. And yesterday, he went to the movies, seeing that blockbuster Batman film, "The Dark Knight." After the show, he had a four star meal. That would his second this week.

And anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan has qualified to challenge House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her seat in Congress. Sheehan says she's running because Pelosi failed to persuade Democrats to end funding for the Iraq War. Yesterday, San Francisco election officials certified that Sheehan turned in enough signatures to get a spot on the November ballot as an Independent candidate. Pelosi's spokesman says the speaker welcomes the challenge.

In the Minnesota Senate race, Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken are taking their fight online. Minnesota public radio reports the candidates will answer questions on YouTube beginning today. YouTube solicited the questions a few weeks ago as part of its election coverage.

And remember, for the latest political news any time, check out CNNPolitics.com. The Ticker is the number one political news blog on the Web.

Well, Barack Obama may need an umbrella. A conservative group jokingly prayed that rain of biblical proportions would soak Obama's big speech in an open stadium. Now there is a flood of criticism.

And in our Hot Shots, an Olympian tastes victory when it -- washes it down with a beer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Here's a look at Hot Shots coming in from our friends at the Associated Press -- pictures likely to be in your newspaper tomorrow.

In South Carolina, a mechanic walks by school buses as the rising cost of fuel prices may prevent schools from purchasing new ones.

In Iraq, a soldier holds the Iraqi flag during a handover ceremony with the U.S. military.

In China, Germany's Alexander Grimm celebrates with a beer after winning his first gold medal.

And in Afghanistan, a boy rides a donkey as his friend follows along.

That's this hour's Hot Shots.

As a joke, a religious group wants people to ask God to make it rain on Barack Obama.

Jeanne Moos reports on the controversy surrounding this Moost Unusual call to prayer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rain, rain go away, come again a certain day?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would it be wrong to pray for rain?

MOOS: No, probably not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not just rain -- abundant rain -- torrential rain.

MOOS: Well, when would this rain arrive?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When a certain presumptive nominee is set to give a certain acceptance speech.

OBAMA: Thank you so much. Thank you.

MOOS: Hey, that's not nice, asking folks to pray for rain on August 28th, when Barack Obama is addressing 75,000 supporters in an open air stadium.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm talking umbrella isn't going to help you rain.

MOOS: The digital media director for the political arm of the Evangelical group Focus on the Family got showered all right -- with criticism. "Focus on your own damn family, moron." "Wow, what a colossal waste of God's time." "Good thing prayer doesn't actually work."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not flood people out of their houses rain, just good old swamp the intersections rain.

MOOS: Stewart Shepherd, who was once a TV weatherman, described his video as boyish humor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN," COURTESY MSNBC)

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: It's not boyish humor and you're a selfish hypocrite.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Keith Olbermann named him worst person in the world.

Wrote one blogger, "What's next -- praying for Obama to stub his toe, to have a car accident?"

But a supporter countered, "I'm praying for liberals to gain a sense of humor."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would it be wrong to pray for rain?

MOOS (on camera): Would it be wrong, in the event of rain, for Senator Obama to have a Diana Ross moment?

(voice-over): Twenty-five years ago, as a cub reporter, I covered Diana Ross' famously stormy concert in Central Park. It must have felt like...

(VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: ...with rain dripping off her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You could be good to me by everybody gradually and calmly leaving the park.

MOOS: Now, would you pray for that to happen at Senator Obama's acceptance speech?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unforecasted rain that starts two minutes before the speech is set to begin.

MOOS: Focus on the Family has now removed the video, saying it was intended to be a spoof. This time, a few of our constituents thought we were seriously asking people to pray for rain. Since we never want to mislead people on the important subject of prayer, we pulled the feature.

Remember the time the governor of Georgia seriously asked folks to pray for rain?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pray up a storm.

MOOS: But that was in hopes of ending a drought. Be careful what you pray for, Mr. Shepherd. Sometimes if you don't poke out each other's eyes, rain can bring you closer.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Check out our SITUATION ROOM screen saver and stay up to date on the latest political news. You can download it at CNN.com/situationroom.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.

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