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THE SITUATION ROOM

Georgia Still in Russia's Grip; Peace Achieved in Democratic Party?

Aired August 14, 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: Russian troops keeping a firm grip on parts of Georgia and a new claim by the former Soviet republic of crimes against humanity.
Barack Obama agrees to give Hillary Clinton supporters what they want. Will it leave the Democratic Convention looking divided or united? The best political team is standing by.

And Americans knew her as the French chef, but Julia Child has a secret identity, U.S. spy.

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

A desperate new appeal by the president of Georgia to stop what he calls barbarian behavior by Russia. He estimates Russian soldiers control about one-third of his country.

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

Georgian officials say Russian troops pushed deeper into the former Soviet republic today, even as Moscow was promising to retreat from the city of Gori by day's end. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice repeated her call for Russia to honor its cease-fire pledge. She spoke in France before she heads to the Georgia capital, Tbilisi. The United Nations now says almost 115,000 people have been uprooted by the fighting in Georgia.

We are getting reports of utter devastation in some areas.

CNN's Michael Ware is on the ground in Georgia.

And, Michael, what are you seeing from your vantage point?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, to put it simply, what I'm seeing, having visited at least one of the front lines this afternoon, is that Russia is firmly in the box seat.

This conflict here in Georgia has a lot more to do with the United States than folks back home actually realize. This is very much Russia flexing its muscles here in this region, sending a signal, not just to Georgia, which was a former satellite state within the Soviet Union, now firmly pro-American, that it cannot rely upon its American sponsor, as a message to be sent throughout this area to other countries. We're looking at the expansion of NATO, Americans sponsoring and aiding states within this region who were once aligned with the former Soviet Union, and Russia now using this opportunity, taking its moment when it sees the U.S. unable to respond, with its military already overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So, this is the time when Russia is pressing its advantage. It launched a two-pronged offensive across two fronts here in Georgia, moving in to secure two pro-Russian enclaves, which it did quite rapidly. But they did not stop there.

They have pushed deeper into truly sovereign Georgian territory. And I can tell you that, where I was this afternoon, on the outskirts of the Georgian city of Gori, the Russian troops were firmly and comfortably in control, under no threat from the ragtag columns of Georgian troops who are desperately reallying after the original offensive along the highway that's now open to the Russians towards the capital Tbilisi.

Also, the Russians having secured the other pro-Russian enclave in the West have now secured the Georgian port town of Poti. And we heard earlier this evening of a column of perhaps 100 Russian armored vehicles moving south to help troops already in that port town.

(CROSSTALK)

WARE: So, the Russians have made their push. They have gone deeper into Georgian territory. And they're consolidating it. And there's nothing America can do to stop them -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Michael, I just spoke with the president of Georgia. And he says that he thought that perhaps not all of this was done by the Russian military themselves, but that this was creating an opening for kind of these rogue players or hoodlums to come by and loot and destroy property.

Can you make any distinction between whether or not this is the Russian military or whether or not there are some other elements now that are causing havoc?

WARE: Well, this is a very complicated issue.

And Russia's playing a very delicate hand here. What you need to understand is some of the history here, that this is not the beginning of this conflict. This conflict's been going on for more than a decade. In these two pro-Russian enclaves, there's been pro-Russian separatist guerrillas who have been in an on-again/off-again slow-burn conflict with the Georgian government here.

Now, last week, the Georgian government pushed into one of these enclaves after a particularly fierce artillery barrage from one of the pro-Russian guerrilla groups. So, what we see here is that the Russian military itself is here, the conventional regular forces. But there's also separatist, paramilitary militias.

And who is doing the damage? No one can tell at this stage. But the paramilitaries certainly give the Russian military plausible deniability -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, Michael Ware, thank you so much for updating us on the situation on the ground there.

The Pentagon is ruling out U.S. military intervention, but warning of serious damage to relations with Russia.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joining us live.

Barbara, what are officials now saying?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, from the Pentagon's point of view and for the Bush administration, the military situation on the ground still remains somewhat confused. One indicator, earlier today, officials said they believed they had evidence that Russian troops were withdrawing from many of the places that Michael just discussed, but late in the day, they said the latest assessment is that there are still 2,000 Russian troops in the vicinity of the town of Gori.

And a furious defense secretary, Robert Gates, made clear he believes the Russians have been lying to him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): As long as Russian forces leave Georgia, Defense Secretary Robert Gates made clear he sees no need for U.S. troops.

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I don't see any prospect for the use of military force by the United States in this situation. Is that clear enough?

STARR: But it's not business as usual with the Kremlin.

GATES: If Russia does not step back from its aggressive posture and actions in Georgia, the U.S./Russian relationship could be adversely affected for years to come.

STARR: Gates, a CIA chief during the Cold War, still showing a wariness of Russia and its motives.

QUESTION: And do you trust Vladimir Putin anymore?

GATES: I have never believed that one should make national security policy on the basis of trust. I think you make national security policy based on interests and on realities.

STARR: Words now that could not be more different than President Bush back in 2001.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: The U.S. hopes international pressure will make Russia withdraw and convince Russia's neighbors to permanently align themselves with the West.

GATES: My guess is that most of those countries, if not all of them, probably have a higher incentive to stand with us now than they did before, now that they have seen what the Russians have done in Georgia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: OK, Suzanne, why no U.S. troops? Well, Secretary Gates made clear U.S. troops are already busy, of course, in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said during the 45 years of the Cold War that U.S. troops, of course, not used in a direct combat role. And he wanted to try and keep it that way.

But what could be next? We may see, in fact, U.S. Navy ships going into the Black Sea to offer humanitarian assistance to Georgia in that fashion. And the military assessment team on the ground is expected to report in the next 48 hours about what else Georgia needs in the way of humanitarian help. And expect to see more of that aid continue to flow -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Barbara, what do we expect in the next stages of the humanitarian relief effort? Are there specifics that you can tell us about?

STARR: Well, it's going to be very interesting.

The most perhaps strategic thing, if you will, that everyone will be watching for is to see whether U.S. troops begin to move out into the countryside to help distribute that aid. So far, they are not. So far, it's still what Bob Gates says, no U.S. troops.

But it remains to be seen if that really holds. And Secretary Gates also held out the option today that the U.S. might help fly in European peacekeepers if they can get a cease-fire and they have to enforce it through the use of those Europeans -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Barbara Starr, at the Pentagon.

We just spoke with the Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili. He is accusing Russian of some very serious crimes. That interview is coming up.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: For a moment there, it looked liked Colin Powell was going to endorse Barack Obama. I suppose he still might, but the former secretary of state is denying a report that he would publicly back the Democrat for president at the party's upcoming convention in Denver. Several sources say Powell has not made up his mind yet. And Powell himself insists he won't be going to the convention. However, despite Powell's immediate denials, the reporter who broke this story on FOX News yesterday is standing by it, saying that the Obama people expect Powell to endorse him.

Powell indicated earlier this year he was considering endorsing either a Democrat or an independent. He said he was keeping his options open. He called Obama a -- quote -- "exciting person on the political stage."

An adviser to Powell says that he likes and admires John McCain, which would factor into any decision Powell would make. But another source close to Powell says, although he's known the Arizona senator for over 30 years, he's not found a reason to vote for him yet. And I would guess that is not such an encouraging sign if you're John McCain.

One of the things Powell waiting for is the vice presidential picks from both candidates. A Powell aide that a decision to back Obama would not be a surprise. But a decision to attend the Democratic Convention would be.

Nevertheless, for Obama, hope springs eternal. As long as Powell has not said no, the possibility remains that one of the most popular people in this country could still come and support him.

Here is the question, then. What would Colin Powell's endorsement mean for Barack Obama? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment on my blog -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Jack. It's all the buzz here in Washington.

Amid the conflict in Georgia, should the U.S. intervene with a military operation on the ground? I asked Georgia's president what he wants.

Well, you know her for her cooking. But do you also know that she helped infiltrate enemy rings? New details on Julia Child's secret spy work.

And after a bitter primary fight, Barack Obama's campaign does something that one Democrat says will bring -- quote -- "peace to the kingdom."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Back to the breaking news on the standoff between the United States and Russia over the conflict in Georgia. I just spoke with the president of Georgia about the degree of U.S. support for his country.

I asked him if a U.S. humanitarian mission in Georgia was enough or if the Bush administration needed to be more aggressive.

Here's how he responded. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKHAIL SAAKASHVILI, PRESIDENT OF GEORGIA: I am grateful for President Bush's very strong statement yesterday. I think that statement was greatly responsible for turning the Russian advance upon the capital, because they were coming upon the capital.

Remember, Russian officials told the U.S. officials before, as well as French president, as well as other leaders, that their purpose was regime change in Georgia, that this was saying this circumstance, it amounts to an independence of my country and killing Georgian democracy.

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: Would you like to see forces on the ground, a military operation?

SAAKASHVILI: No, it was never suggested to us.

What Secretary Gates said today was that at this stage he doesn't see a need for that, because what the U.S. announced is a humanitarian mission by Pentagon. There are a lots of people on the ground who suffer. They were talking about quickly coming into our seaports. They were talking about coming into Georgian airports, because airports have been shut down by the Russians and seaports have been ravaged by the Russians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: John McCain coming down hard again today against Russia for its invasion of Georgia. The Republican has been commenting almost daily on this crisis, highlighting his foreign policy experience.

Here's what he said just a short while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My friends, we have reached a crisis, the first probably serious crisis internationally since the end of the Cold War.

This is an act of aggression. And historians and time will tell us how provoked it was, what actions the Georgian government took, et cetera. But the fact is that this aggression has far exceeded any -- any provocation that might have been inflicted on South Ossetia or Abkhazia.

So, it's a reassertion of the age-old Russian ambitions and desires for the Russian empire and the so-called near abroad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: McCain speaking in the presidential battleground state of Colorado. Now to a fight against enemies. Well, this was decades ago. We are learning new details on how some celebrities and other public officials helped the U.S. infiltrate enemy ranks to help defeat the Nazis and Japanese. Well, you actually know their names and faces, from writing books or acting in movies or competing as athletes. But you didn't know their stealth work as members of a super-secret spy ring.

Well, our Brian Todd has details.

And this is really a fascinating story.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Suzanne. We spent a good part of the day combing through the newly released records of the OSS, America's spy service during World War II, the precursor to the CIA.

Now, if you look at some of these pictures, you will see some recognizable faces, Julia Child there, Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, there. At certain points in these doctors, you feel like you're going through a who's-who of 20th century icons.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): She was the chirpy schoolmarm who made cooking on TV hip decades before Rachael Ray.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JULIA CHILD, FORMER OFFICE OF STRATEGIC SERVICES OPERATIVE: Today, we are going to do breast of chicken in the French manner.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: But, before she cooked up chicken breasts as "The French Chef" on PBS, Julia Child helped concoct shark propellant for the OSS, the Office of Strategic Services, America's chief spy agency during World War II and the forerunner of the CIA.

The National Archives just released 35,000 files of OSS operatives from the war, including details of Julia Child's work as an administrative specialist behind enemy lines in Asia.

(on camera): This is the research room at the National Archives. Some of these documents are so sensitive that you can't use camera light in here. You have to use the natural sunlight coming in. We are going to show you Julia Child's OSS file from during World War II. This is a lot of it right here. She went by the name Julia McWilliams then. That was her maiden name.

This is a commendation from 1946 for her work behind the lines in China and in Sri Lanka. It talks about the resourcefulness, industry, and sound judgment that she used.

(voice-over): Ninety-three-year-old Elizabeth McIntosh was a propaganda specialist for OSS and worked closely with Child, who she says had to keep track of spy teams. ELIZABETH MCINTOSH, FORMER OFFICE OF STRATEGIC SERVICES OPERATIVE: She used to have great fun calling them all sorts of nuts, macadamia nuts, and walnuts. And team walnut is now off in Burma.

TODD: The files reveal operatives who, before and after the war, were top actors, athletes, attorneys, Arthur Goldberg, who later became a Supreme Court justice, worked labor unions behind the lines in Europe looking for recruits, Chicago White Sox catcher Moe Berg, a daring spy who spoke several languages and tapped into the Germans' deepest-held secrets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was sent over to determine whether -- how close the Nazis were to building an atom bomb.

TODD: And remember this guy, the actor who played the corrupt cop in "The Godfather"?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STERLING HAYDEN, FORMER OFFICE OF STRATEGIC SERVICES OPERATIVE: Take a hold of him. Stand him up. Stand him up straight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: In real life, his name was Sterling Hayden. As an OSS operative running agents behind the lines in Europe, he went by John Hamilton, and was the toughest, most courageous spy you could imagine -- one document saying he "has shown an almost reckless disregard of his own life where duty is involved."

WILLIAM CUNLIFFE, NATIONAL ARCHIVES: You will see in this file he's trying to outrun a chase -- they're being chased by the Germans. His driver is killed.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Now, some of the commendations for Sterling Hayden, known then as Captain Hamilton, you have to see to believe. They describe him running agents on boats through enemy-infested waters, surviving ambushes, almost single-handedly disabling German operations off the Croatian coasts, the stuff of Hollywood, none of it made up. Sterling Hayden goes on to have a great acting career.

Suzanne, this is just terrific stuff. You could spend a week in this place.

MALVEAUX: No, you can't make it up. You and I were talking about Julia Child, growing up watching her as said. And you said, when was making this shark repellent, she couldn't even cook. What was...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: She couldn't cook. Her friend Elizabeth McIntosh said in a very funny way that then she was kind of a nonentity in the kitchen, wasn't into cooking, didn't pick it up until later. She did help them make that shark repellent, though, for mines that they put in the ocean to keep sharks triggering the mines, of all things.

MALVEAUX: That was the secret recipe we didn't know about.

TODD: Right. Exactly.

(LAUGHTER)

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Brian.

One Democrat says it will bring peace in the kingdom. But will something that Barack Obama's campaign did also help him with Hillary Clinton supporters?

American Airlines slapped with a multimillion-dollar fine? Why? For allegedly doing something that could have passengers in danger.

And three workers hanging on for their lives -- they dangled high above the ground after a platform under them collapsed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

MALVEAUX: A new move by Barack Obama for political peace. Hillary Clinton's name will be placed in nomination at the Democratic Convention, with his blessing.

The Bush administration is warning Moscow of consequences if it doesn't stand down in Georgia. But with the military option out, are U.S. threats hollow? The best political team is standing boy.

And reporters in the line of fire, the high risk and close calls.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: top Bush administration officials warning of serious damage to relations with Russia, as the crisis in Georgia strains relations to dangerous levels.

Also, Hillary Clinton and the roll call vote at the Democratic Convention, a show of unity or a risky move?

All of this, plus the best political team on television.

Plus, left dangling 15 stories up -- how these window-washers were rescued.

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

Barack Obama appears to be trying to make the most of what could have been an embarrassing situation. Hillary Clinton supporters were threatening to place her name in nomination for president at the Democratic Convention. Well, today, the Obama and Clinton camps announced an agreement for that to happen.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is with the CNN Election Express in Iowa on the road to the Democratic Convention in Denver.

Bill, the convention, obviously, what are they looking at here? I mean, these two sides now together, what does this mean?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they could be headed for a showdown, but we're pretty sure how this one is going to turn out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I happen to believe that...

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Hillary Clinton says her supporters are looking for catharsis at the convention.

CLINTON: We do not want any Democrat, either in the hall or in the stadium or at home, walking away saying well, you know, I'm just not satisfied, I'm not happy.

SCHNEIDER: Clinton's name will be placed into nomination and her delegates will have the opportunity to vote for her.

KEATING HOLLAND, CNN POLLING DIRECTOR: The Obama campaign and the Clinton folks put out a joint statement on this, which makes it seem like they've struck some sort of a peace deal.

SCHNEIDER: Will the vote make the party look united or divided?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: If Hillary Clinton's name is called and she walks to the stage or we hear some kind of a roll call and we have Barack Obama supporters booing, that is not what the Democratic Party needs.

SCHNEIDER: If the Florida and Michigan delegations have their full votes restored -- something Obama now says he favors -- and if the superdelegates hold fast for Obama, Clinton should get about 37 percent of the votes. That's why superdelegates were created.

HOLLAND: To make sure that the pledged delegates, the regular delegates, had some sort of adult supervision, Clinton will have the chance to get to the stage and to tell all of her supporters, thank you for helping me make all those cracks in the glass ceiling that's above our heads. We almost made it, but guess what, Barack Obama is our nominee. Let's get behind Barack Obama.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: So if this is a showdown, it's really a scripted showdown, just like in the movies. And we know how this one is going to end -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK, Bill. I want you to stand by, if you will, for a moment.

Joining us to talk about this and much, much more are CNN's Jack Cafferty, and Stephen Hayes, senior writer for "The Weekly Standard." They are all part of the best political team on television.

I want to start off with you, Jack.

What do you make of this -- Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, both of them sharing the stage somewhat, her name being tossed out there.

Do you think that this is going to bring those two camps together?

CAFFERTY: I understand there's a meeting going on right now where Hillary is expected to decide whether or not to allow Barack Obama to attend the convention. I mean this whole thing is beginning to smack of extortion. And, quite frankly, Barack Obama is starting to look a little like a wussy. I mean she's stealing the convention right out from under him.

MALVEAUX: Stephen, do you want to weigh in on this?

Do you agree with this...

STEPHEN HAYES, SENIOR WRITER AT "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": You know, it's so...

MALVEAUX: ...or does it...

HAYES: It's so great when Jack makes me look like the moderate, reasonable one.

(LAUGHTER)

HAYES: I mean, look, what's really funny about this is if this was truly an expression of unity, as the Obama and Clinton campaigns would suggest it was in their statement today, we would have seen this back when they put on the show in Unity, New Hampshire a couple of months ago.

It's not an expression of unity. I think that there was -- this is the result of a lot of behind-the-scenes fighting. And this is what, I guess, as close to one can come as a compromise.

But what it will do is it will remind people that this was a closely fought battle, that the Democratic Party, to some extent, remains divided. And I -- you know, I think that surprises some of us. It certainly surprises me. I thought that the two camps would come together much more quickly than they have.

But there are Hillary Clinton supporters who are still resentful of the way that she lost, who are still resentful of the fact that she didn't win. And I think that continues to be an issue as we head into the Democratic Convention.

MALVEAUX: Bill, do you think this ultimately is going to weaken Barack Obama at the Democratic Convention?

SCHNEIDER: I doubt it. This is really a deal. It smells like a deal. It looks like a deal. It's a deal. It's a compromise, as Steve just said. And everyone knows that. Some of her supporters are going to be unhappy. But I don't think they really want to spoil the convention.

I think they're unhappy. Some of them are angry, but not very, very many. So I think, in the end, the convention will come out looking fairly united. But I've seen divisions in parties before -- Reagan and Ford, Kennedy and Carter. I don't think this is as bitter as some of those earlier divisions.

MALVEAUX: Jack, do you think this is potentially a smart move for the Obama camp? You were saying that perhaps he might look a little wimpy in dealing with all of this? But, I mean...

CAFFERTY: Really?

MALVEAUX: ...does he, in some ways, take away that firepower that the Republicans might have been aiming at him, saying, look at this, they can't even get long and there might be protests and all of that. Doesn't it really act as damage control here?

CAFFERTY: I don't know. We'll know after the convention is over. I know this. Her name will be placed in nomination. The delegates get to vote for her. She gets to speak. Her husband gets to speak. She gets her own production team to put together the video that will be used to introduce her. The Democratic National Committee or Obama's production team wasn't good enough, she wanted her own.

And guess who they are? The same people that produced "The Man From Hope," which was the video that was put together for that other Clinton back along the way.

The one up side of all of this is some of these rabid, absolutely humorless supporters of hers will now be relegated to the lunatic fringe if they don't agree that this is about as good a deal as anybody has gotten since the Brinks guys pulled off that deal.

MALVEAUX: Stephen, do you -- you're going to sound moderate again, I guess.

HAYES: Yes.

MALVEAUX: I mean...

HAYES: I like this. It's great. Look, I think Jack is basically right. I mean, you know, the interesting thing about where Hillary Clinton is, I think she and Barack Obama, in a certain sense, have different objectives. And Bill, I think, was right to highlight this.

Hillary Clinton has talked about catharsis and the need for her supporters to have a voice and to express themselves at the convention. Barack Obama doesn't want anything to do with catharsis. He has said -- in fact, he rejected that very word. He said it's not about catharsis.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

HAYES: It's about energy and enthusiasm. And that's what I want coming out of my convention. And I think we end up probably having something of a love fest at the actual convention. But getting there, I think there are still things that they need to resolve.

MALVEAUX: And, Bill, does this set Hillary Clinton up in a strong position for, perhaps, 2012?

SCHNEIDER: Well, that's what -- you know, a lot of people make the calculation -- and it's not a very hard one to make -- that it is in Hillary Clinton's interests, in some sense, in her own personal career, for Barack Obama to lose. I've heard that said by some Clinton people off the record.

You know, her interest is she will inherit the party if he loses. She will be Ms. I Told You So. She can never, never say that. Her people cannot say that on the record.

But Bill Clinton has controlled the Democratic Party for 16 years. It's been his party. After Gore didn't win in 2000...

MALVEAUX: OK...

SCHNEIDER: ...after Kerry didn't win in 2004, it stayed Clinton's party. They'd like to keep it.

MALVEAUX: All right. We'll get back to you guys in just a minute .

U.S. ties with Russia strained by the crisis in Georgia. Top Bush administration officials now warning of serious long-term damage.

Also, even if Detroit's embattled mayor can go to the Democratic Convention, does Barack Obama want him there?

Plus, Barack Obama's vacation pictures -- well, we have brand new images just in from the candidate's Hawaiian holiday.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GATES: If Russia does not step back from its aggressive posture and actions in Georgia, the U.S./Russian relationship could be adversely affected for years to come.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Relations between Washington and Moscow strained by the conflict in Georgia to levels that have not been seen since the Soviet era.

We are back with the best political team on television, CNN's senior political analyst, Bill Schneider; CNN's Jack Cafferty; and Stephen Hayes, senior writer for "The Weekly Standard".

I want to start off with you, Jack.

Obviously, there's been a lot of back and forth. We've been talking to Georgian and Russian officials here.

To what extent do you get that these candidates are looking at this particular potential crisis and thinking this is a moment here for us to shine, to put forward our credentials and really convince voters that we can handle a situation like this?

CAFFERTY: Well, I'm not sure. I think this is not a political story at this point. I think this is a story of what has happened to the power and influence of this country under the leadership of George Bush over the last eight years. The people in Washington are saying we're mad at you, we're really mad at you. You should go back to Russia with all your forces.

And Russia just keeps doing whatever the hell they want. They're pushing deeper and deeper into Georgia. Saakashvili is on the air with us every day, giving us a blow by blow about how they're getting their butts kicked. And short of putting some humanitarian aid into the country -- which obviously we should do -- there isn't anything Washington can do about what's going on in Georgia, short of declaring war on Russia. And if we did, we don't have the military to fight it anyway, because we've got two other wars going on.

So I think we're a long way from talking about the politics of this. We're -- we're in a serious situation here and the credibility of the country is on the line.

MALVEAUX: Stephen, do you think that this opens up an opportunity for either one of these candidates to express, perhaps, a different path, a different way to go, take a more aggressive stand, or in Obama's case, perhaps looking for a more diplomatic angle?

Does this help in any way...

HAYES: Yes, look, I disagree...

MALVEAUX: ...to distinguish themselves?

HAYES: I disagree with Jack. I mean I think this is one of the rare instances -- you go through political campaigns and it's often one candidate fires off something against the other and the other fires off against something against the other.

This is one of these rare moments where one candidate was clearly right. I think John McCain was clearly right when he said last week Russia is the aggressor, Georgia is our friend. Georgia has been our friend.

Barack Obama came out and basically issued a statement that both the Russians and the Georgians should be restrained.

Well, we now know much more about this. We know that Russia, presumably, was launching a cyber war against the Georgian government as early as July 20th. And you have a series of things that show that Russia was the aggressor.

You know, you had John McCain saying at the time, they really want regime change as the ultimate end of this. And some of Barack Obama's surrogates have dismissed that as belligerent. But then the Russians themselves said it.

So this is something that I think really works to John McCain's advantage for people who are paying attention. And that's the big question.

You know, we're in the middle of August.

How many people are paying attention?

And it's a small country, you know, in the Russian orbit.

MALVEAUX: OK...

HAYES: Is this going to be a big deal?

MALVEAUX: Bill, I want you to weigh in. But I want you to listen to a sound bite first of John McCain, what he said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: My friends, we have reached a crisis -- the first probably serious crisis internationally since the end of the cold war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Bill, what do you think of this? Is this being overplayed somewhat? Does it actually benefit John McCain to look at this situation in those kinds of terms?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I can tell you this, he used the word crisis a couple of times. When we've asked in polls, who do you think would do a better job handling an unexpected international crisis -- and this has certainly qualified as an unexpected international crisis -- McCain comes out ahead of Obama. McCain has been strong and outspoken on this -- maybe a little too much. But then he stepped back and he said he does not want to reignite the cold war.

What we're seeing here is no big differences between the candidates. Steve Hayes mentioned Obama's statement. That was very early in the crisis. I think Obama and McCain have ended up in pretty much the same place. It's the place where most Americans are. They are disgusted, they're horrified by what the Russians are doing. It's very dismaying to see this. And I think they are where most Americans are on it.

MALVEAUX: OK. We'll have to leave it there. Thank you, Bill, Stephen and Jack.

What would Colin Powell's endorsement mean for Barack Obama? Well, that's our question this hour. Jack Cafferty will be back with your e-mails.

Also, near disaster outside a high rise -- construction workers left dangling 15 stories up.

Plus, reporter close calls caught on tape, when the story takes a dangerous turn.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show right at the top of the hour -- Lou, what are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Suzanne.

Tonight, we'll have the very latest from Tbilisi on Russia's invasion of Georgia. We'll be examining Russia's efforts to dominate its neighboring states. One of the world's leading authorities on Russian foreign policy joins us and we'll tell you whether Russia's military is as effective as Moscow has claimed.

Also, disturbing new evidence tonight the federal government is failing to secure our ports, as well as our borders. Violent drug cartels now exploiting gaping holes in port security.

And a bipartisan group of senators has a plan, they say, to help working men and women pay for high energy and gasoline prices. But that plan is stalled in Congress. And, by the way, that may be a very good idea.

And we'll examine the posturing in the conflicts of both presidential candidates with three of the very best political analysts.

All of that, all the day's news and more. Join us at the top of the hour here on CNN for all of the news from with an Independent perspective -- Suzanne, back to you.

MALVEAUX: All right, Lou Dobbs. Thank you so much.

And this just in, dramatic audiotapes released of that scene in the air involving Barack Obama's plane last month.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton -- Abbi, what are you watching?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Suzanne, this is a new report from ABC News. They've found out that that incident last month seems a lot more serious than was thought at the time. These are FAA control tower tapes that have just been put on their news site.

Take a listen to what was happening.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) approach Medex (ph) 8663. At this time, we'd like to declare this an emergency and also have (INAUDIBLE) standing by in St. Louis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Medex 8663, I will show that and would you -- do you have a preference on runways?

Would you like Runway 3-0 Right on Runway 3-0 Left? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, which one is the longest?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Medex 8663, Runway 3-0 Left.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. We'd like 3-0 Left. And just for informational purposes, we have Senator Obama on board the aircraft and his campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Medex 8663, Roger that.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TATTON: Those control tower tapes posted on the ABC News Web site. We do know, of course, that when the incident happened last month, the plane did land safely -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK. Abbi Tatton, thanks you so much.

A dramatic development.

Jack Cafferty joining us again -- Jack, what are you watching?

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: What would Colin Powell's endorsement mean for Barack Obama?

Patrick writes: "Rocket fuel. What would also help is if Powell would come forward to confirm the forged intelligence, the dirt on Plame, yellow cake, aluminum tubes and multiple high crimes and misdemeanors that the White House has perpetrated on the greatest people on this planet."

Joe in Massachusetts: "I think it would hurt him. Powell is one of the White House puppets who lied to the nation about Iraq. If he endorsed Obama, I would hope that Obama would decline the endorsement based on this fact. Powell can't be trusted."

Dave in Toronto says: "About three months ago, I predicted Powell would be Obama's nominee for V.P. So an endorsement of Obama by Powell would increase my confidence on collecting on a bunch of bets. Think about it -- who better to bring foreign policy and military experience to Obama's team? Nobody would be any better. Nobody."

Michelle in Pennsylvania: "Not much, Jack. Right or wrong, Powell lost most of his credibility when he made the case for war in Iraq at the U.N.. Either he was naive enough to let himself be played or he was part of the deception. He lost the rest of his credibility when he allowed Bush and Company to marginalize him. The man deserved better, but he also should have been smart enough to avoid it."

Bill writes: "It would give a monumental boost to Obama and the entire campaign. Powell represents and embodies integrity, patriotism and vision -- the very qualities Obama has projected all his adult life. Secretary Powell's counsel on military and foreign affairs would be invaluable."

And Bonnie in Dana Point, California says: "It would mean that my husband just lost his last excuse to vote for McCain. He supported the invasion of Iraq. I didn't. As the Bush administration hacks were discredited one by one, my husband held out Colin Powell as the reason to believe in what we Americans were doing. Sooner or later, it becomes undeniable that the emperor has no clothes."

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, all of which are stylishly dressed -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right.

Thanks, Jack.

A scary moment on live television -- a Georgian journalist is shot. We'll show you that and other close calls broadcast around the world.

And Olympic thrills -- a Russian handball player goes down during a match against Denmark -- one of today's "Hot Shots."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: On our "Political Ticker," new video in from Hawaii on Senator Barack Obama's Hawaiian vacation. He's been soaking up the sand and surf, golfing and eating well.

Our Carol Costello is monitoring the stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol, what are you watching?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A couple of things, Suzanne.

A Texas jury has rejected a $400,000 lawsuit brought by a flight attendant against the wife of televangelist Joel Osteen. Continental Airlines attendant Sharon Brown had claimed that Victoria Osteen threw her against a bathroom door and elbowed her in the chest because a stain on her airline seat wasn't cleaned quickly enough. The jury deliberated briefly before reaching a unanimous decision.

And take a look at this. You do not see this every day, and thank goodness for that. Three construction workers dangling from ropes 15 stories above the ground. They were left hanging from their safety belts after scaffolding on an Indianapolis bank building collapsed. A rescuer actually rappelled down the side of the building to reach the workers as the scaffolding dangled below. Everybody is safe tonight. And that's good news -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Very good news. Thanks, Carol. COSTELLO: Sure.

MALVEAUX: Whether dodging bullets or crazed fans, close calls are part of the job for many journalists, including one of our own, Jeanne Moos. She shows us some dramatic moments caught on camera.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Americans now have a different Georgia on their minds thanks to all the war reporting -- reporting that has led to some close calls. For instance, when this Georgian state TV reporter got shot during a live shot. Actually, the bullet just grazed her and she kept on reporting despite the bloody wrist.

Another close call caught on tape happened as a soldier who had stolen some TV gear pointed a gun at the guy pointing the camera. Shots were fired in the air.

It's not unusual for close calls to get on the air when reporters put themselves in the thick of things.

CNN's Zain Verjee got hit with a tear gas canister in Kenya.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: They will stop firing back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: It left a big, ugly bruise and now, almost seven months later...

VERJEE: It left a scar that, you know, sometimes I show off.

MOOS (on camera): Like I'm not going to ask you to show me the scar.

(LAUGHTER)

VERJEE: No. It's the shape of the canister.

MOOS (voice-over): A canister someone picked up and handed to her as a memento. It now sits on a shelf at home.

Sometimes a close call just feels close. For instance, when reporters feared gas attacks during the first Gulf War.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's putting on a gas mask. There hasn't been any gas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(CROSSTALK)

MOOS (on camera): Now, a reporter doesn't have to be in a war zone or a trouble spot to have a close call. I had my own close encounter at the circus.

(voice-over): I was mopping the mouth of the Zoosha (ph) the hippo.

(on camera): She seems to like to be mopped. Hey, just kidding. Just kidding.

(voice-over): But the giant jaws of a hippo were no match for the claws of this cat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now part of their sentence (INAUDIBLE) right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Sometimes it's the crowd that turns on you. For instance, outside a British soccer match.

PEDRO PINTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The atmosphere has been fantastic over the last hours.

MOOS: It got even more fantastic for CNN's Pedro Pinto.

(VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Vastly outnumbered, Pinto says he didn't attack back.

PINTO: Since I do need my face for work.

MOOS: So did this reporter covering an alleged real estate scam when he got whacked with a plastic bottle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not appropriate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't give a (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Then her husband arrived. Still, no close call seems closer than when a giant snake comes calling up the weatherman's shorts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my goodness, it's stuck in there.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: I'm Suzanne Malveaux in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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

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