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Off and Running: More Announcements for the 2008 Presidential Election; President Bush Prepares for State of the Union Address; Eye on Iran

Aired January 20, 2007 - 16:00   ET


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: So let the conversation begin. I have a feeling it's going to be very interesting.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton says she's in and she's in it to win. But she's not the only one.

We're live across the country in the latest announcement in the race for the White House.

And we're following a developing story in Iraq. A U.S. chopper goes down just north of Baghdad. The military says no one survived.

More details straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

Plus, brutal winter weather leaves tens of thousands in a deep freeze without power, and the temperatures just keep dropping.

From the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

You're in the NEWSROOM.

More star power for the Democrats today. It's official. Hillary Rodham Clinton has set her sights on the White House, where she lived for eight tumultuous years as first lady. In Senator Clinton's own words, "It's going to be very interesting."

And here comes a Republican. Senator Sam Brownback formally enters the race as an opponent of abortion, stem cell research, and President Bush's Iraq policy.

The top political team in television is all over the day's news. Our John Roberts is in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Candy Crowley, in Topeka, Kansas, scene of Brownback's announcement, overshadowed by the unexpected timing of Senator Clinton's entry.

We'll start on the phone with Candy, our senior political correspondent -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka it was one of those days that Senator Brownback looked around and saw, of course, that Hillary Clinton, who is a marquee name, gets more than her share of publicity on this. But he was pretty sanguine about it, said, listen, you know, there's plenty of time to make a name for yourself, there's almost two years left in this cycle.

Brownback made his announcement in front of a group of perhaps a couple hundred of supporters here in Topeka, where he lives. He talked about his -- the need to grow healthier families in the U.S., he talked a little bit about his war position, just saying we need to be united here at home in order to win the war overseas.

He touched on a number of issues, right to life. He is, as you mentioned, against embryonic stem cell research. He is against abortion. In fact, the first thing he's going to do when he returns to Washington Monday is to participate in the annual opposition to the Roe v. Wade decision. The march is happening on Monday, so he will participate in that.

First things first, though. He also had to go out and fund- raise. So he left Topeka, Kansas, for North Carolina, where aides say he will begin to raise the money that all of these candidates need in order to, A, make a name for themselves and, B, make a credible bid for the White House -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And talk about name recognition. On today when Senator Clinton has made her announcement. You mentioned how Senator Brownback is going to be in North Carolina and leaving the comfort zone of Kansas, but how else might he make a name for himself knowing that he's almost being overshadowed today by Senator Clinton?

CROWLEY: Well, there are scenarios under which you could see someone like Brownback coming to the fore. If you look at the two leading Republicans right now -- that would be John McCain and Rudy Giuliani -- suppose one of them gets knocked out. That certainly gives Brownback a chance to move in, but there's also Mitt Romney out there.

Remember that probably the most conservative guy in this race is Brownback. That speaks to a large portion of the Republican Party, and it also speaks to that portion of the Republican Party which tends to participate in primaries. So when you look around, he certainly has a base out there that he could go for, and that's what he's counting on at this point.

WHITFIELD: Candy Crowley, thanks so much for joining us from Topeka, Kansas.

Well, back now to Senator Clinton. Just where does she stand on some of the bigger out there?

She voted to authorize the war in Iraq back in 2002, but today she says she would have voted differently had she known then what she knows now. She opposes sending in more troops.

Mrs. Clinton supports a woman's right to legally obtain an abortion, and while she opposes same-sex marriage, she supports civil unions for gay Americans. Finally, she has voted against President Bush's tax cuts.

Senator Clinton recently returned from her trip to Iraq and Afghanistan. She spoke with our John Roberts, who joins us live from Scottsdale, Arizona.

John, you're in Scottsdale for the auctioning of CNN's Warrior One Hummer. I know it's very noisy there, but in your recent conversation with Senator Clinton was there any hint that her announcement would come this way?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SR. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, as everyone does when they interview Hillary Clinton, at the very end of the interview I said, "I assume you called us over your office here because you had a big announcement to make. Does that mean you're running for president?"

And she sort of laughed it off as she always does and says, "Well, I haven't made that decision yet." Of course, all the time she and her people knew that they were going to make the decision today.

They are resisting the notion, though, that this was pushed ahead, that the schedule was pushed ahead because of Barack Obama jumping into the ring with an exploratory committee. They say that they wanted her to get back from Iraq, and that this announcement had been coincided at the time with her return to Iraq.

You know, it's really an issue that she's pushing on. She wants to cap the number of troops in Iraq at the level that they were at on January 1st, which is at about 132,000. She's resisting this notion of an increase in troops. But she is very studiously and astutely staying away from this idea of cutting funding for the troops.

By saying that she wants to cap the level of troops, she's not letting herself or not keeping herself open to any attacks that could come her way should she decide to run for president, that somebody could throw at her to say, well, you voted to cut funding for the troops. So she's really trying to thread this needle very carefully.

And while she's in opposite to President Bush's plan, she has nothing good to say about Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.


ROBERTS: Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, do you have any faith that he is the guy who can -- who can bring Iraq back to a state of security?

CLINTON: I don't have any faith.

ROBERTS: No faith in al-Maliki?

CLINTON: Whether there's a gap between his intentions and his will and capacity is the real problem, or whether he's doing what he intends to do to sort of mark time and further the -- you know, the dominance of his sectarian supporters, it's hard to tell.


ROBERTS: So, Senator Clinton there reflecting the increasing concerns of a lot of U.S. officials that the al-Maliki government is increasingly becoming more tilted toward the Shiites, even though there is talk of this unity government.

Now, we should point out as well, Fred, that what you said at the beginning of this, that Hillary Clinton says, if we had have known then what we know now we would not be at war in Iraq, she has gone that far, but she's not gone all the way to recanting her 2002 vote in support of authorizing the president to go to war in Iraq, as other Democrats like John Edwards and John Kerry have. I asked her specifically about that.

I said, "Was it a mistake? Do you regret making that vote?" And she only would say that if we knew then what we know now we wouldn't be at war in Iraq.

And when I pushed her further on it she said, look it, "I don't believe in do-overs in life. I'm going to take responsibility for the votes that I cast and then try to make them better."

Now, on Thursday afternoon at 4:30 when I interviewed her, that sounded an awful like a statement that would come from a presidential candidate. And it turns out, Fred, it was.

WHITFIELD: Yes, very astute. And, of course, I look forward to, and everyone else does, too, looking at the rest of your interview with Senator Clinton on this "THIS WEEK AT WAR" this evening and again tomorrow.

Meantime, because there's so much going on behind you, let's talk a little bit more about the big event involving Warrior One, the Hummer that was part of the Iraq war, right behind you being auctioned off tonight.

ROBERTS: Yes, this was a vehicle that carried a CNN crew of four from Kuwait to Baghdad. It actually saw some action crossing the Tigris River from western Baghdad into eastern Baghdad. There was a gunboat in the Tigris River that started firing on it. The gunboat was involved in that big battle around Baghdad University.

We'll be coming back to you a little bit later on to talk more about this and why it's being auctioned off and who the money is going to -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Fantastic. John Roberts, thanks so much from Scottsdale. See you soon.

Meantime, Senator Barack Obama was quick to react to the Clinton announcement. In a written statement, the White House hopeful from Illinois said, "I welcome her and all the candidates, not as competitors, but as allies in the work of getting our country back on track."

Many consider Obama one of Mrs. Clinton's top competitors for the Democratic nomination.

And we'll have much more later on Senator Clinton at 4:38 Eastern. We'll talk to former Democratic Party chairman Terry McAuliffe. And at 4:45, some things that might surprise you about Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Also coming up, a developing story out of Iraq. A U.S. military chopper down, 13 people killed. An accident or something more?

And bracing for another round. The Plains and the Southwest getting slammed with snow again and ice, and very frigid temperatures.

We're tracking the storm from the severe weather center.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The lines are closed. The votes have been counted and verified. And I can now reveal that the third person to be evicted from the "Big Brother" house is...


WHITFIELD: Oh brother. Tense times on a top TV show. That's part of the title. Accusations of racism causing an international uproar.

The heated reaction straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.


WHITFIELD: A deadly helicopter crash in Iraq today. Officials say a U.S. military chopper went down outside Baghdad, killing all 13 people on board. It's unclear this hour if this was an accident or whether insurgents are to blame.

The crash site has been secured by emergency coalition forces. An investigation is under way.

Iraq, Middle East peace efforts, and U.S. healthcare, three very complicated issues President Bush is tackling this weekend as he prepares to make a major speech to the nation.

Let's go live now to CNN White House Correspondent Elaine Quijano -- Elaine.


Well, President Bush left the White House earlier today headed to Camp David, where he'll be spending the next couple of days or so putting the finishing touches on his State of the Union Address. Now, already, though, we know at a time when the president is facing great skepticism over his new Iraq plan, the White House is really trying to shift the focus away from foreign policy and more on to domestic issues, the president's domestic agenda, and specifically places where the White House feels the president will be able to score perhaps some legislative victories even with a Democratic-led Congress.

Now, one of those areas, healthcare. Today in his radio address, the president offered a preview of sorts of what he'll be talking about in his State of the Union Address.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will propose a tax reform designed to help make basic private health insurance more affordable, whether you get it through your job or on your own.


QUIJANO: Now, the president didn't offer much in the way of details, but already some Democrats voicing opposition to this idea; namely, Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, a Democrat, questioning whether the tax code is the best way to approach the healthcare issue. At the same time. Though, saying in his statement released by his office just a short time ago, that it is good, the statement says, that the president is talking about healthcare.

At the same time, today here at the White House Iraq was very much on the agenda. In fact, before the president left for Camp David he sat down with his defense secretary, Robert Gates, as well as his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. The two are just back from separate trips to the Middle East region, where they tried to build support for the president's latest Iraq strategy amid skepticism. And, of course, skepticism on the domestic front as well about the president's plan to send some 21,000 additional U.S. forces to try to quell the violence in Iraq.

Now, as for the State of the Union Address, it will, of course, make mention of Iraq, but aides say it will not focus just on foreign policy, but on the domestic issues as well. Again, areas where the president feels he can have some common ground with Democrats' issues, not only including healthcare, but immigration and education as well -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Elaine Quijano at the White House.

Thank you.

So Democrats have warned President Bush: Don't even think about a war with Iran without first getting congressional approval. This as U.S. intelligence suspects growing Iranian influence within Iraq.

Two weeks ago, in Iraq's Kurdish capital of Irbil, the U.S. says it captured five Iranian Revolutionary Guards. And just last week, President Bush promised stepped-up interdiction of any weapons shipments to Iraqi insurgents.


BUSH: We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria, and we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: An article in the latest "U.S. News & World Report" claims a special U.S. strike force has been dispatched to further cut the strings of Iranian influence.

Anna Mulrine is the reporter for "U.S. News & World Report" covering the story. She joins us now from New York to talk more about it.

So, we talk about this Special Forces that have already been dispatched. The objective is to find these arms traffickers, Iranian traffickers there in Iraq.

Is this a precursor to any other potential military conflict between the U.S. and Iran?

ANNA MULRINE, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": Well, I think that's what Democrats fear right now, as we saw just now in the president's remarks. He's put Iran on warning that from here on out this web of Iranian influence is something that the military is going to more aggressively tackle.

I was just there last month and, you know, there are great concerns about -- about these Iranian arms shipments coming across the border and these deadlier forms of IEDs. They're called EFPs over there, explosively-formed projectiles, and basically they are made in Iran, and they kind of -- they wreak havoc on the armor of the soldiers over there, and they are able to punch through the metal, which is a huge concern to the commanders on the ground right now.

WHITFIELD: And so the Special Forces are also to get in between Iranians who may be training Shiite militias. How can they do that?

MULRINE: That's right. It's Iranians' Al-Quds brigade, which is basically the foreign arm of the Revolutionary Guard of Iran. And increasingly right now there's concern that they are slipping across the border.

They're basically moving into neighborhoods, particularly militia-heavy neighborhoods in the Sadr City area, south of Sadr City, where the Mehdi army influence -- that's the militia run by Muqtada al-Sadr -- is strong. And so right now they are training militia members. They are, you know, bringing weapons with them across the border, and that's basically what they are trying to break up right now.

WHITFIELD: So if President Bush is saying publicly that he will stop the flow of influence from Iran and Syria, does this become a much more dangerous enterprise for U.S. troops, for the U.S. military all the way around when you're now talking about Syria potentially getting involved here?

MULRINE: I mean, it certainly -- it certainly puts them, you know, right in the middle of things when they are out there on the streets. I mean, when I was out there with some of the troops south of Sadr City in a neighborhood called Karrada (ph), it's -- some of the roads are so, you know, heavy with EFP explosions right now that they have been ordered off certain main routes in the city.

WHITFIELD: All right.

MULRINE: Yes. So it's a big concern.

WHITFIELD: Anna Mulrine with the "U.S. News & World Report."

Thanks so much for joining us from New York.

MULRINE: Thanks for having me.

WHITFIELD: Well, she says that she's in it to win. Hillary Rodham Clinton, one of the most well-known Democrats, but did you know she once worked for one of the most conservative Republicans? And that's not all. Some things you may not know about the latest presidential contender.

REGGIE AQUI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Another round of storms hits the middle part of the country. We're talking about Oklahoma here, still recovering from last week's storms. The question now, who's going to pay for this mess?

I'm Reggie Aqui. A live report is coming up.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And I'm meteorologist Jacqui Jeras in the CNN severe weather center. The latest on that storm in Oklahoma and Texas, and where is it heading next?

The latest forecast is coming up.


ROBERTS: Another winter wallop is crossing the Plains. In Oklahoma, they are watching out for several inches of snow or more freezing rain or sleet. Parts of the state are still recovering from last week's ice storm.

They are already feeling the effects of winter's latest blast in New Mexico. Crews worked overnight and into this morning to salt or sand the roads in the central and eastern parts of that state.

And they are getting ready for the worst in Texas as well. Members of the state National Guard have been activated for winter storm duty this weekend.

Now back to Oklahoma. It's tough going for a lot of folks there. More than 50,000 power customers are still in the dark and in the cold from last week's storm. Now there's a new storm to worry about.

Reggie Aqui is in McAlester, Oklahoma, for an update -- Reggie.

AQUI: And as you know, Fredricka, McAlester is one of the areas that was hit the hardest from last week's ice storm. It knocked out power, as you mentioned, to many customers. And as you can see right here, there's actually a power box that's new, that was just replaced by electricians.

This is the old power box in this gentleman's home. It got torn off by a tree branch that fell down last week.

And here is what the front lawn looks like. It is full of, well, lots of firewood, you can say that, but it's making a big mess. And a lot of houses are like this in this neighborhood.

Now, looking at all this damage today, a special visitor from out of town.


GARY GRAYBOL, FEMA: We're looking to see the extent of the damage. We don't know what we're going to find. Most of this is without power for days and days and days.


AQUI: That person you just saw is from FEMA. He is part of one of four teams now traveling the state.

They are basically doing a survey. They want to see just how much damage is here right now, and what they are going to do is make a report, compile it, and then send it back eventually to Washington, D.C.

FEMA officials there will determine whether or not this state gets even more help from that agency. We're talking about reimbursements for generators people have bought, or even food that's gone spoiled.

You know, a lot of folks here in Oklahoma, they have been not working for the past week. Kids have not been going to school. There are a lot of expenses that are piling up.

So a bunch of folks are certainly hoping that Oklahoma is called a major disaster. And just using that word "major" makes a big difference within the government, because it determines whether or not this area is going to see basically a deluge of FEMA folks coming into town and trying to help out and clean up.

Now, Fredricka, as you mentioned, we are getting another round of storms. So far, here where I am in McAlester, we've just had rain. But that temperature continues to go down.

We are hoping that that doesn't mean we'll have freezing rain later tonight. And I can tell you, that electricity keeps going on and off again. You get hope when you see the lights come back on, and then a couple hours later you're in the dark.

WHITFIELD: Yes, what a let down. That is a bummer.

All right. Reggie Aqui, thanks so much, from McAlester. Hopefully there will be a break in the weather.

Maybe Jacqui Jeras can promise some sunshine or some kind of hope for the folks.


WHITFIELD: Well, it has seen the worst of times and the best of times. Warrior One, the CNN Hummer that has been battered and bruised in Iraq, has now been completely revamped and is now ready for its big debut on the auction block.

Here to explain all of this from Scottsdale, Arizona, CNN's John Roberts.

John, good to see you.

The countdown is on for the first bid to begin on that vehicle.

ROBERTS: Yes, Fred. They are getting set to roll this out of here and toward the stage, where it will go on the auction block in about another two-and-a-half hours. Battered and bruised from the battle of Baghdad, but coming back here with tender loving care and restored to a state that you would never know before.

We'll tell you about this in just a second. But first of all, I wanted to tell you it's a very special auction that's going on today with this Warrior One Hummer, because all of the proceeds are going toward Fisher Hour.

Now, if you don't know what Fisher House is, it's an organization that began after the first Gulf War. They saw a need that servicemen and women who needed hospital care would like to have their families close to them, either on the military base, or near the V.A. hospital that they were being treated at, but there were no accommodations for them, or if there was they were sort of Spartan accommodations, or they were quite expensive. So Fisher House created a charity where they gather money from the public and they build these big homes, anywhere from 5,000 and 20,000 square feet, anywhere between eight and 21 rooms. And that's where families of these service members can stay while they're in the hospital, or even sometimes service members themselves stay at these homes.

By next Tuesday they'll have 38 homes in total, 36 in the United States and two in Europe. Now, they're opening two of them at the Brook Army Medical Center in the next week. That's in San Antonio. It's very important to have that type of accommodation there because that's where the most seriously injured people from Iraq go for rehabilitation -- burn victims, amputees, multiple amputees.

So there's a real need for long-term accommodation. It used to be that people would stay between ten and 12 days. Now sometimes they're staying between 12 and 18 months.

At any rate, let me take you for a quick tour of this Hummer before they roll it out of here. Let's start in the front here. Typically these Hummers come with a big diesel motor. After being in Baghdad and rolling through Kuwait and Iraq, the motor was a little beaten up, so the design team, headed by noted hot rod designer Chip Foose, installed a 454 crate Chevrolet engine in here. If you know anything about cars, this is an old hot rod-style of motor, big four- barrel carburetor on it, sort of the epitome of gas guzzler, if you will. But if you can afford to buy this, you can afford to buy the gas in it. If you have to ask how much gas goes into it you can't afford the car.

Inside, totally revamped it take a look at what they've done here. Totally tripped it. This was a civilian Hummer to begin with. But they've totally tricked it out. It's got a 7,500 watt stereo -- 25,000 watt, sorry, stereo system inside it. It's got leather seats, six LED flatscreen panels -- take a look here. That's a little bit of a picture from the show "Overhaulin'", which is the people that this was given to last summer to fix up. There's the body of the Hummer going in. This is what it looks like now.

They're hoping to get multiple six figures for this today. Difficult to tell, though, exactly what it's going to bring because not quite a collectible, little bit of a novelty. But there's a huge dose of philanthropy thrown in here, so they're hoping for a lot of money for Fisher House today -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Multiple six figures, there had better be a bed in there, like you can live in that vehicle as well. I like the screens, though, impressive.

ROBERTS: Hey, you know, it's got two 250-pound sub woofers in the back. Who needs a bed? I mean, there's going to be so much base you wouldn't be able to sleep anyway.

WHITFIELD: I know, that is a serious ride. I like it. Wish I could afford it.

All right. Thanks a lot, John.

And you can find out just how high the bidding is going to go tonight at CNN -- on CNN at 10:00 Eastern. We'll fill you in.

Well, it's a name you've heard for quite some time, but there may be some things you don't know about Hillary Clinton. Details straight ahead, plus this:



WHITFIELD (voice-over): They're calling it good versus evil in India. Find out who wins out, next in the NEWSROOM.


WHITFIELD (on camera): "I'm in to win."

Those words coming today from a current U.S. senator, former first lady and possible future president, Hillary Rodham Clinton. In an announcement on her website, she officially threw her hat into the 2008 presidential race.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NEW YORK: Let's start a dialogue about your ideas and mine because the conversation in Washington has been just a little one-sided lately, don't you think?

And we can all see how well that worked. And while I can't visit everyone's living room, I can try. And with a little help from modern technology, I'll be holding live online video chats this week starting Monday.

So let the conversation begin. I have a feeling it's going to be very interesting.


WHITFIELD: Mrs. Clinton's announcement means she will be spending a lot of time in New Hampshire, site of the first in the nation presidential primary.

CNN national correspondent Bob Franken is in the Granite State on the way to Manchester, joining us on the phone right now.

So, Bob, earlier when you and I spoke you said not a huge reaction. Is that in part because there's been a great expectation that she would be making it official any day now?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They hardly consider this a surprise. The reaction could probably be paraphrased, "Welcome to the crowd, join the crowd." There's going to be a large group of candidates already there starting to line up. And when Hillary Rodham Clinton says that she can't have a conversation in each individual living room, here in New Hampshire they pretty much expect you to do just that. This state takes pride in the fact that it's (INAUDIBLE) what they call retail politics. And that means that the candidates are expected pretty much to say hello and have conversations with just about anybody in New Hampshire. There's been some question about whether New Hampshire (INAUDIBLE) because the Democrats in particular have added the Nevada caucus.

But the candidates at least seem to think -- at least, they say here that it is still very important. And New Hampshire is planning to make sure that is adjusts its primary, which is scheduled for a year from Monday, move it back, if necessary, to maintain its (INAUDIBLE).

WHITFIELD: So, Bob, folks in New Hampshire very politic savvy, but they say they want face time. They want to see Senator Clinton and all the other candidates before they make any real decisions, right?

FRANKEN: Absolutely, and Senator Clinton has said that she will be going first to Iowa, but will be coming here in the near future. And the people in New Hampshire say, "Welcome. Get in line."

WHITFIELD: All right. Bob Franken, thanks so much for joining us on the phone as you travel towards Manchester. See more of Bob Franken's reporting on the race for the White House on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING" Monday through Friday 6:00 a.m. through 9:00 a.m. Eastern. He is part of the best political team on television.

Well, the prospect of Senator Clinton running for president has been discussed, debated and dissected for years now. So what led her to finally give a definitive yes?

Joining us now with some insight is former Democratic National Committee chair Terry McAuliffe, who is now working on Senator Clinton's presidential campaign.

Good to see you.

TERRY MCAULIFFE, FMR. DNC. CHAIR: Hey, Fredricka, great to be back with you.

WHITFIELD: All right. So I guess, as you heard in Bob's report, everyone has been expecting that she was going to do it. There's been so much speculation for a long time. So why the announcement on the website? And why first with an exploratory committee?

MCAULIFFE: Well, first on the website, because there literally are thousands upon thousands of supporters of Senator Clinton and we wanted all of them to know first that she was going to form her exploratory committee. And I can tell you we've been receiving over 100 hits per minute of people who have been out supporting the candidacy, want to be involved in this campaign. I mean, this is going to be a generational campaign. We're going to bring all generations together and work together. This truly is an historic occasion for the Democratic Party and for our country. So we thought to reach as many people as we could, do it through the web.

WHITFIELD: So how can this committee -- establishing a committee give a better pulse for Senator Clinton and everyone working with her versus, you know, her popularity just based on her Senate record and just based on the fact that she is a former first lady? Everybody knows who she is.

MCAULIFFE: Sore. Everybody knows who she is. And what she needs to do and what she plans on doing is travelling all over the country, extensively going out and meeting people from all over the country, talking about where she wants to take this country, what her vision for the future of this country is.

We all know that she has all the characteristics to be a great president. She has character strength and she's strong. She can reach out to so many different people. And she needs to get out and reach out to people and talk to them, talk to them about their concerns, what her plans are for the future of the country as it relates to health care and education, issues that she's always been a leader on.

This is going to be a tough campaign. I think we have the best Democratic field that we have ever had in the history of our party. We have so many great candidates running. And she's going to be in there with the rest of them, laying out their vision for the future of the country.

But, as I say, this is historic and she is going to bring all her talents. And you look at her eight years as first lady and all of the people she knows all around the world, we're looking for new leadership in this country. And Hillary is going to provide us with that leadership.

WHITFIELD: And people feel like they know her, but perhaps there's something about Senator Clinton or her politics that you and the rest of her team feel needs to get out there and perhaps even, you know, I guess, dispel some notions about her?

MCAULIFFE: Well, sure. I mean, for years you've had many people out, many on the Republican side have said so many things about Hillary Clinton. All I ask you is to go look at the vote we just had for her reelect in New York. And she had an astounding victory. She had a landslide victory. She won in traditional areas that are Republican areas in upstate New York. She carried those counties in upstate New York. Many Republicans came out and supported her because they saw she was out there working hard for them. She was in there every single day. She knew where she wanted to take the folks in New York. She worked hard to bring different things to the state of New York. And they think that they can do that for the country.

WHITFIELD: And how much will the former president be out there campaigning for her?

MCAULIFFE: Listen, he'll be out very actively. He wants to make sure that his wife is out and gets elected president. He's such a huge asset. He's one of the most popular people in the world today. I think the two of them will be out there campaigning extensively.

WHITFIELD: All right. Terry McAuliffe, thanks so much. Former DNC chair...

MCAULIFFE: Thanks so much, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: ... with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton running, now for president in 08.

JOSHUA LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Think you know everything there is to know about Hillary Clinton? You may be surprised. For one thing, she worked on a major Republican campaign when she was young. She also is the first New Yorker ever to serve on a major Senate committee.

I'm Joshua Levs. I'll have that and more coming up here on CNN, the most trusted name in news.


WHITFIELD: So many Americans feel they know Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton well from her eight years as first lady, but did you know the first presidential campaign she worked on was a Republican's? Joshua Levs has more in today's reality check -- Joshua.

LEVS: Yes.

Hey, Fred.

It's true. People feel they know Hillary Clinton. And in fact, they do know a lot about her. She's been in the public eye for a long time. However, there are some things we're going to tell you now we think may come as a surprise. We're going to talk you through her background.

Let's start at the beginning.

She was born just over 59 years ago in Chicago, grew up Methodist. She went to Wellesley and Yale Law. As a teenager she worked on the campaign of Republican Barry Goldwater. Then during college she campaigned for Democrat Eugene McCarthy and stuck with the Democrats.

In 1970 she interned for a prominent civil rights attorney, then later worked as an attorney for the Children's Defense Fund, kicking off a legal career in which she often focused on children and the underprivileged.

When her husband Bill became governor of Arkansas, she became the first first lady of that state to continue her own career. She remained a prominent attorney.

After Bill Clinton was elected president, he named her to lead a task force on health care. President Clinton's health care reform package was defeated by Congress. Hillary Clinton later said she learned lessons from the experience.

Since 2000 she has been a U.S. senator, serving on several committees. Her website says she's the first New Yorker ever on the Armed Services Committee.

And, of course, now, after years of speculation, Hillary Rodham Clinton officially becomes a presidential hopeful.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NEW YORK: I'm not just starting a campaign, though. I'm beginning a conversation with you, with America.

LEVS: Now that she's entering into the presidential race, her background and her experience are going to become a major political topic in America. We can expect to hear about that a lot, Fred, especially in the coming days, weeks, months as the presidential horse race really takes off.

WHITFIELD: All right, Josh.

Thanks so much. LEVS: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: And this story we're following right now out of Indiana, out of Elkhart. An amber alert has been issued in that area for four children of Elkhart who were allegedly abducted by a 30 year- old who's being described as Jerry D. White. He allegedly shot someone just before taking the children, according to officials. And White also allegedly abducted the children's mother. So when we get more information about these children, ages nine, eight, six and 16 months old, we'll be able to bring that to you.


WHITFIELD: Yes, it is horrible.

SANCHEZ: I mean, when a guy does something -- is willing to do something like that, you begin to wonder what else he's willing to do.

WHITFIELD: And it's also helpful that the community stay alert and help out the authorities as best they can to look out for anything relating to this case.

Rick Sanchez, here with a look at the NEWSROOM later on this evening.

SANCHEZ: We're going to be following that. We're also going to be following the Hillary Clinton -- had an interesting conversation with Paul Begala. He was there during the Monica Lewinsky episode, during those tense years, what really happened and what was the effect on Hillary that she will now have to deal with, good or bad, while she tries to become the next president of the United States.

But we're also going to be talking about something else, something about a man named John Cusack, fabulous actor. But now he's in a movie. And in this movie he plays a father, a father who has his wife die in Iraq. What's the effect on him? I mean, he goes into it being kind of a conservative guy, rah-rah, believes in everything. Obviously that changes. How does he explain it to the children? A lot of political angles to this movie.

WHITFIELD: Is a movie being featured at the Sundance?

SANCHEZ: It most definitely is.

WHITFIELD: Yes, lots of independent films getting a lot of attention right now, even before Sundance is even finished, so...

SANCHEZ: And the Iraq theme is running through many of them, if not most at this point.

WHITFIELD: All right. We'll be watching.

SANCHEZ: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: 10:00 and 5:00.

Thanks a lot, Rick.




WHITFIELD: Speaking of entertainment, a popular actress in India, the target of what many consider racist comments. Her countrymen come to her defense next in the NEWSROOM.





WHITFIELD: A British reality show has sparked controversy and ratings thanks to allegations of racism by a cast member. One of the contestants on "Celebrity Big Brother" is Indian movie star Shilpa Shetti, another: Jade Goody (ph), a former British dental nurse with an acid tongue. Tensions on last night's eviction show were electric when the name of the person voted off was announced.




WHITFIELD: So the accusations about Jade's bullying have touched a nerve in both Britain and India. They've also focused new attention on India's century's old caste system.

Here's CNN's Satinder Bindra.



SATINDER BINDRA (voice-over): This invigorating dance sequence for a Bollywood movie in 1989 won actress Shilpa Shetti national fame and recognition. Since then her career has struggled to hit top gear. But now, thanks it her participation in the U.K. reality TV show "Celebrity Big Brother", Shetti's back in the spotlight. And thousands of her fans are delighted that co-star Jade Goody, who the Indian media described as Shetti's tormenter, has been evicted from the show.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It makes me feel good that she's at least out and good has prevailed over evil.

BINDRA: Goody insulted the Indian actress by calling her Shilpa Popadum (ph), referring to an Indian snack food. She also asked her to go back to the slums, Behavior the Indian media dubbed as racist. Goody admitted she was nasty but says she's not racist. And Shetti later denied she'd been the target of racist abuse.

Despite such efforts at damage control, the story continues to dominate news headlines in India. Shilpa's treatment on the show has touched off a raw nerve in a country whose fast growing country has created a new sense of self belief and awareness.

JYOTI MALHOTRA, ANALYST: This country that ruled us for so long ago and for such a long time -- people from this country are saying to us, "You cannot compete with us. Don't even think that you are our equal."

And I think people resented this hugely because the British raja (ph), the British empire finished, you know, 60 years ago.

BINDRA: But decades after independence many here feel India has to deal with deep-seated discrimination in its own society before pointing fingers at others.

(on camera): These Indians want the whole country to start looking inwards at a centuries-old caste system that creates social hierarchies based not on merit but on birth.

(voice-over): Hundreds of millions of Indians born into lower castes still do menial jobs. Many don't even dream of doing better.

AMISH SABHARWAL, STUDENT: People should awaken to the very fact that there is still such discrimination in our society. And we need to wake up to that.

BINDRA: The Indian media didn't do much about discrimination in its own backyard during its wall-to-wall coverage of the story. It has, though, pointed out that Shetti, who speaks five languages, earns over $1 million for every film she acts in and has a black belt in karate, could have been tougher, especially because "Big Brother" is just a game and she's being paid almost $700,000, more than any other contestant on the show.

Satinder Bindra, CNN, New Delhi.


WHITFIELD: And now to this reality. A former POW gives birth. But an even better story could be what she named her newborn child. The story, next in the NEWSROOM.


WHITFIELD: A look at some of the most popular stories on right now. Britain's Prince Charles is canceling a ski holiday in Switzerland to limit his air travel. The decision comes a day after environmentalists criticized his decision to fly to New York to pick up an award for his work on environmental issues.

And former POW Jessica Lynch has given birth to a baby girl. The infant, Dakota Ann Robinson (ph), is named for the first woman to be killed in combat in Iraq.

And, of course, if you're interested in these stories and a whole lot more, including, of course, the announcement earlier this morning of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton jumping into the race for 08. Well, for all that information, you can go to

Rick Sanchez is up next.