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Paula Zahn Now

North Korea Claims to Have Conducted Successful Nuclear Test

Aired October 09, 2006 - 20:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And thanks to all of you for joining us. Paula has the night off. Tonight's top story, is North Korea's claims that it exploded a nuclear device. Was this morning's big bang for real? President Bush calls it a provocative act and wants immediate response from the rest of the world. But at this hour, it isn't clear if the U.N. can match his tough talk with real punishment. It's just past 9:00 in the morning on Tuesday morning on the Korean peninsula. A new morning that may bring new answers to the troubling questions of what exactly exploded and what are the worldwide repercussions of a nuclear armed North Korea.
Our in-depth search for answers begins with CNN's Dan Rivers, he is in the South Korean capital of Seoul. Dan, good evening.

DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening Soledad. Well news of this nuclear test is being felt more keenly here than perhaps anywhere else in the rest of the world. South Koreans have lived in the shadow of their threatening northern neighbor for more than 50 years, and now Kim Jong-Il seems to have taken the first step in securing the ultimate weapon.


RIVERS (voice-over): This was the moment a North Korean newscaster gleefully announced, the regime had detonated a nuclear device. North Korea's reclusive dictator Kim Jong-Il had warned the world of a test, but when it came, it still sent political shockwaves around the globe. The blast occurred deep underground at a test facility (INAUDIBLE) near the city of Kil Ju in the northeast of the secretive regime, where activity has been monitored for years. Underground explosions give off a unique seismic signature, which was picked up first by the South Koreans and later by Russian and U.S. monitoring stations. As nuclear technicians were making their final preparations, the Japanese prime minister was meeting the president of South Korea. They were the first to react, both condemning the move.

North Korea has been pursuing nuclear technology for more than a decade. It has a nuclear reactor at Yongbyon. The regime has ignored the 1994 so-called landmark agreement with the U.S. to stop activity. Analysts think if the reactor was completed, it could produce enough plutonium to build one weapon a year. On the border with North Korea the South Korean army has raised its alert level. The United States has 28,000 troops in South Korea helping to keep an uneasy peace between two countries which are still officially at war.

(on camera): This observation post is one of a handful of places that you can actually get a glimpse into North Korea. Down here is the demilitarized zone, the no man's land that is strewn full of mines and has been deserted since 1953, the end of The Korean War. And just beyond is North Korea itself. This is the last front line in the cold war, a frontline that now has global significance.

(voice-over): On the streets of the South Korean capital, Seoul, protesters vented their anger at the news.

TRANSLATION OF UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't say my friends at school are in panic, but they definitely seem nervous from this incident.

TRANSLATION OF UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no doubt that we have to deliver our strong message.

TRANSLATION OF UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the global community has to stand strong as North Korea keeps threatening the world peace.

RIVERS: There are now fears the nuclear technology first developed by the west will be sought by other nations in the region. South Korea and Japan both rely on the U.S. deterrent. But now they're living next to a tyrannical dictator who claims to have exploded a nuclear device. What was once a fear in Iraq could now become a reality in North Korea.


O'BRIEN: Dan, is the fear essentially that if North Korea continues with its test, then other countries in the region will, in fact, go for their nukes as well?

RIVERS: I think this has sent a collective shiver down the spines of not only the citizens of South Korea and Japan, but, also, the political leaders. Whether they will then use this as a pretext for trying to secure their own nuclear weapons I don't think is clear. I think it's unlikely. Both countries fall under the protective umbrella of the U.S. nuclear deterrent, and certainly with Japan, they would have to alter their constitution if they wanted to take on a more hawkish stance. But certainly, I think, it may change the way that South Korea deals with the north. Over recent years they've adopted what's called the sunshine doctrine, trying to engage North Korea with aid and with exchanges of people, sending workers into special economic zones in the south and sending tourists over the border. That all may stop as a result of this nuclear test. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Dan Rivers is in Seoul, South Korea tonight. Thanks Dan.

No country has tested a nuclear weapon since 1998. The prospect of a nuclear armed North Korea creates lots of worries at the Pentagon. That's where the experts are now pouring over the data from what happened this morning. Senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre has the very latest for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Senior U.S. intelligence officials tell CNN North Korea's underground detonation was so small, it could have been caused by several hundred tons of conventional explosives, such as TNT. One U.S. official told CNN it was a sub-kiloton explosive event, adding, we cannot confirm if it was a nuclear explosion. The U.S. Geological Survey detected a seismic event at 10:35 Monday morning, North Korea time, some 240 miles northeast of the capital of Pyongyang, matching the announced location of the test. But it registered a magnitude 4.2, indicating the yield was much smaller than the several kilotons from a typical nuclear test. Still, experts argue that really doesn't matter.

MIKE CHINOY, PACIFIC COUNCIL ON INTERNATIONAL POLICY: It would be irresponsible for any serious policymaker in Washington, Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul, or elsewhere to go on the assumption that simply because it was small that the North Koreans don't have a nuclear bomb.

MCINTYRE: The relatively small blast raises several possibilities. The test was not nuclear, an elaborate charade. The test was nuclear, but intentionally small perhaps to limit radiation and conserve fissile material. Or the test was supposed to be bigger, but something went wrong. One U.S. official put it more fizzle than pop. Still, if the idea was to get the world's attention and increase North Korea's leverage at the bargaining table, it was a booming success.

(on camera): Essentially this test was a political act and not a military act. And all the political consequences are going to happen whether it was fake or true, whether it was a fizzle or a success.

MCINTYRE: Few in the U.S. government doubted North Korea had the ability to conduct a simple nuclear test, but most intelligence officials believe it still lacks the technology to miniaturize a nuclear bomb and put it on a missile that could hit the United States. But there are real fears that tests could spark an Asian arms race.

DAVID ALBRIGHT, FORMER WEAPONS INSPECTOR: We could be on a spiral where the tensions will be ratcheted up, the chance of military conflict will go up, and in that you'll have a greater chance that countries like Japan and South Korea will start to re-evaluate whether they should get nuclear weapons too.


O'BRIEN: So, Jamie, at the end of the day it's still unclear. Do you think officials will ever really be able to confirm if there was a test or not?

MCINTYRE: There's a very good chance that they will be able to. They will be able to sample the air and see if there's any radioactivity which would be an indication of a nuclear device. Plus, they'll be able to just analyze a lot of the data, including the seismic data. I have to tell you, the working assumption is it was a nuclear test, perhaps a small one, but with North Korea the U.S. doesn't rule anything out.

O'BRIEN: Senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre for us tonight. Thanks, Jamie.

Along with Iran and Saddam Hussein's Iraq, North Korea is a charter member of what President Bush once called the axis of evil. With more on the president's reaction to today's top story, here's White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. Good evening Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Soledad. Well White House officials say it could take hours or even days before they're able to confirm U.S. intelligence whether or not this was a nuclear test. But really either way this test has already changed the political equation. It's raised the stakes not only for North Korea's Kim Jong-Il, but also for President Bush.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): President Bush declared North Korea's test a threat to international peace and security.

BUSH: The United States condemns this provocative act. Once again, North Korea has defied the will of the international community and the international community will respond.

MALVEAUX: But, in fact, the alleged North Korean nuclear test comes after three years of warnings from President Bush.

BUSH: We will not tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The United States' credibility is on the line.

MALVEAUX: So early morning Mr. Bush made a round of urgent calls to the leaders of China, South Korea, Russia and Japan, to ensure those once engaged in talks to convince North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program would respond with one voice.

JAMES SASSER, FMR. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA: You have a paranoid, isolated, dangerous state now on the verge of possessing nuclear weapons.

ALBRIGHT: There really could be a nuclear war in northeast Asia, and so you have to -- you have to now focus on this problem much more and this test scares people.

MALVEAUX: That fear nuclear weapons experts say, could work in the Bush administration's favor, making the U.N. Security Council more receptive to the president's call for tougher sanctions against North Korea for pursuing its nuclear ambitions. Today the council condemned North Korea's actions, but its neighbors are nervous about how Pyongyang might react to a resolution with real teeth.

ALBRIGHT: China has made clear that it sees the tough economic sanctions as just provoking North Korea toward a military confrontation.

MALVEAUX: Japan and South Korea fear their neighbor's regime could collapse and leave the region in chaos. In the meantime, North Korea has consistently called for the U.S. to conduct one-on-one talks, but U.S. officials reiterated the Bush administration will not be sucked into a showdown with North Korea, that it will only engage in regional negotiations. Many political and nuclear analysts believe that approach is a mistake.

ALBRIGHT: The United States holds the key, and it has to talk directly to North Korea. It has to be able to make a deal because in the end North Korea fears the United States the most, and most worries about a U.S. attack or a U.S. effort to destroy the regime.


O'BRIEN: So, Suzanne, at the end of the day what do you think is the administration's biggest problem, biggest obstacle in dealing with North Korea?

MALVEAUX: Well, the administration's problem here, our nuclear analysts say, is that it keeps moving the red line. Back in July when they had those missile tests, the Bush administration said we're going to get tough. Now you have this apparent nuclear test, the Bush administration says we're going to get tough. And if you listen to President Bush's statement today, the language he used, he warned that if North Korea shares this nuclear technology or weapons with rogue states or terrorist groups, the Bush administration is going to get tough. The nuclear analysts believe that that once again could be moving that red line. It's all about credibility, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, member of the best political team on TV. Thanks Suzanne, appreciate it.

Let's turn to our top story panel for some ideas on the military and diplomatic options to deal with this nuclear predicament. Former U.S. ambassador at large Robert Gallucci, he specialized in the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction. Retired General "Spider" Marks is a CNN military analyst and was the military senior intelligence officer during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. And Ashton Carter is a former assistant defense secretary. Nice to see you, gentlemen. Thanks for talking with us. Let's begin with you, Mr. Ambassador. We've heard a lot of tough talk, I think it's fair to say, but what exactly are the options? What would you propose as a first step, sir?

ROBERT GALLUCCI, FMR. U.S. AMBASSADOR: Well, I think in the first instance everybody expects that there will be some action out of the Security Council and that should happen. It should happen both because we've said it would happen. It should happen because we want to put down a marker as a deterrent for other countries. Iran is no doubt, watching. And it also would be a good thing to have done in the event we can, in fact, start talks. It would be something that would motivate the North Koreans. So we begin with action at the U.N. Security Council, but the key here is not going to come from the United Nations, and I don't think it's going to come from those six- party talks. I think if we're going to make progress with the North Koreans, it's going to come down to the willingness of the administration to actually engage the North Koreans in one-on-one bilateral talks, some way, somehow. O'BRIEN: General Marks, what do you think are the military options here? Would it be feasible, say, to bomb the nuclear facility? Do we have the number of troops potentially who could invade the country? What could the strategy be?

GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RETIRED): Soledad, this is a discussion that we probably should not go down. At this very instance, keep in mind that the U.S. and the South Korean forces on the peninsula are at a heightened state of readiness, and, frankly, they routinely are. I mean, in Korea there is a moniker that you fight tonight on that peninsula. And that means the forces that are there are ready to engage in any type of combat and any type of situation that day, that evening, if necessary. So in this particular instance, it's absolutely essential that the combined forces command maintain resolve, maintain calm, not get into or allow what the North Koreans just did to provide some motivation for a provocation of an incident or any type of saber-rattling. Now, also, there are routinely exercises that take place on the peninsula where war plans are exercised, so there's a host of options that the combined forces command have available to them and could use, but it's really premature to discuss what those might be in this particular instance.

O'BRIEN: Dr. Carter, back in June you had an op-ed piece, and you were talking about the missile launch, and you said there should be a preemptive strike of the long-range missiles. It wasn't done. Do you think that was a big mistake?

ASHTON CARTER, FMR. ASST. DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think it was another example of an opportunity to draw a line in the sand for North Korea and defend that line. Spider is right. We don't have that opportunity at this particular moment. So the military option pops up from time to time, it existed in 1994 when Ambassador Gallucci was negotiating and I was in the Pentagon working on a strike plan for the Yongbiyan nuclear complex there. It was, again, possible when the fuel rods were at Yongbiyan before they were taken out, but Spider is right. Today there isn't one. But the point of the proposal that former secretary of defense Bill Perry and I made this summer was that we needed to find some minimally provocative way to say to the North Koreans, here's a line and we really mean it. Ambassador Gallucci is absolutely right. We have no credibility. I think that was the word that your White House correspondent used. We said that if they took the fuel rods out of Yongbiyan that was unacceptable. We accepted it. Then if they fired the missiles, that was unacceptable. If they tested a weapon, that was unacceptable.

O'BRIEN: We've heard a lot of we will not tolerate -- forgive me for interrupting you there, but we have heard a lot of we will not tolerate a nuclear North Korea, and here you go. Apparently a nuclear North Korea. Let me ask you gentlemen a final word on sanctions, sanctions don't look like they've worked in the past. Isn't that just a fact? Ambassador?

GALLUCCI: I think sanctions can be expected to annoy the North Koreans. We can't expect that they're going to bring the North Koreans to their knees. You cannot expect them to be particularly hard sanctions because the Chinese will not allow any sanctions to be implemented that would, in fact, crush that regime. They don't want to see that regime fail. So there's a limit to what can happen, but I think something should happen, but we shouldn't mistake the sanctions that may be voted and the venue of the United Nations for anything like a solution to this problem. Enthusiasm for sanctions only goes so far, and then we have to get into a serious negotiation or else the North Koreans will be driving the bus.

O'BRIEN: Ambassador Robert Gallucci, General Spider Marks, and Ashton Carter, gentlemen, I thank you.

One of the most troubling things about North Korea is the man whose finger is on its nuclear button. Next, a close-up look and a surprising look at North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il.

Then, later, tonight's top story in politics. Allegations that Republican leaders knew about problems with disgraced ex-congressman Mark Foley for more years than they've admitted.


ZAHN: Even with the nearly universal condemnation of North Korea's claims, exactly what goes on inside that closed military state is still a mystery. Few are allowed in, and almost no one is allowed to leave. Gary Tuchman has our top story coverage of a man who makes sure it stays that way. The secretive dear leader Kim Jong-Il.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If he weren't so dangerous, he might be hilarious. Kim Jong-Il the autocratic ruler of the most isolated country ruler in the world, wears throwback suits, platform shoes and a 1960's style pompadour hairdo. Jerold Post is a former CIA psychological profile.

JEROLD POST, FORMER CIA PROFILER: He has great insecurity about himself personally. He is only 5'2", weighs a rolly polly 175 pounds, wears four-inch lifts in his shoes.

TUCHMAN: It is said the leader of North Korea likes watching James Bond movies, Friday the 13th films and daffy duck cartoons. He is seen in the west as a playboy and Buffoon, but he's also seen as a brutal tyrant with the ultimate weapons at his disposal.

JAMES LILLEY, FMR. U.S. AMB. TO SOUTH KOREA: And if anybody takes him on, you've heard about their gulags, they are gigantic. It's holocaust stuff. You don't cross this guy or you're dead.

TUCHMAN: North Koreans are told Kim Jong-Il was born under a bright star in a double rainbow on a North Korean mountaintop, but in actuality he was born in the Soviet Union where his father was in exile during World War II. His father Kim Il Song was portrayed to his people as a god. He ruled with an iron fist until his death in 1994 when his son took over.

POST: He was told from very early on that he was the son of god and, in effect, a daunting challenge. TUCHMAN: North Korea has long been an economic basket case. The country has an excess of weapons, but catastrophic shortages of food leading to widespread shameful famine. Yet, there is no shortage of food and frivolity for Kim Jong Il.

POST: He lives in a seven-story pleasure palace. He has recruited at the junior high school level attractive young women to become members of what are called the Joy Brigades to be providing pleasure and relaxation to the hard-working officials of his inner circle.

TUCHMAN: His cult of personality relies and exaggerate in his achievements. North Korea's official newspaper has said in college he published 1,500 books. That's more than one a day. The paper also declared the first time Kim Jong-Il ever played golf he finished 38 under par, the greatest round of golf ever. It's quite fair to question his publishing and golf abilities, but one cannot deny his power and ability to inspire fear. Gary Tuchman, CNN, New York.


O'BRIEN: And then there's this. Everything in North Korea is officially done to praise the dear leader. The nuclear test comes one day after Kim Jong Il's ninth anniversary rise to power. We're going to continue our top story coverage in just a moment. Right now, though, Melissa Long is in the pipeline studio with the countdown. Hey, Melissa.

MELISSA LONG, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Soledad. A chainsaw wielding maniac dominated the box office over the weekend. The story's number 10 tonight. Martin Scorsese's new mob saga "The Departed" earned $27 million. A personal record for him. Story number nine, curiosity about who could be the next United Nations secretary general. South Korea's foreign minister Ban Ki-moon got the official nod today from the Security Council. The full general assembly is expected to give final approval soon.

And story eight, an 11-year-old boy who spent 22 months in a coma is awake. Devon Rivers fell into a coma following a mysterious illness. The Oregon boy finally started breathing on his own a few weeks ago. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: All right, Melissa. Thank you very much. We'll check in with you in a little bit.

So far our top story coverage has focused on how the U.S. can cope with a nuclear-armed North Korea. In just a minute an in-depth look at how we got into the situation in the first place.


O'BRIEN: Tonight's top story is North Korea's announcement that it exploded a nuclear device. Our in-depth coverage now focuses on just how we got here. Even though the Korean War ended in 1953, North Korea didn't join the nuclear nonproliferation treaty until 1985. By 1994, faced with evidence that they've been trying to develop nuclear weapons anyhow, the North Koreans promised to freeze their program in exchange for a Clinton administration promise of help with nuclear powered technology. 2002, President George W. Bush named North Korea as part of the axis of evil. The North Koreans have openly pursued nuclear weapons ever since.

Joining us this evening, a top story panel, Doug Bando is a North Korea specialist. He is also the author of the book "The Korean Conundrum," and Clifford May is the president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Nice to see you both gentlemen. Thanks for talking with us. Let's begin with you, Cliff. Democrats seizing the moment -- I should say seizing the moment to say that this is a demonstration of the Bush administration's failed policies. Fair?

CLIFF MAY, FDN. FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Well you can't say they're successful policies that we've had over the past few years in regard to North Korea, but you also can't say that the Clinton administration had successful policies in regard to North Korea. As you pointed out, essentially we had a deal with North Korea. We would give them nuclear technology, billions of dollars worth of fuel, oil, food, in exchange for which they promised not to develop nuclear weapons. They took our loot, and then they developed the weapons anyhow, and the Clinton administration trusted, but didn't verify. So we've had -- we haven't had successful policies in this administration or the past administration, and one might say in other administrations as well. North Korea has been a festering threat ever since we did not defeat them in the Korean War back in the 1950s.

O'BRIEN: So the Bush policy, as you well know, has been to not engage in bilateral talks but pushed for the six-party talks. Has that been a mistake, do you think?

DOUG BANDOW, AUTHOR, "THE KOREAN CONUNDRUM": Yes, I think the six-party talks were a reasonable way to go, but there's no reason -- you can't have bilateral talks as well as six-party talks. I think the problem we have is that the Clinton policy doesn't look very good in retrospect, but the Bush policy looks a lot worse because the Bush policy -- they started out where we thought the North Koreans had maybe enough material for one or two nukes. Now we're talking about maybe a dozen. So things have gotten materially worse during the Bush years. I think it's a mistake not to have had some bilateral engagement thrown in along with the six-party talks.

O'BRIEN: At the same time at the end of the day isn't that all that's sort of left to bargain with? I mean, everything else has been on the table. You are shaking your head no, Cliff.

MAY: I think there are other possibilities we should explore, out of the box possibilities.

O'BRIEN: Like what?

MAY: Because just saying let's talk to them, let's sit down. Well, what are you going to say? What are you going to offer them as an incentive? How are you going to verify that they'll take it, or what are you going to threaten them with? I think that if China and the U.S. were together on this, which they've not been, and China and the U.S. agreed that North Korea cannot have nuclear weapons, that would be very powerful. China has not agreed to that yet in any real way. How do you get China to agree to it? I'm going to take I guess an argument that a lot of people wouldn't and say I think we have to tell China, look, if you're not going to stop North Korea from developing nuclear weapons, we are certainly not going to stop our ally Japan, who is threatened by North Korea from developing nuclear weapons, we might even help them do so. China, looking at the possibility of Japan having nuclear weapons might be willing to change its mind about North Korea.

O'BRIEN: Doug, do you think there was anything that could have been done to stop the North Korean leader from going ahead with this test?

BANDOW: Well, the problem is he may very well have decided he wants to hear weapons, irrespective of anything. We have to accept that it may not be a negotiable issue.

I do think that we made a mistake not having potential there for bilateral talks. He said he wanted them. The Chinese thought we should do them. The question is what kind of a deal can you make? Is he amenable to a deal? It made sense to take that approach.

I think that Cliff is right, though, that today China is the key, and I happen to agree with him on the notion that we should make very clear to the Chinese that ultimately this is their nightmare too. The only way they're going to get on board is if they perceive a significant cost to them. At the moment they more fear North Korea imploding than they do North Korea having a nuclear weapon. You know, that means they're probably not going to push too hard.

MAY: And that's another thing, though, where I think Doug is actually right, that we should also tell the Chinese, look, in terms of North Korea implode, we'll do what we can, quietly, covertly, to see that it does implode because we can be good at that, and then we'll see how good you are at nation-building after this regime does fall apart. Right now after all we've done a lot to prop up this regime at the same time we're trying to keep it from developing nuclear weapons unsuccessfully.

O'BRIEN: Cliff May, Doug Bandow -- gentlemen, thank you very much.

BANDOW: Thank you, Soledad.


O'BRIEN: Much more of our top story coverage is straight ahead. First though, let's get right back to Melissa Long for more of our countdown.

LONG: Soledad, a fugitive American doctor who was charged in his wife's death has been arrested in Cyprus. The story is No. 7. Rosemarie Essa died in February 2005 and authorities in Ohio say her husband, Yazeed Essa is accused of poisoning her with cyanide. Story six, former prisoners are taking the stand at the trial of Saddam Hussein to tell their harrowing stories of atrocities. One witness told the court how prison guards buried several hundred inmates alive.

And story No. 5, the latest twist in the Mark Foley scandal. Today there's news about one congressman receiving complaints about former Florida representatives contact the pages as far back as 2000. Soledad, I know you have much more on that story coming up.

O'BRIEN: All right, Melissa, thank you very much.

Our top story coverage will be getting right back to the Mark Foley scandal in just a little bit. And when we do, we'll go in-depth on those allegations that Republicans had known there was a problem for years.


O'BRIEN: From North Korea's atomic threat, our next top story turns to a radioactive question for Republican leaders. Exactly when were they first warned about ex-congressman Mark Foley's emails to pages? This week the House Ethics Committee begins grilling players in the investigation, but tonight there's new information about when one GOP congressman first learned of Foley's conduct? Here's congressional correspondent Dana Bash.


DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As far back as the year 2000, six years before Mark Foley's inappropriate conduct with pages became public, a former page contacted Congressman Jim Kolbe's office to complain about an e-mail he got from Foley. We got a complaint that this made the former page uncomfortable, Kolbe spokeswoman Koreanna Cline confirms to CNN.

Cline says it's unclear if Kolbe directly confronted Foley about the complaint or if it was handled by staff. It was Kolbe's understanding that corrective action was taken and the matter was resolved, but his office did not know specifics. Kolbe is retiring from Congress this year. Like Foley, he's a gay Republican, but unlike Foley, Kolbe has been open about his sexuality since 1996.

Even as Kolbe's awareness of Foley's behavior is becoming public, another Republican is emerging as a central figure in this drama, former House clerk Jeff Trandahl. CNN is told Trandahl, who left his job last year, repeatedly raised red flags about Foley's behavior towards years before Republicans confronted Foley about an e-mail with a former page, according to several sources familiar with the situation.

Trandahl took his concerns to Kirk Fordham, Foley's former chief of staff, many times, the sources tell CNN. Both men are also gay, according to friends an associates.

He met with Foley at the end of 2005. (END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Dana, let me ask you a couple of questions here. First of all, you know, to some degree, it sounds like we're in the middle of a he said-he said sort of situation. How do you think at the end of the day this is going to be resolved, and will it happen before the midterm elections?

BASH: These two very important questions, Soledad. The whole question of he said-he said, that really is where we are right now. You're exactly right. Of course, we talked to our sources, check our sources very carefully, but right now people we're hearing from are the people who want to make their stories public.

And the answer is that what we're going see in the next several weeks is the House Ethics Committee talk to several of these people in a way that they really can't -- they really have to tell the truth, and that is under oath, so that is what they expect to do.

The answer to whether or not they'll finish it before the election is still very much an open one. What the ethics committee said last week when they announced this investigation is that they hope it will take weeks, not months, but they also were clear it might not happen before Election Day, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Last week, Dana, we had lots of calls for the house speaker, Dennis Hastert to be removed. Hearing less of that today. Do you think that crisis is over right now for Republicans?

BASH: Probably. You saw over the weekend, you know, you hear a lot of the chatter inside Washington on the Sunday morning talk shows. Several Republicans, several Republican colleagues, come out and defend the speaker in a way that it took a long time for them to do, quite frankly, in an organized way.

Today we did see another conservative newspaper, the "Manchester Union Leader" come out in its editorial and say the speaker should resign, but there is no indication that that's going to happen. As a matter of fact, many, many more Republicans than not are simply trying to make the case that politically, in fact, it would hurt the speaker -- hurt the party, rather, more than help the party to have the speaker gone at this point.

O'BRIEN: Congressional correspondent Dana Bash for us from Capitol Hill this evening. Thanks, Dana, part of the best political team on TV.

Our in-depth look at the fallout from the Foley scandal moves on to the possible voter blowback. Election Day is just four weeks from tomorrow. But tonight, we have a new CNN/Opinion Research poll on the impact of the scandal. And senior political analyst Bill Schneider found some surprises for both parties.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): President Bush's job approval is pretty bad, 39 percent. Congress' job approval is worse, 28 percent. More than 60 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job. The Mark Foley controversy has taken a toll.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT, (R-IL) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: When you talk about the page issue and what's happened in the Congress, I'm deeply sorry that this has happened.

SCHNEIDER: Three-quarters of the public feel Republican leaders in Congress handled the Foley matter inappropriately. Most Republicans feel that way, too. Most people believe the failure of Republican leaders to investigate the matter was a deliberate cover- up, not because they were unaware of the serious and inappropriate nature of Foley's behavior.

And most think Dennis Hastert should resign as Speaker of the House. More than a third of Republicans think Hastert should resign. Is the controversy likely to affect the midterm vote? Among all registered voters, the impact looks small. The Democrats' lead over the Republicans nationwide has gone from 13 to 16 points, a statistically insignificant change.

But there's a gap in voter motivation. Democrats are more enthusiastic than Republicans about voting this year. That could account for the shift among likely voters. Among those likely to vote, Democrats had an 11 point lead in the vote for Congress last week. The Democrats' lead among likely voters has now nearly doubled, to 21 percent.

(on camera): This scandal could be hurting incumbents of both political parties. The ethics ratings of both parties in Congress have gone down in the past year, but Republicans are rated as less ethical than Democrats -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Bill Schneider for us, our senior political analyst.

Thanks, Bill.

Much more coverage of the Mark Foley top story in politics still ahead. First, though, let's check in again with Melissa Long. She's standing by with our countdown -- Melissa.


A man with diabetes survived in the woods with nothing more than Wheat Thins and dew from leaves and the windshield. The story of survival from Massachusetts is number four tonight. Raymond Vishon (ph) was rescued from his SUV Sunday morning after someone finally heard his cries for help.

Story number three, pop singer Jessica Simpson says her latest role in the upcoming film "Employee of the Month" is a personal turning point. She says the role was a chance for her to take control of her career. Soledad, if you want to go to the movies over the weekend, it opens on Friday.

O'BRIEN: Maybe I'll go see that one.

Melissa, thank you.

We're going to join you again in just a few minutes, OK?

The Mark Foley scandal's alienated one of the Republican party's most important voting groups. Next in our top story coverage, are evangelical Christians angry enough to vote Democratic?


O'BRIEN: Continuing our top story coverage on the Foley fallout, just how deep will it go? Could it shake the foundation of the Republican base? Bedrock Christian conservatives, will they continue to go to the polls and vote for GOP candidates when they get there?

Ted Rowlands went to one Seattle church to find out.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jim and Sandy Zahn are part of the powerful religious right, evangelical Christians that go to church on Sunday and vote Republican on election day.

SANDY ZAHN, EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN: I still believe in the party, and I still believe in the conservative values.

ROWLANDS: But there's speculation that frustration over inaction on issues like gay marriage and abortion and now the Mark Foley scandal has put a strain between conservative Christians and the Republican party, a link once thought unbreakable. But on Sunday at the Cedar Park Assembly of God, a mega church outside Seattle, members told us that's simply isn't the case, saying the bond between the church and the party is still extremely strong.

(on camera): Will you still go out and vote?

GEROMY BERTRAND, EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN: Absolutely. And it's not going to change the way that I vote.

JOYCE DEVIN, EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN: It really will have no impact on how I vote because my values, I believe, are the values of the majority of the Republicans.

ROWLANDS: While some Christian conservatives may be disappointed with Washington and disgusted with the Foley scandal, there is little concern from Republicans that they will start voting Democratic any time soon.

There is concern, however, that they'll stay home. Some of the most influential leaders of this group, however, are doing their best to make sure that doesn't happen.

(voice-over): People like James Dobson, an evangelist with a huge following, who's using his radio show to make sure that people vote. He says the Foley scandal should not be a factor on election day.

JAMES DOBSON, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: Somebody is going to have to tell me what in the wide world this indiscretion by a member of Congress has to do with evangelical Christians.

PASTOR JOSEPH FUITEN, CEDAR PARK ASSEMBLY OF GOD: Well, congregation, let's dedicate Hannah to the Lord.

ROWLANDS: Cedar Park pastor Joseph Fuiten says he's proud of the fact that in recent elections, his church has voted overwhelmingly Republican, which he doesn't expect will change.

FUITEN: We're not obviously going to endorse candidates from the pulpit, but we're going to pray from the pulpit. We're going to pray that God's will will be done, so people understand that they should vote. It's their duty to vote.

ROWLANDS: With this year, that means a vote for incumbent Congressman Dave Reichert, a Republican in a tight race against a Democrat opponent who thinks that the Foley scandal could win her some votes.

DARCY BURNER, (D) WASHINGTON CONG. CANDIDATE: I think that there is a tremendous sense of disappointment among the people that I am talking to on the conservative side in this -- in the Republican party.

ROWLANDS: While there may be talk of disappointment among evangelists, you wouldn't know it here. These parishioners say their faith in the Republicans will continue to show on November 7th.

Ted Rowlands, CNN, Bothell, Washington.


O'BRIEN: We'll talk more about how the Foley scandal will affect the election in just a second. First, though, today's "Biz Break".

A quiet Columbus Day on Wall Street until it was time to go to the video. The Dow closed up seven points. The tech-heavy Nasdaq closed up 11 points, and the S&P closed one point up.

But minutes later, the YouTube box office bonanza. Google announced it's going pay $1.65 billion in stock for the online video site. Still on the video front, Cablevision founder the Doland family, trying to take their company private, offering a $7.9 billion buy-out to shareholders.

Now let's wrap up our countdown. Back to Melissa Long -- Melissa.

LONG: And Soledad, it was a terrifying morning at a Missouri middle school. A student showed up dressed in a long black trench coat carrying a MAK-90 assault rifle. Police in Javelin (ph) say no one was hurt, but that the 13 year-old did fire one shot into the ceiling. And story number one is tonight's top story. North Korea's claim that it successfully conducted an underground nuclear test. Even though there are questions about that announcement, the U.S. is pushing harsh economic sanctions as a punishment -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right. Melissa, thanks.

Some Republicans are pointing out that, no matter how angry the voters are now, lots can change in a month. In just a minute we're going to ask a TOP STORY panel if there is any silver lining to the bad news that's shadowing the president and his fellow Republicans on the campaign trail.


O'BRIEN: Let's turn now to a top story panel to follow-up on the political fallout from the Mark Foley scandal. Joining me this evening, the host of the "Huffington Post" blog, Arianna Huffington. David Limbaugh is the brother of Rush Limbaugh. He's also the author of "Bankrupt: The Intellectual and Moral Bankruptcy of Today's Democratic Party." And pollster Scott Rasmussen of Rasmussen Reports.

Nice to see you all, thanks for talking with us.

Arianna, let's begin with you. Predictions for the midterm elections. Do you really think that the Foley allegations will derail Republicans who are running in races that are nowhere near Mark Foley's district?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, HUFFINGTON POST: They may well derail Republicans because it's not just about sordid IMs and sex, but it's ultimately about the loss of trust. And it fits into a building narrative of losing trust in the way the Republicans in the White House have been handling Iraq, Katrina, the economy.

So that's why it has the potential to really be the kind of tipping point that the Democrats have been looking for in November, and we see that especially among married moms. That's a very significant group. The security moms, as they are known. They went for Bush at a 14 percent advantage over Kerry in 2004, and now they're evenly distributed. So this is a major drawback for Republicans.

O'BRIEN: When you look at the polls, it says has the Foley matter made you less likely to vote for GOP candidates this year? Only 27 percent say yes, 65 percent said no, it hasn't made us any less likely to vote for GOP candidates. Do you think Democrats are actually making more of a boost from the Foley matter than they're actually going to get in the election?

HUFFINGTON: Twenty-seven percent is more than Democrats need. Remember, this was always going to be a closely contested election, so we're not talking about huge shifts in voters. Minor shifts, and 27 percent is not even minor. It's a significant, double-digit shift. It's incredibly important, especially on top of the already existing shifts, like the married moms that I mentioned. O'BRIEN: All right. Let's go to our next poll. Throw it up if we can, 42 percent say Democrats would do a better job handling moral values, 36 percent say Republicans.

David, you look at that poll, and combined with that, the disappointment among conservatives about a lack of action on any kind of abortion legislation, a lack of action on any kind of same-sex marriage legislation, the Plan B pill was approved, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Couldn't the Foley matter really be the straw that broke the camel's back?

DAVID LIMBAUGH, AUTHOR: Well, it could, but the Democrats, as I point out in my book, have been trying since they learned in the exit polls of 2004 that values voters are a large segment.

To somehow fool the values voters into thinking this they protect their interests. They see this new thing with Foley blossoming into an institutional corruption matter, and they -- they're just, you know, chomping at the bit to prove there's a connection. But this could backfire, and the things are so fluid I don't see a dramatic change -- this causing a dramatic change in control. It could backfire in two ways.

One, it could cause Christian voters, values voters, to realize just how poorly Democrats, secular Democrats, safeguard values issues. They are the party that promotes the radical homosexual agenda. They're the party connected with NAMBLA and the ACLU, which enables NAMBLA, National Association of Man/Boy Love.

And it could backfire also by the Democrats becoming too cocky. Nancy Pelosi announced her hundred hours plan. It is horrifyingly liberal. The Democrats have been bragging that they can win a debate on the issues, and ever since they've been bragging about it, they've been studiously avoiding a debate on the issues. Now she's going to find herself in one, and she's going to lose. They're a loser on Iraq, on national security, on values.

O'BRIEN: I've got to stop you there for a second, David, because I was asking you about this poll that said that 42 percent of people polled think the Democrats would handle moral values better, and you gave me a list of...

LIMBAUGH: ... It's laughable. It's laughable. But 42 percent -- well, 42 percent of the people are normally Democratic voters, and they have different values, but they don't think that they can handle traditional values. You can ask Scott. But it's very fluid.

O'BRIEN: You know, that's a good point. Let me ask Scott in fact. In terms of polling, you heard the Evangelists in Ted Rowlands' piece a moment ago. They're not going to vote for Democrats. And many people say, well Evangelists aren't going to necessarily vote for Democrats. What they will do is not vote at all, not motivate their friends to vote.

SCOTT RASMUSSEN, RASMUSSEN REPORTS: I think the whole analysis gets wrong when you start saying, is this issue going to affect Evangelical voters or even security moms? The real story here is the Republicans were losing before this story broke. They were in trouble in election 2006. They needed five weeks to have a comeback, and they've lost a week of it talking about Mark Foley. That's a big problem.

O'BRIEN: At the tend of the day North Korea, that changes things, doesn't it?

RASMUSSEN: I'm sorry?

O'BRIEN: North Korea, the situation -- does that swing the pendulum back to Republicans?

RASMUSSEN: Sure. Anything that would change the subject back into the national security issue help the Republicans a little bit. Anything that helps them reframe the debate away from Iraq or from the economy will help.

But what we're talking about is a situation where the Republicans were in trouble before this happened, and they need to be reframing the debate, and they have got to get away from the discussions that are distracting from their comeback.

Right now, if the election were held today, the Democrats would gain control of the Senate, but it is very, very close.

O'BRIEN: Scott Rasmussen, Arianna Huffington, David Limbaugh, thank you all. We're back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: That's all for tonight. Larry King starts now.