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Pat Robertson's Remarks; Bush Remains Steadfast; Venezuelan Ambassador Interviewed; Pataki Tapes; SUV Gas Mileage

Aired August 23, 2005 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's 4:00 p.m. here in Washington. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM where news and information from around the world arrive at one place simultaneously.
Happening right now, stories we're following, the president sticking to his guns. Two p.m. over in Donnelly, Idaho, where Mr. Bush shows no sign of changing his mind about meeting with Cindy Sheehan or about the war in Iraq.

Pat Robertson's stunning words. We get new reaction to the religious broadcaster's call for the assassination of a world leader. Robertson's followers, are they listening?

And gas prices keep going higher and hitting harder. But would you sacrifice your SUV? This hour, the pumps and a new government proposal, and the polls.

I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up first, President Bush. He planned to spend most of this day in Idaho hanging loose, as he put it, but he made a point of answering reporters' questions about the political thorns in his side -- the antiwar protester, Cindy Sheehan, and the public anxiety about the war in Iraq. Our White House correspondent Dana Bash is joining us now live from Idaho and she has all the details. Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well this was supposed to be a down day, one of recreation -- things like biking and hiking for the president in between two big speeches on Iraq. That's what the public schedule said, anyway, but his aides know how crucial it is for him to keep his voice out there right now to counter the protesters.


BASH (voice-over): The president gave no hint he'll meet again with Cindy Sheehan, but did offer a sharp rebuttal to her bring the troops home now message.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think immediate withdrawal from Iraq would be a mistake. I think those who advocate immediate withdrawal or -- from not only Iraq, but the Middle East, would be advocating a policy that would weaken the United States.

BASH: Here a more defiant tone than the last time he spoke directly about Sheehan nearly two weeks ago. BUSH: I sympathize with Mrs. Sheehan.

BASH: But Bush aides concede her Crawford vigil garnered much more attention than anticipated among an increasingly anxious public, and they're trying to beat it back.

BUSH: I understand her anguish. I met with a lot of families. She doesn't represent the view of a lot of the families I have met with.

BASH: Protesters from Sheehan's antiwar group continue to follow the president here in Idaho. Melanie House lost her husband in Iraq.

MELANIE HOUSE, HUSBAND KILLED IN IRAQ: I just really want to know why, why my husband had to die, for what reason? I really want the truth from President Bush.

BASH: Another key challenge for the White House, amid all the violence, they had been able to hold public support for Iraq by touting clear progress towards democracy, like elections. The political storyline now, missed deadlines and delays as different factions search for a consensus on the constitution.

ANA MARIA ARUMI, POLLSTER: Will the constitution itself actually create stability? I think the public has a fair amount of doubt on those regards.

BASH: The president pointed to America's own history and said, it's not easy.

BUSH: First of all, the fact they're even writing a constitution is -- is actually different from living under the iron hand of a dictator.


BASH (on camera): And the president challenged Iraq's Sunnis, saying that they needed to decide whether or not they want to live in peace or in violence. He also, Wolf, expressed confidence that women in Iraq will ultimately have rights.

BLITZER: A quick question, Dana. I understand the president may be meeting while he's in Idaho with some families of troops killed in Iraq. Is that right?

BASH: That's correct. Tomorrow the president is giving a speech to the Idaho National Guard. And at that speech -- or I should say, afterwards, as the president often, pretty much always does when he visits military bases, he will have a block of time where he is going to meet with families of those who were killed in Iraq and, I understand, Afghanistan. And the White House is saying that this is something that was planned long before Cindy Sheehan and her supporters showed up at Crawford.

BLITZER: What a beautiful setting behind you, Dana. Thanks very much for that report. We'll move on to other news we're following, including Pat Robertson. He's causing an uproar again. The religious broadcaster's call for the assassination of Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, is being blasted by all sorts of groups. Is Robertson a lone-voice loose canon, or does he still have the clout to get religious conservatives to listen to him?


PAT ROBERTSON, THE 700 CLUB: He has destroyed the Venezuelan economy and he's going to make that a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent.

BLITZER: Pat Robertson on his program THE 700 CLUB, firing away at Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his allegation that the U.S. may be conspiring to assassinate him. But Robertson didn't stop there.

ROBERTSON: If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war.

BLITZER: The Bush administration says any suggestion of assassinating Chavez is ridiculous and that Robertson went too far.

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Certainly, it's against the law. Our department doesn't do that type of thing.

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Pat Robertson is a private citizen, and his views do not represent the policy of the United States. We do not share his view, and his comments are inappropriate.

BLITZER: Robertson's critics had much stronger words. The Reverend Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State said, it's absolutely chilling to hear a religious leader call for the murder of any political leader. Liberal radio pundit Al Franken used humor to slam Robertson.

AL FRANKEN, AIR AMERICA RADIO: Let's have a little fun with Pat Robertson, because he wants to kill somebody again.

BLITZER: There are, of course, people who might agree with Robertson, but so far, at least among prominent Americans, we haven't found any, certainly not publicly. Robertson still has quite a platform. The Christian Broadcast Network says THE 700 CLUB airs in 95 percent of the TV markets across the United States, and is seen by approximately 1 million viewers daily.


BLITZER: Venezuela's Ambassador here in Washington has come out swinging against Robertson's remarks calling it a call to terrorism. The ambassador will be our guest here in THE SITUATION ROOM in the next hour. As a minister, broadcaster, and former presidential candidate, Pat Robertson has been on the front lines of the culture wars for decades, unleashing provocative words about politics, religion, and whatever else is on his mind. Our national correspondent Bruce Morton has been reviewing some of the more controversial comments and he's joining us now live. Bruce?

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, what leaps to the eyes, anybody who is surprised at Pat Robertson saying something outrageous or unusual, just hasn't been paying attention.


MORTON (voice over): He's done it before. Here is Pat Robertson on feminism in a 1992 fund-raising letter. "The feminists' agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti- \family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians" -- unquote.

Pat Robertson on gays on his TV program THE 700 CLUB in 1993 -- quote - "When lawlessness is abroad in the land, the same thing will happen here that happened in Nazi Germany. Many of those people involved in Adolf Hitler were satanists. Many of them were homosexuals. The two things seem to go together" -- unquote.

Robertson on the religion of Islam

ROBERTSON: I think Osama bin Laden is probably a very dedicated follower of Mohammed. He's done exactly what Mohammed said to do. And we disagree with him, obviously, and I'm sure many moderate Muslims do as well, but you can't say the religion is a religion of peace. It's not.

MORTON: In 2003 he suggested a small nuclear blast to shake up the State Department, whose building is in a Washington neighborhood called Foggy Bottom - quote -- "Maybe we need a very small nuke thrown off on Foggy Bottom to shake things up like Newt Gingrich wants to do" -- unquote.

Two days later he said he didn't really mean it. Does it matter when he says these things? He ran for president in 1988 and finished second in Iowa behind Bob Dole, pushing the eventually winner, George Herbert Walker Bush into third place. His organization, the Christian Coalition, probably peaked in the late 1990's when a number of his best organizers left.


MORTON (on camera): Still, his television organization, the Christian Broadcasting Network is seen, as today's flap illustrates, by quite a lot of Americans. Wolf.

BLITZER: He's got a voice out there, I suppose. Thanks very much, Bruce Morton, for that. Good history.

Let's get to Jack Cafferty. He's got the "Caffert File". What's your question, Jack, this hour? JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well we're looking at this same thing. And I suppose, among other things, it's maybe not so much what was said, concerning Mr. Chavez, but who was doing the saying, this pillar of the Christian right.

It's not like there hasn't been talk of assassination in this country before, and there's even been a time or two when we've taken a shot at it.

Publicly, of course, there's a policy against it, but how many times and how many stories have we heard about the rumored efforts to have Castro taken out, for example, back during the time of the Cuban missile crisis?

And then there were those airstrikes in 1986 against Moammar Gadhafi's headquarters in Libya. It quieted him right down. They didn't get him, but he became a believer after that.

And members of the first Bush administration, they all said they weren't targeting Saddam Hussein, but they did suggest with winks and nods they wouldn't mind if he ended up dead. He didn't. We went to war and that brings us to where we are now with that situation.

So, I guess there's a couple of ways to look at what Pat said. That's what we kind of want to get at here. What do you make of Pat Robertson's comments? CaffertyFile -- one word -- Drop us a line.

We have gotten a ton of mail already and we haven't even asked the question yet. If you write in early, we don't consider your letters. You have to wait until you're asked.

BLITZER: It's like on "JEOPARDY". If you push the button before he finishes asking the -- giving the answer, then you're going to get wiped out.

CAFFERTY: And he really gets his shorts in a knot over that. Or if they don't ask the thing in a form of a question, he really gets insulted.

BLITZER: Well that's been a successful show, so you can't complain. Jack, we'll get back to you. Thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: Secret tapes and a public controversy. An angry New York governor wants to know who bugged his phone calls. That story is coming up.

How high will they go? As gas prices climb higher, will Americans cut back on their driving?

Plus, beauty and the Congressman. A former presidential hopeful seals his nuptials with quite a kiss. Check this out. We'll tell you who this congressman is. He's very happy. He's married for the third time. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In the world of politics, secret tapes can lead to scandal, but right now they're proving to be more of an embarrassment for New York governor and possible Republican presidential hopeful, George Pataki. The Republican is asking for a federal probe into who recorded some of his phone conversations and leaked them to the news media. Our Mary Snow is covering this story. She's joining live from New York. Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, these secretly-made tapes are certainly stirring controversy. A New York reporter says that a woman recently called him saying that she had something to send him, that he might find interesting.


SNOW (voice-over): It was simply labeled, "A Pandora's Box" a single cassette mailed to veteran political reporter Fred Dicker at the "New York Post."

FRED DICKER, "NEW YORK POST": My jaw almost hit the floor.

SNOW: Dicker says the tape contains a series of private conversations involving New York Governor George Pataki and some of those around him. The governor's office is not challenging the authenticity of the tapes. At one point, Pataki's wife Libby, is heard complaining to a political aide about her duties as first lady.

LIBBY PATAKI, FIRST LADY OF NEW YORK: I said, George, you know, I'm running around like an idiot. I'd rather be doing things that, you know, major, big events and not all this stupid bullshit crap, so that when I do have to go out six nights in a row, let them get something out of it.

SNOW: Dicker says there are also discussions of patronage. At one point, the then-appointments secretary to the governor, Thomas Doherty, complains to former Republican Senator Alfonse D'Amato, that commissioners weren't hiring his picks quickly enough.

THOMAS DOHERTY, PATAKI APPOINTMENT SECRETARY: ... and I said to her, you know, you've got a f---ing Democrat as your number two person and you're telling me that I can't get my f---ing candidate (ph).

SNOW: Dicker says while no bombshells are dropped in the tapes, believed to be recorded in 1996 and '97, the key question is who recorded them?

DICKER: Was there a federal or a state criminal investigation that was going on at the time that maybe intercepted these calls? Was there a spy within the administration keeping these records?

SNOW: Governor Pataki is demanding answers.

GOV. GEORGE PATAKI (R), NEW YORK: It seems clear that they were recorded not just illegally, but in a criminal way; that the publishing could well be illegal and we've asked the U.S. attorney to conduct an appropriate investigation.

SNOW: Pataki also blasted the media for publishing the conversations.


SNOW: Now in statements, former Senator Alfonse D'Amato and one- time political aide Thomas Doherty both said that they were appalled that these conversations were recorded. And Wolf, we should point out that in New York, it is illegal to have these kinds of tapings of phone conversations unless one party is aware that the recordings are going on or unless there is a court order.

BLITZER: Do we have any idea, Mary, where these tapes were recorded, who made them, where they're coming from?

SNOW: There is no information right now as to who recorded these tapes. And Fred Dicker, the reporter who got the tape, said that he believes they were recorded during Pataki's first term, around the years 1996 or 1997, but all he knows is that he, about a month ago, got an envelope that had no return address and that was the series of conversations.

BLITZER: Another mystery in New York. Thanks very much, Mary Snow, for that report.

Pain at the pumps. What's Washington doing to help all of us out? Coming up, the government unveils a new plan to make SUVs more fuel efficient.

He's been convicted of breaking the law, but will Ohio's governor face impeachment? The latest on that scandal, that's coming up in our "Political Radar".

Plus, much more on one of our top stories today -- the controversy over what Pat Robertson said. We'll get expert opinion in our "Strategy Session."



BLITZER: Welcome back. Zain Verjee once again joining us from the CNN Center in Atlanta with a look at some other stories making news. Zain?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, A U.S. soldier, an American civilian contractor and five Iraqis are the latest bombing victims in Iraq. They died in a suicide attack on a joint coordination center in Baquba; that's north of Baghdad. The blast also wounded almost 20 other people. The Baquba attack came after three car bombs went off near U.S. forces in Ramadi to Baghdad's west. No word on casualties from those explosions. Israel has completed its withdrawal of civilians from settlements in Gaza and the West Bank. In the community of Homesh, the Israeli Defense Forces carried young demonstrators one at a time from a religious school. At the same time in Sanur, evacuations were being completed the same way. The two Israeli settlements were the last of 25 overall to be vacated.

In the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, this -- a stunning helicopter crash caught on video. The charter aircraft was carrying 22 people. When it took off, its tail hit the ice of a glacier, sending it completely out of control. It crashed through the ice and burst into flames. Amazingly, no one was killed, but 15 people were hurt. Three of them were burned badly.

BLITZER: Just ahead in THE SITUATION ROOM: The president speaks out against Cindy Sheehan. Is this a smart strategy? We'll ask two experts when we return.

And is Barbara Streisand joining the Rolling Stones and getting on the record against the war in Iraq? The story coming up in our political radar.

Plus, Pat Robertson calls for the U.S. to take out Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. Next hour, we're going to take a closer look at the ill will between the U.S. and Venezuela.


BLITZER: In our "Strategy Session" today, Pat Robertson's controversial proposal to assassinate the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez. Joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about that, Democratic strategist and CNN political analyst James Carville, Republican strategist Greg Mueller.

Gentlemen, thanks very much.

A full disclosure up front, James. You worked politically, with his -- against Hugo Chavez. You supported his opposition.

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That's correct. It was leading up to the referendum that they had.

BLITZER: Was he democratically elected? Was that a free and fair election in Venezuela, based on everything that you know?

CARVILLE: You know what? The Carter Center said it was. I tend to agree with that "Wall Street Journal" editorial page, which I seldom do, that there was a lot odd things. But you know, he's there and he's right now, probably the most popular politician in Latin America, unfortunately.

BLITZER: And presumably what Pat Robertson said is going to make him even more popular.

CARVILLE: See, the idea -- let me tell you this. There's real agony in every South -- Latin American embassy right now -- the United States. What Pat Robertson said -- I mean, of course he is a King Croesus -- an old fool, but it's really going to cause the United States some grief not just in Latin America, but around the world, because people who wish America ill are going to take this, blow it up as an example, and it's going to do nothing but enhance Chavez's stature. That and a $65 barrel of oil will make you a pretty popular guy.

BLITZER: Greg, you're close to a lot of these Christian conservatives. Have you found anyone who supports, at least publicly, a person of stature, what Pat Robertson has said?

GREG MUELLER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, no. I think Pat Robertson made the comment as a political commentator, commenting on what Chavez, who has had a lot of ill words -- as James has said, a lot of ill words for the United States.

We've got to remember, he's a friend of Fidel Castro. He's a committed communist. He's also harboring potential terrorists, at least reaching out and inviting them into his country. He's a very dangerous man. But Wolf, I think this gets to the broader strategic discussion over what lines of attack. Nobody is going to subscribe -- Democrat or Republican are not going to subscribe to that.

BLITZER: When you woke up -- and I don't know if you knew about it last night, but when you woke up this morning, presumably and heard what Pat Robertson said, what was your reaction?

MUELLER: Well, my reaction was that was a little off the cuff, a little flippant and a little silly. I don't think anybody's going to...

BLITZER: Just a little bit?

MUELLER: Yes. I mean, it was. I mean, nobody's going to subscribe to that, Wolf. But the real issue here is how...

BLITZER: But he said it in seriousness. He wasn't trying to be cute.

MUELLER: Well, I thought he kind of said it a little flippantly, but we can have that discussion. I think -- look, nobody is going to subscribe to assassinating any leader of any country. But we are going to have a discussion, I think, where the battle lines are being drawn over the global war on terror.

This is another indication of how serious this war on terror is and where are the parties going to stand strategically? The Republican Party is taking a status of engagement. The Democrat Party, especially in the last weeks with Cindy Sheehan, seems to be the party of retreat and surrender. And I don't think that's going to play out well.

CARVILLE: Greg, I mean the point is, is that this was must unhelpful in the war on terror. This remark -- and look, I don't think the United States is going to do that. I'm not -- I'm hardly a fan of Chavez, but I guarantee you that to a person -- every ambassador in every Latin American country and elsewhere in the world, understands that this doesn't do anything but cause the United States grief and I...

MUELLER: Well, I would say one thing: I don't think it is helpful in the war on terror. I agree. It does draw attention to a very serious problem brewing around the world that the president is touching on as he's on the bully pulpit strategy right now. But I would also say...

BLITZER: Let me -- let me -- hold on one second.


BLITZER: He's 75 years old, Pat Robertson. He's been around a long time. All of us know him. We've all covered him over the years. You know him quite well. I don't know if you worked directly with him over the years. But is it your sense, when you hear what he's saying right now, that he still has influence in the Christian conservative community out there, or is he simply over the top?

MUELLER: Well, I think people in the Christian community run to their own beat. I don't think they take leadership from anybody that's directly given to them. I think they have their own views. The Christian Coalition now is a much different group than it was when Robertson and Reed ran it years ago. It's very much its own state groups and their own leaderships there. So I don't think that's relevant, kind of what he said.

Again, I think it was done in -- it wasn't helpful, it wasn't good, but it does draw attention to this battle in the global war on terror which, I think, is getting more and more serious. And we're going to have two party lines drawn on that role. Where are we going to stand? Are we going to be the party to retreat and surrender -- the Jimmy Carter approach to terrorism? Or are we going to take the Ronald Reagan approach of engagement to terrorism?

BLITZER: Let's move on and listen to what the president said today on Cindy Sheehan. He was asked a question about it at a little photo opportunity he had with reporters. Listen to what he said.


BUSH: She expressed her opinion. I disagree with it. I think immediate withdrawal from Iraq would be a mistake. I think those who advocate immediate withdrawal, from not only Iraq, but the Middle East, would be -- are advocating a policy that would weaken the United States.


BLITZER: The issue of an immediate withdrawal, you don't necessarily disagree with the president, do you, James?

CARVILLE: Well, I don't -- again, I don't know about immediate withdrawal. I don't think -- my own view is, we don't even have the facts. I mean we heard in May from the vice president that it was in the last throes. We hear there's 171,000 trained Iraqis. Who knows? Because no one knows the facts.

I do know this, that they just -- Cindy Sheehan is now going to dominate the news again. I have no idea. And the president, he goes to Utah and then he goes to Idaho. I guess he'll go to Wyoming and, who knows, maybe Kansas, about the only four states left he can go to.

They need to change the playbook here, because it's pretty clear that from sitting here that what they're doing is not working very well, and they're going to have to think of a different way to do this. They have -- this constitution has gone the wrong way for them. And they have to think of something new. But keep -- I think they keep putting Sheehan out there. That's the second time the president has commented on it. They sent Mr. Hadley out there, they sent Andy Carter out there, and, frankly, she's pitching a shutout against them right now.

BLITZER: I want you to respond also, but in the context of the deep concern there -- there are two main concerns emerging in Iraq right now, as you well know. Greg, the first is that there could be an Islamic state that emerges out of this whole process. And there could be a civil war if the Sunnis stay on the outside and they resist the insurgency, it could really explode. How concerned are you about those worst-case scenarios?

MUELLER: Well I think there are two different stories emerging in Iraq. There are risks. We are at war. There is a global war on terror, as James said. Iraq is a part of that war. I do not think that retreat is the way to go. I think you roll out the red carpet and invite more terrorist attacks, you roll out the welcome mat for terrorist attacks.

There are risks in time of war. And we're going to take them. But again, I think Cindy Sheehan to that point represents, now we know, we've gone from her being a grieving mother that we all sympathize and pray with, Wolf, to actually being more orchestrated and a puppet of the Democratic Party. And I think what the president is doing, finally getting on offensive, it may have took a little bit of time. He's using the bully pulpit to talk about the elections that happened, the democracy, the constitutional convention that's going on there. Democracy is taking foot in Iraq, we're moving in that direction.

BLITZER: The only thing that's really going to change American public opinion, James, is what happens on the ground in Iraq. If American troops are not killed in big numbers, if the insurgency dies down, if the democracy really takes hold, the president's numbers are going to go way back up.

CARVILLE: I don't know if they'll go way back up, but at least they'll stop deteriorating and go up somewhat. But right now you're looking at a thing where they're codifying Islamic law, the Sharia, into the Iraqi constitution.

I'm sorry, but there's a civil war going on right now. There's not one going to start, there's a civil war going on in the country right now. It's only because we have 130,000 people that they haven't broken into a wider civil war. But again, Yes, Cindy Sheehan on September 5, 6, whatever it is, she is going to have to go back and deal with her ill mother or deal with her domestic situation. The president has to come back here and deal with Iraq. There's -- I don't see -- I think the American people are pretty clear that they don't see progress on the ground. This is really -- Cindy Sheehan, in one respect, is kind of a bit player about this, but her significance is that they keep addressing her and keep dealing with her.

MUELLER: James, if I could, I think there's a point though. But you're going to position this down the road. This is a good short term media thing in August. But the bottom line is, the long term issue is are we going to engage terrorism in the war on terror or are we going to be the part of retreat and surrender?

CARVILLE: You know, Greg, look. Greg, I'm just letting all this Jimmy Carter-Ronald Reagan stuff go here because we're in a different place. The point is -- the point here is that unless there's a dramatic situation, improvement on the ground, unless people see results for something that's going to cost us a trillion dollars, they've already lost almost 2,000 people in it, the president is going to continue to deteriorate and going to Idaho and Utah is not going to change anything.

BLITZER: We're going to have to leave it right there, Gentlemen. But we'll continue this discussion, I promise. Thanks very much, James and Greg.

Coming up, Venezuela's ambassador to the United States takes a tough line against Pat Robertson and his call for Hugo Chavez's assassination. I'll speak live with the ambassador on this international controversy. That's coming up in our next hour.

But up next, SUVs and soaring gas prices. Are Americans willing to sacrifice? Bill Schneider has some answers. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Here's a quick look at some of the hot shots coming in from the Associated Press. Still photographs likely to be in your hometown newspaper tomorrow. Check some of these out.

In Austria, this train was derailed by massive flooding. Over in the Middle East, a Jewish settler upset by the Israeli evacuation from the West Bank, at least parts of the West Bank for little settlements there.

In Detroit, a Northwest mechanic pickets outside the terminal. Thousands of mechanics have been on strike since Saturday morning. And in Arkansas, severe drought. Governor Mike Huckabee wants his state declared a disaster area.

On our "Political Radar" this Tuesday, opponents of Cindy Sheehan are making their way from California toward Crawford, Texas. But they're already clashing with Sheehan supporters. A verbal confrontation erupted when the group that calls itself "You Don't Speak for me, Cindy" arrived in Sacramento. They were met by antiwar protesters who were chanting bring them home. Ohio Democrats are meeting today to discuss possible efforts to impeach the Republican Governor Bob Taft. Taft pleaded no contest to failing to report golf outings and other gifts. The state senate's top Republican says he can't foresee Taft being forced out of office for the ethics violation. Taft faces a term limit and is not running for re-election.

Barbara Streisand is the latest entertainer to make a musical statement about war. On a new music video she reportedly performs a song called "Stranger in a Strange Land," interspersed with images of U.S. troops past and present. The lyrics include -- and I'm quoting now -- "you may be someone else's sweetheart, fighting someone else's war, and if you suffer for millions, that's what you're fighting for."

And we have wedding pictures to show you. Look at this. The Ohio congressman, former Democratic presidential candidate, Dennis Kucinich. He got married to girlfriend Elizabeth Harper in Cleveland on Sunday. We were particularly struck by the kiss. That went on and on and on. Still, a lovely kiss. Best wishes to Dennis Kucinich and Mrs. Kucinich.

The Bush administration today is proposing improving gas mileage standards for sports utility vehicles, minivans, and smaller trucks. It's another sign the White House is keeping an eye on soaring gas prices and the possible political fallout.

Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider is here, and he has some details. Bill?

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we have looked at the gas proposal by the secretary, Norman Mineta, and it turns out to be an interesting solution to a tough problem.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): What's the secretary of Transportation in a Republican administration doing talking about raising automobile fuel efficiency standards? When a measure to do that came up in 2002, the Senate soundly defeated it. The concern was, auto manufacturers would just build smaller cars. Safety-minded soccer moms protested, they're trying to take away our SUVs.

SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D), MARYLAND: Mothers want to be in the functional, civilian equivalent of a Humvee and why, because they are scared.

SCHNEIDER: When fuel efficiency standards were first created in the 1970s, they applied only to cars. SUVs aren't cars, the government said, they're trucks.

NORMAN MINETA, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: No one dreamed that we would be buying trucks to transport the family, but today these vehicles represent over 50 percent of new sales.

SCHNEIDER: So what happens when gas prices skyrocket? Drivers complain. Ninety-four percent of Americans say they're dissatisfied with the price of gas in their area. Forty-four percent, nearly half, say they're angry. But only 22 percent say they're driving less because of the high price of gas.

If gas prices were to hit $3 a gallon and stay there, the number who say they'd drive less would nearly triple, to 63 percent. Secretary Norman Mineta has a plan to force manufacturers to produce more efficient vehicles without making them lighter and therefore, less safe. How?

MINETA: We will judge vehicles on their size or as we call it, the footprint and not on their weight. The new plan will not encourage manufacturers to simply build smaller vehicles.

SCHNEIDER: Not smaller, more efficient.


SCHNEIDER: The secretary's plan will have different fuel- efficiency standards for different sized vehicles. That's sounds like common sense. It just took 30 years for the government to figure it out.

BLITZER: All right. Very interesting. Thanks very much, Bill Schneider, for that report.

Being fuel conscience doesn't necessarily mean an end to adrenaline rushes behind the wheel. The worlds first world's battery- powered sports car -- check this out -- has hit the streets at the 2005 World Expo in Japan.

The half-million -- yes, half-million dollar -- Fetish, as it's called, goes from zero to 65 in four-and-a-half seconds thanks to 100 lithium ion batteries under the hood. Its designer says he wanted to prove a car can be power, stylish and still kind to the environment.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM: The former football player, Pat Tillman, left the NFL to serve his country. He died in Afghanistan, but the details of his death are still not clear. His father is calling the investigation so far fraud. Now the military is taking another look.

And the mechanics of a strike. Our Ali Velshi will be along with an update on that strike over at Northwest Airlines.

And look who's talking, again. You've heard Pat Robertson's proposition. Now Jack Cafferty has your response.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Zain Verjee joining us again from the CNN Center with a quick look at some other stories making news. Hi, Zain.

VERJEE: Hi, Wolf. The mother of singer Michael Jackson's teen- aged accuser has been charged with five felonies. She's accused of obtaining welfare benefits fraudulently -- excuse me. The charges were filed today in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Pentagon officials say the Defense Department is reviewing the latest military investigation into the death of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan. They say the review was triggered when Tillman's father took exception with the investigation's findings. The younger Tillman was a pro football star who joined the Army after the September 11th attack. The Pentagon says he was killed by friendly fire. The Army had originally said he died in a firefight with enemy forces.

Brazilian officials investigating a countryman's shooting death in Britain say they found no signs of a police cover-up. British police shot and killed Jean Charles de Menezes in a London subway after they say they mistook him as a terrorist. The shooting came in the wake of bomb attacks on London's mass transit system that left 52 people dead.

A long-term study throws a damper on hopes that aspirin could help reduce the risk of colon cancer. The study followed 83,000 nurses, all women over 20 years old. It found that low doses of aspirin over time didn't significantly lower cancer risk. It says high doses, though, do reduce cancer risk, but could be linked to dangerous bleeding. The research is published in tomorrow's Journal of the American Medical Association.

Now, who says military personnel have no sense of humor? Now, Wolf, I want you to listen to this.




VERJEE: Well, a Royal Navy music video -- that's what this is -- spoofing Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," has become a huge hit with British fans. Now, they've donated thousands of pounds to the United Kingdom's armed forces charity to download this video dubbed the "Bohemian Ward Room" (ph) at 50 pence a download. It was shot aboard the HMS Campbeltown on patrol in the Indian Ocean. Wolf, what do you think?

BLITZER: I think that they have a good sense of humor, these sailors. More importantly, Zain, what do you think?

VERJEE: I think it's interesting. You know, I mean, who says that they don't have a sense of humor? But I think anchors, too, have a sense of humor. Wolf.

BLITZER: I think you certainly have a sense of humor.

VERJEE: Like Jack.

BLITZER: I know I do. Our viewers aren't necessarily always sure that I do. Jack Cafferty has a great sense of humor. Give us a couple jokes, Jack. CAFFERTY: That's just a sign that it gets very boring and lonely sailing around in the Indian Ocean for long periods of time and eventually this is the kind of stuff you find to do.

Pat Robertson called for the U.S. -- nothing funny about this -- to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He called the leader a terrific danger who's exporting communism and Muslim extremism across the continent of South America. The question is, what do you make of Pat Robertson's comments?

Here's what some of you are saying: Dave in Tennessee writes "Pat's jihad against Venezuela is little different than bin Laden's evangelical approach toward America. Fundamentalist anything that advocates killing is frightening. I say this loony has crossed the line. What's next? Send Pentecostal hit teams to California?"

Brian in Vancouver, Canada. "If ever there was a good reason for the FCC to levy a heavy fine, it's Pat Robertson's comments. They are far more harmful than a view of Janet Jackson's breast."

Jo Ann in League City, Texas. "And how should the government take out Chavez? Christian suicide bombers? Robertson needs to go back to basic Sunday school doctrine 101."

Beverly in Las Vegas, Nevada. "Robertson gets a huge amount of free air time for espousing violence. Cindy Sheehan can't even pay for ad space to speak the truth. Her recent ad on a Utah TV station was refused air time. Sad, sad, sad," she writes.

And Paul in Toronto, Ontario, writes, "I think Robertson's totally in the wrong. By the way, can you tell me where I can get the table Wolf sits at? Is it solid glass? Please e-mail back, because I'm really interested in the table. Robertson's still out of line."

BLITZER: Did you ever notice, Jack, I think we have a lot of viewers in Canada?

CAFFERTY: We do have a lot of viewers in Canada. They have no television up there.

BLITZER: I think they're watching us in big numbers in Toronto, Saskatoon, all sorts of places up there.

CAFFERTY: Where did you get that table? Can you get a table for this guy Paul?

BLITZER: Yes. It's a very expensive table. But let me see if I can get some information for you.

CAFFERTY: I doubt that it's very expensive.

BLITZER: Very expensive. You know we don't --

CAFFERTY: I mean, the chair I'm sitting on here cost about $8.95 at Ikea. It's one of these canvas, wood chairs that you'd find on the deck of a really cheap boat. BLITZER: All right. Let me see if I can find a number for this table. Jack, we'll get back to you. Thanks very much.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, an answer to that assassination call. Pat Robertson says the U.S. should take out Venezuela's president. I will speak live with Venezuela's Ambassador to the United States. He'll be here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Needless to say, almost every online has an opinion about Pat Robertson. We'll take you "Inside the Blogs". That's coming up.

And ecstasy and agony. Another Australian model faces an uncertain future after Indonesian police say they found drugs in her designer handbag. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we're plugged into almost everything that's happening online. The buzz today, Pat Robertson and his call to assassinate Venezuela's president. Our internet reporters Jacki Schechner and Abbi Tatton are here to take us Inside The Blogs.

ABBI TATTON, INTERNET REPORTER: Yes. It seems like you can take your pick of the blogosphere today, Wolf. It seems like everyone has something to say about Pat Robertson's comments yesterday. And it's very hard to find anyone who was supporting what he was calling for yesterday.

Let's start on the left here in Washington, This is the liberal blogging arm of the Center for American Progress here in Washington. What they're saying is Pat Robertson needs to update his Web site. They had a look at and found things like this, God says you shall not murder. Judd at Think Progress is being very generous with this one saying that I'm sure 2.0 will clear this one up.

Actually, if you go to another one of Pat Robertson's Websites, this is, this is his broadcasting network, you can find a section called "Bring it On". This is where Pat Robertson answers some of your questions about various topics -- this one on the war of terror. And you'll find out his comments maybe weren't so much out of left field. One of the questions was, does the Bible teach the sovereignty of nations? Pat Robertson's answer here, the question is not one of what the Bible says. It's just practical politics.

Incidentally, if you want to round up of everything that Pat Robertson's ever said that might be outrageous, you can go to a blogger -- this is -- who has the top 10 things right there. Number one being something about a small nuke at Foggy Bottom. That's where the State Department is.

Now, Wolf, I don't want you to think we're being hard on Pat Robertson here. Really we searched far and wide in the blogosphere today trying to find someone that was supporting these comments. It was very difficult. We found one, I'm not saying it was the only one out there, but the only one I could find earlier today. This is Eric Zeeburst (ph), he's saying, can I get an Amen? We don't want communism nearby in Venezuela.

But really what you'll find on the right today, when people are weighing in on this, is very little support. This from, Ed Morrisey saying and now insanity corner with Pat Robertson.

JACKI SCHECHNER, INTERNET REPORTER: More commentary over at This is Danny Carlton -- Jack Lewis, a pseudonym that he's had for quite some time -- pointing out what we heard in Bruce Morton's package earlier, we have to make note he's just a guy with a TV show. He does not speak for the right. He says some off the wall things sometimes and bloggers and the mainstream media both guilty of thinking that that's an oddity at this point. Now he wanted to see what Venezuelan bloggers had to say. Had quite a few links. It was tough to read many of them because they're in Spanish, and I would hate to have to translate for you, it wouldn't be pretty.

But we did find BeautifulHorizons, who blog a lot about Latin America and Human Rights issues. And essentially what they said is that you have to be careful because comments like this motivates Chavez's supporters. We was that also with a moderate republican, saying that he's already got assassination fantasies, don't feed into them.

And we like this as a good round up. This is the moderate voice, Joe Ganneman (ph), Wolf, turning out and saying that Robertson is a disgrace. It's not a matter of left or right, Democrat or Republican, let's just be blunt about that. We'll send it back to you.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, guys. All interesting stuff.