Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Is Alito Nomination in Trouble?; Is New CIA Leak Investigation in the Works?; New Possible CIA Leak; John McCain May Be Dropping Hints Of A Presidential Campaign; Interview with Mary Mapes

Aired November 10, 2005 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information from around the world are arriving all the time.
Happening now, it's 4:00 p.m. here in Washington. Is the Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito suddenly facing trouble? Democrats may have found a focus for their confirmation fight.

Is a new CIA leak investigation in the works? The feds look into the story of secret prisons for terror suspects. Will that set up a new clash with the news media?

And it was a bombshell that gave CBS News and Dan Rather a black eye. A controversial report on the president's National Guard service cost several people their jobs. One of them now tells her side of the story. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're also standing by for the California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. He's scheduled a news conference for this hour in which he'll take questions about his stunning Election Day setback. These are live pictures you're seeing right behind me. We'll go to Sacramento once that news conference starts. Could be fireworks out there for the California governor.

In the meantime, have Democrats found Samuel Alito's Achilles heel? Or is it just an excuse for a confirmation fight? Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee want to see the records of a court case involving a mutual fund company in which Judge Alito had a large investment. The committee's Republican chairman concedes this could mean trouble for the Supreme Court nomination. Let's go live to Capitol Hill. Our congressional correspondent Ed Henry is standing by. Ed?

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this nomination has been breezing along, but suddenly it's hit a speed bump, maybe not a roadblock but a bump. It involves the fact that back in 1990 before he was confirmed to the Third Circuit, Judge Alito promised the Senate Judiciary Committee that he would recuse himself from any case involving Vanguard because of a six-figure investment that he had. But now major questions are being raised about the fact that back in 2002, Judge Alito participated in a case that helped the mutual fund company.

Now, Arlen Specter, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee today was asked if he thinks the Vanguard matter is spiraling out of control and could endanger Alito's nomination. His response -- quote -- "I'm concerned it has potential. It may."

Now to be clear, Specter also wrote a letter to Judge Alito saying that he personally believes there was no impropriety by the judge in this matter. But he added that the issue has blown up to the point it could spiral out of control as I mentioned. And he thinks Judge Alito needs to head it off as soon as possible.

Take a look at how uncomfortable Judge Alito looked when he was asked questions about this today before meeting with Democratic Senator Herb Kohl.


QUESTION: Senator Kohl, Senator Specter said that Vanguard recusal thing may threaten to spiral out of control today. Will that come up in your talks with the judge?


QUESTION: Judge, did you have anything further for us on that?

JUDGE SAMUEL ALITO, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: No, I'm just looking forward to talking to Senator Kohl.


HENRY: Now, this may not be an alarm bell, but clearly a wakeup call to Judge Alito from the Senate Judiciary chairman, a Republican obviously, who is saying he needs to come up with a clear explanation about this Vanguard matter before his confirmation hearings in January. Wolf.

BLITZER; All right. Ed, stand by. I'm going to be coming back to you shortly. So, how much trouble could this mean for the Alito nomination? Let's bring in our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. He's on the phone, joining us from New York. What's your sense, given the information that's coming in, Jeff?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Wolf, I think what is not clear are the facts of what happened, because there does seem to be a distinction between what he said he would do, which is recuse himself in these cases, and the fact that he participated.

However, there are two issues out there not resolved. One is whether it really is prohibited for him to participate. Mutual funds occupy something of a gray area. And the other thing is, whether there was some sort of computer glitch in the clerk's office that failed to notify him that he should have recused himself in the case.

So really, the facts are unclear. And until they are clear, I don't think it's right to make a conclusion one way or another. BLITZER: Because overall -- and Ed Henry was making this point -- it looked like his nomination was beginning to gather some good momentum. TOOBIN: It was definitely starting to look a lot like the Roberts nomination, which sailed through with 78 votes. And Alito's may well do the same. This is, I think, Ed used a good phrase, a speed bump. But airing out the facts may simply resolve the whole issue.

BLITZER: All right. We'll continue to watch this story. Jeff, thank you very much for that.

Is the groundwork being laid for a new CIA leak investigation? A "Washington Post" story about secret prisons for terror suspects may have set those wheels in motion. Let's bring in our Justice correspondent Kelli Arena. She's getting some new details. Kelli?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just when Washington thought it was safe to talk to journalists again, that "Washington Post" story stirred up more controversy and it could lead to a criminal investigation.


ARENA (voice-over): Al Qaeda leaders, including self-proclaimed 9/11 planner Ramzi Binalshibh, are being held at undisclosed locations overseas according to U.S. officials. But according to the "Washington Post," some of those covert facilities are in Eastern Europe, a very closely held secret.

U.S. officials say the CIA has asked the Justice Department to look into whether that story involved a leak of classified information. DOJ won't comment. But government sources say Justice officials have started that process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To try and evaluate, obviously, how important, how serious is this matter, because that's one of the first steps in trying to determine whether this is a leak investigation that is worth pursuing.

ARENA: If prosecutors determine a crime has been committed, it could lead to another high profile fight with the media. Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald went head to head with reporters during his investigation into who leaked the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Judith Miller of the "New York Times" even did jail time to protect her source.

Legal experts say Fitzgerald's actions have set a new precedent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is new is the more -- a more aggressive posture of pursuing in court the effort to place reporters in contempt if they will not speak to the prosecutor.


ARENA: You know, while it may seem that we're hearing a lot lately about leaks of classified information, it isn't really that uncommon. Government officials say that the Justice Department routinely gets asked to look into possible leaks. Obviously though, Wolf, not all of them are this controversial.

BLITZER: All right. Kelli, thank you very much.

Up on Capitol Hill, some Republicans certainly want a congressional probe of the secret prison story, others aren't necessarily so sure. Let's go back to our congressional correspondent Ed Henry for more on this story. Ed, looks like a nice split developing there.

HENRY: That's right. Republican leaders had been unified, as you know, a couple of days ago in saying that this was such an urgent matter, they had to get to the bottom of it with a joint House and Senate investigation. But the Senate has now abruptly ended, suspended its side of the investigation. But House leaders announced today they're forging ahead with a probe of their own.


REP. PETE HOEKSTRA, (R-MI), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: The depth of leaks that we have seen in the intelligence community over the last 12 to 18 months have done irreparable harm to our ability to effectively conduct the war on terror.

HENRY (voice-over): The move caps three days of fits and starts from Republican leaders. On Tuesday afternoon, Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist circulated a letter calling on the House and Senate intelligence panels to launch a joint investigation, because the leak may have caused major damage to national security.

But Frist waited a few hours before signing the letter, in part because of comments by Republican Senator Trent Lott. Lott said Republicans might be embarrassed because the leak may have come from a closed door meeting Vice President Cheney had with Republicans. Lott called CNN Wednesday to clarify he meant to say sensitive information about detainee treatment, not secret prisons leaked out of the Cheney meeting.

But later Wednesday morning, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence panel said Frist had still not made clear his intentions for the probe.

SEN. PAT ROBERTS, (R-KS), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I have not been formally asked. I am not in receipt of any signed letter by the leadership.

HENRY: Roberts and Frist later said they're suspending the Senate probe altogether because they do not want to interfere with the Justice Department's possible criminal investigation.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HENRY: Now Democrats believe that Senator Frist has egg on his face now because he made such a big deal about this joint investigation and has now pulled out. But Frist aides insist otherwise, saying that it was only after he announced the joint investigation that the Justice Department basically confirmed that they may have this criminal investigation that Kelli was talking about. And so the only appropriate thing to do is step aside. Wolf.

BLITZER: Speaking about splits, including splits among Republicans, there's a developing story you're following up on Capitol Hill right now, Ed, involving all of our money, the taxpayers' money. What is going on?

HENRY: Wolf, the bottom line is just in the last few minutes, House Republican leaders have confirmed that they do not have the votes to pass the president's budget. They don't have the votes to pass the so-called budget reconciliation bill on the House floor. They've yanked it from the House floor. Democrats making great political hay out of this.

The big and the bottom line here is that this was the first major test for the House Republican leadership with Tom DeLay out as majority leader. As you know, he was master vote counter. Now without him, they don't have the votes. It's an embarrassment for his replacement, the acting majority leader, Roy Blunt.

What is at issue here basically is that moderate Republicans in the House don't want to swallow these $50 billion in spending cuts. So in order to do that, they've been trying to sweeten the deal. Others are upset they just don't have the votes. They're going to kick the can down to next week. Wolf.

BLITZER: Usually they're pretty much united. They're pretty divided right now, the Republicans on the House side. Thanks very much, Ed Henry, for that.

Let's go up to New York. Jack Cafferty is standing by with his question of this hour. Hi, Jack, welcome.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. An 18-year-old high school senior could be the next mayor of Hillsdale, Michigan. Michael Sessions ran as a write-in candidate because he was too young to get on the ballot at the time he had to do that. Sessions says that a lot of the voters told him they wanted new energy.

Sessions isn't the only one, either. There's an 18-year-old kid in Roland, Iowa, who's the new mayor there. He won the election, he was the only one on the ballot. It makes it easier to win that way.

And in Torrington, Connecticut, a 22-year-old fellow by the name of Ryan Bingham, beat a two-term incumbent to become the new mayor there. Which would suggest to me that the incumbent mayor of, what is this town? Torrington, Connecticut. He must have been a real gem.

Anyway, the question is this. How young is too young to run for political office? The email address is

BLITZER: When you were 18, Jack, did you want to be mayor of your hometown?

CAFFERTY: When I was 18, I wanted to be doing stuff we can't talk about on this program.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, thanks very much.

We want to remind our viewers, we're waiting to hear from the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. He's about to hold a news conference, answer questions two days after all of his initiatives failed at the ballot box out in California.

A huge setback for Arnold Schwarzenegger. He's going to answer reporters' questions. We'll go out to Sacramento live as soon as he starts that news conference.

Also coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Senator John McCain versus President Bush. The senator generally backs the president, but when he doesn't, he makes it well-known. We'll tell you what Senator McCain says about winning the war in Iraq.

And some call it Memogate -- Dan Rather's now discredited report on President Bush's military service during the Vietnam era. Coming up, I'll speak live with CBS News producer Mary Mapes, who was fired over the report and feels she was made a scapegoat. Mary Mapes standing by live to join us.



BLITZER: Welcome back. Senator John McCain, a Vietnam War hero, delivered a major address on the war in Iraq earlier today.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: And I also feel very strongly that America's image in the world is suffering very badly, at least in some parts of the world. We all have to admit that. Let's not try to sugarcoat it.


BLITZER: Senator McCain praised the president's resolve in Iraq, but said there's an undeniable sense that things are slipping. He called for policy changes based on a military counter-insurgency strategy, which he said can build a secure environment in Iraq.

Could this be the opening salvo in a new McCain presidential campaign? Let's turn to our national correspondent Bruce Morton. He's standing by. Bruce?

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Bush must wonder every time he sees John McCain's face come up on the news. Is he for me or against me today?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MORTON (voice-over): The arrivals in 2000 of course, McCain won the New Hampshire primary. Won in Michigan, lost the nomination in a campaign that turned viciously personal in South Carolina.

In 2004, he was for the president, and on issues, sometimes for, sometimes against. In today's speech, McCain says the president is right to stay in Iraq, though he argues for different tactics.

He's criticized Mr. Bush's use of military detention centers like the one at Guantanamo Bay, arguing that even Adolf Eichmann, Hitler's man in charge of killing Jews, got a trial. And McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam during that war, wants to rewrite the rules so Americans don't torture their captives.

The president has threatened to veto any bill containing such a restriction, saying it would limit interrogators' ability to get information.

McCain favors action against global warning. Mr. Bush doesn't. But, McCain supported the nomination of John Bolton as U.N. ambassador, and so on.

Some conservatives mistrust McCain, partly because reporters like him and they think that makes him a liberal. But we like him because he answers our questions, not because of where he stands on issues.

He is in fact conservative, anti-abortion, for a strong defense. He's a fiscal conservative, against big spending and big deficits. Though that's not a position critics say this president takes.

And everyone in this political city wonders if he'll run for president in 2008. He says he won't decide until after the '06 congressional elections. But some think he's made up his mind.

STEPHEN HESS, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: When one has the presidential bug, there is no vaccine strong enough to prevent a United States senator who looks in the mirror every morning, and says I should be president of the United States, from running for that office.


MORTON: He'll be 72 on Election Day 2008. If he won, he would be the oldest new president ever, three years older than even Ronald Reagan was when he was first elected. But he speaks often, travels a lot and looks, you'd have to say, ready to rock 'n' roll. Wolf.

BLITZER: Bruce Morton reporting for us. Bruce, thank you very much.

Let's head out to Sacramento. The California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, answering reporters' questions two days after suffering a serious political setback on those ballot initiatives in California.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, (R), CALIFORNIA: That was the problem we had here. So, I'm going to call Milton Friedman about the supply and demand rule. Yes, please. QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE).

SCHWARZENEGGER: I said no. And I think I take full responsibility for this special election. And it's always easy after the fact, you know, to be smart in hindsight. That's the easy thing to do. To look back and to say I should have done this and that.

But you know, I think that to me, we have the opportunity to have, you know, this kind of democracy and to have the initiative process. So I wanted to use that. It was kind of like going to the Supreme Court. You know, it didn't work in the lower courts.

I went to the Supreme Court kind of, and of course, they sent me right back down again where I started. So I think where that's where it was. You can't go higher than the people. The people sent the message and the people are my partners.

I've always relied on the people and always listened very carefully to the people. It's something that you have to do when you're in the movie business. You have to listen carefully to the people. If one of the movies go in the toilet, you know that was the wrong story. That's not the kind of movie you wanted to do.

So you then change and you learn from that. So I've learned from that, that people send a message to us. Don't come to us with all your stuff. You know, voter fatigue, or whatever you call it. But broke it out of the capital, and that's exactly what we're going to do. Yes?

QUESTION: Governor, looking down the road a little bit, could you go into a little more detail on your infrastructure bonds, and how you're going to pay for it? There's a lot of talk about using (INAUDIBLE). Can you discuss that a little bit more?

SCHWARZENEGGER: I want to apologize, but I cannot discuss it today because we're going to have all of those meetings in the next few days and weeks, and I think that you will hear that as we unfold and as we kind of develop that strategy. So it would be a little bit premature to say, even though we talked about that. But it would be a little bit premature. I will let you know as soon as we have that nailed down.

But the bottom line is that everyone at the table today agreed that we need very badly the infrastructure and that we need to address the things that are falling apart and we need to go and really build as quickly as possible. We should not wait for another disaster, for another earthquake, and let all of this happen and people dying and all this when in fact, we can go and do the work right now.

So this is -- I think the idea is to get to work on it as quickly as possible. And there was -- it -- you know, the interesting thing about today's big five meeting was that everyone agreed on everything. It was like, you know, like what is needed. I mean, not the way how to go about it. Don't misunderstand me, but that we need certain things, and everyone was in sync on that, that we have to work on our budget problems, that there is a serious problem. Because with the election, the reforms didn't go -- I mean the problems didn't go away. We still need the reforms on those things. We need education reform and we need budget reform, you know, those things.

And even we talked about redistricting, to look at it together, Democrats and Republicans. Maybe we can come up with something that we can do together. So, it was, like I said, a very positive meeting on all this. What do you think about that? Yes, please.

BLITZER: All right. Arnold Schwarzenegger answering reporters' questions in California, in Sacramento, two days after suffering a very serious political setback. All of his ballot initiatives that he had proposed went down in strong defeat.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, was out in California covering those elections. He's back in Washington now joining us. Bill, how much trouble politically is the governor in?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he is in serious trouble. He just said the people have sent a message. Just like a bad movie that flops, his initiatives flopped, every single one of them.

He urged people to vote yes on four different initiatives. He called the special election. He put the measures on the ballot. And the people rejected every single one of them. He got the message. And we're seeing an unusual sight, a humbled Arnold Schwarzenegger. How about that?

BLITZER: We'll see how long that lasts. Bill, thank you very much. Bill Schneider here back in Washington from California.

Still ahead, it's a blemish on Dan Rather's distinguished resume, the blowup over his report on President Bush's Vietnam-era military service, the report for CBS News. To partly clean house, firing some staffers involved. I'll speak with the producer behind the report, Mary Mapes. She's standing by.

And you know him as an indicted government official with personal ties to the Bush White House. But do you know him as a witty wordsmith who has a way with words? Lewis Scooter Libby. Is it a coincidence that everyone now wants to read his nine-year-old book? Stay with us.


BLITZER: There she is, Zain Vergee. She's standing by at the CNN Center in Atlanta with a closer look at some other stories making news. Hi, Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. A suicide bomber killed at least 34 people in central Baghdad this morning. Twenty-five people were wounded in the blast, which took place inside a restaurant that was frequented by Iraqi police at the time of their shift change. It's the most deadly in a series of attacks today aimed at police, military and civil service workers.

Al Qaeda in Iraq has now claimed responsibility for the bloody bombings in Amman, Jordan. And U.S. officials are calling that claim credible. At least 56 people were killed, and 102 others wounded in the bombings at three hotels in the Jordanian capital. Jordan's King Abdullah visited the scene of the carnage today and he later vowed to pursue those behind the bombings -- quote -- "wherever they are."

A man seen running from his parked car set off a bomb scare in the Denver suburb of Arvada. After noticing a propane tank inside the car, police evacuated nearby City Hall and called in the bomb squad. It turned out that the propane tank was for the man's work and that he was running from his car because he was in a hurry.

The New Orleans Police Department fired five officers today as hearings continue for personnel who didn't show up for work during Hurricane Katrina. The total number of employees who have lost their jobs for going AWOL during the storm now stands at 46. Two-hundred and forty officers were unaccounted for during Katrina, but not all of them are believed to have deserted. Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, thank you very much. Zain Vergee reporting. We'll check back with her.

Up next here in THE SITUATION ROOM, did baseball's Rafael Palmeiro lie in front of Congress about ever using steroids? Today a congressional panel has announced what it thinks. We'll share with you the decision. That's coming up.

And it rocked CBS News. Dan Rather's now widely discredited report on the Vietnam-era service of President Bush. After the break, I'll speak with the producer behind the report who was fired. Mary Mapes, standing by. She will be my guest. Stay with us.


BLITZER: It was the smoking gun and that ended up shooting CBS News in the foot. A set of documents dug up by the network that seemed to cast doubt on whether President Bush fulfilled his stateside duty in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.


BLITZER (voice-over): In September of last year, at the height of the presidential campaign, CBS News dropped what seemed to be a bombshell. Dan Rather reported on "60 Minutes 2" that President Bush received special consideration to get into the Guard and then failed to fulfill his service obligations.

The evidence cited by CBS included copies of four memos purportedly written by Bush's squadron commander. But within hours, bloggers jumped on the story, raising doubts about the authenticity of the documents. And experts brought in by various news organizations said they were likely produced by a computer or word processor, not by a 1970s typewriter. In the end, instead of being a potential knockout blow to the president's reelection hopes, the document story was a black eye for CBS News. Last January, after an investigation, the network fired the report's producer, Mary Mapes. Three others were asked to resign. Dan Rather, the lightning rod for criticism, had earlier announced in November that he'd be leaving his anchor chair. That same month, President Bush was reelected.


BLITZER: Mary Mapes, the producer of that CBS report, is out with a new book telling her side of the story that shook the network. It's entitled "Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power." Mary Mapes joins us live from New York. And here in Washington is Howard Kurtz, the host of CNN's RELIABLE SOURCES, media writer for the "Washington Post."

Mary, let me start with a quote from the book, page 291, "I came to a well-grounded conclusion that these documents appeared to be true in every way. Neither I nor the panel had a smoking gun that determined one way or another with 100 percent certainty that we had made the correct deductions."

In the middle of a campaign, only two months before the election, you go on the air with a charge, as explosive as this charge was. Don't you have to be 100 percent, 1,000 percent sure that you have the material to back up that accusation?

MARY MAPES, FORMER CBS NEWS PRODUCER: I actually was completely sure about the documents. When I said a smoking gun, I guess what I meant was the reference to the fact that you couldn't do an ink test or something like this.

One of the frustrations for me in this story has been the obsession people have with the document analysis, with the questions of proportional spacing and could it be -- could it have been forged, and I think that's completely off point.

We had lots and lots of evidence that the content was absolutely accurate. We had corroboration. We vetted it and we meshed it with the official documents that the Bush people had put out for the past four years or so. The other thing that we had in that report that people don't mention is the first-ever interview with former Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes who talked about helping Bush get into the Guard by making a phone call. So we had a couple of things. It was the documents, however, that proved vulnerable to attack.

BLITZER: Well, how vulnerable, Howie, were those documents, because within hours, there were all sorts of suggestions that the kind of typewriters that existed in the early 1970s could not have done some of those kind of fonts that existed in that purported document?

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN RELIABLE SOURCES HOST: What's amazing to me, Wolf, is that 14 months after this story blew up, we're still talking about a story that was retracted by CBS News, that an independent commission found Mary Mapes and her colleagues had failed miserably to authenticate.

I can't prove the documents aren't real, but unfortunately for Mary -- I sympathize with anyone who's gone through the kind of battering that she has -- she can't prove the documents are authentic. And it's not just the arguments about the THs and the superscript.

One of the key people interviewed by "60 Minutes" was this 86- year-old former secretary to Bush's late squadron commander, Marion Knox, and she says the documents weren't real. So the story still has problems, and Mary Mapes seems not fully have come to grips with that.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Mary.

MAPES: Well, listen, obviously I think I probably enjoy Howard's work on this story as much as he enjoys reading my work on this story in that we disagree. Here are some things I do want people to know. I do, in the book -- and I don't know if Howard's read the entire book, because the last chapter's devoted to this.

I did, through a researcher, get a number of new documents that absolutely blow out of the water the kinds of charges that Howard and others used to attack these documents in the first place. The primary considerations that people went for when they were criticizing these things are proportional spacing in the documents, people who said that that did not exist in 1971, '72.

I now have a document here from 1969 from the Texas Air National Guard headquarters in Austin that has proportional spacing. And I also have lots of documentary evidence that this existed.

BLITZER: Let me read to you, Mary, the statement that CBS News put out on November 8 as a result of the publication of your book, "Mary Mapes' actions damaged CBS News as an organization and brought pain to many colleagues with whom she worked. Her disregard for journalistic standards and for her colleagues comes through loud and clear in her interviews and in the book that attempts to rewrite the history of this complex and sad affair.

"The idea that a news organization would not need to authenticate such important source material is only one of the troubling and erroneous statements account." A blistering indictment of you from CBS News. And I'll give you a chance to respond to that as well.

MAPES: Look, obviously, I disagree with it deeply. I worked for CBS News for 15 years. There are a number of awards in that building that I brought them. I feel second to no one in my love and loyalty for my colleagues there, people I still befriend and count on and will have forever as friends.

I think what CBS News did was choose to handle this in the most divisive way possible by launching an investigation that forced people to turn against each other, by questioning its employees, and by believing conservative bloggers instead of people who worked for them for decades. BLITZER: Howie, I think what Mary Mapes is saying is she stands by her story.

KURTZ: But unfortunately for her, CBS News and, not just bloggers but a lot of other journalists who have looked at this, do not, or at least have such serious questions about it, that you come back to the basic question why this was aired.

I just want to respond to one thing Mary said earlier. I didn't attack the documents. What I did was to interview three of the document experts hired by CBS who told me that either they didn't feel they could fully authenticate those 30-year-old memos, or that they had raised red flags during the process.

One of my main complaints, because we can never resolve this completely, is why CBS rushed this to air when it did in September of 2004 before this was all nailed down. And even Mary writes in her book that she was uncomfortable to some degree with the script and with the process at that point.

BLITZER: Why did CBS News, in the middle of this campaign, right after the Republican Convention, rush to air with material that wasn't necessarily as solid, certainly as we now know, as it should have been?

MAPES: Well, I think, first of all, it was the middle of the campaign. That's probably true. But I think that's when you cover the candidates. I mean, that's what I always thought anyway, as a reporter. So I think running a story about the president who was running for reelection two months prior to the election is not a problem.

BLITZER: But were you uncomfortable, Mary, with the timing? Did you think that story was ready for air?

MAPES: I probably -- gosh, given my druthers, I would have waited maybe a week or so. But I don't know what specifically would have changed with the story. That's the difficult thing about this. I don't know what new information we would have had. I don't know that anything would have substantively changed, including the overwhelming toxic reaction to the story.

Now, to me, when I look at the way people responded to the story, and it did start with conservative bloggers although it was picked up by mainstream media later, it really bears the earmarks of the kind of discrediting and destroying campaign that people who have criticized President Bush have come up against before.

And the other thing, Howard, that is -- I mean, this does bother me. I just showed you -- I read an article of yours just this afternoon where you criticized a number of things about these documents. And you did not quote the three analysts that you talked to. And I also think you misinterpreted the word "authenticate," as did many reporters.

But you said that there was proportional spacing on these documents. There was proportional spacing on other documents in 1969, and I have evidence of that now. KURTZ: Well, here's an article that I wrote in September of 2004, headline: "Rather Admits Mistake in Judgment; CBS Was Misled About Bush National Guard Documents, Anchor Says." So Dan Rather seems more willing to acknowledge problems with the story than you do today.

MAPES: Well, I can't speak for Dan. I certainly can't. All I can do is tell you my experience. And once again, I'm going to say your reporting was wrong about proportional spacing. It was wrong about the document being able to be created in Word with Times New Roman font. It was wrong in a number of respects, and it remains wrong.

And if you had spent more time looking for more documents, looking at the facts of the story, and really, really looking at the case, I think you would have done some different reporting yourself.

BLITZER: Howard is also the host of CNN's RELIABLE SOURCES that airs Sunday mornings at 10:00 a.m. here on CNN. Howard, is Mary Mapes one of your guests this Sunday?

KURTZ: Yes, and I look forward to having a chance at a little more length to talk about some of these issues that she's raising in her new book.

BLITZER: I suspect the two of you will have a good opportunity to go through all of these issues this Sunday morning on "Reliable Sources," 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Mary Mapes, the book is entitled "Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power." Howard Kurtz of the "Washington Post" and CNN's RELIABLE SOURCES thanks to you, as well.

After CBS aired its report last year, it was many of the conservative bloggers who led the charge in trying to discredit those National Guard documents. Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton is joining us now live with more. Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just to show viewers how quickly that happened in the conservative blogosphere last year, right after the CBS broadcast, a reader on this site, Free Republic, started questioning those documents, suggesting they were forgeries based on the font, and saying this should be pursued aggressively. It certainly was.

The following day, the popular conservative blog started looking into this, its readers piling on to this issue, questioning the authenticity, digging around and investigating. Soon after that, little green footballs pick it as well, and what's called a blog swarm happened as all these bloggers started piling on and digging.

One thing to note, CBS now has its own blog that was started this year, CBS saying in the blog that it was not in response to Memogate. However, Memogate, as it's called on the Internet, and also Mary Mapes' book are addressed in recent posts there. Wolf. BLITZER: All right, Abbi. Thank you very much. Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, our "Strategy Session". Is the Samuel Alito nomination for the U.S. Supreme Court about to hit a roadblock?

And a CNN "Security Watch". We'll show you a new idea to protect airplanes from terrorists who might try to launch a shoulder-fired missile. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The war on terror and election fallout. We're going to talk about all of that and more in today's "Strategy Session". For that, we're joined by former Democratic Party National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe and Republican strategist Rich Galen. Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us.

On the Samuel Alito story and this apparent conflict on Vanguard, a mutual fund, you saw what the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter, said, that this might pose some sort of problem. Our Ed Henry, our congressional correspondent, says this could be a speed bump. What do you make of this?

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I talked to a couple of people on the Hill, and I talked to some folks in the White House this afternoon. And the general feeling there is that once the hearings are held and he gets to explain what happened -- this case was decided 12 years after he was first appointed, so it's not like it happened two minutes after he was appointed to the Third Circuit. The folks that are managing this nomination are unconcerned, and they think that Arlen Specter actually helped them by saying, this will all come out in the hearing. It'll be fine.

BLITZER: The quote from Arlen Specter, let me put it up on the screen again, and we'll show our viewers what Arlen Specter said earlier today. Let's get that up there. We will get that up there. But in the meantime, what we're talking about -- there it is. "I'm concerned that it has potential. It may" -- "It may" referring to this controversy involving this mutual fund. Nearly $400,000, which is a nice piece of change.

TERRY MCAULIFFE, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: Right. I mean, he said he would recuse himself. It turns out that he did not recuse himself. Clearly, here's a flip-flop on the issue, and that's what the hearings are for. I mean, the way the White House has handled this judicial appointment from the Harriet Miers, which was a debacle -- I mean, the right wing went out and destroyed this woman.

Now we'll see how it goes. The Democrats have behaved just the way they should do it. We're going to wait for the hearings, we're going to let all the facts come out, and then they're going to make a decision, should this man have a lifetime nomination to the United States Supreme Court?

GALEN: You want to bet that $200 that Ed Gillespie owes you, whether this goes forward or not?

MCAULIFFE: I making Ed pay me first before I bet again. On TV, I want Ed paying me. BLITZER: He's not paying you, he's giving it to a charity.

MCAULIFFE: Give it to me and I give it to a charity. I won.

BLITZER: Your bottom line is that you -- is the nomination in trouble or not?

MCAULIFFE: This man said he would recuse himself. As you say, he had at least $400,000 worth of this stock. He said he'd recuse himself, he didn't do it. And let him explain himself why he did not.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the election two days ago. Congressman J.D. Hayworth of Arizona, Republican, good conservative, he said this. He says, "I think it's a wakeup call. A lot of our folks stayed home."

GALEN: That's what I said, too.

BLITZER: You agree with him -- a wakeup call to the Republican Party. You lose in Virginia, you lose in New Jersey, Schwarzenegger loses big-time in California. It's a major wakeup call.

GALEN: I was writing about Virginia. That's where I live, and I'm familiar with that. And what I wrote was that I didn't think that Republicans were angry enough at the president to vote for the other guy. But they voted with, I said, their derrieres, they sat on them. And I think that's what happened here.

And I think the White House is -- look, one of the things Terry knows better than almost anybody on the planet is that a White House that's aggressively on message is an unstoppable force. This White House, I think, needs to get a message, get on it, and stay on it and get aggressive.

BLITZER: Terry, what do you think?

MCAULIFFE: It was a great night for the Democrats, New Jersey and Virginia. And in Virginia, you know, the Republicans tried to run their traditional campaign, tax cuts, against immigration, you know, for the death penalty. They brought George Bush in. None of it worked. Tim Kaine ran a positive campaign, fiscal responsibility, more money for education, and the voters, by six percentage points in a red state that George Bush went in the night before...

GALEN: With a Democratic governor, we might add.


BLITZER: They held on to a Democratic seat. But look at this NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll. Which party has a vision for the future, 51 percent say Democrats, 60 percent say Republicans. The Democrats still have a serious problem out there. You simply can't assume what happened this week is going to be translating into wins next November.

MCAULIFFE: You can't assume, but if you look at further graphs in that poll, who would you rather have in control of the Congress, the Democrats with an 11 percent lead, which has never occurred before, since they started doing that polling.

It is harder when you're in the minority to get your message out, but our individual candidates, like Tim Kaine did and Jon Corzine did, will be able to do that for the Democratic Party. They're in trouble. George Bush's approval rating is 35 percent. When I was chairman of the party in '01, he went into the '02 elections at 89 percent. He's in serious trouble today.

GALEN: But in December of '95, Bill Clinton had the question about, do you trust this administration to make good decisions. He was down 25-71, even worse than this last poll about President Bush. Eleven months later, he won a very relatively easy reelection campaign. My point is, this is -- this can be turned around, and probably will be.

MCAULIFFE: One thing I'd say, he didn't have the mess in Iraq, he didn't have Scooter Libby indicted, he didn't have Karl Rove under investigation, he didn't have Tom DeLay indicted, he didn't have Bill Frist


BLITZER: Terry McAuliffe, Rich Galen, thanks very much. They shake hands and they come out fighting.

Ahead in THE SITUATION ROOM, an 18-year-old mayor? Is he too young for office? Jack Cafferty's sorting through your email. He'll show us what you're saying.

Plus, his political career is over for now, but his literary luck is improving. Lewis Scooter Libby's book making a comeback. We'll tell you why. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Here are some of the stories making our "Political Radar" today. Star Baltimore slugger Rafael Palmeiro is off the hook, in Congress at least. The House Government Reform Committee won't seek perjury charges against him, citing contradictory evidence. Palmeiro told the committee in March -- and I'm quoting now -- "I have never used steroids, period." Six weeks later, he tested positive for the drugs.

On again off again efforts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling are off again. House Republican leaders dropped a controversial provision allowing oil exploration there from a larger budget bill hoping to gain votes. It's another setback for President Bush, who has made arctic drilling an energy priority.

His White House career may be over, but Lewis Scooter Libby's literary fortunes are looking up, at least a little bit. The indictment of the vice president's former chief of staff has renewed interest in his 1996 novel "The Apprentice." Publisher St. Martin's Press says it's bringing the book back into print with 25,000 new copies. Let's bring in our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton to see what kind of prices Lewis Libby's novel is fetching online. What's the story, Abbi?

TATTON: Wolf, I have your copy, your autographed copy of "The Apprentice" right here in my hands, and it's listed at $12.95 right here on You can't get this for less than $39.95. And you can pay a lot more for a copy if it's autographed, like yours. Some of them going for $500. One of them in pre-first edition, in mint condition, was selling earlier today, listed at $2,400. also lists the kind of people buying this book and what else they bought. These customers buying this book also buying "The Politics of Truth" by Joseph C. Wilson. Wolf.

BLITZER: He was on CNN with me when that book came out a couple years ago. Maybe we'll play that tape tomorrow. See if our viewers are still interested in what he said about the book two years ago.

Still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, how young is too young to run for political office? Our Jack Cafferty, standing by with your answers to our question of the hour.

And later, protecting planes from missiles. New potentially life- saving technology. But it comes at a price. We'll show you. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty's back with your email. He's joining us from New York. Jack?

CAFFERTY: Hillsdale, Michigan, Wolf, has a new mayor. He's an 18- year-old kid that was a write-in candidate because he was too young to get on the ballot. The question we're asking is, how young is too young to run for political office?

Thomas in Louisville: "If young men and women in the armed forces have the bravery and courage to risk their lives in civil service while overseas, I see no reason why young men and women of the same age can't serve in public office."

Joel from California: "From what I've witnessed, the older the candidate, the more he's beholden to the special interests and the big money. Maybe you should have a law that doesn't allow anybody over 25 to run for office. The special interest virgins may actually work for their constituents."

Brandon in Holt, Michigan: "You're never too young. We live in a country where my generation, the current high school kids, are not represented. Next May, two months after turning 18, I hopefully will be elected to the board of education." And Paul in Knoxville: "My 18-year-old can't keep his room clean and likes to shoot silly string around the house. That's what 18- year- olds do. I'm not voting for that."

BLITZER: Sounds like a normal 18-year-old kid. Thanks, Jack, very much.