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Josh Bolten To Replace Andrew Card; Some Want More Changes In President Bush's Staff; Tom DeLay Wants To Carry Concealed Firearm Despite Being Under Indictment; Massive Demonstrations In France Against New Labor Law; Israeli Election Results; John Warner Interview; Historically, Do Shakeups Make A Difference?

Aired March 28, 2006 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Ali.
And to our viewers, you are in THE SITUATION room, where new pictures and information are arriving all of the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States, and around the world, to bring you today's top stories.

Happening now, the commander in chief brings in a new chief of staff. It's 4:00 p.m. here in Washington, where Andrew Card is stepping down and another Bush insider is stepping in. Can Josh Bolten bring new life to a tired and troubled White House?

Also this hour, the story behind the shakeup. Find out what President Bush is saying about it in an exclusive interview with CNN. Is he giving Republicans who have been pushing for staff changes in, and what do they want now?

And decision day in Israel. Voters weigh in on the interim prime minister and his plan for drawing final borders between Israelis and Palestinians. It's 11:00 p.m. in Jerusalem right now where they are still counting the ballots, but exit poll numbers show who is in and who is out. We're going to have a live report.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

At the White House right now, a new transition is underway. In about two weeks, the budget director, Josh Bolten, will replace the president's long-serving chief of staff, Andy Card. The White House says Card recognized it is time for a change and the president accepted his counsel.

But at a time when Mr. Bush's poll numbers still are way down and Republicans deeply divided, one leading Senate Democrat likens today's move to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Our Dana Bash is standing by live on Capitol Hill.

Let's go to the White House first. Our White House correspondent Ed Henry has all the latest -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I have been talking to senior Republicans that say this is a good first step. They think Josh Bolten is a solid choice. But these Republicans say this is really just a small tremor, when what they are looking for is an earthquake.


HENRY (voice-over): After White House Chief of Staff Andy Card's resignation, the question now, is this the end of the shakeup or just the beginning? With Republicans calling for an infusion of new blood, someone to reinvigorate the White House's agenda on Capitol Hill amid plummeting poll numbers, the president tried to sell Budget Chief Josh Bolten, who has had close contact with Congressional leaders as just the man to replace Card.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No person is better prepared for this important position. And I'm honored that Josh has agreed to serve. The next three years will demand much of those who serve our country. We have a global war to fight and win.

HENRY: But like Card, Bolten has been at the president's side since day one of the administration, and served as policy director in the 2000 campaign. Hardly a newcomer. And senior Republicans privately say a broader shakeup is need, a notion welcomed by some outside activists.

BAY BUCHANAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don't think that changing the chairs between Card and Bolten changes anything.

HENRY: But this president prefers a tight circle of loyalists, only reluctantly accepting Card's resignation this past weekend at Camp David after several meetings on the topic. Card, the president's constant companion, the man who informed him on 9/11 American was under attack, grew emotional as he said farewell.

ANDY CARD, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Mr. President, as the chief of staff, I know I was a staffer. And now I look forward to being your friend.

HENRY: While White House spokesman Scott McClellan did not rule out more changes, he said it is premature to speculate on the fate of other aides, like Joe Hagin, Karl Rove, who are Andy Card's deputies right now. But that's not good enough for some top Republicans. They want to see a bigger shakeup, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, in terms of the strategy on Iraq, I know the president met with his cabinet on Iraq today. That was the focus of the discussion. The bigger shakeup would be, what? Rumsfeld, the vice president, is that what you're hearing?

HENRY: I'm not hearing it quite like that, Wolf. What Republicans specifically on the Hill and, you know, all around town, what they are specifically saying is they want more people added, not only subtractions.

They really still are pushing this idea of some sort of an unofficial ambassador to Capitol Hill, someone with real stature -- a former senator, some sort of a statesman -- who will stand up and really give the president clout, reinvigorate his agenda on the Hill, and finally tell some people at the White House when they are doing things wrong, really shake things up internally. Not just move names around but really shake up some of the policies and how they're interacting, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Ed Henry at the White House.

And just a short while ago, the president sat down for an exclusive interview with CNN en Espanol's Juan Carlos Lopez and they talked about today's shakeup.


BUSH: Oh, it's the sign of a fellow who has worked five and a quarter years. He's here every morning early in the morning and stays late, and he put his heart and soul in the job. And he came to me about two and a half weeks ago, two weeks ago, and said I think it may be time for me to go on. You know, I have given it my all.

And I thank him for his service. I consider him an incredibly close friend. And, obviously, I picked Joshua Bolten to take his place, and now Josh's job is to design a White House staff that meets the needs of the president, which is one of the most important needs is to make sure I get information in a timely fashion so I can make decisions.


BUSH: Well, Josh has just begun to take a look at the White House structure, and I haven't had a chance to talk to him about the future yet. But right now I'm honoring and celebrating the service of Andy Card.


BLITZER: And clearly the president is just heard not ruling out more changes, more of a shakeup coming up in his staff. You can see the entire, exclusive interview with the president. That will be here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll find out what Mr. Bush says about immigration, the debate that's unfolding right now, his upcoming trip this week to Mexico, Iraq.

Lots more coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the exclusive interview, CNN Espanol with the president.

And a quick reminder of why so many Republicans have been clamoring for the Bush White House to make a change. Take a look at the latest presidential poll, taken for "Time" magazine. It puts the president's approval rating at 39 percent. That's a record low for that poll, and in line with other recent surveys: 36, 37, 38 percent.

Let's go to Capitol Hill right now for reaction to the changeover at the White House. We'll bring in our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. What's the reaction on the Hill, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it depends who you ask. Let's start with the Republicans first, Wolf. Obviously it is no secret that many of the calls, the outside call, for some kind of change in the administration has not just been coming from some Bush allies, sort of around town, but particularly here on Capitol Hill from Republicans who are very concerned about the poll number you just showed, and that that could be from some missteps from Bush staffers and ultimately that could hurt Republicans in their chances this year in terms of their reelection.

Now most Republicans here are calling the choice of Josh Bolten a relatively good one. They say that, for most part, he's had good relations with Republican leaders in particular here. One staffer telling me a story about how he actually stayed recently at a retreat much longer than he was supposed to, and that surprised some Republicans who candidly say that they are used to Bush -- senior Bush officials sort of going in and out and not spending a lot of time with them.

But there is still a feeling here that there should be -- and many say there probably will be -- another change, another addition to the Bush staff, particularly to deal and have -- sort of mend relations with Republicans, disgruntled Republicans, on Capitol Hill.

Now, to the Democrats. The Democratic leader Harry Reid, Wolf, pulled no punches in how he was responding to this change at the White House.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: Josh Bolten has record of failure. Look at what he's done with our national debt. We just increased it the last legislative day by $800 billion. This year's debt, if you add in Social Security surpluses, is going to approach $500 billion. Josh Bolten has a record of failure, not accomplishment. He'll give the American people no confidence whatsoever the president is willing to change course.


BASH: Now, I'll give you one last colorful anecdote on this issue. Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona who many believe has his eyes on the White House in 2008, said he's not qualified to talk about any changes in the White House but then he leaned over in the hallway and said quietly, "well, I hope some day I might be" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, lots of people are bracing for a showdown on the Senate floor on the issue of immigration now that legislation has passed the judiciary committee. What's the latest?

BASH: There has been a lot of haggling over the past 24 hours on exactly how to deal with this issue on the Senate floor. Essentially, what we're going to see is, unfortunately, something that's already quite complicated continue to be complicated on the Senate floor.

It looks like we're going to see two bills or two ideas debated on the Senate floor at the same time: one from the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist. That measure just deals with border security.

And then, of course, there will be a debate on what passed out the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday and that deals with the guest worker program, which specifically allows illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. Those issues will be debated. It will be quite some time, probably through next week.

Earlier today I had a chance to talk to Senator Ted Kennedy. He is one of the sponsors of the legislation that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. He's been through a lot of these issues that look like they can't find compromise. I asked him, given the deep divide over this issue, especially among Republicans, if he thinks there's any chance this could get to the president's desk this year.


SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I'm basically hopeful and optimistic. I think as people understand this legislation better, as they have the choices that are out there before them, that we can make real progress and I still am hopeful, maybe it's naive, that when I get the president to come aboard and we then will have a bipartisanship.


BASH: Perhaps he thinks it is naive, but one Republican leadership staffer told me that last night there was a discussion among some staff in the leadership here and at the White House about the real need to get something done on this issue. That this is something that is so emotional and something that is so important, especially in an election year, that they will try to work this out by the summer.

They realize that they are in charge of this government and they need to show that they can get something like this done.

BLITZER: Dana Bash on the Hill. Thank you very much. In California today in another protest against some of the toughest immigration legislation now before the Congress. Thousands of L.A. area students walked out of classes for a second day in a row. They ignored a rain of campus lockdown to warn lawmakers against attacking the rights of what they said would be Hispanics and other immigrants.

Remember, President Bush heads to Mexico this week for a summit. Three government leaders will be there as well as one tough reporter. That would be our own Lou Dobbs who is crossing the border legally in hot pursuit of some of the answers. One more day until Lou is in Mexico. Lou Dobbs tonight starts airing live from Cancun tomorrow right here on CNN.

We want to note the passing of two major figures in the Reagan era. The former defense secretary Casper Weinberger died today of pneumonia at his home in Maine. He was 88 years old. At the height of his power he oversaw President Reagan's military build up, but he also faced controversy being charged with lying in connection with the Iran-Contra scandal. He was pardoned in late 1992 by the first President Bush.

Former Reagan campaign press secretary, political adviser, Lyn Nofziger is dead. He died of cancer at his Virginia home yesterday. He was 81 years old. Nofziger was known for his unorthodox style, for his fierce loyalty to Ronald Reagan. We'll have more on Nofziger and Weinberger right here later in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Now to some other stories we're following including a developing story out of France. The largest nationwide protest yet against the new law that will make it easier to fire young workers. Some demonstrators were armed with bottles and stones. Police were armed with tear gas and water cannons.

CNN's Chris Burns is reporting live for us from Paris. What's the latest?

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, those demonstrations weren't only in Paris, tens of thousands in Paris, but tens of thousands more in other main cities in France across the country along with strikes. More than 130 demonstrations and thousands of strikes around the country. Everything ranging from shutting down the Eiffel tower to partial strikes in the oil and steel industries, food processing, all the way to air travel.

Thirty percent of the flights were canceled over French airspace because of air traffic controllers. The main focus was on this protest here in Paris. Perhaps 100,000 students as well as labor union members taking to the streets in a mainly peaceful demonstration, well covered and well watched by plain clothes police and security among the organizers themselves.

It did fall apart toward the end where you had some more uncontrollable elements who were clashing with police in Eastern Paris and it went on for several hours. Apparently no major injuries, but this was a show of force by the unions and by these uncontrollable elements that they are angry with the Dominic De Villepin, the prime minister's labor reform. Wolf.

BLITZER: Chris Burns in Paris for us. Thank you very much. Let's go from Paris to New York. Jack Cafferty standing by with The Cafferty File. Hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: When does Lou's spring break in Cancun start?

BLITZER: Tomorrow. He'll be there for three days in Cancun.

CAFFERTY: Lou Dobbs on spring break in Mexico. I like that.

BLITZER: He'll be working really hard covering the summit.

CAFFERTY: I'm sure. Yes. But the summit doesn't go all day. Chirac's got that thing going on in France pretty good, doesn't he. At least the Muslims aren't running through the country lighting cars on fires in the country right now. I like those shots. They can put those cannons on those guys and just slide them right down the road. It's called Chutzpah.


That's the Jewish pronunciation. Chutzpah. It means you got some nerve. The disgraced former house majority leader Congressman Tom DeLay has Chutzpah to spare.

He's under criminal indictment. He's facing felony charges that could put him in prison. DeLay, nevertheless, thinks he should be allowed to carry a gun. His permit to carry a concealed handgun was suspended in January. This happens when you are indicted. But DeLay doesn't think the rules should apply to him.

He's appealing the suspension and he wants a new hearing. A mouth piece for DeLay wouldn't say if he needs a handgun permit. She said, as for whether or not he carries it, that's the point of having a concealed handgun license in Texas. Potential criminals should assume everyone is. Does being under indictment make Tom DeLay a potential criminal? That's not the question.

Here's the question. Should Tom DeLay be allowed to carry a concealed handgun? Email us your thoughts at or go to

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty. Up next, a crucial election that could determine the fate of the Middle East peace process. We'll go live to Jerusalem where they are counting votes right now from today's historic elections in Israel.

Plus, much more on our top story. The shakeup over at the White House. Is this a smart move? Paul Begala, Torie Clarke in today's "Strategy Session."

Plus, the war in Iraq. The Chairman of Senate Armed Services Committee John Warner is just back from Baghdad. Senator Warner standing by to join us live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: We'll go live to Jerusalem in a moment to get the results of the Israeli elections. First, let's check in with our Zain Verjee. She's joining from us the CNN global headquarters with a look at some other stories making news.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. U.N. diplomats say Abdul Rahman was freed today from a prison in his native Afghanistan. But they aren't saying where he went. Rahman faced the death sentence for converting from Islam to Christianity. This week, he asked for asylum in a western country, and today, Italy said it was considering granting him asylum.

And today the Supreme Court considered a key issue in the war on terror, the Bush administration's legal basis to set up military tribunals. The Bush administration says that international laws, including the Geneva Convention, don't apply to terror detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

The court is also considering the administration's claim that a recent law took away the court's rights to hear an appeal by Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's driver in Afghanistan.

And as Israelis voted in their historic election today, a majority in the Palestinian Parliament approved the Hamas-led government. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's new government will be sworn in this Thursday. It includes a 25-member cabinet with 20 Hamas members, and five independents -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, thank you very much.

At this hour, an Israel Election Day is ending with apparently some mixed results for the acting prime minister, Ehud Olmert. Exit polls show his centrist Kadima Party headed for victory, but by a smaller margin than some had expected. The vote was billed as a referendum on Olmert and his vision for the West Bank.

Let's bring in our senior political analyst Bill Schneider. He has traveled to Jerusalem. He is there on the scene for us with all of the latest.

Bill, what happened in Israel today?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, I always say that there is a phantom candidate called "expected" in any election. Did the party do better than expected, worse than expected, or about as well as expected? The Kadima Party did worse than expected, even though it came in first. It was not a clear cut vote of endorsement for Ehud Olmert's unilateral disengagement policy.

The Labor Party came in second, about as well as expected. The Likud Party of Benjamin Netanyahu did much worse than expected. This could be the end of Netanyahu's career, and it could possibly be the collapse of the Likud Party. The Russian Party, led by Avigdor Lieberman, did better than expected. Mr. Lieberman, who leads a party that's right wing and secular, will be a player in Israeli politics.

And the big surprise was that a new party of pensioners arguing for the rights of older Israelis, better pensions, that made a surprising showing with a lot of votes and a lot of seats -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to get back to you later, Bill, with all the latest results once the official results start coming in. Bill Schneider on the scene for us, covering these Israeli elections. Bill, thank you very much.

Up next, he's just back from Baghdad. I'll speak live with Senator John Warner about the war in Iraq. The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee is joining us, live here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Plus, a changing of the guard at the White House, but are today's moves enough to quiet critics? Paul Begala and Torie Clarke. They're standing by the "Strategy Session." Stay with us.


BLITZER: The Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John Warner is now back here in Washington after getting a firsthand look at the situation in Iraq. Growing public anxiety about the U.S. mission there is a central problem for President Bush and the Republican Party.

In an apparent response to political troubles over at the White House, President Bush today announced the resignation of his chief of staff, Andy Card. He'll be replaced by the current budget director, Josh Bolten.

Joining is here in THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about all of this is Senator John Warner, Republican of Virginia. Welcome back. Good to have you back here safe and sound from Iraq.


BLITZER: I know it's never easy doing that.

WARNER: Well, you speak from experience.

BLITZER: I've been there, but it's a tough situation.

WARNER: It is.

BLITZER: I know. Let's get to that in a moment. I want your reaction to this shakeup over at the White House. Is this enough, in effect, moving Andy Card out, whether willingly or not and moving Josh Bolten in? Is this just the step one or do you think more is needed?

WARNER: You know, that's something the president -- I was with the president this morning. He brought all of us who traveled to Iraq in the last week in, and Andy sat right across with me. I've worked with him. He's a very able person.

You know, everybody calls it a shake up, but stop to think. The president didn't go outside like previous administrations when they have problems. He stayed within his own close knit fraternity and brought Josh in.

BLITZER: He didn't bring in a Howard Baker like Ronald Reagan.

WARNER: Right, he didn't bring a Baker.

BLITZER: Well, should be have? Maybe he needs new blood in there.

WARNER: The president has high degree of confidence still in Andy Card and now Josh Bolten. So business as usual. I don't see it as a response to those who want him to make drastic changes. You know, he's our president for the next couple of years, and we have got to stand with him and make this great republic work. That's my attitude. BLITZER: Almost three years to go.


BLITZER: Your fellow Virginian, Republican Congressman Tom Davis, Northern Virginia -- this is what he said the other day. He said, "This is probably the worst administration ever in getting Congress's opinion on anything. The difference now is, instead of a 60 percent favorability rating, he's got 40 percent favorability, and a 40 percent that's not getting any better." Those are strong words from a man, your party, who you know well.

WARNER: I saw a perfect example, as a matter of fact, one of the better. And I've been around a long time, 28 years in this Senate. The president invited us in. He very much wanted to receive our views this morning. And there was Democrats and Republicans.


WARNER: Oh, no. No, he was listening very carefully. Carl Levin came along, three Democrats, three Republicans from our side. The House, a similar division, and it was a very good meeting with the secretaries of state and defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

BLITZER: And he brought in Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador ...

WARNER: He was right up on the screen.

BLITZER: ... on a video screen, a teleconference?

WARNER: I had the opportunity to question him, because I was concerned about this recent military action and whether that sort of sidetracked the -- what I called the central focus now on electing a unified -- not electing, but forming a unified government.

BLITZER: Which is the key issue right now.

WARNER: Which is the key issue. And ...

BLITZER: If they could get their act together, the Shia, the Sunni and the Kurd.

WARNER: They adjourned because of this military action, but then when the full facts began to come out that it was an Iraqi operation, just supported by our troops, and Rumsfeld showed the pictures. I urged him this morning to put the pictures out showing all of the armaments and weapons and everything stored in the buildings that were the object of the military operations.

BLITZER: You mentioned Carl Levin, the ranking Democrat on your committee, on the Armed Service Committee. He went to Iraq with you. On Sunday, upon his return, listen to this little clip of what his bottom line assessment was. Listen to this.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES CMTE.: Those leaders are fiddling while Baghdad is burning. It is gradually descending into civil war.


BLITZER: Those are strong words from Carl Levin. Are you as concerned that it's gradually descending into civil war?

WARNER: No, it's not there yet. But civil war is present in many ways if we do not do some strong things in helping the Iraqis to form that government. Now, Carl spoke very openly with the president this morning. I have a lot of respect. And the president turned to Carl, and he said, you know, there's sometimes things you can say that the rest of us just can't say.

BLITZER: To the Iraqis, you mean.

WARNER: Correct.

BLITZER: Did you guys deliver that message to the Iraqis?

WARNER: We sat side by side with the prime minister Jaafari and both of us expressed to him in unequivocal strong terms that need to put a unified government -- by unified, I mean all factions together -- in a reasonable period of time. He indicated to us he thought he could do it by the end of April -- when I say he, and other leaders -- or May.

I was worried when this action took place over the weekend militarily, and then they stopped holding their meeting. But we were assured by Ambassador Khalilzad and General Casey they're back this morning trying to put that government together.

BLITZER: Let's hope they can. Senator Chuck Hagel, also a Republican, he said the other day -- and I'm going to read it specifically what he said. He said, "I don't think Iraq's going to get better. I think it'll get worse." Chuck Hagel is a smart guy, Republican from Nebraska, member of the Foreign Relations Committee. You disagree with him?

WARNER: I disagree. I see a real opportunity that we're going to move forward. But as the president reminded us, and he's right, it's be a long, tough journey. But, Wolf, what is the result if we fail with the other nations to bring about some measure of democracy in that region? That will plunge it into civil war if we fail to help them help themselves.

They're the ones that got to do it. There's no military solution to this problem over there. It has to be a political solution. We've given them the opportunity. The Iraqi people triumphantly on December 15th gave them the election, and these people are not quickly coming together to do what they must do.

BLITZER: We can't want democracy and stability and peace in Iraq more than the Iraqis. They have to want it more than we want it for them.

WARNER: But you've got to remember these people have never had anything. The last was 1920s, when they had some vestige of it. And it takes them time to get adjusted to these circumstances and a free election. But we remind them constantly we're losing our young men and women. Dead and wounded.

And we grieve that. It's a very expensive proposition. And we have enabled them to achieve sovereignty. It is their nation. Now get on with your business and put it together. Because the American people are becoming restless.

BLITZER: Let's hope they can do that. We hope you delivered that message. I'm sure you did loud and clear. Senator Warner, good to have you back here in the United States. Thanks for doing the work you did.

Up next here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we'll have much more on our top story. Today's major moves over at the White House. Andy Card's out, Josh Bolten is in. Is the today's shuffle enough to quiet critics? Paul Begala and Torie Clarke, they're standing by live here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Let's check in right away with CNN's Zain Verjee at the CNN global headquarters. There's a story that's developing right now -- Zain.

VERJEE: Wolf, the defense rests. Zacarias Moussaoui's defense team has wound down its case in the sentencing trial of confessed al Qaeda member Zacarias Moussaoui. We're learning closing statements are now scheduled for Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. We'll bring you more information when we have it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, thank you very much for that.

Today in our strategy session, the White House chief of staff Andy Card calling it quits. Is this just the beginning of an even bigger shake up at the White House? Could more changes be on the way?

Joining us now, our CNN political analyst, Democratic strategist Paul Begala and former Pentagon spokeswoman, Torie Clarke. What do you think, Torie? Is this just the beginning of more changes on the way? The president has not ruled it out.

TORIE CLARKE, FORMER PENTAGON SPOKESWOMAN: I don't know. I think the president's taken a hard look at the challenges for the next few years, and he and Josh together will decide, "Do we have the right forces? Do we need some new ones." But they'll base it on what the substantive challenges are, not just because of any political pressure from either party.

BLITZER: Is this a good strategy for the president now to have a new White House chief of staff? You've served in the White House. You know the responsibilities of the chief of staff. You know what a new chief of staff like Josh Bolten might be able to do.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: First, let me say on behalf of Andy Card, that while I didn't agree with almost anything he did, I really admired his service and the longevity. But I think in his case, and many others, it went on for too long. And Bolten is not new. He started on day one with the president.

BLITZER: As a deputy chief of staff.

BEGALA: As a deputy chief of staff. Then, the director of the Office of Management and Budget where he inherited a projected $5 trillion surplus and now had delivered a $9 trillion debt, the greatest fiscal collapse in world history. And he's the guy who's going to now save the White House? I find that -- it's an odd move, and I think not a very wise one.

BLITZER: But you can't just blame him. You can't just blame him for that deficit.

BEGALA: No. That's exactly right. The president is ultimately responsible for his policies. But I think what the country wants is a change in direction, a new direction, not just new personnel. And this isn't even new personnel. This is, I think, very lame. I've said it before, he should start with Dick Cheney and finish with Barney the dog and fire the whole lot of them and bring in some people who have more energy.

CLARKE: The Democrats are going to lose the dog vote.

BLITZER: That's not going to happen. Talk a little bit in defense of Josh Bolten.

CLARKE: Sure, let's talk a little bit about Josh, because everybody feels as though they know him because he's been around for a while. But if you really know Josh -- I've known him since 1989 -- he is an extraordinary human being. He has Hill experience. He has private sector experience. He has overseas experience. He brings a lot of strength to the table.

A couple of the qualities that are most important, so trustworthy, so loyal, an incredibly hard worker. And he is unflappable. He is absolutely unflappable. His management style is very, very inclusive, which is good. He also recognizes and appreciates and incorporates inputs from people around the country, not just from Washington. I think it's a great move.

BLITZER: Here's what Andy Card said last week. He said, "I take responsibility for everything that has happened well." Excuse me. "I take responsibility for everything that has not happened well. I am the staffer responsible for the staff. When people are frustrated, they should be frustrated at me. It's my job."

When he said that he knew, apparently, according to White House officials, he had already offered his resignation. The president had been mulling it over for a few weeks. BEGALA: Right. I don't know Andy well. I knew him a little bit before he was the chief of staff. And he's a very good person. He's very well thought of. Worked very, very hard. Also, a person of real integrity and real decency. The problem is, those who were never competent when they came in are still there, and those who were competent but are now burnt out are still there.

BLITZER: Torie, because you have a good pulse, you have a good sense. I have been told a week or two ago that there was a chance that Andy Card would be moved out, someone else like Josh Bolten would be moved in, but that Andy Card might emerge as the new secretary of the treasury replacing John Snow.

But apparently, some people are now suggesting that he might not have been able to get confirmation, or at least there it would have been a bloody Senate confirmation process, given his five years in the White House. Have you heard that? Is that something that is on your radar screen?

CLARKE: I haven't heard that. I think it's safe to assume that anyone this administration puts forward to be confirmed for anything is going to have a battle just because that's the way the town is now. I have not heard that.

But again, I think he and the president and Josh sat down and said, "Let's do what we think is best for this administration, and most importantly, what's best for the country." I don't think it had much at all to do with Andy's other considerations of what he wanted to do.

BLITZER: Here's what Chuck Schumer said. "The good news is the administration has finally realized it needs to change its ways. But the problems go far deeper than one staffer. Simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic by replaces Andy Card with Josh Bolten without a dramatic change in policy will not right this ship." Do you think that that's a fair point that Schumer is making?

CLARKE: It's actually quite unoriginal for Chuck Schumer. He's usually cleverer with his criticisms. And I have to say, you know, I appreciate what Paul said about Andy's service. Can't these people in this town give someone one day? Can't they appreciate the willingness of these people to serve, understand how hard it is, and just give them one day? I just think some of the comments from some of the Democrats are a little on the tacky side.

BLITZER: What do you think?

BEGALA: Well, we asked them -- we the media asked them to go onto the next story. And it is important to give Andy his due. And by the way, I think he'll have a great post-White House life. I certainly did. I think Torie's done extraordinarily well since leaving the Pentagon. I wish she were still there.

But I think that's a good point. But more importantly now, where do we go from here? And I think Chuck is wrong. I think he overstates it when he says it's rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It's moving the salad fork over two centimeters on the beautiful silverware.


BLITZER: He says he would like you back at the Pentagon. There are a lot of people, Torie, that would like you back in another position, maybe over at the White House itself. In fact, I've spoken with White House officials who look at your book -- and I'll give you a plug -- "Lipstick on a Pig: Winning in the No-Spin Era by Someone Who Knows the Game." They would like to you come back, if you'd be interested.

CLARKE: You know, what did Sherman say? "If nominated, won't run. If elected, will not serve." Not happening.

BEGALA: It would be great for America. It would be bad for CNN. I want you to stay here. I like hanging out with you, and I learn a lot from you.

BLITZER: Just think. You could go from THE SITUATION ROOM to the real Situation Room in the West Wing. That would be a nice move.

CLARKE: Oh, it would be hard to top this, Wolf. It would be hard to top coming here once or twice a week.

BLITZER: Paul Begala, thanks very much. Torie, thanks for you. We're happy you're here in THE SITUATION ROOM with us.

CLARKE: Thank you, sir. Me, too.

BLITZER: Coming up, a history of staff shakeups over at the White House. Have past presidents been helped when they refill top jobs?

And our exclusive CNN interview with the president of the United States on the changing of the guard at the White House, the new political showdown over immigration. The full interview, that's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: At the White House this hour, they're probably not changing the nameplates on the doors yet, but they're certainly gearing up for the big switch announced today by the president, the big switch in the chief of staff's office. Our senior analyst Jeff Greenfield has been thinking about this shakeup, past shakeups. Jeff's joining us now live from New York. Hi, Jeff.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, Wolf, there are times when a change in the top levels of an administration is big news. This is not one of those times. Not hardly. Andy Card isn't being drummed out to signal a new attitude, the way Ronald Reagan replaced Don Regan with Howard Baker and Ken Duberstein. He is not resigning on principle or any disagreement on policy.

But since it is the compulsory topic of the day among political junkies, let's look this occasion to revisit a question we raised just two weeks ago. When a presidency does undergo a major shake up, does it make a difference? Sometimes yes, usually no.


RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I accepted the resignations of two of my closest associates in the White House.

GREENFIELD: It sure didn't save Richard Nixon in 1973 when the Watergate scandal exploded in the spring and he fired top aides H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman. Nixon was out by August of the following final year.

And it sure didn't help Jimmy Carter in 1979 when, just days after a major speech on a crisis of the national spirit, he fired several members of his cabinet. Carter barely staved off a primary challenge from Ted Kennedy and lost to Reagan in a landslide in 1980.

President Reagan actually had two big shake ups. After his 1984 reelection, Treasury Secretary Don Regan swapped jobs with chief of staff Jim Baker. Don Regan proved that he could not work and play well with others.


GREENFIELD: And after the Iran-Contra story threatened to sink the ship of state, President Reagan brought in Howard Baker, Ken Duberstein, and other Washington pros. That's the shakeup everyone remembers as a magic bullet.

But when the first President Bush got in trouble in 1992 and Secretary of State Jim Baker was brought in to oversee the reelection fight, it proved no help at all. Bush lost with the lowest share of the popular vote for any incumbent since William Howard Taft.

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE STAFFER: The rumors about some sort of shakeup...

GREENFIELD: When Bill Clinton's first term got shaky, he brought in perennial White House aide David Gergen, who worked mostly with Republicans, and put budget director Leon Panetta in as chief of staff.

The two were supposed to provide adult supervision. As later developments showed, the White House personality most in need of adult supervision was occupying the Oval Office.


GREENFIELD: Now, if Defense Secretary Rumsfeld were to leave with unnamed White House aides leaking -- privately, of course -- stories of the president's unhappiness, that would be news. If the vice president were be to step, down that would be really big news.

But anyone that can fine a sign or portent when one high-ranking, long-serving aide is being replaced by another high-ranking aide who served just as long, really needs to try the decaf -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that. Jeff Greenfield, always a pleasure having you in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, if you live in California, the governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, wants your vote. He could face an uphill battle in his reelection. Now, the governor is unveiling a new weapon to win.

And it's among many Americans' worst nightmare, terrorists smuggling into the United States dangerous materials to build a so- called dirty bomb. Government investigators were able to do it, and they're telling how they did it in a new report. We're going to show it to you. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Arnold Schwarzenegger is back on our political radar today. The California governor re-airing his first reelection campaign ad in select markets across the state. The spot credits Schwarzenegger for reducing California deficit and creating thousands of new jobs. And it highlights the work he did during his first term in office, not the latter years when his support plummeted. He's airing those ads now.

A federal appeals court ruled today that Democratic congressman Jim McDermott violated federal law by giving reporters an illegally taped phone call nearly a decade ago.

The decision upheld a lower court ruling that McDermott violated the rights of Congressman John Boehner, who has since been elected the House majority leader. In the call, Boehner was heard talking about an ethics probe of the former House speaker Newt Gingrich. McDermott has been ordered to pay Boehner more than $700,000.

We want to follow up now on a story you first heard right here in THE SITUATION ROOM last night. We told you undercover federal investigators were able to slip radioactive materials into the United States. The so-called dirty bomb test was the subject of a Senate Homeland Security subcommittee hearing this afternoon. The report detailing those security lapses was just put online, as well. Let's bring in our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton. She has more -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, one of the things these federal investigators were looking at is how easy it would be to fake a license to get these radioactive materials across the border using documents they found on the Internet. The licenses are issued by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. They are not available online. The templates are not on this Web site.

We spoke to someone on the commission who said that this agency has actually been taking things off the Web site, anything that might be sensitive or could be misused by terrorists.

However, a few years ago, documents were available at this Web site. And when GAO investigators looked around on the Web, they found these templates elsewhere on the Web. We had a look ourselves, and it didn't take us long as well to find one of these licenses.

The investigators then manipulated them and used them at the border to get these radioactive materials across. CNN spoke to someone from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency who says that they're now looking at ways to cross-reference and verify these licenses at the border -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thanks very much.

Coming up, our exclusive CNN interview with the president. Mr. Bush talks about today's White House shakeup and about the political battle over immigration. That's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also, should Congressman Tom DeLay carry a concealed weapon? Jack Cafferty going through your email. Stay with us.


BLITZER: So how well do you know THE SITUATION ROOM? Our Internet reporter Jacki Schechner is here to test your trivia, maybe give you a chance to win a little bit of a prize.

What do you have in mind, Jacki?

JACKI SCHECHNER, INTERNET REPORTER: All right, Wolf. Here's the deal. The "Roll Call" newspaper has a crossword puzzle they printed today all about THE SITUATION ROOM. You can get a chance to win yourself a SITUATION ROOM t-shit. I have one. They're fabulous.

Here's what you do. You go to, and then scroll down. I'm going to show you where the crossword puzzle is. We thought we'd test your trivia knowledge, Wolf. One of the clues on it was "THE SITUATION ROOM'S very first guest. That would be five-down. Do you know who that was?

BLITZER: How many letters was that?

SCHECHNER: That was eight letters.

BLITZER: Yes, I remember that first show very well. It's always something you remember. It would be Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security secretary.

SCHECHNER: There you go. You can get a lovely look at my handwriting here. And then we wanted to bring in Jack and see if he could get one of these. I picked one I thought he might like. It is 116-across, Jack. "International anchor and SITUATION ROOM contributor."

CAFFERTY: This is just shameless promotion work here. This is just blatant commercialism, trying to spike the ratings and enhance the viewing audience of this program. What was the question?

SCHECHNER: Oh, come on. Say the name, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Daryn Kagan.

SCHECHNER: Oh, come on. Come on.

CAFFERTY: Got it wrong, didn't I?

SCHECHNER: I'm telling Zain. All right, guys.

VERJEE: I can't believe you got it wrong, Jack. I thought we had a special relationship.

CAFFERTY: Oh, yes. Well, we used to.

SCHECHNER: I tried, Zain. I tried.

VERJEE: Tends to go that way all the time.

BLITZER: All right, Jack. It's your turn for "The Cafferty File."

CAFFERTY: That's awful. That's like a violation of the payola laws or something. Do I get a shirt, by the way?


CAFFERTY: I want a shirt.

Representative Tom Delay wants his permit to carry a concealed gun back in Texas. They took it away from him in January when he was indicted on felony charges. The question is, should Tom DeLay be allowed to carry a concealed handgun? Some of these are not bad.

Don in Murray, Utah: "Tom DeLay needs to be concealed in a prison cell. Giving that miscreant a weapon is simply ludicrous."

Merle in Brooklyn writes, "Tom DeLay should only be allowed to carry a concealed weapon when he goes hunting with Dick Cheney. And then, only for personal protection."

Ken in Columbia, South Carolina: "Why not? Last time I checked, a man was innocent until proven guilty." Boring, Ken.

Sam in Bastrop, Texas: "Yes. A water pistol should do nicely. I think Mr. DeLay has an inflated opinion of himself, like many who do business inside the Beltway today."

Dan in Des Moines writes, "You should at least, every 25th time or so, balance out your Republican insulting questions with a Democratic target. How about, should Hillary Clinton be allowed to wear a skirt in public?"

Manuel in Los Alamos, New Mexico: "No, he shouldn't get it back. If he needs protection, tell him to use some of the money Jack Abramoff gave him to hire a bodyguard."

And Peter writes, "three days of 'Dobbs Gone Wild' in Cancun. Can't wait."

I talked to John King. John says he's already preordered the "Lou Dobbs Gone Wild" videotape, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jack, for that.