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The Situation Room

Iran Moves Closer to Nuclear Weapon; New Lows for President Bush; Bill Clinton's Gospel

Aired April 11, 2006 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.
Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you tonight's top stories.

Happening now, Iran does something it's never done before, successfully enrich uranium. Is it just a peaceful pursuit of nuclear power or is it part of a worrisome plot to pursue a nuclear weapon?

Also, a sinking feeling, very sinking for President Bush. His poll numbers appear to have a heavy rock attached to them. Already low approval ratings go down even more. Could they sink the hopes of Republicans in Congress this election year?

And is Arnold Schwarzenegger going green? The Republican governor of California is making some surprising comments right now about the environment. That's putting him squarely at odds with other Republicans, including President Bush.

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

Right now the White House is dealing with two troubling developments, one political, the other nuclear. Here at home, the president's already low poll numbers continue to sink. Meanwhile, Iran says it's enriched uranium for the first time, moving that country closer toward developing nuclear fuel, potentially a nuclear bomb.

CNN's Bill Schneider is standing by with the new poll numbers. We'll get to him in a moment.

Let's begin our coverage, though, with our Brian Todd. He's covering the Iran story -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in making this bold announcement on his nuclear program, Iran's president stressed more than once his nation seeks peace. U.S. officials say that nation has chosen the path of defiance.


TODD (voice over): Dancers chanting "God is great," holding two canisters of uranium. Is this patriotic show a prelude to Iran's first nuclear weapon? Standing by a banner that reads in English, "Using atomic energy is our certain right," Iran's president makes an announcement watched around the world.

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The nuclear fuel cycle at the laboratory level has been completed, and uranium, with the desired enrichment for nuclear power plants, was achieved.

TODD: Experts tell CNN this means Iran has enriched uranium to the quality needed for nuclear power plants, but it's not enough in volume to run those plants or produce a nuclear weapon.

DAVID ALBRIGHT, FMR. U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: And that's going to take them at least three years before they can have a nuclear weapon.

TODD: And possibly longer because of technical problems in nuclear development. But in going ahead, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is openly defying U.N. and Western calls for Iran to give up all nuclear activity.

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: If Iran continues down this pathway of defiance, you will see a parallel increase in the pressure on Iran from the international community.

TODD: Pressure that might include U.N. sanctions or even U.S. military action. But the White House says diplomacy must be used first, and the defense secretary had this response to reports of U.S. plans for a preemptive nuclear strike...

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It's a country that has indicated an interest in having weapons of mass destruction, so obviously the president has indicated his concern about the country, but it is just simply not useful to get into fantasy land.


TODD: Iran insists it is not developing uranium for weapons, claiming U.N. nuclear monitors have seen its whole program. But it's not clear if those inspectors witnessed the most recent enrichment. And experts are worried that Iran might decide to accelerate its nuclear program to the point of being on the verge of a weapon ahead of all the predictions -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, thank you very much.

So, how worried should the world be about Iran's nuclear ambitions?

Our Tom Foreman is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's looking into this specific question.

Tom, what are you picking up?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's look at what they have right now.

Nuclear-related facilities in Iran at this moment cover a good portion of the -- of this country here. You can see them all highlighted there by the yellow markers there. Chemical, biological weapons facilities, as suspected, are in those areas, and missile- related facilities are all around here, too. They're in green there.

So you get a sense of it spread all over the country. But let's go in for a closer look at one of these facilities and the reason people are feeling nervous about these things and want to know if we can call things safe here.

This is called the Natanz facility. Look at this from the air, satellite pictures of this area.

This particular area is what the people of Iran are saying is their nuclear program. But what people are interested in, security analysts, is the area above it. Look at that dirt up there, because that has not always been just dirt. Here are some pictures from just a few years ago, and they give you a better sense of what was once going on.

Look at this. A large amount of construction, big tunnels, roads. We've seen this before. The security analysts have looked at these underground facilities.

Iran says they have to be underground because it protects them from people like us. The question is, is that really the reason? Because it's most assuredly underground now. That was a picture from a few years ago.

Look at it now as time has changed. Now it looks like a big dirt field. This is the area they're claiming, once again, but look at a picture from just a few days ago. This is what it looks like, nothing but dirt and empty field, but we know there's a tremendous amount of technology underneath there.

We don't know precisely what it's for. But we know with the missiles they have now, let's cut out to the broader picture all of a sudden, and look at what we've got here. The range of the missiles they have now, especially if they put nuclear warheads on them, that's Iran, that's the range, about 1,300 miles in all directions, all the way down into India, up into Russia, into Africa, over Israel, over Saudi Arabia, and even into parts of Europe.

That's why we're so curious what's underground there, what we know about and what we don't know about.

BLITZER: And they're digging deep, deep underground to make sure that U.S. bombs, at least conventional bombs, can't get to some of those facilities.

FOREMAN: And you see the evidence there. You can't tell it. Once it is in place and the satellite flies over, they've laid the earth in exactly as it was before. There's no sign of it.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman, thanks very much.

We're going to have more on this story coming up, but there's another source of anxiety tonight for the Bush White House. That would be those new poll numbers that don't bode well for the president or his Republican Party in this congressional election year.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is crunching the numbers -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, three new polls all with the same message: things are going from bad to worse for the Bush administration.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): How bad has it gotten for President Bush? Poll after poll shows the president's job rating at new lows. But that's not the worst of it.

Nearly half the public, 47 percent, say they strongly disapprove of the way President Bush is handling his job. Only 20 percent strongly approve. This man is not alone in his.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In my lifetime, I have never felt more ashamed or nor more frightened by my leadership in Washington, including the presidency, by the Senate.

SCHNEIDER: Public disapproval of Bush's handling of Iraq, 62 percent. Immigration, 61 percent. Gas prices, 74 percent. The White House is trying to promote a rosy picture of the economy but the public doesn't smell any roses. Disapproval on the economy, 59 percent.

The political impact is likely to be felt at the polls this November. In the new CBS News poll, only 14 percent of registered voters say their vote for Congress this fall will be a vote for President Bush, 35 percent intend to register a vote against the president.

Is it as bad for Bush now as it was for Clinton in the is the 1994 midterm when Democrats lost control of Congress? Worse. In 1994, only 18 percent said their congressional vote was a statement against the president. Now, nearly twice as many voters feel that way.


SCHNEIDER: Any good news for the White House? Well, yes.

In the "Washington Post"-ABC News poll, a narrow majority of Americans did not think President Bush should be censured for authorizing wiretaps without court approval, and two-thirds did not think Congress should impeach him and remove him from office -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider reporting for us.

Bill, thank you very much.

And these are live pictures, by the way, that we're seeing coming into THE SITUATION ROOM now from Des Moines, Iowa. This is Air Force One bringing the president back to Washington to Andrews Air Force base outside Washington. Air Force One taking off from Des Moines right now with the president and his entire party. The president speaking earlier in the day on prescription drug benefits for senior citizens in Iowa.

Jack Cafferty joining us now from New York with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: He does that pretty much every day, doesn't he, fly out somewhere and give a speech?

BLITZER: He does that very often. But all presidents, Jack, in fairness, do that.

CAFFERTY: Every day?

BLITZER: Bill Clinton used to do it sometimes twice a day. I covered the White House under Bill Clinton, and he was definitely a guy who liked to travel.


Iran continues to thumb its nose at the rest of the world. It's hard to know how seriously to take them. They deny working on developing nuclear weapons, while at the same time they brag about being able to enrich uranium.

Iran is a member of OPEC. Lots of oil. In fact, they are the fourth largest exporter in the world. So any disruption in the flow of oil from there could hurt oil markets around the world.

In addition, Iran sits right on the Persian Gulf. And the country's president has hinted that he would stop the flow of crude through the Gulf from other Middle East countries if the West pushes the wrong way.

Iran has also vowed to wipe Israel off the map.

It's all pretty scary stuff. And when you add in that "New Yorker" report that the Bush administration is considering using tactical nuclear weapons to wipe out Iran's nuclear facilities, well, it gets really scary.

So here's the question: How serious a threat is Iran?

E-mail your thoughts to or go to I'll be back later, but I have to catch a plane and go give a speech on Staten Island.

BLITZER: You got Air Force One waiting for you?

CAFFERTY: No. It's a little open cockpit biplane.

BLITZER: Well, it's better than nothing.

CAFFERTY: Jack, thanks very much. Coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM, Bill Clinton's gospel. The former president of the United States speaking out on sinning and voting values.

Also, Arnold Schwarzenegger going green. Find out why he's defying the White House to clamp down on polluters.

And the wife of an American hostage breaks her silence for the first time in a year. She makes a direct appeal to her husband's captors. I speak with her here in THE SITUATION ROOM. This is an interview you're going to see, a very emotional, poignant interview, only on CNN.


BLITZER: He's standing by to speak live, retired U.S. Army General George Joulwan, the former NATO supreme allied commander. I'll ask him if he thinks Donald Rumsfeld should step down. That's coming up shortly.

In our "Culture Wars" tonight, the political gospel, according to Bill Clinton. He's preaching the virtue of talking about faith and values.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, has that -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, if you're a Democrat looking for the road to victory, who are you going to call? You know exactly who.


CROWLEY (voice-over): Offering up a kind of playbook on the good book, former President Bill Clinton suggested at a party fund-raiser that Democrats could not only get in the debate, but win it.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't have to be afraid of our values. And for those of us who are about to celebrate Easter, the number-one admonition in the New Testament for citizens was not to forget the poor. That's mentioned over 500 times. You can't find all that stuff they talk about mentioned over two or three times, if at all.

CROWLEY: In the past 35 years, only two Democrats, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, have won the White House. Both spoke openly about religion. It doesn't take a leap of faith to believe there's a message there.

W. CLINTON: Is that the Democrats make a terrible mistake if we act like it's illegitimate to be a values voter.

CROWLEY: It has been an axiom of recent presidential politics that the all-Republican South and the mostly Republican interior West is due in no small part to the president's ability to relate to people, not just where they live, but how they live. Bill Clinton tells the story of a Louisiana minister, a friend who recently admitted he voted for Bush.

W. CLINTON: As a matter of fact, he said he wanted to make a confession to me.


W. CLINTON: And I thought, that was pretty good, having a Pentecostal preacher confess to the world's most famous sinner.


W. CLINTON: So, I listened to what he said to say.

CROWLEY: The bottom line here from the first Democrat since FDR to be elected to a second term: Democrats need to talk more about religion, as it guides their politics, on issues like, say, immigration.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: It is certainly not in keeping with my understanding of the scriptures, because this bill would literally criminalize the good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself.

CROWLEY: Apparently, some people have been listening.


CROWLEY: Still, politics and religion, even when couched in the more generic term values is a touchy mix. One Republican consultant recently publicly advised Democrats to kind of lay off during the primary season, suggesting that if Democratic primary voters wanted to hear about spirituality, they would be Republicans -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy, thank you very much.

The California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is now talking green. He was the headliner at a climate action summit in San Francisco, where he called for dramatic moves to combat global warning.

CNN's Chris Lawrence is following the story. He's joining us now live -- Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the governor showed his independent streak by taking this stand on global warming, and it's put him on the opposite side of a lot of other Republicans.


GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: We are showing everyone that we believe nothing is more important than protecting our environment.

LAWRENCE (voice over): Arnold Schwarzenegger is talking green. California's Republican governor was the star at this climate action summit in San Francisco.

SCHWARZENEGGER: I want to hear your views. I want to hear your ideas. I want to hear about your experiences. So let's listen to common sense and find common ground.

LAWRENCE: Schwarzenegger wants California to cut so-called greenhouse gas emissions which many believe are linked to global warming.

SCHWARZENEGGER: Let's work together to create a mandatory reporting system for carbon emissions. We know that we can't reduce emissions unless we have market-based solutions like trading mechanisms.

LAWRENCE: It's a bold move for an embattled governor trying to get reelected. Schwarzenegger's stance puts him at odds with some inside his own party, as well as business leader who say his proposals could cost the state jobs. It also puts him at odds with President Bush, who kept the United States out of the Kyoto protocol to avoid just the kind of restrictions Schwarzenegger is pushing.

He's critical of the White house on this issue, but Schwarzenegger has hired several of President Bush's former aides to work on his reelection campaign. The governor needs momentum from at least one issue. Voters defeated all of his initiatives in last year's special election. And political problems are holding back his $200 billion proposal to rebuild California's infrastructure.

Going green may give Schwarzenegger the boost he needs.

SCHWARZENEGGER: We rise to the occasion and provide an example to the rest of the world.


LAWRENCE: The governor criticized the federal government for falling short on environmental protection. That's a popular sentiment among a lot of Democrats and Independents, to California voters who supported Schwarzenegger the first time and who he needs to get reelected -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Chris, thank you very much.

Still to come tonight here in THE SITUATION ROOM, a radio talk show host advocates -- get this -- shooting immigrants at the border. Now the Arizona attorney general wants federal sanctions. We're going to have the story.

Also, the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, under fire and he's firing right back. Find out why some retired U.S. generals say it's time for him to step down.

And Newt Gingrich has tough talk on the war in Iraq. Does he have his own eye on the White House?


BLITZER: Tonight, the attorney general in Arizona is seeking federal sanctions against a talk radio station for its controversial comments on immigration. On the program, the fill-in host, Brian James, advocated shooting illegal immigrants as they crossed the border. The online community has gotten a hold of those comments. Let's get some of the specifics.

Our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner, watching this story -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, here's what happened. Brian James was filling in for Barry Young on KFYI in Phoenix, Arizona. He said the way to deal with immigration was to shoot people crossing the border. And the audio clip showed up on the liberal

But we want to play that audio clip for you in the context of the Web site. Take a listen.


BRIAN JAMES: ... illegals, we'll call it immigration roulette. What we'll do is randomly pick one night every week where we will kill whoever crosses the border.


SCHECHNER: Now, we talked to the radio station today. And they tell us that these were satirical comments, that their listeners understand that their programming is a mix of serious topics and commentary. And at the end of the broadcast they did air a disclaimer that said KFYI does not sanction shooting illegal immigrants.

Well, this was not enough for the Arizona attorney general and the U.S. attorney. They sent a letter to the FCC asking for sanctions, saying that this kind of language was threatening and inciteful.

Now, the attorney general's office admitted to us they had not heard the disclaimer, but they did send this letter. FCC had no comment. We contacted them today. But they did lead us to this portion of their Web site that talks about freedom of speech.

Now, as for that talk show host, Brian James, we'd like you to read his statement now. He says, "I do not in any way advocate the shooting of illegals. My satirical remarks were taken out of context. How much progress are we paying to the border issue when more attention is being paid to ramblings on the radio than to the growing problem of illegal immigration?"

So that's the story as we have it now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jacki, thank you very much.

Betty Nguyen is joining us now from the CNN Center in Atlanta with a closer look at some other stories making news -- Betty.


"This case is not going away." That is what the Durham County D.A. says about his investigation into allegations three members of the Duke University lacrosse team raped a woman. Attorneys for the players say DNA test results show the players are innocent. The D.A. says he is awaiting another set of DNA results.

Well, get ready for summertime sticker shock. The Energy Department predicts gas prices will average $2.62 a gallon during a busy summer driving month. That is 25 cents more than last summer, and prices could spike more if there is a hurricane or a refinery outage. The government expects prices to peak in May and then drop off in late summer.

Well, President Bush says it was a great place to grow up. Back in 1951, his family moved to 1412 West Ohio Avenue in Midland, Texas. Take a look.

Today, first lady Laura Bush was at the dedication of her husband's childhood home. So were the president's parents. The house has been entirely restored to look just like it did when the Bush family lived there.

And the jury in the Zacarias Mousse sentencing trial will hear the cockpit voice recorder from United Flight 93. It was the fourth plane hijacked on September 11, 2001. Everyone on board was killed when it crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. A transcript of the cockpit voice recording will be made public tomorrow -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Betty, thank you very much.

Just ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, top brass firing back at critics calling on the defense secretary to resign. It's the strongest Pentagon rebuttal so far. We have the details of what's being said. That's coming up.

Also, the wife of an American businessman kidnapped in Iraq speaks publicly for the first time one year to the day after his abduction. She'll join us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. An interview you'll see only here on CNN.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: More now on our top story, today's announced from Iran that it's enriched uranium for the first time. The defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, wouldn't comment on the announcement, saying he wants to wait and see what U.S. experts say. But Rumsfeld did say what he thought about reports the United States is considering military strikes against Iran to stem its nuclear ambition.

Listen to this.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: There is, obviously, concern about Iran. It's a country that is -- supports terrorists. It's a country that has indicated an interest in having weapons of mass destruction. So obviously the president has indicated his concern about the country. But it is just simply not useful to get into fantasy land.


BLITZER: Meanwhile, the defense secretary is also using some choice words to answer critics, including retired U.S. military officers who want him to resign or to be fired. Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is standing by with more on this. Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, the criticism continues to mount about the Iraq war, the war plan and whether or not Rumsfeld listened to potential critics when the war plan was being formed.

At today's briefing, it was really up to General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to defend Rumsfeld. The secretary is not a man who likes to talk about his own feelings, so he completely deflected the question of whether the criticism about the Iraq war plan is getting to him, but he did have a few things to say about it.


DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I don't know how many generals there have been in the last five years that have served in the United States armed services, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds. And there's several who have opinions, and there's nothing wrong with people having opinions. And I think one ought to expect that when you're involved in something that's controversial, as certainly this war is. One ought to expect that.


STARR: But, Wolf, make no mistake, what they're saying behind the scenes here very strongly is that all of the critics, all of these retired generals had plenty of opportunity to criticize and offer their opinions while they were on active duty, that there were some 50 or 60 meetings about the Iraq war plan, and none of these men raised their hand at the time and said that they objected to the war plan. So two sides to this one. Wolf?

BLITZER: Barbara, thank you very much.

Let's get some perspective now on these calls from retired military officers, including generals, for Donald Rumsfeld to go. Joining us, retired U.S. Army General George Joulwan, he's the former NATO supreme allied commander. General Joulwan, thanks for coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM.

GEN. GEORGE JOULWAN (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Good to be back, Wolf.

BLITZER: This is a sensitive subject but you have perspective. U.S. Army Major General Paul Eaton retired, someone I assume you know, wrote this the other day.

He said "In sum," referring to Rumsfeld, "he has shown himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically and is far more than anyone responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq. Mr. Rumsfeld must step down."

The argument that General Eaton and other generals make is that Rumsfeld had a mindset to do this war on the cheap, with minimal numbers of troops, and that's why the U.S. is stuck in Iraq three years later and why U.S. forces are dying.

JOULWAN: Even if all of that is true, it's the president that has the responsibility to appoint secretaries of defense and it's the president's responsibility to ask them to resign. That's where the buck stops.

And what you're feeling now or hearing now is a great deal of frustration by both the active and retired community and what you've quoted as a retired community, about a management style.

I heard those same things back in the Vietnam War with McNamara and his team. And we've had different secretaries of defense over the years that have had their own style of how to operate as secretary of defense.

But it's the president. If he is satisfied with the way Rumsfeld is running the Department of Defense, then the president is the one that is making that decision.

BLITZER: Listen to Lieutenant General Greg Newbold, who was in charge of operations before the war, what he wrote in "Time" magazine this week.

"The cost of flawed leadership continues to be paid in blood. We need fresh ideas and fresh faces. That means as a first step replacing Rumsfeld and many others unwilling to fundamentally change their approach."

What's the mentality, a four-star general, a three-star general meets with the defense secretary, the defense secretary is hell bent on doing what he wants to do. The generals or general disagrees. At what point do you stand up and say, Mr. Secretary, I have to resign?

JOULWAN: You have hit the nail on the head. It's our responsibility as military leaders to stand up and be counted on tough issues, and if that's not done, if they cannot take the intimidations, the micro management by this Department of Defense, which there is, if they don't stand up and have the moral courage to stand up and defend their troops and the mission that they've been assigned, then it's their issue, their problem.

I would hope there would be more of that. I've been saying that for a long time. This does not mean you don't support the troops or you don't support the war even. But it's the method, the tone. And I would hope the secretary would realize all of this. And the micro management, though, has got us into a situation where I think we are today.

BLITZER: The argument was -- that you've heard it, it's written in "Cobra II," this new book by retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Bernard Trainor, Michael Gordon of "The New York Times," that Rumsfeld used to browbeat these generals into submission point after point.

In the end they just would throw up their hands. "Rumsfeld did not trust the generals to sent the minimum forces necessary to win and secure the peace and he wanted to cut off the flow of reinforcements and support unit if they were deemed unnecessary once the war was under way."

Those are pretty strong words.

JOULWAN: When an officer makes four-star general, if he doesn't have the cojones to stand up and be counted on tough issues and to push back, then he shouldn't be wearing four stars, as far as I'm concerned.

If he gets intimidated by a secretary of defense to the point where he won't give his best, his honest, clear advice and push that issue until a decision is made, then he shouldn't be wearing four stars.

We've had too much of that. And I think we've got to get more officers to stand up and be counted at the table, when they're on active duty. I think you're going to see more of that because there is a degree of frustration with the way things are going.

BLITZER: What are you hearing from your friends at the Pentagon, the top three, four-star generals right now behind the scenes? How frustrated, how angry are they with Rumsfeld?

JOULWAN: Many of them very much so, particularly the last two or three years. The issue was, they don't trust us. The team that Secretary Rumsfeld has surrounded himself with doesn't trust the military.

That was the perception of many. I'm sure there are some that feel they're on the inside, able to contribute, but there isn't the debate, the dialogue that is needed, I think, to get the best possible military advice.

And I would hope the president, in particular, and the cabinet officials, particularly the secretary of defense, would change their ways and draw the military in.

Even if they disagree with them, to listen to them and to really get them to understand the way to carry out a war plan is have a say in constructing that war plan. BLITZER: We're out of time, but I have to ask you this question. Would the country be better off, would the U.S. military be better off right now if the president found a new defense secretary?

JOULWAN: I'm going to leave that up to the president of the United States. All I would say is that we all are accountable. That includes the secretary of defense and the president, for what's going on in Iraq right now. And history will judge them accordingly. But I believe the decision of Secretary Rumsfeld's firing or not firing goes to the president of the United States.

BLITZER: General Joulwan, thanks very for joining us.

Up ahead, coming up, a wife appeals for her husband's release exactly one year to the day after he was kidnapped in Iraq. The family has remained silent about this case until now. Stay with us for this interview.

And Newt Gingrich, critical of the Iraq war. We're going to tell you what he is saying right now. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Today marks exactly one year since American businessman Jeffrey Ake was kidnapped outside Baghdad. And on this grim anniversary his wife is speaking out publicly for the very first time with a direct plea to the kidnappers. This is an interview you'll see only on CNN.


BLITZER: And joining us now is Liliana Ake, the wife of Jeffrey Ake. Our heart goes out to you, Liliana. I know this has been an awful year. One year ago today, your husband was abducted in Iraq. This interview is being seen on CNN and CNN International. Tell us what you would like to tell the abductors, those who took your husband away a year ago?

LILIANA AKE, WIFE OF HOSTAGE: I have a statement for them. One year ago, Jeff Ake, my husband and father of four, was taken hostage where he remains today. He was in Iraq, making certain that the Iraqi people have fresh, good water to drink. To the individuals who are holding my husband Jeff, you have had one year to know him. For that reason, Jeff's family and all our friends continue to believe Jeff is still alive, and you are responsible for his safety.

When you kidnapped Jeff, you contacted me at my residence, and we discussed matters of importance to us both. My telephone number remains the same, and my willingness to continue this dialogue remains as strong as it was before. In order to resolve this matter and secure Jeff's release, you must call me again. Jeff should be able to give you the number. Please take the next step to release my husband and return his children's lives to normal. Thank you.

BLITZER: Liliana, you've been silent, basically, for a year. Why have you decided now to go on television and make this appeal? AKE: I think that, for the whole year, I was hoping to hear again from Jeff's abductors. And I never doubted that he is still alive, and right now, it's been a whole year. I think it's time.

BLITZER: When you heard from them, initially, what did they say to you?

AKE: Well, they said that they were holding him, and that they would destroy him if I don't cooperate with them.

BLITZER: What did they want you to do? Did they have any specific demands? Did they want money?

AKE: Yes, they did.

BLITZER: And then what happened?

AKE: And then they disappeared.

BLITZER: Then you never heard again.

AKE: They contacted me -- I never heard again from them as of May 1st. Last year.

BLITZER: Did someone call you on the phone or did they send a letter? How did they get that message to you?

AKE: They called me on my home number.

BLITZER: And how did you verify that these were the real abductors, that these were the people that actually held Jeff?

AKE: Well, when they called me, first I was shocked. I was expecting something to happen. They could not just take him without contacting me or somebody else. And then, when they called me, I said, I don't know if it's my husband or not. And I asked them several questions, and then when they called me back, they delivered the answers which only Jeff knew.

BLITZER: So that confirmed that they did in fact have Jeff. You were receptive to their initial demands, but then you never heard from them again. I know you have been working with experts in this area. What advice have they been giving you about going public, not going public, reaching out to them, not reaching out to them ...

AKE: Well, I think, living in America, America is a free country, nobody made me do anything I didn't want to. It was my free choice not to do anything, because I was just afraid for Jeff's life. I didn't know whether my request or plea will help him or will harm him.

BLITZER: And so basically, except for those first few days, you have not had any contact, not heard anything. There was that picture of him that appealed on Al Jazeera that was very shocking. Remind our viewers what you saw then. AKE: I tell you that, I just -- when I looked at that picture, I was shocked, and I just prayed that Jeff would be safely released. Frankly speaking, when you are in shock, and in psychological trauma, you cannot make the decision which would be right or wrong.

BLITZER: What has this year been like for you, Liliana?

AKE: It was a very, very hard year. I haven't slept all year. I wake up in the middle of the night at 1:00 and I cannot sleep.

BLITZER: What about the children?

AKE: The children are suffering. We have four children, and being without their dad and celebrating their birthdays and Christmas was never the same, and they are afraid. And my little boy always says, my dad is in Iraq. Every time he sees the plane, he says it's his dad returning home.

BLITZER: How old are your children?

AKE: My children are 3 and half, and one little girl will turn 7 April 19th. Then 9 and a half and 16 and a half.

BLITZER: Your husband, Jeff, went to Iraq as a civilian. Tell our viewers why he went to Iraq to begin with.

AKE: Well, it was not the first time he went to Iraq. And Jeff has traveled to over 60 countries. He's been to Egypt, he's been to Kuwait, he's been to Korea. And he embraced every culture. So he sold the machine, it was not the first machine he told, and he wanted to make it work better and train employees. And the first time he went there, everything went really well. When he was second time, he was abducted.

BLITZER: When the abductors initially contacted you, did they have any political statements, did they make -- did they seem to make any political demands, or was it simply ransom money that they wanted?

AKE: You know, Wolf, I think it was both. Most of all, probably they wanted money, but they tried to say something about American troops, but it was pretty much vague.

BLITZER: Pretty much it was money that they wanted, and then, of course, you didn't hear anything else.

I assume you were encouraged in recent weeks, with Jill Carroll, the American journalist, once she was released after a few months of being held in captivity. Did that have an impact on you?

AKE: Yes. I never actually doubted that Jeff is alive, and I never doubted that Jill Carroll would be released. And I'm celebrating her release. I'm very happy for her.

BLITZER: Because her family went public almost immediately, went on television, made direct appeals to the kidnappers to release Jill, and clearly that strategy worked. AKE: Yes, it did. That's why I decided to go public, as well.

BLITZER: Because of that.

So, what else if anything would you like to share with our viewers, Liliana, before I let you go back to your family?

AKE: I would like to thank you for letting me be with the public, and I want to thank everybody who continued to pray for us, who gave me financial support, spiritual support. I want to thank my church, service league, Laporte Rotary Club, my dearest friends, and thank you everybody, all America, who sent me encouraging letters. Thank you for praying. Please keep praying for us.

BLITZER: And if Jeff by some miracle might be watching this right now, what would you like to say to him?

AKE: I would like to tell him that I love him and I want him back.

BLITZER: Liliana, good luck to you, good luck to your family, good luck to Jeff. We're hoping for the best. Thanks for sharing your message with our viewers on CNN and CNN International.

AKE: Thank you very much. May the good Lord bless you.


BLITZER: And up ahead, Newt Gingrich and Hillary Clinton, the political odd couple these days. What do they share in common? Stay with us for that.

Also -- Air Force One online, with some very sensitive information available for anyone to see. We're going to update you on this story. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The bottom line, markets down across the board with concerns about oil prices, inflation, and Iran's nuclear program sparking a broad sell off.

If you could look up political lightning rod in the dictionary, pictures of both Hillary Rodham Clinton and Newt Gingrich might be there. The senator and the former House speak are partisan rivals and possible presidential rivals. But they share a new willingness to take aim at the Bush administration.

Our Mary snow has been following this odd couple. She's joining us now live from New York -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there's is tough talk on different topics and it's gaining attention. Senator Clinton invoked memories of the Nixon era, and Newt Gingrich sounded off about what he considered a major mistake of the Iraq war. SNOW (voice-over): Senator Hillary Clinton and former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich may have more in common than their possible presidential bids, and this joint appearance on health care legislation last year.

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UVA CENTER FOR POLITICS: They both have excellent political antennae.

SNOW: And they both have tough words for the Bush administration. In a speech Monday at the University of South Dakota, Gingrich called for a scaling back of U.S. troops in Iraq, and said the U.S. should not have occupied the country after June of 2003, when Paul Bremer was in charge of the occupation force.

NEW GINGRICH, FORMER REPUBLICAN HOUSE SPEAKER: We imposed an American who not only disbanded the Iraqi army, which meant we had to police the streets, which is a stunningly bad idea, but we also ended up with this American giving a speech once a week on television.

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: What he hopes is that other candidates in the Republican Party will pick up on his ideas of reform and make them the battle cry of 2008. And if they do not do that, if they are not reform minded, then yes, I do indeed think he will seriously consider a run for the presidency.

SNOW: Meantime, Senator Hillary Clinton invoked the name of Richard Nixon during a Bloomberg TV interview, when referring to President Bush declassifying intelligence.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Presidents should know not to go too far. We saw it with Richard Nixon, you know, claiming national security to break into Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office, to break into the Democratic National Committee. Well, here we have a president at least giving an implicit go ahead ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this analogous to what Nixon did?

CLINTON: We don't know. We don't know.

SABATO: She's substituting the worse analogy possible in the Democratic Party mind, which is a comparison to President Richard Nixon and Watergate.


SNOW: Now, separately today, a White House spokesman was asked about President Bush's approval rating being close to Richard Nixon's. Spokesman Scott McClellan responded that he thinks the American people recognize the president is a strong leader -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Mary, for that.

And to our viewers, remember, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where political news is arriving all the time. CNN, America's campaign headquarters. Were sensitive technical details about Air Force One inadvertently released online? Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton is investigating -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, here is the document i question pertaining to Air Force One. Until yesterday, anyone could access this online. It was at the site of Robin's Air Force Base. The Air Force did take it down yesterday, after a reporter started asking questions.

We saved a copy. It is called a technical order. It's designed for firefighters and emergency personnel, includes layout information. Representatives of the Air Force tell us that it did contain sensitive information even though it was outdated and nonlife threatening, but given these changing times, things like this shouldn't be left online -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you very much. Abbi Tatton, reporting.

Let's find out what's coming up right at the top of the hour, in a few moments. Heidi Collins filling in for Paula tonight -- Heidi.


At the top of the hour, anger and impatience on two college campuses. Was a brutal crime committed in this house? If so, then why don't DNA tests connect any of the people who are under suspicion?

And you've heard of shock therapy. Well, did you know it's actually being used at a school for troubled children? We'll talk about that.

And are dirt and germs actually your children's best friends? Would you believe that might be OK?

At the top of the hour, why some experts are saying you can be too clean. How about that, Wolf?

BLITZER: We'll be watching, Heidi. Thank you very much. Heidi Collins filling in for Paula.

Your answers to our Web question of the hour. How serious a threat is Iran? Jack Cafferty is standing by. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Let's go right to Jack in New York -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: How serious a threat is Iran?

Gary in Los Angeles: "Iran is only as much of a threat as will gets votes for Republicans or make their cronies money. If Republicans couldn't use a round of scare voters with manipulated intelligence, and if Iran didn't have oil, would you see about as much focus on Iran as you now do on Osama bin Laden or North Korea. Remember them?" Foad in Los Angeles: "I am an Iranian, living in the U.S. 23 years. I'm a U.S. citizen. The Iranian government is a very serious threat, but it cannot be just the U.S. pursuing any sort of action with Iran. It can't be Iraq all over again. I think it is an instance where the U.N. has to be active.

Paula in New Mexico: "I can't say, but as a sovereign nation, what Iran does is Iran's business. If this country paid as much attention to its own deficiencies and issues as it does to those of other nations, Americans would be better off."

Mike in Stockbridge, Georgia: "Mullahs with guns equal totalitarianism in Iran. Mullahs with missiles equal a regional threat. Mullahs with nukes equal a world nightmare. There would be no place safe to sleep with these nuts running around trying to get the world to fall into their deranged way of thinking."

Gary in Louisville, Kentucky: "The final conflict always has and always will be about Islam versus Christianity. The only factor keeping things at bay is oil. It's our source of energy, their source of income because we want it that way. If we become energy independent or they become nuclear capable, the final countdown will begin."

And Joe in Tampa writes, "I hope you and Wolf have bicycles" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks Jack. Appreciate it very much. Let's stay in New York. Heidi Collins filling in for Paula -- Heidi.