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The Situation Room
President to Address the Nation on Immigration; Bush Hopes to Unite Republican Base; Controversy Surrounding NSA Tracking of Phone Calls
Aired May 15, 2006 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks Susan. And to our viewers you are in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information from around the world are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.
Happening now, new marching orders for securing the U.S.-Mexico border. President Bush only hours away from his prime time address on immigration. It's 4:00 p.m. here in Washington where the debate already is fierce over plans to deploy thousands of National Guard troops.
On Capitol Hill right now, new skirmishes in the immigration wars. Republicans are at odds over the president's new plan and many are in a political bind with Latinos demanding immigrant rights.
Also this hour, Americans raise red flags about the tracking of their phone records. We're examining some new poll numbers about the NSA surveillance program and they could spell more trouble for the president's choice to be CIA chief. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
It's a busy day here in Washington as we count down to the president's first Oval Office address on domestic issues. Four hours from now Mr. Bush is expected to formally announce his plan to send thousands of National Guard troops to the U.S. border with Mexico. And we've just learned moments ago from our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, that Mr. Bush will announce he wants to deploy 5,000 troops.
This move is widely seen as a bid to try to win support for immigration reform from conservatives demanding tighter border security. The politically divisive debate over immigration is under way right now on the U.S. Senate floor. Our congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel is standing by. Let's get the latest from our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the White House is closely watching that debate unfold. A red hot debate. President Bush has been practicing his speech. We're told it's going to last about 20 minutes or so. This is the first time that a domestic issue has been a prime time Oval Office address, really underscoring just how important this is for this administration and White House. The president has been under incredible amount of pressure from conservatives within his own party to come up with a plan that beefs up border security. That is what you're going to hear tonight, the centerpiece of his address. This is what it is going to include. A plan to deploy National Guard troops to support border patrols to enforce the border. It will be around, as Jamie McIntyre had reported, about 5,000 or so. That is less than three percent of the National Guard represented.
They would play a supporting role in logistics in setting up surveillance and logistics and conducting things like that. They would not be involved in apprehending illegal immigrants, and finally it would be on a temporary basis. This is something that would be under state control, but federally funded of course the long-term plan, the long-term vision is to increase the number of border patrol agents.
Another part of the plan the president is going to emphasize is the need for a guest worker program. That of course allowing illegal immigrants to work and perhaps stay in the country and earn citizenship.
President Bush's top political adviser Karl Rove earlier today highlighted that specific part of the plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL ROVE, DEPUTY W.H. CHIEF OF STAFF: I don't care if you're hunting deer in February or mowing the roads in the middle of the pasture in August, you'll find somebody carrying a plastic jug and a plastic bag, in the middle of the cold winter or the very hot summer, trying to desperately to get north in order to earn money to put food on the table for their families. We have to deal with the reality. On the other hand we have to deal with the reality that people die. I have seen a couple of corpses out there. I don't want to see them again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Wolf, really expect to hear some of that language as well, really trying to bring a human face to all of this to this big debate. This big problem. We expect of course how are they going to sell this plan? You saw Karl Rove. He has also been working behind the scenes as well as Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, working with members of Congress to push forward on a compromise. We will also see the president very publicly, on Thursday he visits Yuma, Arizona, a border town, of course, to highlight to sell this to members of congress.
BLITZER: This is a tough balancing act for the president, Suzanne. On the one hand he wants to appeal to the conservative Republican base and reassure them about border security. On the other hand the Republican party has been aggressively reaching out to the Hispanic community, the Latino community. How does he walk that delicate tight rope?
MALVEAUX: You're absolutely right, Wolf. It's a really delicate balancing act. On the one hand they realize they need the conservative base to come out for the November midterm elections in a really big way. They believe that's the key to winning both the majority in the House and Senate. At the same time they have to help the appease the Hispanic vote. They've been gaining on that score. They don't want to lose out now.
BLITZER: A tough act for the president. Let's see what he does later tonight. Suzanne. Thanks. Andrea Koppel is our congressional correspondent, she's watching all this unfold. The debate continues as we speak.
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The debate kicked off a few hours ago on amendments to that compromise legislation here in the Senate. But I had a rather lengthy conversation this afternoon with a senior GOP staffer who is plugged into the thinking up here. And what he said is that President Bush's speech tonight is not really geared towards the folks who are on the floor of the Senate right now.
That is the most conservative. Those who are most concerned about the impression of giving what they say is amnesty to 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants in this country. The Senator Cornyns, the Kyls, the Jeff Sessions. Rather what the president is hoping to do this evening is to appeal to the folks next door over in the House. They already passed their bill in December. It was a border security only bill.
And the hope is that if President Bush is able to reassure some of the people who may have been on the fence over there, who may have been thinking that this is going to be a repeat of 1986, that they will be able to kind of move them over a little bit to the left and get some kind of compromise between the House and Senate.
The expectation, Wolf, among both Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate is they will get some kind of compromise out by the time they head out for Memorial Day. They feel they have the votes there, even though they have opposition from Senators Cornyn and Kyl and Sessions and others.
They feel that they will be able to get a compromise bill out of the Senate. The big question is how do you merge the bill with the very tough House bill? The answer is hopefully, they think, President Bush able to reach out to them, gain their confidence that he is going to keep his eye right on the target of security but at the same time try to make sure that it is a realistic bill that they are able to get out of this conference committee if and when that happens sometimes later this year, Wolf.
BLITZER: This is interesting that Senator Kennedy, who is speaking on the floor right now. He's basically on line together with the Republican leadership, McCain and Kennedy, Frist and Reid. The Senate is not where the problem is. The problem is reconciling whatever happens in the Senate with what happens in the House.
KOPPEL: Absolutely, Wolf. Absolutely. And in fact we know because Senator Kennedy had signed on a number of weeks back with Senator John McCain in crafting this compromise legislation that morphed over a period of weeks and eventually gained even more supporters, but fell apart about a month ago when they couldn't get the agreement to have the debate that's going on right now on possible amendments and then on both the Democratic and Republican members of future conference committee, Wolf.
BLITZER: Andrea, thanks very much. Senator Kennedy is going to be joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM live. Andrea Koppel and Suzanne Malveaux part of the best political team on television. CNN, America's campaign headquarters.
The governors of the four border states with Mexico where National Guard troops would be sent are divided over the president's plan. California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and New Mexico Democratic Governor Bill Richardson are against it. Texas Republican Rick Perry and Arizona Democrat Janet Napolitano are for it. We're going to have a full report on where the governor's stand, that's coming up. Our John Roberts is looking into that story.
We'll also be gauging public reaction to the president's plan. We know this much about where Americans stand on immigration. Our most recent poll shows 69 percent favor increasing border security along with moves to make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to find jobs here in the United States. And 81 percent say they favor allowing illegal immigrants in the U.S. more than five years to apply for citizenship.
CNN will bring you extensive live coverage tonight before, during and after the president's speech. Starting at 7:00 p.m. eastern, we'll bring you a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM. My colleague Lou Dobbs will be joining us here in the situation room. That's followed by the president's address that begins live at 8:00 p.m. eastern. Then it's a special edition of "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" that comes at 8:30 p.m. eastern.
At 9:00 p.m. eastern Larry King is live from a California border crossing and finally a special edition of Anderson Cooper live from Chicago. "ANDERSON COOPER 360" 10:00 p.m. eastern. You'll want to stay with CNN throughout the night for continuing coverage.
There's a major diplomatic development we're following as well. Let's bring in our Zain Verjee from the CNN global headquarters in Atlanta with a closer look. Big breakthrough, I guess some would argue, today Zain.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, absolutely Wolf. After 27 years the U.S. is establishing full diplomatic relations with Libya. The State Department says it's going to remove the north African country from a list of states that sponsor terrorism.
Now, Libya was implicated in several terrorist attacks during the 1980s. Among them was the bombing attack on Pan Am flight 103 in 1988. Two hundred and seventy people died when the jet blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland. U.S. officials paid tribute to the families of the victims for helping to force Libya to change its policies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
C. DAVID WELCH, ASST. SECRETARY OF STATE: First of all, these families who have been through a tragedy that we hope is never again repeated played an important role in seeing these remarkable changes. I think their courage and commitment has to be recognized. This -- Libya is out of the terrorism business, and that has saved additional lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VERJEE: But in an interview on CNN International today relatives of the victims denounced the decision to restore ties.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANIE BERNSTEIN, WIFE OF VICTIM: I think it's quite clear that these -- the bombing could never have taken place nor could the bombing of the discotheque in Berlin have taken place without the direct orders from Gaddafi. And that is why far from being a happy day this is a sad day. It is a sad day in the history of human rights.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VERJEE: In other news, the captain of the Duke lacrosse team is denying charges that he raped a 27-year-old woman who was hired to dance at an off-campus party in March.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVE EVANS, CHARGED WITH RAPE: I am innocent. Reade Seligmann is innocent. Collin Finnerty is innocent. Every member of the Duke University lacrosse team is innocent. You have all been told some fantastic lies. And I look forward to watching them unravel in the weeks to come as they already have in weeks past, and the truth will come out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VERJEE: And Evans says that he passed a lie detector test given by a senior FBI agent. Evans held a news conference today just hours after a grand jury indicted him for rape, sexual assault and kidnapping.
Last month fellow lacrosse players Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann were charged with the same crimes and released on bail -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Zain, thanks for that. We will check back with you shortly.
The president's choice to be the CIA director is bracing for what promises to be a grilling by senators later this week. Members of both parties want answers from Air Force General Michael Hayden about the National Security Agency surveillance program he used to run. New polls are out about the NSA'S tracking of domestic phone call records. And they suggest the controversy may not fade away as easily as some administration officials might have hoped.
Let's bring in our senior political analyst Bill Schneider -- Bill.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, how do Americans feel about NSA surveillance of their telephone calls? It depends on what you ask and when you ask it.
SCHNEIDER (voice over): On Thursday, "USA Today" reported that the National Security Agency was collecting records of domestic telephone calls. That night, "The Washington Post" ABC News poll asked people whether they thought this was an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism. Sixty-three percent said it was acceptable.
"Newsweek" polled Americans that night and the next. They offered people a choice, which comes closer to your view of the surveillance program? It is a necessary tool to combat terrorism? Or it goes too far in invading people's privacy? Most Americans said it goes too far. The question set up two competing objectives, combating terrorism and protecting privacy.
"USA Today" and Gallup polled on Friday and Saturday. They asked people whether they approved or disapproved of a government program to collect phone records. Most disapproved in a question that focused more directly on privacy. There are two competing values here, privacy and safety. The public's initial response may have been driven by the concern for safety.
SEN. BILL FRIST (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Yes, our families are safer because of this particular program.
SCHNEIDER: But then people began to hear complaints about privacy.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: Simply snooping on millions upon millions of Americans doesn't make us any safer. It might make people feel good. Doesn't make us safer.
SCHNEIDER: President Bush came out quickly with reassurances that nobody's privacy is being violated.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval.
SCHNEIDER: But 63 percent of Americans say they are concerned that the government would do just that.
SCHNEIDER: In the end, there's a third issue besides safety and privacy, the government's credibility, which is not very high right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider, excellent work, thanks for complaining all that to us.
Today Verizon and AT&T are at the receiving end of two class action lawsuits. Both cases were filed by customers upset over what if any roles the companies played in the NSA spy program. But then there is telecom giant Qwest. That company is being praised online for reportedly refusing to comply.
Jacki Schechner standing by with more -- Jacki.
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, a liberal blogger and his web master started the site thankyouqwest.org on Friday. They have had some 15,000 visitors since then. And 250 people going online to say thanks to Qwest. Even some people thinking about switching service are now going to stay to show their loyalty.
We reached out to Qwest to find out if this was having any impact on their service. And they say they refuse to comment on this or any matter they say is relating to national security.
But we did look into some of the complaints online about Qwest, and they are having some legal difficulty. They filed their annual report with the SEC, the Security Exchange Commission, and in that there are nine pages having to do with their legal filings against them and how they plan to respond to those.
Also online with the Better Business Bureau, plenty of complaints against this company, some 961 having to do with credit or billing issues. This we also saw at a consumer affairs line online as well. Wolf, you can go to CNN.com/situationreport for all of these links and more information.
BLITZER: Jacki, thanks very much.
Let's go up to New York. Jack Cafferty is standing by with another week of "The Cafferty File."
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, Wolf.
Laura Bush has some advice for Republicans. The first lady was asked at a TV interview what she thinks about a proposed amendment that would change the constitution to ban gay marriage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think it should be used as a campaign tool, obviously. But I do think it's something that people in the United States want to debate. And it requires a lot of sensitivity to talk about the issue, a lot sensitivity.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CAFFERTY: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says the Senate will debate legislation next month that would define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. So at a time when the nation is faced with tough issues, immigration reform, border security, the war in Iraq, here's the question, First Lady Laura Bush says Republicans shouldn't use the proposed gay marriage ban as a campaign tool, will they take her advice?
E-mail us at CaffertyFile@CNN.com -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.
And if you want a sneak preview of Jack's questions, plus an early read on they day's political news and what is ahead in THE SITUATION ROOM, sign up for our daily e-mail alert just go to CNN.com/SITUATIONROOM.
Coming up, much more on the battle over immigration. Is the controversial issue splitting the Republican Party in two?
Plus, new marching orders for the National Guard. Should troops be used for domestic purposes? You may be surprised to learn it's happened before.
And later, the first lady lends seniors a helping hand as they face a major deadline. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The president's new press secretary, Tony Snow, is calling Mr. Bush's immigration speech tonight a political opportunity rather than a run for political cover. But some Republicans openly admit the administration is in need of covering something, it's the conservative base. Let's bring in our chief national correspondent John King. John?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's no secret the president and his political team, they view the growing Latino population as critical to long-term Republican success. But tonight's speech is much more focused on the election just six months away.
KING (voice-over): The president's shift in emphasis is first and foremost about political reality.
NEIL NEWHOUSE, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: He does need to reinforce his Republican base. They are mad and upset about this issue. They want to secure the borders. That's the very first thing they have to do.
KING: The question is whether worrying about Republicans voters critical this November will cause the GOP longer-term political damage. GROVER NORQUIST, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: Immigrants are a natural part of the Republican coalition unless some silly Republican goes out there and spits at them and convinces them that they are not welcome.
KING: But the president's challenge is to sound tougher without sounding hostile.
KARL ROVE, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: This is a problem of security. It is a problem of our economy. It is a problem of compassion.
KING: The White House insists Mr. Bush's tougher border security talk is by no means a retreat from his call to let millions who enter the United States illegally stay and ultimately get legal status.
ROVE: We will not be able to secure the border unless we have a temporary worker program.
KING: By putting more emphasis on border security, Mr. Bush hopes most Republicans will feel politically safe accepting his guest worker program as well.
REP. TOM TANCREDO (R), COLORADO: John Q. Citizen doesn't want it.
KING: White House hope is to isolate vocal critics like Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, who called the president's approach amnesty for illegal behavior.
NORQUIST: If the Tom Tancredo voices convince Hispanic-Americans that the Republican Party is hostile to them because Tancredo sure sounds that way, then the Republican Party will cease to be the majority party in the next 10 or 15 years.
KING: But again, many Republicans involved in races this November say they can't worry about 10 or 15 years from now. They need to worry about now and the divide over this, Wolf, in the party is significant. There are some White House aides and allies saying we're going to cut a deal on this, this will all be done in a month or so. We'll have a comprehensive bill that the president can sign.
But other Republicans, especially those involved in tight House races with Republican incumbents say that's wishful thinking. They think, even some of those Republicans who could support the president's position, would rather have the issue so they can attack their Democratic challengers saying those challengers support amnesty.
BLITZER: Very interesting. We're getting an update from our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre. He's now hearing rather than 5,000, there may be up to 6,000 National Guard troops deployed along the border between the United States and Mexico. Is this a smart political move by the president, let's say up to 6,000 troops? This is a long border, a thousand miles plus. KING: Well obviously the message to the American people he's trying to give is that most American people won't necessarily count the number of troops and then measure the border to see how many you will have every mile or something.
The idea is he wants to put the emphasis on the first thing I want to do is put a priority on border security. Politically, everyone says that is smart. Most Republicans wish he had done more of that at the beginning. Done both, done -- we're going to have a tougher border, we may involve troops. And if he needs to, subdue his guest worker program. He put the emphasis early on on the more welcoming "let's deal with the guest worker program." Most Republicans say now given the foul political climate in the country, that that was a mistake.
BLITZER: John, thanks very much. John is going to be with us throughout our coverage here on CNN.
Up next, should we be sending National Guard troops to help out along the Mexican border? James Carville and Torie Clarke, they're standing by to weigh in. We're also going to get some perspective from our Jeff Greenfield. And are you OK with the government keeping tabs on your phone calls? The political fall-out, that's coming up in today's "Strategy Session." Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Even before President Bush's immigration speech tonight, his plan to send National Guard troops to the southern border is being questioned on a number of levels.
Is he militarizing the border? Is he infringing on state's rights? Our senior analyst Jeff Greenfield has been looking for some answers, looking to the past, looking to the current situation. Jeff?
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, Wolf, the compulsory pre-speech leaks have it that the president is going to propose the temporary use of the National Guard to secure the U.S.-Mexican border. Is that proper? Isn't there some law that bars using the military for domestic law enforcement? Well yes, sort of. But throughout history, military forces have been deployed at home for good and ill.
GREENFIELD (voice-over): George Washington used the militia to put down the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794 and Lincoln sent troops to New York City in 1863 to quell the deadly draft riots.
But after federal troops were pulled out of the south in 1877, the Congress passed the Posse Comitatus law, making it a criminal offense to use the U.S. military to enforce the laws. But that has never stayed the hand of officials to keep order. President Cleveland sent in federal troops to break the strikes against the Pullman Railroad Car Company in 1893. Troops broke up the Bonus Army marchers in July 1932 on orders of President Hoover. Eisenhower used troops to integrate the schools in Little Rock in 1957. JFK federalized the National Guard to integrate the University of Alabama in 1963.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our State of the Union to end total segregation.
GREENFIELD, Under President Johnson, the National Guard restored order after racial upheaval in Watts in 1965, in Detroit in 1967. Governor Pete Wilson used the Guard in south central Los Angeles in 1992.
And after the September 11th attacks, we've grown accustomed to seeing military patrols in places like airports or New York City's Penn Station. But sometimes such deployment has gone radically wrong, as in Kent State in 1970 when four students were shot to death by National Guards men. Or at Waco, Texas in 1993 when a tank assault on the Branch Davidian Compound resulted in a fire that killed 80 people.
GREENFIELD: And this proposal, even if temporary, does raise one other question we've already been hearing about. After the deployment of tens of thousands of the Guard in Iraq, is it either fair or practical to tap that same source for another job that may be hundreds or even thousands of miles from their homes? Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Jeff -- Jeff Greenfield is going to be with us throughout the night tonight as well for our complete coverage.
By the way, a weather emergency happening right now is adding to the concerns that the National Guard troops may be overextended. Guards men have been called in to respond to the flooding in New England. Rain is falling for a third straight day in the region.
And the National Weather Service forecasts another two to five inches today alone, bringing the three-day total to as much as 16 inches of rain. The governors of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine have declared flooding emergencies.
Today, in our "Strategy Session," the president is set to give a major Oval Office address tonight on immigration, as you know. Will he be able to answer critics and satisfy conservatives in his own party?
Joining us today, our CNN political analysts, Democratic strategist James Carville, and former Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke.
James, is this a good strategy, for the president to address the nation tonight from the Oval Office?
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they think it is.
Tony Snow, bless his heart, was very honest. He said, this is a political opportunity for the president. They sent Mr. Rove out to give a speech, who, as we know, has been assigned as Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, to talk about how this was good politics. So, they think it's going to be good politics. (CROSSTALK)
BLITZER: What do you think? What do you think?
CARVILLE: You know, it's -- if they don't get like a three- or four-point bounce out of this, then there is going to be panic on the Hill. There's going to be real panic, because this is something that should. They have thought this out. They -- they are telling people this is a calculated political move to help the president's standing.
And if they don't -- by doing this, if they don't move three -- you know, if they don't move three or four points on his job approval, they are going to be faced with a -- a rebellion on the Hill, because people are going to think there's nothing they are going to do, that people have cashed in on the president.
BLITZER: Torie, what do you think?
VICTORIA CLARKE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I have got to say, when I first heard he was going to do a speech, prime time, from the White House, on immigration, I sort of went, wow. What -- what is up with that?
And then I thought, it is one of the most important issues we are facing now, both domestically and in terms of national security and border security. So, I think it is entirely appropriate he does it.
Here is my concern. He's got a very comprehensive plan. He has got a very reasonable plan. Critics on the far left, critics on the right are not going to be happy. And they're going to be very, very vocal. So, it is going to be hard to get that kind of gain that James is talking about. But I think it's the right format.
CARVILLE: It's a -- it's a political calculation. And they're saying that. This is a political opportunity.
They sent Mr. Rove out today. They didn't send a -- a border security person out there. They didn't send an immigration expert. They sent their political adviser. They are trying to use these National Guardsmen to quell a rebellion that they are having within their own political party.
And my point is, I mean, look, so, the president takes polls and plays politics. That's not news to anybody. But, if it doesn't work, they are going to really have some problems. This is going to have to work. It doesn't -- I'm not going to sit here and say, he has to get 10 points in his favorable. I mean, I think anybody would say that's unreasonable. But he has got to show some gain.
BLITZER: Usually, there is a little bump after these kinds of Oval Office addresses.
CLARKE: But this is a -- but this is a very tough environment in general for the president and a very, very tough issue. And, then, I think a lot of the focus is going to be on one piece of it, which is putting the -- the troops on the border, which I think is appropriate, is fine, is part of a broader plan.
BLITZER: Listen to what Republican Senator Chuck Hagel said yesterday on this issue of deploying National Guard troops to the border.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: I am concerned that we have so overstretched our military, overstretched especially our National Guard, that I'm not sure what capacity they would have. That's not the role of the National Guard. If there's an immediate national emergency, that's the role of the National Guard. But I want to see what the president has to say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You know, I was going to point out, as you well know, Torie, 40 percent of the U.S. troops in Iraq right now are either National Guard or Reserve forces. So, the notion of stretching these troops who are coming back, stretching them a little bit, that's a real problem, potentially.
But what we're talking about, in terms of the numbers that may be sent to the border, are a fraction of the National Guard. And the Guard, as you know, is part of the total force concept. They are part of the military.
But I think Senator Hagel's comments reflect the larger challenge here, which is adapting to a post-9/11 environment. Things that we might not have done before, we are doing now, in terms of border security. Again, as one part of a broader plan, it makes sense. But there are lots of questions. And they need to address them.
BLITZER: If I were a member of the National Guard, I would rather serve on the Texas-Mexico border than in Fallujah.
BLITZER: I can -- I can -- I can assure you...
CARVILLE: Well, I'm not saying we agree on everything, but we certainly agree on that.
BLITZER: Yes. CARVILLE: And they -- it might not be a lot -- I tell you, it might not be a lot of fun down there in July and August.
CLARKE: That's right.
BLITZER: It's hot.
CARVILLE: But, yes, they go off and they do that, I -- I do think that the point Senator Hagel makes, and you're seeing the rains in -- in New England -- I know that I-5 in Florida is closed because of brushfires. There's terrible droughts around the country.
And, you know, hey, June to -- to -- through October is hurricane season. So, the -- these -- these Guardsmen are going to be very busy. And there are going to be a lot of them there for a long time.
BLITZER: Newt Gingrich is a very smart guy. Listen to what he said yesterday on this whole issue of immigration reform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The Senate bill is so dramatically different from where the American people are, that, if that becomes the focus, I think the Republican base will -- will be extraordinarily alienated by a bill that clearly has amnesty and a bill that clearly fails to solve the problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think, James?
CARVILLE: I get along fine with the speaker. He's very smart.
He's just dead wrong. The Senate bill is right where the American people are. The Senate bill -- it's clear from every poll that I have seen, including our own poll, that people favor some kind of amnesty for people that have been here over a period of time, a -- a guest worker, or whatever the -- the -- the language you want to (INAUDIBLE)
People don't want to deport people immediately that have been here. And I -- I have great -- the speaker and I get along fine. I think he's a bright guy. But, on this one, they're -- they are not with the House Republicans at all.
CLARKE: I -- I don't know.
You get out of Washington, and you get away from the border, then it doesn't break as cleanly as some people portrayed, even the speaker, who I think is a very, very smart guy, and knows politics better than I do.
But I find, across the country, it breaks differently from state to state, district to district. And members are going to be talking back home about what works for them, not necessarily what works for their party. CARVILLE: Nationally, 70 percent of the country want -- says, if people have been here for a period of time and are not breaking the law, there should be some provision to include them in the -- in -- in the work force, to -- to legalize them, if you will.
BLITZER: James and Torie are going to be with us for our coverage during our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour tonight in THE SITUATION ROOM, leading up to the president's speech at 8:00 p.m.
Guys, thanks very much.
CLARKE: Thank you.
CARVILLE: Thank you.
BLITZER: And James Carville and Torie Clark are part of the best political team on television -- CNN, America's campaign headquarters.
Stay with CNN for complete coverage of the president's address tonight. At 7:00 p.m. Eastern, we will bring you a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM. My colleague Lou Dobbs, he will be with us in THE SITUATION ROOM. The president's address is live at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
Then, at 8:30 p.m., a special edition of "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, Larry King is live from a California border crossing. And, at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, a special edition of "ANDERSON COOPER 360."" Anderson will be live from Chicago.
Up next, some observers say Hillary Clinton is moving to the center when it comes to abortion. If so, will that affect the senator's support from the left? A closer look in today's "Political Radar."
Plus, with a deadline fast approaching, Laura Bush urges seniors to sign up. There's a penalty involved. We are going to -- we will explain what is going on.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: A deadline tops our "Political Radar."
First lady Laura Bush is urging senior citizens to enroll in the Medicare prescription drug program. They have until midnight tonight to sign up, or pay a penalty, if they enroll later on. Many older Americans have complained the plan is confusing. But President Bush has rejected calls to extend the deadline.
Now some are calling for the late enrollment fee to be dropped. But the message today from the Bush administration is, it's relatively easy and cheaper to sign up right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL LEAVITT, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: There are just three easy steps: Get your drugs together. Then find your Medicare card. And then call 1-800-MEDICARE. And there will be people there who will help you choose a plan. In less than 30 minutes, you can choose a plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: An endorsement today for Senator Hillary Clinton's reelection campaign -- she is getting the backing -- backing of the abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice New York, this after Senator Clinton has been trying in recent months to find common ground with opponents of abortion.
Senator Clinton has been criticized by some on the left for moves to the political center, as she weighs a possible presidential campaign in 2008.
And a veteran GOP congressman under investigation for corruption went before the cameras in New Orleans just a short while ago. That would be a Democratic congressman, William Jefferson of Louisiana. He announced he would not resign, and he declared he did not -- quote -- "sell my office." Jefferson says he will not plead guilty to something he didn't do.
Earlier this month, a Louisville businessman pleaded guilty to bribing Jefferson to promote his firm's high-tech business in Africa. Jefferson denies accepting payments in return for government service. Once again, Jefferson is a Democrat, not a Republican.
Coming up: Can Republican Senator John McCain convince the religious right he has the right stuff to be president?
And also coming up in our next hour, my live interview with Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy about immigration and more.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Senator John McCain is keeping up a very busy traveling schedule this week, after a widely watched commencement speech over the weekend. Conservatives still are weighing McCain's remarks at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, even as McCain weighs his presidential prospects for 2008.
Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She is watching all of this unfold -- Candy.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The question this weekend was, does the road to the White House go through Lynchburg, Virginia? And the answer we have is, we will see.
CROWLEY (voice-over): If John McCain runs for president and wins the Republican nomination, the stories that trace his journey will look back at this picture from Liberty University, founder and chancellor, the Reverend Jerry Falwell.
REVEREND JERRY FALWELL, CHANCELLOR, LIBERTY UNIVERSITY: It says to 80 million evangelical Christians that the senator is not mad at evangelicals and that -- and Jerry Falwell has put his arm around him, and he's a man that -- if he is the candidate, he's a man we could heartily support.
CROWLEY: The commencement speaker to Liberty's class of '06, McCain spoke to 2,500 graduates and friends, family, faculty, and 50 reporters. He defended his support for the Iraq war. He urged tolerance for opposing views.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: United in our great cause and respectful of the goodness in each other -- I have not always heeded that injunction myself. And I regret it very much.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CROWLEY: They have come a long way, baby, since that day about six years ago in the heat of a bitter McCain-Bush primary battle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FEBRUARY 28, 2000)
MCCAIN: Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: That was so 2000.
Now Reverend Falwell is looking for renewed power in politics. And McCain is thinking about running for president -- not that McCain said anything about that at commencement, not that he had to. After all, these are college graduates.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, it's -- it's almost an election. So, you know, you know he's going to run. And, so, it's kind of like, is he just pandering to the conservative vote, or is he really, you know, like -- does he really like the school?
CROWLEY: The rules of politics are a lot like the rules of motion. For every action...
FALWELL: He could, in fact, co-opt the religious conservatives of the country, in the same way George Bush did, to help him to the White House.
CROWLEY: ... there's an equal and opposite reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")
JON STEWART, HOST: Are you freaking out on us, because, if you're freaking out...
MCCAIN: Just -- just -- just a little.
STEWART: ... and you're going into the crazy base world...
STEWART: Are you going into crazy base world?
MCCAIN: I'm afraid -- I'm afraid so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Whether his warmer relationship with Reverend Falwell is pragmatic politics, political pandering, or simply evidence that people grow, change and eventually cool off, the good news for John McCain is this. By the time most people begin to pay attention to the '08 presidential race, this new relationship can be tossed off as old news.
BLITZER: You know, I was driving around yesterday. I was listening to the speech that McCain gave at Liberty University on C- SPAN Radio. And it really was a well thought out, very carefully crafted speech. He has got two additional commencement speeches he's giving, at Colombia University, at the New School University in New York -- very different audiences.
CROWLEY: Very different audiences, but same speech, and here's why. It will -- you found yourself thinking about those speeches, because we know that some people have already said, we're going to picket outside because of McCain's position on Iraq.
This speech goes directly to that: Let's agree to disagree. You should argue. I should argue. But we don't need to hate each other.
BLITZER: Candy, thanks for that -- Candy Crowley.
Up next, find out what some governors along the border states think about President Bush's plans for handling illegal immigrants from Mexico. Our John Roberts standing by with that.
And we will have live extensive coverage of President Bush's speech tonight on immigration and security.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Tonight, when President Bush formally unveils his plan to send about 5,000 or 6,000 National Guard troops to the southern border, four governors most affected by the deployment will no doubt be listening very closely. Our senior national correspondent, John Roberts, is watching this story.
You got a sense of where these governors line up.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Watching, looking, asking the questions. And, Wolf, politics creates unlikely bedfellows. And so, it seems, does border protection. The president's proposal has allied Republicans and Democrats and split party loyalists.
ROBERTS (voice-over): In Texas, where the National Guard has been the border since 1988, fighting the war on drugs, Governor Rick Perry welcomes the president's plan.
GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: And one of my criticisms of the -- of the federal government was that they weren't doing enough. So, we're -- you know, we are -- we are pleased to see that the federal government is understanding the very important role that they need to be playing.
ROBERTS: Perry has no worries that the Texas National Guard can meet the challenge.
But, next door in New Mexico, where a state of emergency has been declared in border counties, Governor Bill Richardson opposes the plan -- too much strain on too few resources, he claims.
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: They are overstretched. They are tired. They have been in Iraq. They have been in Afghanistan. We need them for forest fires, to fight those in New Mexico, which is a crisis for us.
ROBERTS: Richardson's position could be seen as posturing by a potential presidential candidate, keeping the heat on the White House. But he has unlikely support from California's Republican governor, also against stretching the National Guard too thin.
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: Soldiers that are coming back from Iraq, for instance, and that have spent now a year- and-a-half over there, and now they are coming back, I think that we should let them go to work, back to work again. I think that what we should do is press the federal government. It's their responsibility, not the state's responsibility.
ROBERTS: However, Arizona's Democratic governor supports the idea. She wanted the National Guard at the border months ago. But a dispute over budgets and enforcement against illegal aliens has delayed the mission.
But some governors, though, are questioning the timing of all of this, a sudden get-tough policy, just as President Bush tries to sell his plans for a guest-worker program and a path to citizenship for some illegal aliens -- Wolf.
BLITZER: There are a lot of people who think this is just political posturing on the president's part to try to reassure his base. He's sending the National Guard to this border. Others say, you know what? This is really going to help.
What are you hearing from the governors, from the states? Is this just a political token, if you will, or will these National Guard troops make a difference in stopping illegal immigration?
ROBERTS: They could definitely make a difference, if you're the governor of Arizona or Texas, but definitely political posturing, if you're the governor of New Mexico, and just a pure bad idea, if you're the governor of California -- Wolf.
BLITZER: John Roberts is going to be with us throughout the night as well.
Thank you, John.
ROBERTS: It's all local issues, is what it is.
Still to come, the first lady, Laura Bush, says Republicans shouldn't use a proposed gay marriage ban as a campaign tool. But are members of her husband's party listening? Jack Cafferty with your e- mail, that's coming up.
And please be sure to stay with CNN for complete coverage of the president's immigration address tonight. It all begins right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is back with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Wolf, first lady Laura Bush says Republicans should not use a proposed gay marriage ban as a campaign tool in the upcoming midterm elections. The question is: Will they take her advice?
Stan writes: "They should, but they won't. Republicans are turning to 'wedge' issues already. Our country has serious problems facing it, and Bill Frist wants to devote the final weeks of the legislative issues to gay marriage and flag burning. What a knucklehead."
Salvatore in New York: "If Mrs. Laura Bush wants anyone on either side of the aisle to listen to her advice about the proposed gay marriage ban, she will have to identify herself properly, as Mrs. Good Cop. This stunt of giving 'the issue' warm and fuzzy viability by having it 'discussed' by Bush's Mrs. is as offensive as it is transparent." Ty in Columbus: "Firing up the base won them the White House in 2004, so you can bet the Republicans are going to start banging that drum before some tough races this fall. They cannot risk losing control of Congress."
Paula writes: "As everyone knows, politicians are opportunists of the first order, and will employ any and all means to either gain or remain in office. Laura Bush should vet White House menus, guide tours of the Executive Mansion, and leave the vapid political directives to her husband."
And Terrie in Bridge City, Texas: "Laura Bush was a teacher in her public life. I think her time would be better spent teaching the Republicans how to use the want ads as tools for job hunting, rather than worry about campaign tools" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much. See you in a few moments.
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