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The Situation Room

Karl Rove and Divided Republican Party; Pentagon Under Fire for Progress in Iraq; 'Da Vinci Code' Controversy

Aired May 17, 2006 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Thanks, Lou. 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 the world to bring you tonight's top stories.
Happening now, it's 7:00 p.m. in Washington where senators square off over immigration reform. Karl Rove has his own problems to deal with. But can the president's top political adviser bring warring Republicans together?

The Pentagon brass tells Congress the war in Iraq is going well. But can't say when the troops will be coming home. Is the U.S. military now preparing for a possible attack on Iran? I'll ask a top war planner.

And she sounds just like her father when she defends the policy in Iraq. But she breaks ranks with many Republicans on another hot button issue. I'll go one on one with Mary Cheney. I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A picture of Republican Party unity, if there is anything like that, not very evident today. A party struggling to overcome divisions in this congressional election year. The president signed a $70 billion tax cut extension bill into law with GOP lawmakers crowded around him. But and it's a big but on Capitol Hill tonight, a battle raging within the Republican Party over immigration. The debate grew more heated today as the Senate agreed to two controversial proposals. New fencing along the Mexican border, and a path towards citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.

The president's top political adviser Karl Rove stepped right into the middle of the immigration fray earlier this morning, hoping to try to bring those Republicans together. Our chief national correspondent John King is watching all of this. He has got a lot more on Karl Rove and a divided Republican Party. John?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as the White House watches the immigration debate, it's watching unfold in the Senate so far, its reaction to that is so far, so good. But its effort to try to somehow broker its differences, resolve its differences with House conservatives still very much an uphill struggle.


KING (voice-over): A lot of the calls these days are about immigration. REP. STEVE CHABOT, (R) OH: The overwhelming number are in favor of border security, against anything that approaches amnesty.

KING: Congressman Chabot was one of the targets when White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove visited the Capitol Wednesday. Rove's hope, try to narrow the divide on how to deal with the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already in the United States. But Chabot and other conservatives on hand reported little if any movement.

(on camera): Was Karl greeted politely? Was the skepticism aired out? Do you think there's a majority of the Republican conference that could support a guest worker program?

CHABOT: I personally do not think a majority of the Republican conference could support anything that even approaches amnesty that's what many of us consider this so-called guest worker program to be.

KING (voice-over): The president insists his approach is not amnesty because it would require those who entered the country illegally to pay back taxes and fines and then have a path to eventual citizenship. But it's a tough sell in the House. Even some Republican moderates say they cannot back the president's approach.

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS, (R) CT: You came here illegally now you can stay and become a citizen, I don't think that's going to happen.

KING: A stiff opposition leaves the administration in an emotional fight with its traditional allies. Not just in the Congress.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO SHOW HOST: Is the president - are you and the president, the administration aware of the dissatisfaction on the whole issue of illegal immigration that exists not just within the Republican base but within the country at large.

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT: Yes we are, I think, Rush.

KING: The man that counts the votes for House Republicans sees he president's record low approval ratings as a major factor in the party's immigration divide.

REP. ROY BLUNT, (R) MO: I think the president understands that this is a different situation than the president was in when his numbers were at 56 and 60 percent just not too long ago.


KING (on camera): For now, the House Republican leadership is standing firm. It says there should be border security upgrades now. Deal with what to do with all those illegal immigrants now in the United States after the November election. But Wolf, there is some talk there may have to be a compromise after the Senate vote. One idea that is beginning to gain some steam, have a new guest worker program. Those millions of illegal immigrants in the United States can sign up, they could stay here and work, if they want to become citizens, they would have to leave, go home and get in line. Wolf? BLITZER: John King, thanks very much.

Also on Capitol Hill tonight, domestic spying under scrutiny. The head of the National Security Agency today briefed the full Senate and House intelligence committees about the NSA's controversial surveillance program. This comes on the eve of Senate confirmation hearings for the president's CIA nominee, General Michael Hayden. Hayden used to run the NSA. He's expected to be grilled about the agency's warrantless wiretapping program and the reported tracking of millions of American's phone call records, as well. And CNN's live coverage of the Hayden hearing begins with a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM just before 9:30 a.m. tomorrow morning Eastern Time.

The Pentagon's big guns were also on Capitol Hill today claiming major progress in Iraq. But they took a lot of flak from lawmakers wanting to know when the troops will start coming home. For more on the heated exchange, let's turn to our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Up on Capitol Hill today defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, joint chiefs chairman General Peter Pace faced increasingly skeptical members of Congress who want, but are not getting answers.


SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) IL: Can you tell us before the end of this calendar year a significant number of American troops will be redeployed out of harm's way in Iraq?

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: No. No one can. It's obviously our desire, and the desire of the troops. And the desire of the Iraqi people. No one wants foreign forces in their country. The president has -- is the one who will make the decision, and the executive branch of the government. He has said that he's responsive to General Abizaid and General Casey and General Pace's recommendations, and that their recommendations are going to be based on conditions on the ground.


MCINTYRE: Rumsfeld cited what he called truly significant process in turning over territory and responsibility for large portions of Iraq to Iraqi forces. But when general Pace was asked point-blank if any of the 14 of 18 provinces that he said are relatively calm could be turned over to Iraqis, he simply said no, not yet.

BLITZER: Jamie, thank you very much for that. Jamie McIntyre reporting.

Exactly six months ago, Democratic Congressman John Murtha, a strong supporter of the military, called for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Murtha said today, nothing has changed since then. Is there an end in sight? And are military planners already setting their sights on Iran and its nuclear program?


BLITZER: And joining us now, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt. He's the deputy director for plans and strategies of the U.S. military's Central Command.

Welcome to Washington, General.


BLITZER: Here is what Representative John Murtha said earlier today. Listen to this.

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: We're caught in a civil war, and our military is caught in between. We've got 100,000 Shias fighting with 20,000 Sunnis. And we have alienated every country in the region.

BLITZER: A harsh assessment. You were just in the region. What is your assessment?

KIMMITT: Well, again, we have tremendous respect for Congressman Murtha, but I don't agree with his assessment as we see it on the ground. There is sectarian violence going on. The government of Iraq is taking action against that. It is not helpful to the overall situation, nor are the presence of the militias.

BLITZER: What, if anything, is the government, the putative government of Iraq right now, doing to stop these militias? Because they seem to be in charge of huge areas of some of the most contested parts of Iraq.

KIMMITT: Well, first of all, they're not in any large number taking over any parts of the country.

BLITZER: But the Badr militia, the Mehdi militia, the Peshmurgas got the control of the north, for all practical purposes.

KIMMITT: But all of those areas are under control of the coalition and of the Iraqi security forces. They're not under separate control of any other organization, either the coalition forces or the Iraqis. The government is taking very decisive action, has made it very clear that they intend to demobilize this arm and reintegrate the militias.

It's going to take some time.

BLITZER: Do you to see a civil war either happening now or on the verge of a civil war?

KIMMITT: I really don't. The sectarian violence has worsened. There's no doubt about it. But the military is holding firm.

One of the real indicators of civil war is, as we have seen in Lebanon, the military broken down along confessional lines. As we saw in Yugoslavia -- in fact, in our own country when the army broke up into the union army and the army of the south.

Number one, the military is holding firm. We've not had any instances where units have crossed over to either the militia or broken their bonds to the Iraqi government. And the Iraqi government, too, has said, we're going to stick this out, we're going stay together.

BLITZER: They say they're going to break up the militias. We'll see.

General Barry McCaffrey, retired, said this the other day. He said, "We need at least two to five more years of U.S. partnership and combat backup to get the Iraqi army ready to stand on its own."

Two to five-year assessment on his part. He was in the region. He's a four-star general, retired.

What do you think?

KIMMITT: Well, I think that those numbers are plausible. There will be -- this is not a situation that is going to be cured in weeks nor days. We're talking months, we're talking years.

We're prepared to work with the Iraqi security forces to have them take over more and more of the responsibility. We can't leave the job undone. We can't leave a half-trained military to take over responsibility for the security.

BLITZER: Here is what Captain James Beal -- he's training Iraqi troops at the Haditha Dam -- was quoted in the "Los Angeles Times" on May 13th as saying.

"There's a lot of lip service being given about letting the Iraqis do independent ops, but nothing much is happening. A lot of our guys just don't believe in letting Iraqis get out and do things."

That's a guy who's on the ground.


BLITZER: He's training these Iraqis. Is he right?

KIMMITT: Well, he could be well correct that where he is at that point that may be the specific case on Haditha Dam. But the fact is that we have 16 brigades of Iraqi security forces, over 58 battalions in the field fighting.

Some of them need American assistance. Some of them are using advisers -- we call them military training teams to support them. But they're taking on more and more of the fight.

And I think it's far more than lip service. The number of operations that are led by Iraqis, the number of operations where the vast majority of forces are Iraqis is probably the vast majority of the operations we're seeing on the ground today. BLITZER: The Central Command -- and you work at the U.S. military's Central Command, in charge of the Middle East region -- one sensitive area that you oversee is Iran, next-door neighbor to Iraq. How much time do you spend planning potentially a military operation to deal with Iran's nuclear capabilities?

KIMMITT: Well, I think what we do is watch the diplomatic work that is being done. We firmly support the notion of a diplomatic solution.

The world has some concerns about Iran and its nuclear programs. The opportunity for military options always remains. But that's probably the last option we should be considering. Let's let diplomacy work on this.

BLITZER: But you obviously have to plan for that contingency. You plan for all sorts of contingencies.

KIMMITT: Sure. Planners plan all the time.

BLITZER: Is there a military option?

KIMMITT: There's certainly -- what I would say is we remain capable of doing whatever our nation asks us to do.

BLITZER: So if the president or the secretary of defense said, "Take out this nuclear facility," you would have an opportunity, you would have a plan ready to go?

KIMMITT: Oh, I think that I wouldn't want to talk about any hypotheticals. But we remain prepared to do whatever our country asks us to do when we're asked to do it.

BLITZER: The National Guard, as you know, troops from the National Guard, the Reserves, they've played a significant role in Iraq over the past three years. A big percentage of the troops on the ground are National Guard or Reserves. Now the president is saying up to 6,000 National Guard forces will be deployed to the border with Mexico. Some senators like Chuck Hagel and others are suggesting the National Guard is already stretched too thin.

How dependent is the Central Command on the National Guard, and will this deployment to Mexico -- to the Mexican border undermine your military planning?

KIMMITT: Well, I don't think it does. Again, we are in the -- we're on the demand side of the equation.

We ask for forces from the Pentagon and from the services. The services are the ones that determine which are the best forces to be sent over. We have not received any indication from our services that the deployment of the National Guard forces down to the border will impair our current or potential future operations in the region.

BLITZER: This is all part of a long war which is a theme that you clearly have been advancing. Briefly explain to our viewers what you mean by that.

KIMMITT: Well, when we talk about the long war, it is the understanding that, although our main effort may be in Iraq and Afghanistan, the real existential threat in the long run to this country is al Qaeda and its associated movements. We have groups throughout the region such as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat in Algeria, the Islamic Movement in Uzbekistan, Jemaah Islamiya.

These are groups that work, affiliates, so to speak, of al Qaeda, that share the ideology and share the war on the West that bin Laden declared in 1998. That ideology must be defeated. Those forces must be defeated. We believe it is going to be a fight that goes on long beyond the time we stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan.

BLITZER: General Kimmitt, welcome to Washington. Good luck.

KIMMITT: Thank you.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty standing by in New York with the "Cafferty File." Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Al Gore says he's not running for president again. But as he runs around the country and the world promoting his new film about global warming, Gore told the Associated Press this, "I'm a recovering politician on about step nine. But I am on a different kind of campaign, now, to persuade people to take action to solve the climate crisis and it's always easier when you're focused on one thing."

Some Democrats aren't so sure that he won't make another run at the White House. But we were actually more intrigued by Gore's description of himself as a recovering politician. What exactly does that mean? One day at a time? How many steps are there? What constitutes a relapse. Here's the question. How would you define a recovering politician? Email your thoughts to or go to

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack. Good question.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the Jimmy Hoffa murder mystery. We're going to find out why the FBI is right now executing a search warrant in the case.

Plus, Mary Cheney's coming out. She's the vice president's daughter, and one of his closest advisers. A behind the scenes look of her family, at the White House, what he's been up to. She's got some controversial thoughts. She's in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And Jack just mentioned it. Tonight, Al Gore has a new chance to ask questions on his political future. Our Brian Todd just caught up with the former vice president. He's going to share what Gore's now saying. Stay with us.


BLITZER: There she is again. Zain Verjee. She is standing by with a quick look at some other important stories making news. Hi, Zain.


It would be a remarkable revelation to a major American mystery. Who killed Jimmy Hoffa and how did he disappear? Right now the FBI is combing a rural area near Detroit after getting a tip relating to Hoffa's disappearance. An FBI official says they are looking for evidence of criminal activity that may have happened on the property, but under a previous owner. The FBI gets many tips about Hoffa, but an official says the FBI had to act on this one. Hoffa hasn't been seen for over 30 years after disappearing from a restaurant in Michigan.

A mountain of the verge of a major eruption. Indonesia's Mount Merapi is sputtering again, blowing smoke and clouds of hat gas, ejecting ash and spewing lava. The fiery mountain had been relatively calm for 48 hours. Thousands of people are in shelters. But many farmers with crops or animals to feed just refuse to leave. Mount Merapi is one of the world's most active volcanoes.

How do you get rid of an old ship that is almost as long as three football fields and is years past its glory days? Spend $20 million, strap on 500 pounds explosives, and sink it. The retired U.S. aircraft carrier Oriskany has been sent to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Conservation officials hope that it becomes an artificial reef for sea life and they hope it's going to attract more tourists and divers. Wolf?

BLITZER: Zain, thank you very much. Ever since Hurricane Katrina struck, there have been serious problems involving the levees in New Orleans. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been bracing, has been trying to get those levees ready. But with the storm season only two weeks away, when will the levees be ready? CNN's Sean Callebs is joining us live from New Orleans with the story. Sean?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, indeed, an important question. A lot of residents here want to know. Some disappointing news for them. The Army Corps of Engineers says the levee system will not be done by its imposed deadline of June 1st. If you look behind me you can see the flood gates here at the 17th Street Canal. The big question is, when will the levee system be completely safe?


CALLEBS (voice over): He's gutting his house, but Brian Bonura has no plans to move back in, at least not this year. Especially, he says, now that the Army Corps of Engineers admits construction on floodgates and levees will not be finished when the hurricane season starts June 1st.

BRIAN BONURA, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: I don't feel safe come back to this area right now. And I would rather be somewhere else and come here and work on it. And hopefully in the future, you know, it will be safe to come back and live here again.

CALLEBS: Colonel Lewis Setliff is in charge of the federal project to repair the levee system dubbed Task Force Guardian.

COL. LEWIS SETLIFF, U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: We're going to be very anxious. But I'll tell you, if these are -- if these systems are never tested, I'll be very happy.

CALLEBS: It will be at least a month until repairs are done. But local residents like Bonura and his business partner Mike Palmisano say they, like others, will sweat out the entire hurricane season.

MIKE PALMISANO, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: They don't feel safe. I mean, just think about it, you're not going to go pour new money into an area when you know that there is a potential problem for this levee to go ahead and break again.

CALLEBS: And despite months of work here, the "what if?" factor has the corps concerned.

SETLIFF: We don't know the frequency, the dynamics involved, is there another Hurricane Katrina coming. But I do know that the system we're building will prevent catastrophic failure.


CALLEBS (on camera): And really, that is the corps' mantra, that indeed this area will be safer on June 1st than it was right before Katrina hit this area. But for people that live here, that's not good enough. They remember the horrific damage last year, some 350 miles of levees surrounding this city, Wolf, the only thing keeping the water out. It is going to be a very, very anxious hurricane season.

BLITZER: Good luck to you down there, good luck to all our friends in the Gulf Coast. Thanks, Sean.

Still to come tonight in THE SITUATION ROOM, Mary Cheney coming out on politics, breaking ranks with Republicans on a key issue. I will ask the vice president's daughter, about that, about the war in Iraq. Behind the scenes of the campaign, and her father's hunting accident.

Also, Al Gore, the recovering politician. He has a new movie debuting right now. But does he still have an eye on the White House? Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: And just coming into the CNN, the House Ethics Committee is launching investigations of two congressman, one Democrat and one Republican who are targets of federal corruption probes.

The Republican is Bob Nay of Ohio, who considerable had ties to the convicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The democrat is William Jefferson of Louisiana. Both Jefferson and Nay have denied any wrongdoing. This breaks a 16-month deadlock by the committee that until now had failed to move on corruption allegations in this congressional election year. We're watching this story.

Also happening now, new questions swirling about Al Gore. And another possible run for the White House. Will he do it? And could he pull it off this time around? CNN's Brian Todd is joining us with all the buzz. Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are here in front of not a red carpet but a green one. This is, after all, a documentary about what may be Al Gore's favorite subject, global warming. And it as our chance to ask him about the recent buzz over his political future.


TODD (voice-over): He's at least got the line down.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I don't have any plans to be a candidate again, thank you.

TODD: A line he's used with reporters more than once recently. But does his recent behavior tell another story? Take his promoting a new documentary on global warming. Attacking the bush administration's wiretapping program.

GORE: That the president of the United States has been breaking the law.

TODD: Or goofing on "Saturday Night Live" about the problems we'd be facing if only his last campaign had gone differently.

GORE: We have way too much gasoline. Gas is down to 19 cents a gallon, and the oil companies are hurting.

TODD: Isn't this a guy who wants to stay in the game?

STU ROTHERNBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: I think there's no doubt about it. He's a celebrity. He likes the limelight and he needs the limelight to get his ideas out.

TODD: Democrats close to Gore tell us there's no indication he'll run in 2008, pointing out, he's not raising money for himself. Not gauging support in Iowa and New Hampshire. Not ling up teams of advisers. But should he run, how would Al Gore stack up now against Hillary Clinton or John Kerry?

ROTHENBERG: He has name recognition, people know who he is. They have a sense on his accomplishments and on his stature. His problem is that many Democrats may see him as yesterday's news. And even as last week's news. And he'd have to overcome that.


TODD (on camera): Recent Democratic polls have showed Gore trailing behind both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. But if he is weighing a run, analysts say events like tonight's and his network appearance may be Gore's way of gauging how he can get back in the game and catch up quickly. Wolf?

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much. Al Gore saying once again he has no plans, no plans to run for the White House.

Al Gore once sat in the office now occupied by Vice President Dick Cheney. And one person familiar with that pressures of that office is Vice President Cheney's daughter. She's a close and trusted adviser but also at odds with many in the Republican Party over an issue very personal to her.


BLITZER: And joining us now is Mary Cheney. She's the author of the book entitled "Now It's My Turn: a Daughter's Chronicle of Political Life." Mary Cheney, thanks for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

MARY CHENEY, RICHARD CHENEY'S DAUGHTER: Thanks for having me here.

BLITZER: On Sunday I interviewed the Senate majority leader Bill Frist and I pointed out what you write in your book, your opposition to a constitutional amendment that would ban, in effect, same sex marriage. And I asked him, what he would say to the vice president of the United States, if he looked him in the eye, knowing that the vice president's daughter, Mary Cheney is herself, a lesbian.

Here is what he said to me.

SEN. BILL FRIST, (R) TN: I'd basically say Mr. Vice President, right now, marriage is under attack in this country, and we've seen it. We've seen activist judges overturning state by state law where state legislatures have passed laws defining marriage between a man and a woman. And that is why we need an amendment to come to the floor of the United States Senate to define marriage as that union between one man and one woman.

BLITZER: All right. I'll ask you if you could look Senator Frist in the eye right now what would you say to him?

CHENEY: Well, obviously I think Senator Frist is wrong. Same sex marriage is obviously an issue that we can disagree on and that this country needs to debate. But the notion of amending the constitution and writing basically -- writing discrimination into the constitution of the United States is fundamentally wrong.

BLITZER: You write this on page 180 in your book, "If the Republican Party fails to come around on this issue [same-sex marriage], I believe it will find itself on the wrong side of history and on a sharp decline into irrelevance." Those are strong words.

CHENEY: They are strong words. And I did write them. And I believe them. I think if you look at polls -- and I do talk about them in the book -- this is not a conservative issue, not a liberal issue, not a Republican issue or Democrat issue. This is a generational issue. And as, you know, -- as younger voters -- as younger people come of age, what you are going to see is, you're going to see, you know, resistance to same sex marriage dissipating, and you are going to see politicians who continue advocating on behalf of discrimination, particularly discrimination in the constitution.

BLITZER: You see this, in the book, which you go into great length, it is almost like treating gays and lesbians as second class citizens, real discriminations along the lines of what used to exist in this country with other minorities.

CHENEY: The analogy I use in the book -- I don't think I actually use second class citizens anywhere. But the analogy that I use in the book is when the Supreme Court handed down the decision in Virginia v. Loving -- and forgive me if I do not know the year. It 62 or 67. -- polls at the time showed it was one of the most unpopular decisions ever by the Supreme Court.

It was something like 72 percent of the people in American oppose the idea of interracial marriage. You know, now 40 years later looking back on that can you imagine, as I talked about the book, any legitimate real politician today coming out and speaking out against interracial marriage?

BLITZER: And you see this as basically the same issue?

CHENEY: I see it as very similar, and I think they will follow very similar paths.

BLITZER: Let's move on a little bit and talk about your dad. This must be painful to see Dick Cheney's favorability rating slip as dramatically as it has over these years. In a CBS "New York Times" poll, he only has a 20 percent favorability rating among the American public. What do you attribute that to because you know your dad better than anyone?

CHENEY: Yes, honestly, one of the things that I most admire about my dad is he doesn't spend a lot of time worrying about what's political popular or what his poll numbers are at the time.

He spends his time and energy, and focuses his attention -- I mean, you have known him for years, Wolf -- he spends his time worrying about doing what's right, making sure he is doing the things that are going to keep this country safe, making sure he supports -- everything he can do to support President Bush's agenda. That is what he spends his time doing. And quite frankly, I would much rather have him focused on that.

BLITZER: Most people probably see him as one of the key architects of the war in Iraq, three years running now, and in the same CBS "New York Times" poll, only 29 percent approve of the way the president is handling the situation in Iraq. Sixty-seven disapprove. Do you believe that your father and the president have handled the Iraq situation well? You've been one of your dad's key advisers.

CHENEY: I don't speak for the administration. I'm not an administration official.

BLITZER: You did work in the campaign.

CHENEY: I did work on the campaign, and I'm very proud of that. And I think that they have handled Iraq exactly right.

BLITZER: You do? No mistakes?

CHENEY: Just think about it Wolf. No mistakes.

BLITZER: Exactly right because those are strong words.

CHENEY: Exactly right. Those are very strong words.

BLITZER: All right so tell us...

CHENEY: Three years ago, Wolf -- 25 million people are free today who were not free three years ago in Iraq. Iraq has managed to hold three national elections, and every single election, more people came out and voted than voted in the previous election.

These are people who are going to the polls and voting and, you know, casting votes for their leadership for the first time in their lives. They deserve an enormous amount of respect from us, and they deserve our help. And we are doing everything we can to help them, and quite frankly I think we are doing it exactly right.

BLITZER: But don't you think if there would have been a better plan for the post-invasion to deal with an insurgency, to deal with the reconciliation, the disbanding of the Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein, more than 2,000 troops might not necessarily have been killed if it would have been handled better?

CHENEY: As I said, I think it's been handled exactly right. And, you know, one of the things that I find really interesting is if you watch and listen to people who are in opposition to the war in Iraq, particularly John Kerry during the 2004 election is a great example, you know, they sit there and criticize, but they don't offer an alternative.

BLITZER: Well, some of them do. Some of them say get out.

CHENEY: Oh, my God. What a horrible idea that is.

BLITZER: A lot of people think it's a great idea.

CHENEY: It is a horrible idea.

BLITZER: Why is it a horrible idea?

CHENEY: Because we have an obligation to the people of Iraq to make sure that when we leave them, they have a stable government that is in place.

BLITZER: You don't think three years of trying, $300, $400 billion, all these lives lost, the treasure, the effort, that that should have been able to give the Iraqis a chance to get this job done on their own?

CHENEY: I think the Iraqis are doing an admirable job. And I think we need to continue to support them until they are ready to stand on their own.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit. You acknowledge that Scooter Libby, the vice president's former chief of staff, now indicted for perjury, lying, obstruction of justice -- you thank him in writing your book. He's been extremely close to you and the whole Cheney family for so many years. Now, he's going through these legal problems. How painful has this been for your family?

CHENEY: Yes. Scooter Libby is a -- the only thing I can say about him, he is a good and honorable man, and, you know, I have no information on what's going on with the Fitzgerald investigation. But I like Scooter Libby. I have known him for years, and he is just a great guy.

BLITZER: So you believe these charges are just what? Trumped up? Do you believe he possibly could have lied to a grand jury or FBI agents?

CHENEY: Come on, Wolf. I have no information about what's going on inside the Fitzgerald investigation.

BLITZER: But it's painful to see what's happening to Scooter?

CHENEY: It is painful to see Scooter to go through that. Yes, it is.

BLITZER: I'm sure another painful incident was the hunting accident when your dad accidentally shot his friend in the face. When did you learn about that? How did you come upon that?

CHENEY: I actually learned about it later that day. I don't know the exact time.

BLITZER: That same Saturday?


BLITZER: What did you think?

CHENEY: I thought -- my first concern was for my dad and then for Harry Whittington.

BLITZER: It must have been, first of all, obviously very awful for the man who was shot. But it was awful for your father, as well.

CHENEY: Well, my dad's first concern, as it should be, was for Harry, for making sure that Harry got the proper medical care, that he got to the hospital and that his family was notified.

BLITZER: You write about your dad's health in the book, the heart attacks. He has had multiple heart attacks. First of all, how is he doing? CHENEY: He's doing great.

BLITZER: The stress must be enormous.

CHENEY: You know, my dad is -- well, two things, one of the stories I tell in the book is after his first heart attack he got a piece of advice from one of his doctors that is probably just about the best piece of advice anybody ever gave him. And that is that hard work never killed anybody. It's doing what you hate, it's doing a job you don't like that will put you in the grave.

And, you know, it's a piece of advice that my dad took to heart. And he loves what he's doing right now. He loves being able to serve the people of this country and doing everything he can to protect this country. So, you know, I think he's actually handling it really well.

BLITZER: It's a candid gutsy book. Thanks very much for coming in.

CHENEY: Thank you.

BLITZER: "Now It's My Turn: A Daughter's Chronicle of Political Life." Mary Cheney is the author. Good luck.

CHENEY: Thank you.

BLITZER: And just ahead, "Da Vinci Code" strategy. Religious groups countering the controversial film by spreading the gospel instead of boycotting. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: In the culture wars, religious groups are gearing up tonight to take on "The Da Vinci Code." Because if any book sales are any guide and these books have been a huge success, the movie is likely to be a blockbuster, as well. CNN's Mary Snow is joining us from New York with more on what's going on. Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, call it the counter code. From the Vatican to Evangelical churches, there's a war of sorts against the "Da Vinci Code" and its depiction of Jesus. But there is a division also, over how to fight it.


SNOW (voice-over): At the Cannes Film Festival, cast members celebrate "The Da Vinci Code" opening. But in Washington D.C., religious groups call for a boycott of the film.

REV. THOMAS EUTENEUER, HUMAN LIFE INTERNATIONAL: We do not have to pay someone $9.50 to sit in a theater and slap us for two hours.

SNOW: Some say boycotts, like 1988's boycott of "The Last Temptation of Christ," can backfire and end up boosting sales.

AMY WELBORN, CATHOLIC AUTHOR: Boycotts are exactly what the movie producers want.

SNOW: Others say those 1988 protests failed in another way.

CRAIG DETWEILER, FULLER THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: I think Christian groups ended up just looking like bad guys who just were afraid of things.

SNOW: So with "The Da Vinci Code," comes a change of strategy. Prior to the film's release, there are church discussions about it, books and Web sites, and films like this one from the U.S. Conference of Bishops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the end, "The Da Vinci Code" is a work of fiction that too many have confused with fact.

SNOW: "The Da Vinci Code's" plot revolves around accounts that Jesus married Mary Magdalene had children. Opus Dei, the Catholic group portrayed in the movie, is trying to keep that story secret, has opened its New York headquarters to the press.

TERRI CARRON, OPUS DEI SPOKESWOMAN: It is important not to be seen as secretive. We are part of a Catholic Church and we want people to know that.

SNOW: In Colorado, Evangelical group Focus on the Family made a preemptive strike, hosting programs to talk about the film.

BOB WALISZEWSKI, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: The movie is out there and we have to deal with it. We've been dealt a bunch of lemons.

SNOW: The unprecedented response to the movie and book signals a turning point.

DETWEILER: The church, which used to set the dogma, that maybe pop culture or Hollywood responded to, now finds itself having to respond to the agenda that pop culture is setting in the form of Dan Brown and "The Da Vinci Code."


SNOW: And Wolf, Ron Howard, the director of "The Da Vinci Code," has also come under fire. Today, in France, when asked about the controversy, he said that critics should go and talk to people who have actually seen the movie and then come to a decision independently. Wolf?

BLITZER: Mary, thank you very much. CNN's Larry King is also joining us now from New York. Larry, he's got a preview of what he's up to tonight.

LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. I'll see you next week in Washington. We've got a major story tonight, all about energy. Robert Redford will join us. He's on a campaign. David O'Reilly, will be with us, the chairman and CEO of Chevron. Their profits for the first quarter of last year was $2.7 billion. He'll join us. And then, we'll have a major panel discussion with Senators Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Senator Dick Durbin, Dan Yergin, the chairman of the Cambridge Energy Research Foundation, and Sir Richard Branson, the head of Virgin Air. All that at 9:00 with viewer phone calls, as well, Wolf.

BLITZER: Nine p.m. Eastern, "LARRY KING LIVE," we'll be watching. Thanks, Larry -- see you in Washington next week.

Up ahead tonight, Al Gore. He calls himself a recovering politician. What does that mean? Jack Cafferty Is taking your e- mails.


BLITZER: A very rough day on the markets today. Ali Velshi joining us from New York with the "Bottom Line." How bad was it, Ali?


BLITZER: Let's find out what's coming up right at the top of the hour. Paula Zahn standing by. Hi, Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf, thanks so much. We're going to have much more on that FBI search near Detroit this afternoon. Has there finally been a break in the mystery of Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa's disappearance? We haven't heard about him in a long, long time.

Also, student athletes behaving very badly. Do scandalous, online pictures show illegal hazing? Is the same thing happening at other colleges and universities across the country?

And then, as we hear about this controversy over "The Da Vinci Code" movie opening this weekend in the states, a very rare look inside Opus Dei, the controversial Catholic organization whose members are portrayed as villains in that book and movie. Well how do its members really practice their faith? An eye-opening look at the real Opus Dei coming up at the top of the hour, Wolf.

BLITZER: Sounds good, Paula, thanks very much. Up ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Al Gore. He now calls himself a recovering politician. What's your definition of a recovering politician? Jack Cafferty is reading your e-mails.


BLITZER: Welcome back. Jack's in New York, and he's got "The Cafferty File." Jack?

CAFFERTY: Wolf, former vice president Al Gore told the Associated Press he's a recovering politician. He says he's not going to run for president again. But he is out and about promoting his film about global warming. The question we asked is how would you define a recovering politician. Michael in Idyllwild, California. "A recovering politician is someone who can finally look himself in the mirror without being ashamed of what he sees."

John in Brunswick, Maine. "Let's see. A recovering politician, maybe one who's received a successful brain and backbone transplant."

Eugene in Myers Flat, California. "Jack, there is no such animal as a recovering politician. You can't recover from what they have."

John in Pennsylvania. "Recovering politician: One that getting over the shock of losing an election, like the ones who will lose in November if they vote for amnesty."

Virg. "A recovering politician: Someone who gained 50 pounds, dropped off the face of the earth and never figured out he has zero charisma on television. Good grief, that's Al Gore."

Mike in El Paso, Texas. "I'm not sure how I would answer, I think Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham is in stage one. President Bush is in denial. And congress in a cause."

David writes, "There the same as a recovering lawyer, one who hasn't lied since yesterday." Wolf.

BLITZER: We got a lot of cleaver e-mailers out there. Jack, see you tomorrow. Thanks very much.

Still ahead, outsourcing, and get this, insourcing. Are the jobs that went away now coming back? We're going to take a closer look at the job market of the future. Miles O'Brien has that when we come back. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: As President Bush today signed a bill extending his tax cuts, he says such measures have boosted the economy and created millions of jobs for Americans. In the past few years, though, outsourcing of American jobs has been a huge buzz word. But the outflow may be reversing. CNN's Miles O'Brien Has more in today' edition of "Welcome to the Future."

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, if you called an 800 number and gotten someone in Bangalore, you know the story. Right now, U.S. companies employ between one and two million service workers off shore, another 3.5 million overseas jobs are going to be added in the next ten years. But they may be overlooking a home grown option.


KATHY WHITE: I think the lure of the big city isn't what it used to be.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Kathy White of Rural Sourcing says there is a wealth of untapped I.T. knowledge right here at home. There are people that are working at McDonalds or Wal-Marts or other places with a college degree. So, we really came in and gave them an opportunity to work in the field.

O'BRIEN: White says many companies that employ offshore workers find they don't save as much as they hoped. The overhead is high, and what's more, their customers are often dissatisfied.

WHITE: We can either sit and whine that there is a global economy, or we can get serious and realize we have the responsibility to be competitive. And we have to find new ways to innovate. That's what always made American workers great.


O'BRIEN: Good as they may be, there are fewer and fewer of them pursuing high tech careers. In the past five years, the number of Americans choosing computer science as a major has dropped by 30 percent. If that doesn't change, in the future employers may be forced to look for help off shore. Wolf.

BLITZER: Miles, thanks for that. And can senators and congressmen be ranked just like college sports teams. One Web site thinks so. Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton standing by with details.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, these lawmakers are now ranked by things like position, influence and legislative activity as well as less tangible factors like sizzle and fizzle. All the rankings are available now at, brought to you by a software and research firm called Knowledgist.

You can find out how your state is doing in terms of power, your local lawmakers. You can also check out some potential presidential candidates of '08. Number one, Senator Bill Frist, given his leadership position in the senate. Close behind, number three, is Senator John McCain. He fared well because of his influence ranking. He also got a popular sizzle ranking for his unique personality and background.

These are all based on 2005 records. There's going to be a new version out just in time for the election. Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. This reminder, CNN's live coverage of the CIA director confirmation hearings. General Michael Hayden goes before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM starts 9:25 a.m. Eastern tomorrow. I'll be anchoring our coverage.

Let's go to Paula Zahn. She's ready to take over.