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The Situation Room
Bush Administration Confronts Threats; Interview with Howard Dean; List of Potential Presidential Candidates Grows; Lawmakers Articulating Positions on Immigration to Spanish-Speaking Voters Online
Aired June 19, 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 very much, Ali.
To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.
Happening now, the Bush administration confronts threats from the so-called Axis of Evil. The president urges Iran to accept an offer from the West or face the consequences.
And the secretary of state warns North Korea, "Don't provoke us."
Also this hour, walking the tightrope over a timetable. It's 4:00 p.m. here in Washington, where Democrats are trying again to strike the right balance on Iraq. I'll ask the party chairman Howard Dean if divisions over the war could be politically fatal in November.
And bases of support in the race to 2008. We have a new poll on the top presidential prospects. It's a revealing look at where they're strong, where they're weak, and why no one seems to have it all. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Right now, President Bush is grappling with some ominous moves by two nations at the top of his global threat list. He personally took on Iran today. Mr. Bush warns he'll push for sanctions against the Tehran government if it fails to drop its nuclear activities and accepts a deal with the West.
He's leaving it to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to publicly throw down the gauntlet for North Korea. She's warning that a missile test firing by the communist nation would be a very serious move and provocative. Let's check in with our White House correspondent, Ed Henry.
Ed, lots of stuff going on.
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Good afternoon, Wolf.
A blunt threat from President Bush on the eve of his trip to Vienna for the European Union summit, where Iran's thirst for nuclear weapons will, of course, be at the top of the agenda. Today, delivering the commencement address at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in New York, the president said the U.S. will not enter into international talks with Iran until it stops its uranium enrichment program.
Iran insists that program is intended for peaceful purposes, but the president today was blunt in alleging that he believes, in fact, that program is meant to mask intentions for nuclear weapons. And the president said and basically threatened very tough sanctions for Iran if it does not basically take the U.S. historic offer, he called it, to enter into multilateral talks. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Iran's leaders have a clear choice. We hope they will accept our offer and voluntary suspend these activities so we can work out an agreement that will bring Iran real benefits.
If Iran's leaders reject our offer, it will result in action before the Security Council, further isolation from the world, and progressively stronger political and economic sanctions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, European Union officials have given Iran an unofficial deadline of the end of this month to accept the U.S. offer to come to the table. That's why there's a lot riding on this summit for the president. He's faced harsh allegations that he did not conduct enough diplomacy before the war in Iraq. This summit gives the president a chance to show that in the case of Iran, he and his European allies are on the same page -- Wolf?
BLITZER: What about North Korea? There's also a similar nuclear standoff with the North Koreans right now. They appear to be on the verge of testing a new intercontinental ballistic missile, potentially that could reach California, maybe even further inland.
HENRY: That's very interesting because while the president was ratcheting up his rhetoric on Iran, he left it to his secretary of state to really issue some tough talk for North Korea. That is because, as you noted, senior officials here say it appears North Korea has, in fact, finished loading fuel into a ballistic missile, potentially setting off alarm bells all around the world. And, in fact, they may be on the verge of testing a nuclear weapon.
That's why Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today basically issued a stark warning for North Korea, reminding them that they first agreed back in 1999 and reiterated that pledge early in the Bush administration that they would not go through with a test like this. Take a listen
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Obligations that North Korea undertook in the moratorium that they signed onto in 1999 that they reiterated in 2002. That is clearly a part of the frame work agreement that was signed in September of this past year between the six parties. And so it would be a very serious matter and, indeed, a provocative act should North Korea decide to launch that missile.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, the secretary did not specify what the U.S. would do if North Korea goes ahead with that test. But White House aides says the president himself has placed some of the more than a dozen phone calls and administration officials have placed to various heads of state around the world discussing what to do if, in fact, North Korea moves forward. It gives you an idea of the president's personal involvement, how serious the White House is taking this matter -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Ed Henry, at the White House.
Let's go to Iraq right now, where the U.S. military is stepping up its search for two missing American soldiers. The Pentagon is investigating a claim they've been kidnapped by a group linked to Al Qaeda. So far, that claim is on an Islamic Web site, and it has not been verified.
This all began with an insurgent attack Friday at a U.S. check point near Yusefiya. Since then, Private First Class Thomas Lowell Tucker of Oregon has been missing, along with Private First Class Kristian Menchaca of Texas. One of their comrades, Specialist David Babineau was killed in the attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Over 8,000 U.S. military and Iraqi army employees are working together, conducting an intensive surface (ph) operation to determine the status of these soldiers. We are using every means at our disposal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Other new developments in Iraq today, the Pentagon says three U.S. soldiers have been charged in the death of several detainees who appear to have been shot while fleeing.
The incident took place May 9th in Iraq's southern Salaheddin province. Officials say the three soldiers face murder, attempted murder, conspiracy and other charges. We're going to have a live report from the Pentagon on this developing story. That's coming up in the next hour.
Today, an Italian prosecutor asked the judge to indict a U.S. marine in the shooting of an Italian intelligence agent at a checkpoint in Iraq last year. The Italian agent has successfully negotiated the release of an Italian journalist. She had been kidnapped in Baghdad in February of 2005.
The Italian agent had been escorting her to Baghdad, to the airport there, when he was shot and killed by U.S. troops at the checkpoint. The U.S. calls it an accident and took no disciplinary action. The marine is not in Italy right now, but the prosecutor says he could still be indicted there.
Another day of bombings and bloodshed in Iraq amidst all of this. Nine people were killed and 36 were wounded when explosions tore through a crowded market and two Iraqi checkpoints in Baghdad. Here in Washington, the vice president Dick Cheney was asked today about his remark more than a year ago that the insurgency in Iraq was in its last throes. He told the National Press Club that he still believes that, but he also acknowledged that he underestimated the strength of the insurgency.
Also today, a new offensive in the fight of when to begin withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq. Some Senate Democrats unveiled a plan aimed at easing election year divisions within the party. Our congressional correspondent Dana Bash is joining us now live from Capitol Hill with the latest on that -- Dana?
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, unclear and maybe even unlikely at this point that what Senate Democrats are trying to do will actually ease the divisions in the party.
But what a core group of Democrats did do today was try to make the case in this election year that they're sort of in touch with the desire among the growing number of Americans that they want to see not only change in Iraq but specifically, some kind of time table for the end date, so to speak, some kind of specific plan for how to get out of Iraq eventually.
And the plan that the Senate Democrats unveiled today would begin the phased redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq in 2006 and also require the administration to submit a plan by the end of 2006 for continued phase redeployment beyond 2006.
Now, one of the main sponsors of this, Senator Carl Levin, the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, essentially said that what he called the president's open-ended commitment in Iraq is actually counter-productive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: The administration's policy to date that we'll be there for as long as Iraq needs us will result in Iraq's depending upon us longer. Three and a half years into the conflict, we should tell the Iraqis that the American security blanket is not permanent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, you notice what is not in this plan unveiled by this group of Senate Democrats today, and that is a specific timetable for withdrawal, demanding that U.S. troops be redeployed from Iraq, a date certain. And that is, of course, not an accident, Wolf.
Several Democrats who don't agree with that idea, who oppose that vehemently, like Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Joe Biden, were involved in intense discussions over the past couple of weeks led by the Democratic leader Harry Reid. And today, the Democrats' unveiling of this proposal were almost as eager to talk about what is not in their plan as what is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JACK REED (R), RHODE ISLAND: This amendment is not cut and run. This is not about a date certain. This is about getting the president to do the job correctly, something he has failed to do for the last three years and three months.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, the primary goal, according to Democrats who are behind this measure, is to try to get some Republican support for it. It is very unclear at this point how much, if any, they will get when this comes up for a vote at some point later this week.
But the primary political goal here from these Democrats here, Wolf, is to essentially say, "Look, we understand that there is discontent with the president's plan. We have one, too" -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Senator Jack Reed introduces this, together with Carl Levin, Dianne Feinstein. But there are other prominent Democrats who are not necessarily on board. Who are they?
BASH: That's right. Well, the most prominent is Senator John Kerry. And CNN has learned, Wolf, that Senator Kerry will unveil and propose his own amendment tomorrow on the Senate floor. And he's changed his amendment just a bit. And he is going to say, according to a source, in Senator Kerry's office, that he wants troops to be fully withdrawn, all combat troops to come home from Iraq, by July 1st, 2007.
Now, his initial plan, along with Senator Feingold, was to pull troops home by the end of this year. They have pushed that back six months. Why? First of all, there was a vote on that plan last week. Republicans surprised Senator Kerry by offering his own plan on the Senate floor.
But what they say in Senator Kerry's office is that they hope they can get as many votes as they can and that perhaps by pushing the exit date back six months, they can achieve that -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Basically a year from now, he'd like to have all U.S. troops redeploy outside of Iraq. Dana, thank you very much. Dana Bash and Ed Henry are part of the best political team on television. CNN, America's campaign headquarters.
In the broader war on terror, a new book describing an Al Qaeda plot to attack the New York subway system is prompting some new political wrangling. Journalist Ron Suskind says Al Qaeda terrorists planned to release lethal gas on subway trains in 2003. But he writes the plot was called off by Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al- Zawahiri. Today, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg seized on the book to press his complaint that the Homeland Security funds to his city have been cut. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, MAYOR OF NEW YORK: This goes to show why we deserve to get a larger amount of the Homeland Security budget. And if those monies were distributed totally based on risk, I think that would happen. It's not to say there aren't targets elsewhere; it's not to say there aren't other cities.
And we're not trying to say we're the only place. But when it comes to what foreign terrorists think, what comes into their minds when they think the United States, they think New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And we're going to have a full report of the subway plot in our next hour. Peter Bergen, our terrorism analyst, will be here to join us in that discussion. And also, this note. Tomorrow, the journalist Ron Suskind will be in THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about his new book, "The One Percent Option." We're going to speak to Ron Suskind tomorrow, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
In the meantime, let's go to the CNN global headquarters in Atlanta. Betty Nguyen is standing by with a closer look at some other important stories making news.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, Wolf. Take a look at this. In Houston, Texas, they are up to their waist with water all around them. Up to 10.5 inches in some areas. Heavy rain is flooding some places, making roads look like, well, small rivers and prompting Governor Rick Perry to deploy some Texas Army National Guard troops for rescue operations. Officials say the water is starting to recede, so that's a little bit of good news.
Right now, parts of Arizona, though, need the water Houston has. A 3,000-acre fire is burning north of Sedona. Now, crews are trying to beat back the blaze. They say high winds and hot conditions are hampering their efforts. Nearly 500 homes and businesses are threatened and residents are under a mandatory evacuation. There are no reported injuries, though.
Now to Iraq. The prosecutor in the Saddam Hussein trial says the former Iraqi leader should be put to death. The prosecutor asked for the death penalty today. Hussein and seven members of his former regime are on trial for allegedly killing and torturing Shiites in jail in 1982 after a failed assassination attempt on Hussein. The trial is now adjourned until July 10th -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Betty, thank you very much. Jack Cafferty is back after a week's vacation. I hope you had a lovely, lovely time. I've got to tell you, Jack, our viewers missed you. I know that because I got a lot of e-mail saying, "Where's Jack?"
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It's nice to be back. Where is Zain Verjee? BLITZER: She's making the move to transition from Atlanta to Washington. She's packing her bags, getting ready.
CAFFERTY: Is there a reason to believe this might be completed, this move, sometime during this calendar year?
BLITZER: We expect -- the fiscal year. The fiscal year.
CAFFERTY: All right. Eleven senators, 11, considering a run for the White House in 2008. Ten percent of the entire chamber wants to be president. Isn't that lovely? They might as well all run, not that any of them are doing anything worthwhile down there in their role as senator. They might as well all run for the White House.
There's a piece in the "Los Angeles Times" today that says, quote, "the Senate's always been an incubator for presidential aspirations, but the bug is now especially widespread," sort of like a Petri dish for mold. I think the last senator to get elected president was Jack Kennedy. It's a tough jump from the Senate to the White House.
On the Republican side, the list includes Bill Frist, John McCain, George Allen, Sam Brownback, Chuck Hagel. The Democrats, you've got your Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Christopher Dodd, Evan Bayh, Joe Biden, Russ Feingold. Barack Obama's name is being tossed around.
Meanwhile, with all of these people busy posturing and coming out on what they perceive to be the right side of any given issue, it is much harder to build consensus on issues that matter to the American people, things like illegal immigration, high gas prices. "To hell with that. Let's worry about my own individual political career."
Here's the question. Is the 2008 White House race distracting the Senate from getting its business done? E-mail your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to CNN.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Good to have you back, Jack.
CAFFERTY: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And coming up, right there in THE SITUATION ROOM, brand new numbers in the race for the White House. Does any candidate seem to have the all right stuff? We have a new poll, and it may surprise you.
Plus, the money man, President Bush turns into fundraiser-in- chief. We're tracking the campaign cash.
And later, he's the Democratic Party chairman. But is his party divided over the war in Iraq? Howard Dean joins me right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: In the early race for the White House, Republicans are fresh from appearing in a showcase event in Iowa this past weekend. And last weekend, a number of Democratic prospects appeared to liberal activists here in Washington.
It's a way to show the party faithful they have the right stuff. But do they? We have some new revealing poll numbers that are just coming out this hour. Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider -- Bill?
BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, you know that little bunny that keeps going and going? Well, the list of potential 2008 presidential candidates is like that. It keeps growing and growing.
Newt Gingrich, Barack Obama. The list of 2008 contenders keeps growing and growing. Why? Because nobody in either party has found the right combination of base and breadth of support.
Of the best known possible Democratic contenders, only Hillary Clinton has a reasonably strong base in her own party; 41 percent of Democrats say they would definitely vote for her. Not even one in four Republicans say they would definitely vote for either Rudy Giuliani or John McCain.
How many people said they could never vote for them? Nearly half the country say they would definitely not vote for Clinton, John Kerry, or Al Gore. More than 60 percent would never vote for Jeb Bush. Jeb's big problem? His name, Bush.
Only about a third of voters say they would definitely not vote for Giuliani and McCain. Frontrunner McCain has breadth of support, but he doesn't have a solid base, so he's cultivating conservatives.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: ... should all of us keep our personal ambitions a distant second to standing with the president of the United States, our commander-in-chief.
SCHNEIDER: Frontrunner Clinton is trying to reach beyond her base on issues on Iraq and drawing criticism for it.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Nor do I think it is smart strategy to set a date certain. I do not agree that that is in the best interests of our troops or our country.
SCHNEIDER: Anyone out there have both base and breadth? Not yet. So the list keeps growing and growing. Want to see the list? George Allen and Sam Brownback and Jeb Bush and Bill Frist and Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani and Chuck Hagel and Mike Huckabee and John McCain and George Pataki and Condi Rice and Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum and Tom Tancredo. Fourteen Republicans, all being mentioned as possible presidential candidates in 2008.
OK, here are the Democrats. There's Evan Bayh and Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton and Tom Daschle and Wes Clark and Chris Dodd and John Edwards and Russ Feingold and Al Gore and John Kerry and Barack Obama and Bill Richardson and Tom Vilsack and Mark Warner. Another 14.
Now, that's as of today. More than two years before the election -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Like the Energizer Bunny. It keeps going and going and going. Thanks very much. Bill Schneider with that report.
The current commander-in-chief, by the way, is preparing to give fellow Republicans a big financial boost in this year's battle for control of Congress. Mr. Bush headlines a mega-fundraiser right here in Washington, D.C. tonight. It's known as the president's dinner. It's expected to rake in a whopping $23 million to help Republican Senate and House candidates. That's happening tonight in Washington.
Coming up, why are top Democrats in Congress mad at their own party chairman, at least some of them? I'll ask Howard Dean. The Democratic Party chairman joins us in THE SITUATION ROOM. That's coming up.
And the war in Iraq. Will the political fallout hurt Democrats come November? Donna Brazile and Torie Clarke, they're standing by for today's "Strategy Session." Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Let's get back to one of our top stories. Some leading Senate Democrats today introduced a measure to begin a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of this year. It's a carefully worded attempt to bring divided Democrats together to put election year heat on the president and his party.
And joining us now, the former governor of Vermont, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean. Governor Dean, thanks very much for joining us.
HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Thanks for having me on, Wolf.
BLITZER: Where do you stand when it comes to a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq? How quickly would you like to see them out? And be specific.
DEAN: Well, I think the Democrats have been pretty clear about what they want. They want a transition, and now there's going to be a vote on asking the president for a timetable. We need to be out of Iraq. We know we can't leave immediately, but we need to be out, and we need to hear from the president something other than, "I started this, but we're going to leave this to the next president."
BLITZER: Do you think they should be out by the end of the year, like Congressman John Murtha, Senator Kerry, Senator Feingold? They say get them all out by the end of this year.
DEAN: Well, I haven't heard anybody say that, Wolf. What I have heard is that people want a plan to transition out of Iraq. And what's going to be voted on tomorrow in the Senate is a plan to re- deploy some of the troops in Iraq, some to Afghanistan, others to the region, bring some of the National Guard home, keep some in Iraq in order to train folks. But I haven't heard anybody say they want everybody out by the end of the year.
BLITZER: Well, Congressman Murtha has been pretty specific, Senator Kerry, they say that that should be the target, by the end of the year, to get them out. Re-deploy them. Those are the words -- that's the phrase that Congressman Murtha uses.
DEAN: Well, what I have heard from these folks -- and I haven't heard it described the way you just described it -- what I've heard is that they want the National Guard and Reserve to be home, some 20,000 troops to be moved to other countries in the surrounding region so they can come back into Iraq as needed, and then leaving a force still that's much smaller in Iraq training the police.
Look, the bottom line here is not what the specifics of the plan are. The bottom line is the president doesn't have a plan and the Democrats believe that we should be heading in another direction, which is what the American people believe.
BLITZER: Here's what Karl Rove said last week in Manchester, New Hampshire. He said, "Like too many Democrats, it strikes me they are ready to give the green light to go to war. But when it gets tough, they fall back on that old party's platform of cutting and running. They may be with you for the first few bullets, but they won't be there for the last tough battles." Karl Rove in New Hampshire last week.
BLITZER: I thought Jack Murtha, who's a 37-year-old decorated Marine, had the best retort. Karl Rove is sitting in his air conditioned office on his big fat you-know-what, and he's never served. George Bush has never served abroad. Dick Cheney's never served abroad. Don Rumsfeld's never served abroad.
Republicans are great at sending other peoples' kids to war, but not so good at following up. You know, it's not good enough to just be tough. You've got to be tough and smart. Here we are. North Korea is in the process of firing a missile, a test missile. George Bush has been in office for 5 1/2 years, has done nothing about that.
We've got 200,000 brave troops pinned down in Iraq. You can't trust the president to defend America, not because they don't want to defend America, because they're not smart enough to defend America.
BLITZER: But they point out that things appear to be moving in the right direction in Iraq right now. In fact, earlier today, the Vice President Dick Cheney had this exchange with a reporter at the National Press Club. Listen to this.
QUESTION: About a year ago, you said that the insurgency in Iraq was in its final throes. Do you still believe this?
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do.
BLITZER: He then went on to say that last year, the tide began to turn against the insurgents. And now, the U.S. is winning, and it's just a matter of getting the job done.
DEAN: First of all, Vice President Cheney has no credibility in this matter. Second of all, we have two of our brave soldiers that have been kidnapped by the insurgents, who are still in captivity right now.
You know, this -- we have been hearing this, a lot of this stuff, from this administration. I thought John Kerry had it right when he made a speech on the Senate floor, saying, we stayed in Vietnam a long time because politicians couldn't figure out what to do. And that cost us thousands of American troops.
We don't need to do that again. We know these guys got us in under false pretenses. The truth is, Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11.
And the irony of this is, one of the things that Jack Murtha has proposed is to put 20,000 additional troops into Afghanistan, where they are needed, because Afghanistan is now going south on us. Now, that's a war we believe we should have been in and we are still in.
The fact of the matter is that you can't trust the Republicans to defend the country, again, not because they don't want to, but they are not smart enough to listen to the military and listen to people who have served, like Jack Murtha.
BLITZER: Frank Rich, the columnist for "The New York Times," a strong critic of the Bush administration, wrote a very stinging column yesterday in "The New York Times," in which he was very critical of the Democrats, because he fears that they are once again being outmaneuvered politically by Republicans, as they were, he says, on the eve of the 2004 elections.
And then he goes on to say this: "Those who are most enraged about the administration's reckless misadventure -- misadventures are incredulous that it repeatedly gets away with the same stunts. But, as long as the Democrats keep repeating their own mistakes, they will lose to the party whose mistakes are, if nothing else, packaged as one heck of a show. It's better to have the courage of bad convictions than no courage or convictions at all."
Did you read that Frank Rich column yesterday?
DEAN: I don't read columnists. They are willing to -- they also sit in air-conditioned offices.
The fact of the matter is that we are pushing a -- for a plan to get out of Iraq. The president has no plan. He says he's going to leave that to the next election. The president can't balance the budget. We will. The president has cost millions of Americans their health care. We are going to move towards a health care system that works for everybody.
The president has sent millions of jobs to other countries. We are going to create a new energy independence industry, and do more than talk about it. The Democrats are on the move with a positive agenda. And I think we are going to win.
BLITZER: How worried are that Karl Rove, now that he won't be indicted, charged with any crimes in connection with the leaking of the name of Scooter Libby -- Scooter -- excuse me, the leaking of the name of Valerie Plame -- only Scooter Libby, the president's former chief of staff, has been indicted in connection with that -- how worried are you that Karl Rove will now be able to focus all of his attention on getting Republicans elected in November?
DEAN: Look, the president -- Karl Rove keep -- keeps repeating the same old tired stuff: Democrats are weak. Democrats are disorganized. Sometimes, he gets columnists to believe it.
The truth is, the Democrats are coming together. It has taken some time. We have been in the wilderness for 12 -- for -- for more than 12 years in the Congress. But we are coming together with a plan to make sure that this becomes a tradition -- a transition in Iraq.
We now have a debate about a plan, which three-quarters of the Democrats signed onto, about a timetable for transitioning out of Iraq, for making us stronger, not weaker, as this president has done. That's a pretty good plan in Iraq.
I think we have a plan for health care. We have a plan to fix the broken prescription drug program that the president crammed down our throats. We have a plan to balance the budget. Republicans haven't balanced the budget for 40 years in this country. Democrats can.
If you want more of the same, vote for Karl Rove's party. If you want real change, support the Democrats.
BLITZER: The -- some of your strategy, as the chairman of the Democratic Party, is under criticism from some Democrats, for example, the effort to reach out to all 50 states.
Rahm Emanuel, Democratic congressman from Illinois, was quoted in "The New Yorker" magazine May 29 as saying, "If you think that Mississippi and Ohio are the same thing, you're an idiot."
Those were strong words, because he doesn't feel, necessarily, you should be reaching out to all of the states. You should be focusing in where you have the best chances.
DEAN: We need to -- we need to be everywhere.
That was one of the mistakes this party has been making for a long time. We just picked up four -- or defended four seats where -- in the -- in the Mississippi House legislature. We have picked up mayorships in Alabama and in Oklahoma, in Alaska, in Utah.
You need -- this party needs to be rebuilt. We are not going to do it by playing in 20 states.
The only other thing I would say is, look, we can have our disagreements. I think those disagreements ought to be behind closed doors, and stay there. This is a party that needs to be pulled together. We have got less than five months before the election. We need to be on the same team in order to win.
BLITZER: We looked at some fund-raising at the DNC vs. the RNC, in terms -- and we will put some numbers up on the screen -- 80 -- almost $80 million, the Democratic National Committee raised, compared to $151 million that the Republicans raised during a similar period, cash on hand, $9.5 million, DNC; $44 million, RNC, during this period.
What's the problem?
DEAN: There is no problem. We are doing great.
We are far better off than we were this time four years ago. We have -- we have actually -- right now, we are on par to out-raise -- we so far have out-raised 2004, which was a presidential year. Now, that is not going to happen, because the last months in a presidential -- last two quarters are going to take off in a presidential year. And they won't now.
We have been making investments all along in strengthening this party everywhere. We are -- we have made the decision to be involved in 40 House races, 10 senatorial races, governor's races, state legislative races. We are going to be in seven states. We have got a lot of responsibility. We started investing very, very early. That's why our balance sheet doesn't look as good as the Republicans' did.
But the only way they are going to -- going to beat us is if we beat ourselves. And we are not going to do that. We are aggressive. We are going to tough. And we are going to be -- in terms of defense, we are going to be tough, just as tough as the Republicans, but we are going to be much smarter than the Republicans, in terms of protecting our troops with adequate armed -- armor, with adequate equipment.
You won't see Democrats simply doing photo-ops in Baghdad. You will see us really supporting our troops and our veterans when they come home.
BLITZER: Governor Dean, thanks very much for joining us.
DEAN: Hey, thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: And since I taped that interview with Governor Dean earlier this afternoon, we have learned that Senators Kerry, Feingold and Boxer will introduce an amendment tomorrow that sets a time -- a deadline of July 1 of next year, one year or so from now, for U.S. troops to be redeployed out of Iraq.
And this note: Tomorrow, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the other party chairman, the Republican Party boss, Ken Mehlman, he will join us live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, tomorrow, 4:00 p.m. Eastern.
Up next: Donna Brazile, Torie Clarke in our "Strategy Session." We will ask them about the politics of the war in Iraq, a timetable for troop withdrawal, how this will all play in November.
And later: the chilling account of an al Qaeda plot to attack New York City subways. CNN terrorist analyst Peter Bergen, an expert on al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, he will join us in the next hour.
Stay with us. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
In our "Strategy Session": Democrats are trying to reclaim the momentum in Iraq -- in the Iraq debate this week, after President Bush scored some political successes on Iraq and other matters last week.
It's all playing into the 2006 election dynamic.
Joining us now, our CNN political analysts, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and former Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke.
How divided are the Democrats right now, Donna? You know these Democrats better than anyone.
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Slightly.
Look, tomorrow, there will be an amendment to the Department of Defense appropriations bill. Some Democrats, led by Senator Levin, Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Senator Feinstein, and Senator Ken Salazar, will put forward an amendment to have a phased redeployment, not a timetable, not pull out the troops, but a phased redeployment, so that we can begin to transform our -- our efforts there in Iraq.
I think it's a great strategy, because it also talks about the political solution. It talks about what other nations can do to help internationalize the battle in Iraq.
Senator Kerry, Senator Boxer, Senator Feingold will also put forward an amendment. And I don't know how many votes this amendment will receive. But there will be a definite timetable. Now...
BLITZER: A year from now, they will want them all out.
BRAZILE: That's July of 2007.
So, the good news is that Democrats are debating it. Democrats are putting forward their ideas. And Democrats are basically keeping pressure on the White House to make 2006 a year of significant transition.
BLITZER: What about the Democratic strategy right now, as Donna says, a...
TORIE CLARKE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Sure.
BLITZER: ... a nuance, but a significant nuance, a difference between these two blocs?
I didn't hear her mention the name Senator Clinton in either one of those blocs. But...
CLARKE: Another faction.
BLITZER: But go ahead.
CLARKE: No, I -- I -- but I think you put -- you put the -- the hammer right on the nail.
They are trying to politically nuance an incredibly significant national security issue. Can't be done. Can't be done substantively, because they are creating these pieces of paper, which are designed to -- to overcome the political differences they have, without the input of the generals on the ground in Iraq, who do not agree with phased timelines and things like that.
And, secondly, they are trying to be all things to all people in their party. And it never works. So, I think there may be some short-term, very short-term, gain here, but lots of long-term gain.
Think -- this notion about, OK, we are going to put them in the other countries, that sounds like a great idea. Have they talked to Jordan? Have they talked Kuwait? Have they talked to the neighboring countries about this? No.
What they are looking for is a hit to get them through this week and next week. And that's the wrong way to make any kind of policy.
BRAZILE: Well, I -- I think Democrats are frustrated that the Bush administration has not come up with a -- a real plan to win in Iraq.
They don't have a real plan to help the political parties find a solution, so that everybody will feel like they have a stake in the future of Iraq. So, what Democrats are doing is putting forward their own ideas, their own strategy.
We get criticized when we don't have any plans and ideas. And this is not about trying to beef up Democratic poll numbers for the fall. Rather, I think this is an honest attempt to talk about Iraq, talk about redeployment, and talk about how we strengthen this nation, so our troops can begin to come home.
BLITZER: Is -- is the Democratic strategy in this particularly case to basically reflect what the public mood is, because the public mood, according to most of the polls, if not all of the polls, we have seen is that they would like the troops to be home in about a year... CLARKE: Sure.
BLITZER: ... within a year?
CLARKE: I think it's several things.
I think, to Donna's point, they do want some sort of offensive agenda, which they have been just hopeless at getting. Two, they recognize it's not a very popular war. I don't know any wars that are popular. So, they want to feed off that some.
And, then, three -- and this is very inside baseball -- they are trying to figure out what is the party's strategy, because it's so disjointed. So, they are trying to come up with these carefully crafted words that will make everybody happy. Whenever you try to make everybody happy, you end up making nobody happy.
BLITZER: What did you think of that question I asked Howard Dean on a 50-state, you know, strategy, going after Democrats in all 50 states, as opposed to what, for example, Rahm Emanuel thinks you should do, go after the states where you have the greatest opportunity to win?
Howard Dean was pretty adamant...
BLITZER: ... when he said, they should -- the Democrats should not ignore any place.
BRAZILE: Well, I think Dean is doing the right thing.
He's laying the foundation for a future majority party. At the same time, he has embraced Chuck Schumer, Rahm Emanuel, and -- and the -- the Democratic Legislative Council. He has embraced many of their -- their targets. He's helping them find the resources. He's going to redeploy the staff, put more money into those states.
So, I think what Dean is trying to do is something that other chairs should have done in the past. And that is to make sure that we have a presence in all 50 states, as well as focus on the targets for this fall.
BLITZER: As a good -- as a good...
CLARKE: The diplomat -- the diplomat of all time.
BLITZER: Well, as a good Republican, are you getting nervous hearing that?
CLARKE: Oh, I think it's going to be a very, very difficult year for Republicans. I am not getting nervous every time I see Howard Dean. I mean, Republicans ought to just tape him and the run that as the ads, because no matter how hard you try to ask him thoughtful, intelligent questions, which you do, he can't help himself. He just instantly, halfway through a sentence, goes on the attack, on the attack, on the attack. It does not get him very far.
BRAZILE: He's the party chairman, not the party's diplomat. I'm the diplomat.
BLITZER: Donna Brazile, Torie Clarke, and, as you saw earlier, Bill Schneider, they are all part of the best political team on television -- CNN America's campaign headquarters.
Coming up: taking it to the streets -- a group that disagrees with Senator John McCain on immigration is going after him in a somewhat unusual way in his home state.
And a new development in the battle over abortion rights for women in South Dakota, just days before a ban on most abortions have been scheduled to take effect -- we are going to tell you what's going on right now.
Stay with us. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: On our "Political Radar" this Monday: In South Dakota, the state legislature had its say on abortion, and now the voters will as well.
They -- they will decide the fate of a ban on most abortions in the state. Officials announced today that opponents of the ban have gathered enough signatures to put the issue on the November ballot. The ban had been scheduled to go into effect on July 1.
In Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, the governor, has signed a bill banning most abortions in that state. But the ban doesn't take effect unless the Supreme Court overturns the Roe vs. Wade decision, legalizing abortion.
At the U.S. Supreme Court today, justices agreed to decide a second case challenging a controversial late-term-abortion procedure. The expanded review of the procedure that opponents call partial-birth abortion will be closely watched. It could be an important test of whether the court's newest members, the chief justice, John Roberts, and Justice Samuel Alito, will indeed vote to restrict abortion rights.
New signs today of opposition to Senator John McCain's stand on immigration -- the citizens border patrol group the Minutemen is venting its anger at McCain on billboards. For now, they're going up in McCain's home state of Arizona. The Minutemen say, if and when he runs for president in 2008, McCain will pay a price for supporting a pathway for illegal immigrants to become citizens of the United States.
With midterm elections quickly approaching, how are lawmakers articulating their positions on immigration to Spanish-speaking voters? Many are doing it online.
Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner. She is standing by with more on this -- Jacki.
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, Wolf, Senator Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania has a Web site. And, back in March, he also launched a version in Spanish.
After he voted against the Senate immigration bill, he put his stance online, exactly where he stood on the English version, but didn't put it online immediately on the Spanish site. It took about 16 days for that to go up online. His challenger in the race, Bob Casey, says that this was on purpose, that he didn't want to take this hard stance in Spanish.
But his campaign tells us that they actually don't have anyone who speaks Spanish on staff that could translate it accurately, and that's why it took time to put it online. Bob Casey's campaign, by the way, does not have a Web site in Spanish. And they say they don't intend to create one anytime soon.
So, how many candidates and Senate races do have them online? Well, The Bivings Report, an Internet research group, says only 14 percent of Senate candidates offer a Web site option in Spanish -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jacki, thank you very much.
Up next: presidential politics under the dome -- are the possible contenders too busy worrying about 2008 to get anything done right now? Jack Cafferty, he is back with your e-mail. Stay with us.
BLITZER: There's a significant story developing in Louisiana, specifically in New Orleans.
Let's go to CNN's Betty Nguyen at the CNN Center. She has got details -- Betty.
NGUYEN: Hi, Wolf.
Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco is getting tough on crime in New Orleans, and this in light of what happened over the weekend. Six people were killed, including five teenagers. Now, on her Web site, the government says the situation is urgent. She is going to send in the National Guard and state police to patrol the streets.
And she has two warnings. Here is what she says. She says, first, to parents, keep your teenagers off the streets and out of trouble. And, then she, says, second to judges, "I am urging you to keep hardened criminals where they belong, in jail and off the streets." She says, "We must protect our citizens."
And she also says that she's urging the mayor to put a juvenile curfew in place. So, we will see if Mayor Ray Nagin responds to that.
But, in the meantime, Kathleen Blanco getting tough on crime in New Orleans, in light of the killings over the weekend, six people, five teenagers, all killed. She is sending in the National Guard and state police to patrol the streets of New Orleans -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And the mayor, Ray Nagin, had asked for those National Guard troops over the weekend.
NGUYEN: He did.
BLITZER: Betty, thanks very much.
We are going to more on this story coming up in the next hour.
Straight ahead: Jack Cafferty with the answers to his e-mail question of this hour.
And coming up also in our next hour: the alleged al Qaeda plot for a poison gas attack on New York's subway system, we will have more details and a look at the fallout.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is back with "The Cafferty File."
And it's good to have you back.
CAFFERTY: Thank you, Wolf.
Eleven senators, 10 percent of that august body, all considering running for president in 2008, that's a comfort. They have done such a great job in the Senate.
The question is: Is the 2008 White House race distracting the Senate from getting its business done?
Richard in Panama City: "Welcome back, Jack. Maybe the week off cooked your brain. You ask that question like they would get anything done anyway."
Rowland in Austin, Texas: "Are senators distracted? Let's see. During the past five years, they gave away their right to declare war, gave Bush absolutely everything he wanted -- My, hasn't that turned to be a good idea? -- run up a $9 trillion bar tab. They have had emergency sessions not for the war or the deficit or to demand that the 9/11 Commission report be followed through on. No, those did not warrant late-night hours, but Terri Schiavo did."
Ken in Vallejo, California: "If nothing is being done, how can there be a distraction? Wasted time debating gay marriage and flag burning, when our borders are being overrun and over 2,500 of our kids killed in a war of lies."
Steve in Jericho, New York: "The Senate is the home of the gang that couldn't shoot straight, so anything that distracts these posturing, clueless clowns from doing their normal business can only be a benefit to the American people."
CAFFERTY: Some of you are in a foul mood.
Linda in Lynchburg, Virginia: "They might just as well run for president. They aren't doing anything else. I got an e-mail from a friend about a database, found my name on it. I called George Allen's office, my senator, to try to find out what I could do or what my options were. I got a recording that said the office would be closed all week. I'm going to vote for my cat. At least I know where to find her."
And, finally, Clements in Richmond, Virginia: "Hey, Jack, I'm with you on this Zain Verjee vacation thing. No wonder she's always smiling. I bet, once she gets settled in D.C., she will quit and run for the Senate."
BLITZER: Jack, thank you very much -- a lot of clever viewers out there.
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