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Major General William Caldwell Interview; Debate Over Troop Withdrawal Continues on Capitol Hill; Reasons "New York Times" is Under Attack; Utah Congressman Survives Primary Challenge; Supreme Court Upholds Most Texas Redistricting; Democrats Discuss Religion; Democrats Attempt To Change Primary Schedule

Aired June 28, 2006 - 16:00   ET


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, as rivers rise along the East Coast, new fears of a major disaster. It's 4:00 p.m. in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where up to 200,000 people are ordered to evacuate. In Binghamton, New York, thousands are forced to take shelter.

It's midnight in Baghdad, as the killings continue, there are indications the insurgents may be willing to talk at some point. I'll talk with Major General Bill Caldwell of the multinational force in Iraq.

It's 3:00 p.m. in Texas. The U.S. Supreme Court partially approves the redrawing of congressional districts in the Lone Star State but sends Republicans back to the drawing board. Is this a victory for the former House Majority Leader Tom Delay? I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with the situation in Iraq, where the insurgents may be willing to negotiate they say in the future. But for now they're keeping up the pressure. There were bloody bombings in Baghdad and Baqubah today, even as a senior Iraqi official says insurgents are demanding the withdrawal of all U.S. and British forces from Iraq within two years as a condition for joining reconciliation talks. Iraqi officials say seven armed groups have contacted the prime minister indirectly regarding his reconciliation efforts.

In Brownsville, Texas, hundreds of mourners turned out today for the funeral of Private First Class Kristian Menchaca, one of two soldiers kidnapped and killed this month in Iraq. Could Iraqis find their way to some sort of reconciliation? Can the insurgents be brought into negotiations?

Joining us now, Major General William Caldwell. He's the spokesman for the multinational force in Iraq. General Caldwell, what do you make of this so-called offer from these insurgents that they're willing to join and work toward peace if they get a commitment that all U.S. and British forces will be out of Iraq within the next two years?

MAJ. GEN. BILL CALDWELL, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ: Well, Wolf, first of all, I've got to say the prime minister stepped forward very boldly and has laid down his national reconciliation plan of dialogue. We're excited by the fact that there will be groups out there that are willing to come forward now and engage the governor of Iraq. I know they're setting a condition on him.

I heard what he said today in the press, the prime minister did. The prime minister said he doesn't want to set a timetable. Instead, he wants coalition forces to depart when the Iraqi security forces are able to take over. But I think this is very positive in the sense that the insurgent elements are at least willing to engage with the government of Iraq and start a dialogue, which is what he wants.

BLITZER: He said this also, the Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. He said whoever can prove himself innocent of murder in the judicial process will be allowed to join the political process. Is that encouraging to you as well?

CALDWELL: Well, it is. I mean, I think what we all keep looking at as we listen to what he said the other day, the fact that he wants to have a dialogue and that this is a framework that he has laid out to establish that dialogue. So we don't so much consider what he said as being sacrosanct at this point but rather a starting point from which he and his whole government and other elements of the people of Iraq can start discussing this.

BLITZER: And this notion of amnesty for those who killed Americans or sought to kill Americans, that's off the table? You're convinced of that right now, are you?

CALDWELL: Well, he was pretty firm about it yesterday. He came out and very clearly said that amnesty does not include fighters who have killed Iraqis or members, soldiers, he said, of the coalition force. I mean, it was pretty black and white what he said.

BLITZER: In recent days we saw four Russian diplomats brutally executed by insurgents. Today the Kremlin issued a statement saying that the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, ordered the special forces to take all necessary measures to find and destroy the criminals who killed Russian diplomats in Iraq. Are there Russian special operations forces in Iraq right now?

CALDWELL: There are, obviously, the Russian government has people that are here in Iraq at this point in time. But what and who they belong to is not really something that I've been briefed on.

BLITZER: Because I'm wondering, Russia, I don't believe, is a formal member of the multinational force with military forces operating under General Casey's command. Are they?

CALDWELL: They're not. But what I will tell you is this. Obviously, anybody in this country who brutally murders and takes the life of an innocent person, somebody who is not in direct conflict with them and with open arms, should be brought to justice. And I think the prime minister in this country has said that he is not going to tolerate that kind of behavior himself. I know that he himself has already taken measures and steps to try to identify those who allegedly have killed these Russian personnel.

BLITZER: Has the U.S. military made any progress in finding the killers of those two American soldiers that were kidnapped and brutally killed, Private First Class Kristian Menchaca and Private First Class Thomas Tucker?

CALDWELL: We have, Wolf. We've actually made great strides there. I think General Thurman would tell you, the division commander down there, he still has a large force committed down in the Yusufiyah area. They're continuing to exploit intelligence that they pick up. They had another major raid last night. They're continuing on with operations based on information even from that site.

They, in fact, have about 20 people of significant interest at this point. And I think within the next week we're going to find that General Thurman will have cleaned up a lot of that area and perhaps been fortunate enough to also pick up some of those who may have been involved with that murder.

BLITZER: All right. You'll keep us up to speed on that if you find these guys who actually killed these two soldiers. You'll let us know?

CALDWELL: We absolutely will. Absolutely, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're almost out of time, general. Since we spoke last Wednesday, Ramsey Clark, a former U.S. attorney general, one of the lawyers representing Saddam Hussein, basically said the lawyers for Saddam and his co-defendants can't work unless the U.S. military provides security for them. He also told me this yesterday here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Listen to what he said.


RAMSEY CLARK, SADDAM HUSSEIN'S LAWYER: People who need protection are the Iraqi lawyers and their families and their investigators. We can't, we never were able to investigate the case. We can't send an investigator out without protection. He wouldn't get past the door.


BLITZER: You said last week that it's up to the Iraqi government to ask the military, the U.S. military for this kind of protection. Has there been any movement on that front since we last spoke?

CALDWELL: There has not. No, we've not had a request come in to change the degree. But, obviously, we stand by to provide whatever support the government of Iraq requests as they go through this trial process with Saddam.

BLITZER: General Caldwell, thanks as usual for joining us. Be careful over there.

CALDWELL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: President Bush this afternoon flew to St. Louis, where he's meeting this hour with troops who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. Back here on Capitol Hill, there's no letup in the war of words over the war and over a possible troop withdrawal. Let's get the latest from our Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi Wolf, well you know, it's been almost a week now since two Democratic proposals on Iraq were defeated by the Republican majority. Yet, you can't turn a corner here on Capitol Hill without hearing Democrats still talking about Iraq.


BASH (voice-over): Democrats are determined not to let it go.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: It just isn't the Democratic plan for Iraq. It's General Casey's plan.

BASH: Coming before cameras with quotes, even notes from a private meeting with General George Casey, trying to prove the top U.S. commander in Iraq is in sync with their proposal to begin troop withdrawal this year.

DICK CHENEY, VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The worst possible thing we could do is what the Democrats are suggesting.

BASH: Democrats point to statements like these from the vice president on CNN as hypocritical.

CHENEY: You can call it anything you want but basically it is packing it in, going home.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), ARMED SERVICES COMTE: Using a play out of the campaign playbook of Karl Rove to attack your opponents as being weak on defense.

BASH: Yet even as Democrats criticize that Rove playbook, they're stealing pages from it. Rule one, repetition. Daily Democratic efforts since last week highlighting Casey's plans to bring some troops home this year.

REID: To my Republican colleagues, is General Casey admitting defeat? I think not.

BASH: Another Rove rule, unity is key. Democrats want to minimize division in their own ranks over troop withdrawal, so they're calling Republicans blindly unified around a bad Bush policy.

LEVIN: They are rubber stamping whatever the White House wants.

BASH: The most important tactic, Democrats say they've learned from team Bush, relentlessly attack your enemy's biggest strength. JOHN PODESTA, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: The lessons from 2002, 2004 indicate that you can't change the subject. You've got to confront the president on national security.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was President Bush who got us into Iraq. They also know that it is up to him to figure out a way to get us out of Iraq.

BASH: Republicans, though, have won two campaigns by putting security first, and are determined not to let Democrats steal their campaign script.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I suppose as we enter the beginning of an election year, the rhetoric will only get worse and the issue will become more polarized. The unfortunate victims of this Democratic charade, Mr. President, are not the American people but the American soldier.


BASH: Now, Democratic attacks are aimed in part at trying to minimize any credit Republicans could get if there are troop reductions close to the election. But Republican strategists insist, Wolf, they don't think it will work. The bottom line, the way they see it is, if the mood about Iraq is better by the fall they benefit, period -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, thank you very much.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration and members of Congress are pounding away at the "New York Times," which last week published details of a secret anti-terror program which sifts through millions of financial transactions. There are now calls for formal investigations and punishment of the newspaper.

House Republicans are working right now on a resolution that would criticize the news media over these kinds of leaks. I'll talk about that with Republican Congressman Peter King. That's coming up in the next hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM. But the "New York Times" is not the only newspaper that ran the story, so why is that newspaper being singled out by so many Republicans?

For that, let's turn to our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield -- Jeff.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Wolf, does this sound familiar? The most prominent paper in the United States stands accused of undermining the government's efforts to pursue its enemies. Comments, pro and con, line up mostly along predictable political lines, but in this case, there's an extra added twist.


GREENFIELD (voice-over): It was last week that the "New York Times" reported how the U.S. government was seeking to track terrorist finances through a vast database of confidential information on money transfers. The response from high government officials was swift and angry.

BUSH: The disclosure of this program is disgraceful.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some of the news media take it upon themselves to disclose vital national security programs, thereby making it more difficult for us to prevent future attacks against the American people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you give them the playbook that allows them to escape detection, that is wrong.

GREENFIELD: It's the second time in six months that the "Times" has drawn the wrath of the Bush administration for revealing a secret. Last December, the "Times" reported on warrantless wiretaps involving calls between the U.S. and foreign locales.

And it brings to mind a controversy from 35 years ago when the "Times" published the so-called Pentagon papers, a secret history of the war in Vietnam. A landmark Supreme Court case stopped the Nixon administration from banning publication.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will not resign if indicted.

GREENFIELD: Indeed, during the days of the Vietnam War, it was the "Times" and the broadcast networks that inspired many of Vice President Agnew's famous attacks on the press.

SPIRO AGNEW, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A spirit of natural masochism prevails, encouraged by an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals.

GREENFIELD: In the current case, conservative voices have attacked the "Times" severely. The "New York Post," a staunch conservative paper, called the story "New York Crimes." And its op-ed page today features a cartoon of Osama bin Laden with a "Times" tattoo.

So what's the wrinkle? Well, two other papers, the "Los Angeles Times" and "Wall Street Journal" published the same story. And the "Journal's" editorial page happens to be one of the most rigorously conservative, pro-Iraq war papers in the country. The "New York Times" by contrast is just as staunchly liberal.

That may explain why politicians and commentators on the right have aimed their fire at the "Times," an ideological adversary, but not at the "Journal," an ideological ally.


GREENFIELD: But there's even one more fascinating wrinkle here. The "Wall Street Journal's" editorial page often reflects a view very different from that of its news pagers, and that may explain why while the "New York Times" has editorially defended its position to publish, the "Journal" editorial page has so far said nothing -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I keep waiting every day. I look at that editorial page to see what they're going to say, and so far they've been ominously silent on this matter. We'll see if they say anything tomorrow. Jeff, thanks very much for that.

Jeff Greenfield and Dana Bash are part of the best political team on television. CNN, America's campaign headquarters.

At this hour, here in the United States, floodwaters are still rising in parts of several Mid-Atlantic and northeastern states after days of heavy rain. Like this afternoon, officials in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, ordered the evacuation of up to 200,000 people -- 200,000 people!

They fear that the swelling Susquehanna River may spill over floodwalls that protect the city or cause them to collapse. A full report from Wilkes-Barre coming up in the next hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Meanwhile, in southeastern Pennsylvania, the Delaware River right now pouring over its banks. It's expected to keep rising until tomorrow afternoon. Forty-six Pennsylvania counties are under a state of emergency right now. And in several parts of the state, helicopters and the National Guard have been called in to rescue hundreds of people thought to be trapped in their homes.

This as 15,000 residents of Binghamton, New York, have been forced into shelters there. More than four inches of rain fell on the city yesterday, and rivers in the area are expected to crest late tonight.

And closer to Washington, D.C., just outside Washington, in Rockville, Maryland, engineers are monitoring a leaking dam. Fears that it could give way have prompted the evacuation of some 1,200 homes. Across the region, the flooding is being blamed for at least 10 deaths. Stay here in THE SITUATION ROOM for more on this developing story.

We hope shortly to be speaking with the governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, on the emergency situation developing in that state. Some 200,000 people ordered to evacuate from the Wilkes-Barre area right now.

Zain Verjee is joining us here in Washington with a closer look at a developing story we're following out of the Middle East. Zain, what's going on?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, Israel's reporting that just hours ago, Israeli jets buzzed the country home of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad when he was at home. Syria will only confirm an incursion, calling it "hostile and provocative," This as Israel is ratcheting up the pressure on Syria and the Hamas-led Palestinian government over the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier.

Israel launched a military strike on Wednesday in southern Gaza earlier today, knocking out an electric power station that serves more than 700,000 people. War planes also bombed two bridges, effectively cutting Gaza in half. The militant group that claims to have kidnapped an Israeli settler is threatening to kill him unless the guards' incursion is halted.

The Palestinian government proposing a prisoner swap as a means of freeing the Israeli soldier. Israel accuses Syria of allowing and protecting the exiled political leadership of Hamas to operate from Damascus -- Wolf.

BLITZER: This tension between the Israelis, the Palestinians and now the Syrians, Zain, this could escalate. There's real brinkmanship going on right now.

VERJEE: There is. There's a real danger that that could happen. An IDF spokesperson said that they mean business and they could escalate the situation. But I spoke to some Israeli officials a little bit earlier and they said they're really looking for a de- escalation and they want the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to really precipitate that and lean on the Hamas leadership and exile in Syria to end the crisis and release the prisoner -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to get Syrian reaction here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Zain, in the next hour. The Ambassador Imad Moustapha is going to be joining us here live. Zain, welcome to Washington. Zain's first day in Washington.

Jack Cafferty, say welcome to Zain. She's now permanently based in Washington as opposed to Atlanta.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Are you going to work more than one or two days a week in Washington?

VERJEE: I may. I'll see how I feel.

CAFFERTY: We don't want you to tax yourself.

VERJEE: I need some help unpacking my boxes, though, Jack. I hope you can come down and get rid of some of my heavy boxes and maybe help rearrange some furniture.

CAFFERTY: Yes, I'll be on the Metro line.

VERJEE: They got soaked by the way, in all that rain.

CAFFERTY: What? What?

VERJEE: Got soaked in all the rain.

CAFFERTY: That's a shame.

BLITZER: Jack, you got a question?

VERJEE: You can dry it with my hair dryer, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Nobody cares, Zain.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to move on, Jack. It's time for your question. CAFFERTY: Is it? OK. Pimps may soon have to watch out for the tax man. The Senate Finance Committee has approved a bill to have the IRS go after pimps and sex traffickers the same way it chased Al Capone for tax evasion.

The measure, sponsored by Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, would hit pimps with 10-year prison sentences and $50,000 fines for each employment form they fail to file for a prostitute working for them. Like the pimps are going to go down and fill out employment forms for their hookers. I mean, what?

It would also put $2 million toward establishing an office within the IRS to prosecute pimps and sex traffickers. Grassley's office says his goal is not to legitimize pimps but to find another way to track the money and catch potential criminals. They take these things seriously there.

Some experts say this could put pimps out of business -- that ain't going to happen -- without going through the trials that force women to testify about abuse and mistreatment.

Critics say it's much too shortsighted. The critics are right. This is a totally stupid idea. Nevertheless, here's the question: Should Congress be worried about taxing pimps and sex traffickers?

E-mail us at or go to Ain't nobody got a copyright on dumb ideas down there, is there, Wolf?

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thanks very much. Serious proposal from Senator Grassley.

Coming up, a crucial ruling from the Supreme Court that could have major political implications. Candy Crowley has the story. She's standing by. That's coming up next.

Also, he's been under fire from his only party over immigration. But thanks to a major campaign victory, will President Bush be able to seize the moment right now? We'll go live to Ed Henry at the White House.

And Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama say fellow Democrats need to demonstrate more faith in the power of religious faith. Can that bring more power to their party? I'll ask our John Roberts, stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back. The U.S. Supreme Court today issued an important ruling over that convoluted and controversial map of Texas congressional districts. The redistricting, which left some Democrats without seats in the game of musical chairs, was engineered by the former House majority leader Tom DeLay. He may have come out the winner on this day. Let's turn to our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you take six different opinions from nine different justices on three related issues. That's going to keep judicial watchers busy for years. But other judgments came quickly.


CROWLEY (voice-over): Politicos cut to the chase. Advantage Tom DeLay.

(on camera): Totality of the ruling, would you characterize as a victory for Tom DeLay?

CHARLIE STENHOLM, FORMER TEXAS CONGRESSMAN: If you didn't say that -- I mean, obviously, he was very successful in getting rid of Democrats and replacing us with Republicans. And you've got to give him credit for that.

CROWLEY: Basically, the Supreme Court upheld the bulk of a Texas redistricting plan, a Republican-friendly political map driven and largely written by Tom DeLay. The justices rejected Democratic arguments that redistricting violated the law because it was not done in conjunction with the 10-year census cycle. State legislatures, the high court said, can redistrict when they want, kiddie bar the door.

REP. RAHM EMANUEL (D), ILLINOIS: All map drawings are political processes and with a partisan tinge. But if you thought before you needed a veneer for it, the Supreme Court just ripped that off.

CROWLEY: In a partial victory for critics, the high court did rule that lines drawn around one southwest Texas district diluted the Hispanic vote and thus violated the Voting Rights Act. That district will have to be withdrawn. Still the bulk of what happened in Texas remains intact as designed by DeLay, who first raised buckets of money to help put Republicans in the Texas legislature. Then used the new majority to pass a new district map to favor Republican elections to the U.S. Congress. Democrats went bats.

LLOYD DOGGETT, FORMER TEXAS CONGRESSMAN: In Washington, we know him as Tom, the hammer. But here, it's Tom, the knife, who would carve up our state and split and divide our communities.

CROWLEY: Despite the hue and cry, it worked. In 2004, with newly-drawn Texas districts, four Democrats, including 26 year veteran Charlie Stenholm lost their seats.

STENHOLM: The result in Texas.


CROWLEY: The result in Texas, he went on to say, was that it was an extremely ugly, bitter, divisive move. But in one of those twists only politics can produce, DeLay won this battle after he lost the war. He is out of office now in large part because he's been indicted accused of violating Texas campaign law while funding those Republican races to win the majority and redistrict that state.

BLITZER: In the past, usually they only redistricted every 10 years or so after there was a federal census. Does the ruling today suggest that they can go ahead and redistrict the state any time basically the majority party in a state legislature wants?

CROWLEY: It suggests that absolutely. It says it can because the basic claim against this redistricting -- DeLay-led redistricting was you can't do that. It was in the middle of the census cycle.

Having said that, people who watch state legislatures doubt that there's going to be this huge rush now with people just redistricting every time the state legislature changes majority. First of all, because it is such a bitter thing.

Second of all, because states are so sharply divided, it's difficult to work in that environment on a new political map. And third of all, is they don't really like doing it all that much. So 10 years seems to suit everybody, which doesn't mean that there aren't states that may try, because there's a couple of them out there already looking at it.

BLITZER: Candy, thanks very much, good report.

And while it was largely good news for Republicans, the Supreme Court did take issue with how Texas redrew that one particular congressional district that Candy just mentioned. Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, all these district maps are available online at the Texas legislative council. So what you can do is compare those districts before and after the 2003 redistricting. It was district -- changes to the district 23 here in the west of Texas that the Supreme Court threw out today.

If you zoom in there, you can see what it looked like before the redistricting -- this was used for the 2002 election and here it is afterwards. These changes made reduce the percentage of Latinos who are eligible to vote from 58 percent to 46 percent.

That the court ruled violated the Voting Rights Act. These are all availability online at the Texas legislative council. That district will have to be redrawn. It's unclear whether that happen before November, Wolf.

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

He looked to be in danger right up until primary day, but the Utah Republican Congressman Chris Cannon survived a challenge over his support for the president's immigration reform policy. Let's go live to our White House correspondent Ed Henry -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the White House is declaring this is a clear victory for the president's comprehensive approach border security plus guest worker program. And the president today immediately tried to pivot off this win and take another run at striking a compromise.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You saw the Chris Cannon race yesterday, where wins by a 56-44 margin against a well-financed challenger. It's only slightly smaller than his margin in a previous race. Comprehensive reform is something that Americans want.

HENRY (voice-over): But in a sign of the continued split in the Republican Party, the White House celebration of Chris Cannon's victory got some cold water poured on it by House Majority Leader John Boehner.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MAJORITY LEADER: We have members who want a more comprehensive plan than others. But I think it's clear that the vast majority of our Congress believes that strengthening our border, securing it and enforcing our laws are critical steps in the process of cleaning up the problem that we have.

HENRY: The president, however, tried to seize the moment by summoning a leading conservative, Indiana Congressman Mike Pence for an Oval Office meeting with the president and vice president to discuss Pence's compromise legislation that first tightens the U.S. borders and gets illegal immigrants to leave the country temporarily.

Then within two years a guest worker program would be triggered to allow one-time illegal immigrants to return to America, after the Homeland Security Department certifies the borders have been secured.

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: I call it a no-amnesty guest- worker program. And the president listened intently. He told me that he was intrigued with my proposal. And he said he found it interesting.

HENRY: The president was especially inquisitive about Pence's provision creating private-sector-based Ellis Island centers that would help former illegal immigrants come back in an orderly way and return to the work force.

PENCE: If you return home and apply for the legal right to be in the United States of America, that doesn't involve amnesty, because you're applying for that visa outside the United States of America.


HENRY: But John Boehner today repeatedly refused to answer reporters' questions about whether House leaders could support something like the Pence plan. Pence does have a lot of street credibility with conservatives. But the bottom line is that House leaders are not yet convinced that this type of approach will satisfy anti-amnesty lawmakers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry, thank you for that.

Up next: politics and religion -- two top Democrats call for party members to emphasize their faith, that story in today's "Culture Wars."

And, later, when Bill Clinton speaks, Democrats, a lot of them at least, like to listen. We will tell you what he's saying and how it could help his wife, if she decides to run for president.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Are Democrats starting to get religion? Two of the party's rising stars, Senators Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton, are advising colleagues that that may be the ticket for success.

Let's bring in our senior national correspondent, John Roberts, for our "Culture Wars" segment.


BLITZER: What is going on?


For years, Democrats, unlike Republicans, have been afraid to wear religion on their sleeve. It's to the point that they're perceived as a party of secular snobs and have turned off a large slice of America. But now they want to try to win that slice back.


ROBERTS (voice-over): Inside this Washington, D.C., church, a revival of sorts is under way...


ROBERTS: ... a rebirth of religion in the Democratic Party.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: I think we make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in people's lives.

ROBERTS: Leading the reawakening is Barak Obama, the superstar senator from Illinois. He's urging fellow Democrats to lose their fear of talking about faith.

OBAMA: If we're not talking about how our values inform our public policies, then we are going to be vulnerable to the accusation that we are secular and can't speak to the things that are important to people.

ROBERTS: At stake is a huge swathe of voters across the Midwest and through the South, white evangelicals. They account for nearly one in four people who voted in 2004. And they went overwhelmingly for President Bush.

JIM WALLIS, PRESIDENT, CALL TO RENEWAL: It's the biggest mistake Democrats have made, to cede the entire territory of religion and values to a religious and political right, who then narrow the issues to only abortion and gay marriage, then manipulate them politically.

ROBERTS: Certainly, a large chunk of those Christian voters would never go Democrat. But enough could to make the difference, particularly in a presidential election. So, it's not surprising to see some prominent players trying to build trust with moderate evangelicals.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: It's really important that we, as people of faith, enlarge the debate in this country. It's been too narrow for too long now.


ROBERTS: Enlarging the debate means expanding the pot of so- called morals and values issues beyond abortion and same-sex marriage, to include poverty, hunger, human rights.

And here's a new one for you, creation care. That's a new name for environmentalism, a way Democrats hope to connect with religious voters and at least let them in the door and get them to listen.

BLITZER: John, thanks very much. Good report.

And we're going to have much more of John's reporting tonight on "ANDERSON COOPER 360." That airs 10:00 p.m. Eastern. That's coming up later tonight.

John Roberts and, as you saw earlier, Candy Crowley and Ed Henry, they're all part of the best political team on television -- CNN, America's campaign headquarters.

Up next: the political battle over Iraq -- Democrats turning up their heat in the offensive over a U.S. troop pullout. Is their strategy working?

Plus, can President Bush make the most over a primary victory when it comes to immigration reform? I will ask Paul Begala and Torie Clarke. They're standing by live in today's "Strategy Session."


BLITZER: Welcome back.

A Supreme Court decision issued today could have some major political implications.

Joining us now to discuss that and other political developments in our "Strategy Session," Democratic political strategist Paul Begala, and former Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke.

The -- Tom DeLay looks like a big winner. He got what he wanted, the redistricting of all those congressional districts in Texas. Supreme Court said, basically, OK.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right, big win for Tom DeLay, and it will make him feel a lot better if he goes to prison.


BEGALA: Now, he hasn't been found guilty. He hasn't even been put on trial yet. But he's out.

Still, it's a big win for the Republican Party, those who are still here. I don't think it's all that unexpected. The one district that the court said, the 23rd District, which runs along the Rio Grande River in Texas, the court said that had to be moved around about it, the Republican incumbent there, Henry Bonilla won in the last election by 40 points.

So, even if they take 35 percent of the Republicans out of there, Henry is going to be fine. So, it's very good news for the Republicans.

BLITZER: He won by 40 points, not 40 votes.

BEGALA: He won 40 percent.

BLITZER: Yes. That's correct.

BEGALA: He won a huge, colossal landslide. And, so, Republicans need not worry anymore about that.

BLITZER: Is the pressure going to mount now on states to go ahead every few years to redesign all those districts, to give the larger party, the majority party in those states, an advantage, a further advantage, to strengthen their congressional delegation?


But I disagree with both of you. I don't think it's such a huge win. I mean, Candy Crowley speaks about how complex these decisions are. And the lawyers are going to be having a field day with it for forever and ever.

Jeffrey Toobin, who has been on this show a few times, wrote a great article a while back in "The New Yorker" about the Supreme Court case. And, you know, as he points out, nothing new about gerrymandering, nothing new about court challenges. But it is becoming increasingly polarized...

BEGALA: Right.

CLARKE: ... in which, increasingly, the voters are not deciding who gets to be in the House of Representatives. State legislators are.

So, what I would like to see -- I doubt it will happen -- but what I would like to see is more states move to a nonpartisan civil service-type commission. Iowa did that after the 2000 census, where it's taken out of the political realm and put where it belongs.

BEGALA: Yes. BLITZER: That's...

BEGALA: Actually, we are -- this is a rare moment of agreement. I think Torie is right.

CLARKE: Every once in a while.

BEGALA: Every once in a while.


BEGALA: But -- and what it will do, though, the court, 7-2 -- it was not close -- said, if you want to go redistrict your state for strictly partisan reasons, even if it's in the middle of the census, that you don't have to wait for 10 years...

CLARKE: Well, that's a...


BEGALA: ... as tradition has held.

CLARKE: ... stretch on what the they said.

What they said was...

BEGALA: They were very clear.

CLARKE: ... it doesn't look as though any political party was shut out of the process by this. And it was very similar to issues and challenges that have been raised before.

BLITZER: But they allowed his redistricting to stand...

CLARKE: Right.

BLITZER: ... in effect.

BEGALA: Right.


BLITZER: Let's talk about Chris Cannon, one Republican congressman, a very happy one today, from Utah.


BLITZER: He was very worried. He supports the president's compromise stance on immigration reform, as opposed to his opponent, who was much more critical of the president...

CLARKE: Right.

BLITZER: ... the amnesty provisions as they call it, the critics, Chris Cannon saying today he won. "A lot of money got spent here by outside groups, by people who had a vested interest in not solving the immigration problem. The debate is going to take a different direction after tonight."

What does it mean for Republicans running right now, the fact that Chris Cannon, who supports the president's immigration policy, won?

CLARKE: I continue to be a lone wolf on this, because I think it has less to do with whether or not he supported the president's position.


BEGALA: ... one other wolf.

CLARKE: It had more to do -- oh, good point.


CLARKE: It had more to with what was going on in his district and how his constituents were feeling about it, with all do respect to the president, who I think has been doing yeoman's work on this issue.

It has more to do with politicians deciding how is this playing in my district, which varies greatly across the country, and playing to that.

BLITZER: Was there a message sent, because Tony Snow, the White House press secretary, listen to what he said as a result of Chris Cannon's win.


TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You saw the Chris Cannon race yesterday, where -- where he wins by a 56-44 margin against a well-financed challenger. It's only slightly smaller than his -- his margin in a previous race. Comprehensive reform is something that Americans want.


BLITZER: So, do the Tom Tancredos, the Sensenbrenners, do they lose as a result of Chris Cannon's win?

BEGALA: Yes. Yes, if being -- you know, I love when Republicans fight. It's the Neanderthals against the Cro-Magnons, OK? And...


BEGALA: And, so, what happened here is, the slightly more moderate position, the Bush position, on immigration prevailed.

And it didn't just prevailed. It prevailed, as Tony said, by 12 points in a Republican-only primary in Provo, Utah. Well, if being -- if having the mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging position can't win you a primary in Provo, it's not going to save, like, say, J.D. Hayworth in Arizona, who has a tough Democratic opponent.

BLITZER: Here's a third and final subject I want to discuss.

The Democrats -- we just heard John Roberts talk about Democrats' efforts to try to reach out to evangelicals, other people of faith, Barack Obama saying: "Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering the public square. We make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in the lives of the American people and join a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern pluralistic democracy."

CLARKE: Right.


BLITZER: Is this new strategy, Barak Obama putting forward, Hillary Clinton putting forward, smart for Democrats?

CLARKE: Well, I don't know if it's a new strategy being put forth by them.

I think, in some ways, it reflects some genuine thinking. I think his comments are similar to things the president has said on this topic. But he also said something very, very important, which is, this has to be real. People know when it's not real. You can't just show up in a pew a month before Election Day and sing a song off- tune or dance badly, or whatever it was he said, and expect people to think, OK, this is a person of faith who understands the importance of faith in people's lives.

It has got to be real. And I think we very quickly -- you will very quickly be able to winnow out for whom it's real...

BLITZER: All right.

CLARKE: ... and for whom it's not.

BLITZER: All right, very quickly, wrap it up.


BEGALA: This is -- President Bush, who has an obvious and abiding faith, he doesn't go to church very often. So, I don't know if, really, people are going to judge how often people go to church. It's the...

CLARKE: That's not necessarily how you judge one's faith.

BEGALA: That's right. That's what I'm saying.

CLARKE: Right.

BEGALA: You sort of made a comment you can't go the Sunday before the election.

But I think that Democrats like Obama and Senator Clinton, who are smart and are authentic people of real faith -- and I know them both -- I think it's good that they're giving voice to it. And I think it's terrific if the Democrats will turn away from this sort of anti-religious elitism that many of them suffered from.

BLITZER: We have got to leave it there. Thanks, guys, very much.


BLITZER: And, as you see, Paul Begala and Torie Clarke, again, they are part of the best political team on television -- CNN, America's best campaign headquarters.

Let's go to Zain. She's here in Washington following a developing story.

What are you picking up, Zain?

VERJEE: Wolf, the Senate has approved Goldman Sachs chief Henry Paulson to be the next U.S. treasury secretary. It was widely expected, Wolf, that he would get approval. He's a man highly regarded when he was chairman of Goldman Sachs.

He's a 32-year-old Wall Street veteran. And, as you know, both Democrats and Republicans welcomed his nomination. He will be succeeding John Snow, who stepped down after three-and-a-half years in that position. Paulson is expected to be active on international issues, like trying to persuade China to revamp its currency policy -- and, also, President Bush looking to him at a time to help energize the economic agenda -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Congratulations to Henry Paulson.

Thanks, Zain, for that.

And, coming up: Bill Clinton speaks out over a fight that's pitting Democrats against Democrats. We are going to tell you what he's saying and how it could help his wife run for president, if she decides she wants to do that.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: In today's "Political Radar" Are there too many primaries? Do they come along too soon? Well, get your calendars out. Democrats want to add some more early contests. But one Democrat says he has some reservations.

CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider standing by with the story -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, to critics who say the presidential primary calendar is too front-loaded, that the nominee is chosen too early by a small number of voters in a few states, Democrats have an answer: Let's front-load it some more. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Ever notice that, when Democrats lose a presidential race, their first impulse is to change the primary schedule? Well, they're at it again. A party committee has voted to allow two more states to hold early contests, along with Iowa and New Hampshire.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Adding a caucus in the West, perhaps Nevada or Arizona, maybe Colorado, and we're also looking at the South for a primary.

SCHNEIDER: Why? Diversity. A Western caucus would add Hispanic votes, a Southern primary, African-Americans. What Democrat could object to that? Well, here's one.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I worry about the continued pushing of the presidential calendar forward by states that think they can be more important if they're earlier, robbing candidates of the time they need to actually do what you have to do if you're in New Hampshire.

SCHNEIDER: Could defending New Hampshire have something to do with, oh, say, his wife? The former president said Senator Hillary Clinton -- quote -- "has exactly the same feelings that I do."

If she runs for president in 2008, she will have a lot riding on the New Hampshire primary. That's because she has a problem in Iowa.

PRESTON: The Iowa caucuses tend to be dominated by more liberals. And she's having a problem right now with that part of the party.

SCHNEIDER: Iowa Democrats tend to be intensely anti-war. Unlike John Edwards, Hillary Clinton has not said that her vote to go to war in Iraq was a mistake. A recent poll of Iowa Democrats showed Edwards running first.

If Senator Clinton loses Iowa, New Hampshire could do the same thing for her that it did for her husband in 1992. It could make her the comeback kid.


SCHNEIDER: New Hampshire and Iowa are allowed to come first, not because they're diverse, but because they're small. They allow -- in fact, they require -- face-to-face campaigning, with less emphasis on money and packaging -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider, thanks very much for that report.

Up next here in THE SITUATION ROOM: Tens of thousands of acres burned, and they're -- and they just keep on burning. We're going to have the latest on the massive wildfires that are charring the West.

And coming up in our next hour: Congressman Peter King, he's leading the charge as Republicans blast "The New York Times" for reporting on that secret terror surveillance program. I will ask about a resolution condemning the newspaper.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Still to come: taxing issues on Jack Cafferty's mind. Should Congress be worried about taxing pimps and sex traffickers? He's standing by with "The Cafferty File."

And coming up in our next hour: America's eyes in the sky. We will get an exclusive look at the country's latest spy satellite as it's being built.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack. He's in New York -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The Senate Finance Committee has approved a bill to have the IRS go after pimps and sex traffickers. The bill, introduced by Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, Republican from Iowa, would hit the pimps with 10-year prison sentences and $50,000 fines for each employment form they fail to file for a prostitute who works for them.

The question is: Should Congress be worried about taxing pimps and sex traffickers?

Some of the stuff we can read you that I got.

Charles in Houston: "Does anybody really believe a pimp will take time out to register his prostitutes as workers, only to risk legal action against himself? This has to be one of the most idiotic proposals by a congressman I have heard in years."

Ryan in Ellsworth, Maine: "Why not go after them? Make him pay. I mean, Congress ought to do anything to divert attention away from the 20 million illegal aliens that don't pay any taxes."

John in Ontario: "Aren't members of Congress already paying enough taxes?"

Joseph in San Diego: "I'm a physician. I have to pay income taxes and file paperwork on my employees. You suggest it is a stupid idea to demand the same of pimps. Am I to assume I am in the wrong business?"

Al in Lawrence, Kansas: "Perhaps we should only go after pimps who burn flags, have gay prostitutes, leak classified customer names to 'The New York Times,' and cut and run from the police."

And Rick in Lisbon, Connecticut: "Heck no. I think they are all smoking Grassley" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very clever.

Thanks, Jack, very much.