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The Situation Room

After North Korea's Missile Tests, President Bush Says Diplomatic Solution Will Take Time and Patience; Iraq Was Main Topic During Lieberman, Lamont Debate; Interview with Howard Dean; Murtha's New Mission; Space Station Crew Members Interviewed; World Cup Final on Sunday

Aired July 07, 2006 - 16:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: To our viewers, you are 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, President Bush sends a message to North Korea's dictator, make a choice. It's 3:00 PM in Chicago, where Mr. Bush fielded questions about Kim Jong Il and his missile defiance. We will have a live update on the stand off and the administration's strategy.

Also this hour, Senator Lieberman fires back at the fellow Democrat threatening his political career. It's 4:00 PM in Connecticut where Iraq politics and Democratic divisions are front and center. I will ask party chairman Howard Dean about Lieberman's plight and much more.

And Discovery's perilous flight pays off. The space shuttle astronauts get long awaited and badly needed supplies. In their first TV interview, I will talk live to three astronauts now in orbit about the mission, the risks and the state of the space program.

Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm John King, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Three days after North Korea's brazen missile test, President Bush says a diplomatic solution will take more time and patience. U.S. envoy Christopher Hill now is in the region, meeting with allies in the standoff with North Korea. And at the United Nation, a new Security Council draft resolution, including sanctions, could be put to a vote as soon as tomorrow. That despite continued resistance from China and Russia.

Mr. Bush today took his case for a global approach to Chicago. He held a news conference with local reporters and national reporters, including our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, of course President Bush choosing Chicago as the first place for a solo press conference outside of Washington to show that he's in touch with the American people, the heartland if you will. But clearly this press conference was dominated by questions of North Korea and how this administration is handling that situation. And of course the president challenged on a number of fronts. The fact that it was four years ago that he labeled North Korea a member of the axis of evil. The fact that intelligence sources say that it has since increased its nuclear capabilities. It has now walked away from six party talks and launched these missiles, but President Bush made it very clear that he is sticking with the strategy and that sometimes diplomacy is tough.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The problem with diplomacy, it takes a while to get something done. If you are acting alone, you can move quickly. When you are rallying world opinion, and trying to come up with the right language at the United Nations to send a clear signal, it takes a while.


MALVEAUX: John, of course, what the president is talking about is trying to get all members to urge North Korea to comeback to the six-party talks. The U.N. Security Council very much divided over what is the best way to do that, some promoting sanctions, others against it.

The president is going to have a chance to make his case specifically to Russia and China next week. That's when he's visiting in Germany and Russia for the G-8 summit. He will meet face-to-face with those leaders again, once again to try to get everyone on the same page.

KING: And Suzanne, how does the president then answer the question, you say, sir you say your policy is a success but your friends, the president of China and the president of Russia, they are the ones in the way, how can you get them to move?

MALVEAUX: Well, certainly. What the president is saying now is it's simply a matter of trying to convince them, trying to be patient and let this diplomatic effort work here, but a lot of critics say look, perhaps it is time for one-on-one talks. Perhaps this is not working at a six-party platform. He believes they are in a much stronger position, the United States, if they hold out a little bit longer, so they are talking about simply buying time.

KING: Suzanne Malveaux for us in what looks to be a beautiful day in Chicago. Suzanne thank you very much.

In our CNN security watch, three of eight principal suspects are now in custody abroad in an alleged plot to attack transportation tunnels connecting New York and New Jersey. Authorities today announced they'd foiled a plot by foreign terrorists, they say, are linked to al Qaeda. An FBI official says the group was broadly targeting tunnels under the Hudson River, not specifically the Holland Tunnel, as first reported. He says the plot, in its early stages, would have included a suicide bombing and was in his words, quote, the real deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARK MERSHON, FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: They were about to go to a phase where they would attempt to surveil targets, establish a regimen of attack and acquire the resources necessary to effectuate the attacks. And at that point I think it's entirely appropriate to take it down.


KING: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the alleged plot is further evidence to him that homeland security funding to New York City should not have been cut and members of the state's congressional delegation agree.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The one thing, other than the fact that intelligence got this early on, that I think is important, this once again shows that homeland security and Secretary Chertoff's view that New York shouldn't get funding, and shouldn't get funding for personnel makes no sense whatsoever.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: New York, the city's infrastructure, is as safe as can be primarily because of the work of the NYPD, but it won't be safe as it should be if they don't get more funding from the federal government for projects such as this. This is one very draining on the New York City treasury.


KING: Congressman King and Senator Schumer making those comments earlier today here on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING."

We will have much more on this story next hour, including a live report from our justice correspondent Kelli Arena and our Mary Snow up in New York. And remember, stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

Our Zain Verjee joins us now with a closer look at other stories making news. Hi Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Hi John, in London today, this, a moment of silence at mid-day, marking the one-year anniversary of a series of deadly bombings, targeting the city's public transport system. Other ceremonies honoring the victims were held around the city and across Britain, 52 people died in the attacks and some seven hundred were wounded. The bombings were the worst in London since WWII. We will be going live to London in the next hour.

Israel is pushing ahead with military operations in Gaza which it says are aimed at finding a kidnapped soldier and preventing rocket attacks. Palestinian officials say five people were killed in air strikes and one died in a gun battle with Israeli troops today.

And five rockets launched from Palestinian territory landed on a southern Israeli town, slightly wounding two people. Meanwhile, Hamas issued a statement saying the 19-year-old Israeli soldier being held by the group is being treated "humanely."

A new wave of sectarian violence in Iraq. There were attacks on three Sunni mosques and a Shia holy site and police say mortars landed in a market in a Shia area of Baghdad. In all at least 13 people were killed an dozens were killed.

Earlier in the Baghdad Shia neighborhood that is known as Sadr City, a U.S. raid reportedly netted a high level militant leader. U.S. commanders say as many as 40 militants were killed or wounded in an intense firefight and they also report that a second important militant leader was captured by Iraqi troops just south of Baghdad.

Also today the Pentagon reported two new U.S. deaths in Iraq. The U.S. death toll now stands at 2,539. John?

KING: Thank you very much, Zain Verjee.

Iraq was the main topic of debate when Senator Joe Lieberman went head to head for the first time with his Democratic primary challenger Ned Lamont. In last night's face off Lieberman tried to move beyond his support for the war and Lamont tried to nail him on it. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider went to the debate and he is with us now from Stamford, Connecticut.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi John, you know the primary here in Connecticut between Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont is supposed to be a one-issue race, but what issue will that be?


SCHNEIDER: In the debate Thursday evening, each candidate tried to frame the race. For challenger Ned Lamont the issue is Iraq.

NED LAMONT (D), CONNECTICUT SENATE CANDIDATE: And Senator Lieberman cheered on the president every step of the way when we should have been asking the tough questions.

SCHNEIDER: Lieberman was dismissive.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: He's a single issue candidate who's applying a litmus test to me.

SCHNEIDER: For Lieberman the issue is himself.

LIEBERMAN: The people of Connecticut and I have known each other for a long time. We have laughed and cried together.

SCHNEIDER: Democratic congressional candidate Diane Farrell disagrees with Lieberman on Iraq but she says she will vote for him in the Democratic primary out of personal loyalty.

DIANE FARRELL (D), CONNECTICUT: We have known each other a long time and we've respectfully agreed to disagree with one another.

SCHNEIDER: How many Democrats feel that way? It's not clear. DAVID LIGHTMAN, HARTFORD COURANT: We don't know if this is a referendum on Iraq or a referendum on Joe Lieberman.

SCHNEIDER: You see, Lieberman is running in a primary and primaries are about sending a message.

LIGHTMAN: It's a Democratic primary and I think what's hurting Lieberman most is the fact that a lot of Democrats think he's not Democratic enough.

SCHNEIDER: Primary voters are not voting to reelect an incumbent. They're voting to define the party's message.

LAMONT: The senator has seniority, but when you use seniority on the wrong side of issues that people care about, that's a problem.

SCHNEIDER: Lieberman's appeal is ...

LIEBERMAN: What I'm saying to the people of Connecticut, I can do more for you and your families.

SCHNEIDER: His opponent's response is ...

LAMONT: Senator this is not about anybody's career, this election is about the people.

SCHNEIDER: November is about reelecting the incumbent. That's when Lieberman can count on getting support Congressman Chris Shays.

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: I'm going to vote for him, absolutely. I mean this is someone who has put his country first.

SCHNEIDER: But Shays is a Republican. He can't vote in the Democratic primary.


SCHNEIDER: That's why Lieberman says he'll run in November even if he loses the primary. The November election will be framed the way he wants, about his service, not about the Democratic party's message -- John.

KING: And Bill, what's your sense from being there? The senator said he had to make that announcement about the insurance policy, as he called it, of getting on the November ballot before the primary because of the deadline to file petitions and all that. Many would think that would hurt him even more among Democratic primary voters; they would view him as disloyal. Is that your take?

SCHNEIDER: Well, it was a big surprise that it came up in the debate, but it wasn't the subject of a lot of discussion. I think what I've heard from people here in Connecticut is it's an issue for insiders. Most ordinary voters, including ordinary Democrats, aren't particularly bothered by that. What they want to know is the substance of the issues and the positions on issues like Iraq. KING: And you have Chris Shays in your piece, a Republican, saying he's going to vote for Joe Lieberman. If I'm a candidate in the Democratic primary, I'm not sure so sure I want him out saying that.

SCHNEIDER: Well, that's right. But he'll only vote for him in November. He's not going to vote in the primary. You know, I've heard a lot of Democrats make an interesting comment about Lieberman's performance in the debate. They said he was tough, he was aggressive. He came out after Ned Lamont. And then they say, wistfully, if only he had been that tough against Dick Cheney back in 2000.

KING: Nobody forgets. Nobody forgets. Long memories in politics. Bill Schneider for us in Stamford, Connecticut. Bill, thank you very much.

And Bill Schneider, and as you saw a bit earlier, Suzanne Malveaux, part of the best political team on television. CNN, America's campaign headquarters.

On our political radar this Friday, the still-developing fallout from the FBI raid on Congressman William Jefferson's office. As you may remember, President Bush ordered all documents to be sealed for 45 days. That time period ends on Sunday. We're waiting to see what the White House does next.

And a federal judge is expected to rule soon on Jefferson's request to have all the documents taken from his office returned. Congressman Jefferson is the subject of a bribery investigation. He denies any wrongdoing.

In Chicago today, President Bush touted the job and business growth as more reasons Americans should be optimistic about the economy. But a new government report shows employers added just 121,000 workers to their payrolls last month, a modest figure in any event and a figure one analyst calls "puny."

Also in Chicago, President Bush attended the 44th fundraiser of his second term. He brought in $1.2 million for Illinois gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka. Mr. Bush has raised more than $150 million for GOP candidates and party committees since January 2005.

Protesters gathered outside the event, burning American flags and demonstrating their anger at Mr. Bush. While the president's approval ratings remain low, Mr. Bush tells CNN's Larry King he'll continue to stump for Republican candidates in this midterm election year, and the president is predicting victory for his party.


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Are you going to do a lot of campaigning in '06?

BUSH: Absolutely. I'm doing a lot of campaigning. We're going to be just fine in '06. L. KING: Going to keep the House and Senate?

BUSH: We are. We are. And you know why? Because we're right on winning this war on terror, and we've got a good economic record. People are working under the leadership of this administration and the Congress.


KING: If you didn't catch Larry King's exclusive interview with the president and the first lady last night, it will replay this Sunday at 9:0 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 p.m. Pacific, here on CNN. Worth watching a second time if you did see it.

Coming up, will Democratic divisions over the war in Iraq hurt the party as it tries to recapture Congress? I'll ask the Democratic chairman, Howard Dean. He joins me here in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

Plus, he's an aging moderate Democrat from central Pennsylvania, not a likely candidate to be the new star of the left. But that's exactly what John Murtha has become. We'll tell you why.

And later, THE SITUATION ROOM reaches into orbit. We'll have the first live TV interview with the astronauts aboard the space station since the shuttle launch.


KING: In the North Korean missile standoff, the president is trying to keep his emphasis on international diplomacy. But what about potential political fallout here at home?


KING: Governor Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee joins us from Burlington, Vermont.

Governor, welcome to the SITUATION ROOM. I want to begin with a simple yes or no question. Should the president of the United States in the wake of the North Korean missile launches meet with Kim Jong- Il?

GOVERNOR HOWARD DEAN, CHAIRMAN OF THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I can't -- I don't want to get that far because I think that would be premature. I think the president of the United States ought to have a policy on North Korea that's better than let's see what happens.

Here's the fundamental problem. The president's been there for six years. Iran has -- is well on its way to nuclear weapons. North Korea has quadrupled its size of plutonium. The president dithers and dallies and doesn't do anything about it because his administration is divided into a group of hard-lined ideologues who think North Korea somehow will collapse of its own weight and a group of pragmatists who are getting smaller and smaller by the day, who want to negotiate. The Democrats handled North Korea properly. We should negotiate. We should be tough and smart in defending America, not just talk tough at election time.

KING: Well, I want you to listen to something the president said today. Before I toss you that byte though, the White House would say -- and add this please to your next answer if you want -- because the White House would say the Democrats negotiated a deal with Kim Jong- Il. He signed it and then he promptly violated it.

But I want you to listen to something the president said today, defending his approach to handling this.


BUSH: Now that he has defied China and Japan and South Korea and Russia and the United States, all of us said don't fire that rocket. He not only fired one, he fired seven. Now that he made that defiance, it's best for all of us to go to the U.N. Security Council and say loud and clear, here's some red lines. And that's what we're in the process of doing.


KING: Now, you say he doesn't have a policy. You're the same party that said the president was a unilateralist cowboy when he went to war in Iraq. Now he's doing what you wanted then, going to the United Nations.

DEAN: The problem -- the president's timing is awful. Where was the president five or six years ago when North Korea was violating their obligations? He was divided because he wouldn't listen to the people who understood what was going on like Colin Powell. He was in the grip of these neoconservatives who had this bizarre world view of how things are going to work out.

The president's timing is awful. He's always making the wrong step at the wrong time. The fact that he's going to the security council is a very good idea. They've been fooling around with that for four years. What he should have done is gone to the security council a long time ago, made the deal with China, which was perfectly easy to understand.

What they want is food, fuel and ultimately a pact that we won't attack them. We could do that in response for a verifiable nuclear disarmament with people on the ground. It's a perfectly simple deal. This president seems unable to do it because of the divisions in his administration.

KING: I want to ask you a question about the potential domestic political fallout or ramifications of all this. You have North Korea on the front pages; the president, of course, is dealing with the Iran issue, which you mentioned as well. You have this foiled plot in New York today that the FBI and Mayor Bloomberg and others are talking about, an apparent terrorist plan that was foiled. Does it concern you at all that with national security and terrorism back on the front pages, that Republicans will benefit from that issue, as they have in the past two elections?

DEAN: They believe that. I believe the Republicans are done benefiting, because you can't trust the Republicans to defend America. Not because they don't want to, but because they have not applied common sense to their defense policy.

Again, the president's been there for six years. Osama bin Laden is still on the loose. Iran is now talking about developing nuclear weapons and moving every day towards that. North Korea is firing missiles. The president has done nothing. They talk tough, but you've got to be tough and smart. And I think that's what the Democrats can offer the American people to defend America.

We will have a bold vision, a clear vision right from the beginning when we take power again. And we will defend America the same way Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt did, the same way John F. Kennedy did.

KING: Well, I want to talk to you for a few minutes about what it means to be a Democrat. As you know, Senator Joseph Lieberman faces a primary challenge in his home state of Connecticut. Senator Lieberman's position seems to be, I'm a good Democrat unless someone dares to challenge me in the primary, then I reserve the right to get on the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate.

Right now, is that a loyal Democrat? Is Joe Lieberman welcome in the Democratic Party, assuming he loses the primary, but wins the election?

DEAN: We don't get involved in primaries, the Democratic National Committee. Others can do that if they want to. We don't do that. We have to be an impartial arbitrator. What we do do is support Democrats and try to get Democrats to win.


KING: So help me. Let me just, let me ...

DEAN: And John, we allow the voters to decide who is a Democrat, so whoever the voters choose in Connecticut is who we're going to support.

KING: And would you then lean on the senatorial committee and use Democratic National Committee funds, if necessary, should Ned Lamont, if he beats Joe Lieberman in the primary, get financial support? Should Chairman Dean go up there and campaign for him? Should Democrats who are friends of Joe Lieberman go up there and campaign for him?

DEAN: John, I'm going to campaign for the Democratic nominee, and if it's Joe Lieberman, you're going to see me alongside Joe Lieberman. If it's Ned Lamont, you're going to see me alongside Ned Lamont. We don't get involved in primaries. We do support the Democratic nominee chosen by the people in the Democratic Party in Connecticut.

KING: Senator Lieberman has tried to hold out his position that, again, if I win the primary, great. If not, I'm going to get on the ballot anyway, even though I said I was running as a Democrat. He holds out that that position is better for the party in the long run, that he's trying to help the Democratic Party.

He says as much as you criticize Republicans for perhaps having litmus tests on abortion or litmus tests when it comes to taxes, that he doesn't want the parties to have a litmus test when it comes to Iraq.

Listen to something the senator said earlier this week on this program.


LIEBERMAN: The question that is being asked of the Democrats here in Connecticut is, will we impose a litmus test, the same kind of litmus test that we criticized the Republicans for imposing, particularly on one issue on which I have taken a principle stand, clearly not one that is to my political advantage, which is the war against terrorism.


KING: You ran for president. You were the antiwar candidate. You didn't get the nomination, but you had a pretty good following. Is opposition to the war in Iraq now a litmus test in the Democratic primary?

DEAN: You know, opposition to the war in Iraq is one factor among many factors that voters in Connecticut are going to make up their mind on. We do not get involved in primaries, I will say again. This is up to the voters in the Democratic primary in the state of Connecticut. They will choose. They will make ...

KING: I want to -- I want to jump in and talk to -- I want to jump in because we're almost out of time. What about nationally? You know what's going on in the party. You know what the base is saying on the Internet and everywhere else about this race. They are making this a defining choice for Democrats, watching to see what people do now that Senator Lieberman...

DEAN: The nice thing about our party is we don't dictate from the top down. We actually let voters make decisions. And I think that's a very healthy thing to do. I encourage voters to make decisions, and who they choose is who we support.

KING: Governor Dean, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Howard Dean, thank you very much for joining us.

DEAN: Thanks, John. Thank you for having me on.

KING: Take care.


KING: Coming up, thanks to his calls for a U.S. troop pullout from Iraq, a little known Congressman is now known from coast to coast, but what you may not know about John Murtha's new role on the campaign trail. We will fill you in.

And later, is a recent comment landing Senator Joe Biden in hot water? We'll get the situation online.


KING: Welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm John King in Washington. At first glance, you might not compare Congressman John Murtha to a rock star, but the Pennsylvania Democrat is on a nationwide tour of sorts in places where his opposition to the Iraq war strikes a positive chord.

Our Brian Todd has more now on Murtha's new mission. Hi, Brian.


You know, analysts say Iraq is the only issue driving John Murtha's popularity among Democrats, but they say right now, that's quite enough.


TODD (voice-over): He just turned 74 and has been in Congress more than three decades, but right now, crusty, old John Murtha is a Democratic rock star.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a great honor to ask Congressman John Murtha to come take the podium.

TODD: At campaign appearance or fundraisers, Murtha is a hot booking. He's raised more than $1 million for Democratic candidates according to their congressional campaign committee. Analysts say to shore up their base or find an opening against Republicans on Iraq, Democrats have a gold mine in the stocky, gray-haired ex-Marine who won two Purple Hearts in Vietnam.

STUART ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: He's the guy who has taken on George W. Bush. He spoke out even though he has a record of supporting the military. He spoke out when other Democrats wouldn't and I just think that has made him a star at the moment.

TODD: Last November, the man from Pennsylvania's coal country sees his national profile skyrocket after a very public reckoning that the war he voted for was, he believed, a failure.

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: It's time to bring the troops home.

TODD: Since then, he has taken on not only the president, but Mr. Bush's chief political strategist, who accuses Murtha of favoring a cut and run strategy. KARL ROVE, W.H. DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: If Murtha had his way, American troops would have been gone by the end of April and we wouldn't have gotten Zarqawi.

TODD: Remarks that got Murtha's blood boiling in an interview with Wolf Blitzer.

MURTHA: This one guy in the White House said cut and run. I don't know what the hell he knows about cutting and running.

TODD: As long as Murtha is willing to trade blows with GOP heavyweights on Iraq, analysts say, he will carry into the midterm elections. But one Republican who's battled with Murtha on the House floor sees a chink in the armor.

REP. PATRICK MCHENRY (R), NORTH CAROLINA: The moderates in the country are very turned off by this outlandish rhetoric, and this ostrich policy of sticking your head in the sand and ignoring the threats around the world.


TODD: Still, the Murtha momentum rolls on. He's predicted to safely win his district in November, and has initiated a bid for majority leader if the Democrats win back the House -- John.

KING: He's having quite the year. And we will keep watching.

TODD: That's right.

KING: Brian Todd, thank you very much.

Coming up, THE SITUATION ROOM extends into orbit. The astronauts aboard the space station join us next. It's their first live TV interview since the space shuttle launch.

And, later, the intraparty fight in Connecticut -- will the Lieberman-Lamont battle hurt the Democrats, as they try to recapture Congress? I will ask Paul Begala and Terry Jeffrey right here in today's "Strategy Session."


KING: Discovery astronauts say today they are pleased with the space shuttle's performance, after the mission was delayed, of course, and then threatened by an 11th-hour crack in fuel tank insulation.

Today, they are moving thousands of pounds of supplies and cargo on to the International Space Station.

Right now, we have the distinct pleasure of being joined by three of the space station crew members, Commander Pavel Vinogradov of Russia, flight engineer Jeffrey Williams of the United States, and astronaut Thomas Reiter of Germany, who arrived aboard Discovery.

This is their first television interview since this mission began.

Gentlemen, let me check in and, with NASA's help, can you hear me OK?


KING: Excellent.

Let me start with you, Tom Reiter.

You flew up on the Discovery. They said there was a one-in-100 chance you wouldn't make it. It was clearly a risky mission. NASA's safety -- top safety official actually recommended not launching.

I want your thoughts on the process of going through that. And what did the astronauts, as a group, say as you were preparing and giving your recommendation of whether it should be a go?

THOMAS REITER, EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY: Well, I personally do not believe too much in these kind of statistics.

If you compare it to daily life, I think the risks of reaching a certain destination when you go by car are probably sometimes less. It was a great ride. And I could imagine that, from now on, all the next succeeding missions will continue as planned.

KING: And, Jeff Williams, the shuttle as it came in yesterday had a majestic flip. It looked beautiful down here to the human eye, if you will, the untrained eye. But it was also done for safety reasons. It was done so that you could take a look out from the space station and inspect those critical heat shields for any damage.

Tell us a bit about what it looked like. And tell us about, did you see anything that troubles you at all?

WILLIAMS: Yes. On both counts, it was a magnificent view that Pavel and I had as the shuttle approached directly below the space station, and then it did that -- that backflip, if you will, as you described, just a fantastic view to see such a -- a grand vehicle outside our window.

And, as you also mentioned, we had an inspection requirement through photography. And we completed that as planned. And we saw nothing out of the ordinary, nothing of interest.

KING: Pavel, you have been in space now a few months, the two of you, you and Jeff Williams, up on the space station. You have a third guest now. Astronaut Reiter will stay with you for a little bit.

What's your first piece of advice to him on joining what looks to be a pretty crowded little dorm room up there?

PAVEL VINOGRADOV, SPACE STATION COMMANDER (through translator): Thomas is quite experienced space pilot. He spend a lot of time on Mir station. And it's really hard to give him any advice. I can only imagine that me and Jeff are very happy that it's three of us, and we start working together.

KING: Well, Jeff, he mentioned the three of you now.

You know, one of the criticisms here in the United States is, why spend these tens and tens of millions of dollars, why risk the lives of shuttle astronauts, given the safety record and the recent -- the tragedies in the program? Why take such risks, in money and potential human life, to essentially resupply the space station?

Tell us about what you think is being done there that is worthwhile, in terms of the experiments. What are you learning?

WILLIAMS: Well, let me talk a bit -- a little bit in the bigger picture.

And that's, if you look at the human history, it is a history of exploration. And there's always been debate on every step of the way throughout history on whether we ought to go beyond what we know.

But there's something in our nature that wants to seek and understand and look around the corner and over the horizon to understand what we -- and to discover what we haven't discovered yet. And that's what we are doing now.

And it's no different than at any other point in history. This is a stepping-stone to future programs and future exploration, back to the moon and on to Mars. So, nobody has ever said it was easy. It's not easy. It's difficult. And it takes a lot of , tens of thousands, really, dedicated, hardworking people that believe in that dream and believe in that focus.

And the team that we are honored to work with believe in that. So, it -- the steps come small at times. They come difficult at times. But it's a worthy cause. And we need to continue the program.

KING: Gentleman, we need to end it there, unfortunately, because of time but, we appreciate your cooperation, and your words of wisdom, and your advice, and sharing your experience in your first interview from the space station.

We wish you well. Enjoy the flight. It looks a little crowded in there. I hope things go OK.


KING: Commander Pavel Vinogradov, flight engineer Jeff Williams, and astronaut Tom Reiter of Germany now aboard the International Space Station, we wish you all very well.

Thank you. Take care.

Great pictures there.

Coming up: a new controversy surrounding conservative author Ann Coulter. I will ask Paul Begala and Terry Jeffrey about it next in today's "Strategy Session."

And next hour: He was the president's chief of staff for five- and-a-half years. Now Andy Card speaks out on TV for the first time since leaving the White House.


KING: In our "Strategy Session": North Korea's defiance; Senator Joe Lieberman in political trouble; and conservative pundit Ann Coulter under scrutiny.

Joining us now, two of the best in the business, CNN political analyst and Democratic strategist Paul Begala, and Terry Jeffrey. He's editor of "Human Events."

I want to start with North Korea. There's a debate about whether you should negotiate with Kim Jong Il. There's a debate about the six-party talks' success or failure.

What strikes me in this -- and Terry, I want to start with you -- is that this is a president who invests heavily in personal diplomacy. He said he looked into Vladimir Putin's soul and found him to be a man to be trusted. He has struck up a pretty good relationship with the Chinese government, first with Jiang Zemin, now with Hu Jintao.

And, yet, two people are holding up action in the Security Council on a tough resolution, China and Russia. Should the president do something? Should he be tougher with them?

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, "HUMAN EVENTS": There's absolutely no question about it, John.

The fact of the matter is, China enjoys a great trade relationship with the United States. We had a $200 billion trade deficit with China in 2005. We are sending technology over there, including dual-use technology that could have military use, and tons of cash. What we get back in return are coffee mugs, T-shirts and socks.

China is the number-one trade partner of North Korea. They are sending food, oil and technology into North Korea. If they will not help us with this U.N. Security Council resolution that is on the table now, I think we have to link it to trade sanctions against China itself. We have to stop -- closing our market to them until they start helping us with the North Koreans.

KING: Now, I want you to weigh in. But, before you do, I want you to say, for the record, you worked for a candidate, back in 1992 -- his name was Bill Clinton...


KING: ... who ran against the butchers of Beijing.

BEGALA: The butchers of Beijing.

KING: ... promising to stand up to them.

BEGALA: I remember that speech well, John.

KING: When he became...


KING: I think you may have helped write it.

When he...

BEGALA: I never take credit.

KING: When he became president...

BEGALA: Right.

KING: ... he had very close relations with China, as has this president, as has the president before him.

BEGALA: It's a good point.

KING: So, now you can jump in. But I wanted to put you in a context.

BEGALA: That's a very good point.

I think President Clinton's conduct in office, which much -- was much less bellicose than the rhetoric that people like me supplied to him in the campaign vis-a-vis China.

And, yet, his China policy was successful, while President Bush, seeming to pursue the same policy, is failing to move them on Korea. Why? Because of the deficit and the debt. The president wanted these massive tax cuts. And he got them.

But the money has to come from somewhere. We financed them by borrowing $800 billion from the communist Chinese. So, when somebody -- when you owe somebody $800 billion, they are not very much in a mood to help you out on other problems.

So, we have lost our leverage against the Chinese. And maybe we will have to resort to this kind of drastic trade measures Terry is talking about, because we have lost our biggest stick, which is superiority over their economy. Now they seem to be the ones holding our debt.

JEFFREY: We are losing leverage over China, because they are getting leverage over us, as Paul described.

So, there's another thing we learned from the 1990s, which is, when you negotiate with this regime in North Korea, it's to no effect. They were going to stop their nuclear program. They were not going to launch any more missiles. We were going to help them out. What do we find out? They lied to us. Now there's no question, this is a rogue regime that you need to deal with in some other means than, simply, as Howard Dean says, sending someone over to chat with them.

KING: Well, he didn't quite say that. Not yet, anyway, he didn't say that.

But let's bring the debate home, the great political story in the state of Connecticut. Senator Joe Lieberman, just six years ago the vice presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, now says: I am a loyal Democrat, unless I get beat in the Democratic primary. Then I will get on the ballot and run as an unaffiliated candidate -- although he says he would still be a Democrat.

His opponent, of course, is after him because he supported the president when it comes to Iraq. Let's listen to Senator Lieberman in last night's debate.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: He's a single-issue candidate who is applying a litmus test to me. It's not good enough to be 90 percent voting with my colleagues in the Senate Democratic Caucus. He wants 100 percent.


KING: Paul, you have all these Democrats saying, we will continue to support Joe Lieberman in the primary. Then we will deal with after the fact, if he loses.

This is a guy who essentially said: I am a Democrat when I feel like it, but if the voters -- if Democratic voters reject me, well, then I can do what I want.

Should the Democrats be tougher with him?

BEGALA: Well, I think they have got it about right. Governor Dean, I saw you interview him, try to put him on the spot. He can't, as the party chairman, choose up sides in the primary. But I thought he was very strong in saying: If Ned Lamont, the challenger, anti-war candidate...

KING: But...

BEGALA: ... wins, I will support him.

KING: But Schumer, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton...

BEGALA: It's Chuck Schumer who is on the spot.

KING: ... they have chosen sides in a primary.

BEGALA: It's -- that's right.

KING: Now that he has essentially said primaries don't matter, should they still be supporting him in a primary?


But what I like is where Hillary is, which is: I'm for Joe in the primary -- that's her prerogative -- but if Lamont wins the nomination, I am going to go with where the voters go.

That shows respect for grassroots voters, instead of elites. It's Chuck Schumer who is on the hot seat, because his question is much more exquisite. Do you write a check...

KING: Right.

BEGALA: ... to a guy like Ned Lamont against a good friend, Joe Lieberman, because he quits the party for losing a primary? It's Schumer who is on the hot seat here.

KING: You having fun with this?

JEFFREY: Well, you know, I think the problem Hillary Clinton has, for example, is, her position on the issues, including on the Iraq war, I believe, is virtually indistinguishable from Joe Lieberman.

She is someone who has tried to position herself a little bit more moderate, a little bit more to the center than the typical Democrat. I think, as we go towards the 2008 election, she is going to try and do it more and more and more.

If Senator Clinton comes down and says, I am going to go against Joe Lieberman simply on party loyalty, over the principles that I share with Joe Lieberman, I think you really have to question what kind of statesmanship that is.

KING: If this causes enough dust in '06, the Lieberman-Lamont race, are you worried that opposition to the Iraq war will become the defining issue in the primaries of '08?

BEGALA: It could. But it's too far away to know, frankly. It really could. And we will have to see how this thing plays out.

The difference, though, is, it -- I think Terry makes a good point. Here's Hillary Clinton, who supported the war, in New York, which is a comparable state to Connecticut. She has no opposition. Why? I think because Joe Lieberman rubs Democrats' nose in it.


BEGALA: He goes and kisses George Bush on the floor of the Senate. He gave a speech...

KING: Bush kissed him, but he was there.

BEGALA: Well, somebody was kissing somebody.

(LAUGHTER) BEGALA: And I'm all for same-sex kissing, OK?


BEGALA: I'm a huge supporter of it, as is President Bush, apparently, when he's doing it.

But the problem is, Lieberman gave a speech which rankled me and a lot of Democrats, where he said, Democrats shouldn't question Mr. Bush's credibility at a time of war.

Well, I and a lot of Democrats believe that President Bush lied about that war, and is lying still. So, he should not be telling us not to question Mr. Bush's credibility.

He should be turning his moral judgment on Mr. Bush and saying: Hey, look, I supported the war, but start telling the truth about it, and stop lying.

He would be in much better shape. That's what Hillary has done. She supported the war, but she doesn't support a dishonest administration.

JEFFREY: Well, I will tell you another potential problem. If Joe Lieberman loses his election in August, and is not the Democratic candidate, and he's running out there as an independent candidate who has pretty much got the same position as -- on the war as Bush, it is going to severely complicate, for Democrats, making the war into an issue in November.

They are obviously not on the same page, even in their own party. You are going to have one guy who is a Democrat, the vice presidential candidate in 2000, who is actually, basically, supporting the administration position.

KING: I want to ask you quickly, in closing, about Ann Coulter. And I'm asking her -- and I'm going to hold this up, because, Terry Jeffrey, this is your newspaper.


KING: And you write a column in it every week. And so, too, often does Ann Coulter.


KING: Our viewers can't see it, but this is her column right here.

As you know -- and I will -- we will quote from this here -- there's an investigation now into allegations of plagiarism about here. This from "The New York Post" on July 2: "John Barrie, the creator of a leading plagiarism-recognition system, claimed he found at least three instances of what he calls 'textbook plagiarism' in 'Godless: The Church of Liberalism.' He also says he discovered verbatim lifts in Coulter's weekly syndicated column." The syndicators are looking into this now. Let's say, for the record, here, innocent until proven guilty.

What is your take on this? And does it affect your position at all...

JEFFREY: Well...

KING: ... at her prominence in your...

JEFFREY: Yes. Well, here's the deal, John.

I read "The New York Post" piece and the specific examples of what they said were possible plagiarism by Ann Coulter.

One of these three, for example, was from a Planned Parenthood pamphlet. Does anybody really think that Ann Coulter is trying to plagiarize Planned Parenthood? Ann is not a reporter. She's a commentator. She takes her facts from other sources. She writes a 250-page book, 19 pages of footnotes. They come out with three examples where maybe she should have given an attribution or a footnote.

Ann is known for her pungent, highly idiosyncratic commentary. That's why people get mad at her. It's so unique, they get mad at her. I don't think Ann is lifting anything from anybody on purpose.

KING: She's a fireplug. Is she being attacked for being a fireplug?

BEGALA: If she's a fireplug, then I'm a Doberman pinscher, man...


BEGALA: ... because I can't stand her.

I haven't read the book. I do trust -- I don't trust Ann Coulter's judgment. I trust Terry's judgment on this.

It's hard for me to imagine that there is anybody else as vile and vicious as Ann Coulter that she could be stealing from. So, you know, give her the benefit of the doubt.


KING: All right. We are going to end that one right there.

Paul Begala, Terry Jeffrey, thank you very much, joining us in today's "Strategy Session."

And, up next: Senator Joe Biden speaks out, and the blogs light up. We will tell you what he said and their reaction, when we get the situation online.

And authorities say they have foiled a terror plot targeting tunnels in New York City. How vulnerable is the city's underground transit system? We will have a reality check next hour of THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: Senator Joseph Biden's way with words may be, well, shall we say, getting him into trouble. The 2008 presidential hopeful made some colorful comments to supporters on a recent trip to New Hampshire.

Now that statement is causing a stir online. What happened?

Our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner, has that story -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: John, Well, on June 17, Senator Joe Biden took a trip to New Hampshire. And while he was there, he spoke with a representative of the U.S. Indian Political Action Committee. He was talking about the growth of Indian-Americans in his home state of Delaware.

Now, C-SPAN was there and caught with the whole thing on camera. Take a listen.


SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: ... moving from India. You cannot go to a 7/Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent to fully -- and I -- I am not joking. Oh, it's gigantic, gigantic.

Thank you, buddy.


BIDEN: But, you know, I met with a group. Do you realize, of the CEOs in Silicon Valley, 30 percent of the CEOs in Silicon Valley are Indian-American?


SCHECHNER: Now, a lot of people may have missed that clip when it aired on C-SPAN, but it's been picked up on the Internet, and it's circulating around.

A lot of conservative bloggers are wondering if it wouldn't have gotten more media play if it were a Republican who had made that statement, instead of a Democrat. And others, including liberal and conservative bloggers, are saying that Senator Biden misspeaks all the time, and this is just par for the course.

Now, we spoke to the chairman today of the U.S. Indian Political Action Committee, who says, on the whole, the organization is not offended by these remarks. On the other hand, the Indian American Republican Council says that Senator Biden makes inappropriate remarks all the time, but, for him, even this one was -- quote -- "over the top" -- John. KING: Jacki Schechner, thank you very much.

And I asked Senator Biden about those comments stirring controversy. Find out what the senator has to say for himself in our next hour of THE SITUATION ROOM.

And still to come: The World Cup is a symbol of America's discontent with the world? Our Jeff Greenfield looks at soccer as an international dividing line.

And the former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card on his long tenure at the White House, what went right and what went wrong -- my interview coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: Much of the world is on pins and needles today, not about the North Korean missile threat, but about another major international face-off, the World Cup final on Sunday.

In this country, however, the big game is not as big a deal.

Our Jeff Greenfield is thinking about soccer as a symbol -- Jeff.


JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: John, think of how much talk there has been in the last few years about how the rest of the world views the United States, whether we're too isolated from the international community.

Well, however true or false that may be when it comes to politics or diplomacy, there is one place where it's undeniably true, the world of sports.

GREENFIELD (voice-over): This coming Sunday, much of the world will stop dead in its tracks to watch a soccer game, the finals of the 2006 World Cup. Think this is an exaggeration?

Four years ago, according to Nielsen, 1.5 billion viewers watched the 2002 World Cup.


GREENFIELD: For those nations whose teams reached the later rounds, the cup was the only story in town. Huge crowds gather to watch and to celebrate in Italy, to grieve in Germany, to mourn or to scorn fallen heroes.

But the one place in the world where soccer is essentially an afterthought is here, in the good old USA. Yes, TV ratings have been higher this year. Some 10 million watched the English and Spanish telecasts of the U.S.-Italy and Mexico-Argentina games, but that is a tiny number, compared to the numbers for football, baseball, or basketball. In fact, here's a perfect symbol of what separates the U.S. from the international community. Everywhere else, this is football. Makes sense, since you use your feet. But, in the U.S., this is football. Much of the world doesn't like it. As one commentator said, it's a bunch of committee meetings, interrupted by sporadic acts of violence.

But, to Americans, their football, or soccer, is unwatchable. It's a bunch of people running back and forth, back and forth, trying to draw a foul by faking an injury -- diving, it's called -- with almost no scoring at all.

You can't find a better measure of a culture gap: the impatient, goal-oriented Americans, vs. the laid-back, "What's your hurry?" global community.

Maybe the gap isn't unbridgeable. After all, Japan has long adopted baseball to its culture. Basketball has a growing following in Europe. And maybe this is the year soccer makes its breakthrough here at home.

(on camera): Now, I know that some nitpickers might argue that there are other reasons for the decline in U.S. prestige abroad: the Iraq war, backlash against what is seen as American unilateralism. But I have to believe that if, in 2010, the world sees an army of soccer fanatics cheering on our national team, our prestige in the world will soar like a Beckham corner kick -- John.