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The Situation Room

Stingray Attacks: Could It Happen to You?; United Dems Blast Bush on Iraq; Fmr. Iranian Pres. States Iran Doesn't Seek Nuclear Weapons

Aired September 04, 2006 - 19:00   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 tonight's top stories.
Happening now, "The Crocodile Hunter's" death drives home a danger underwater. It's 9:00 a.m. Tuesday off Eastern Australia where Steve Irwin had his fatal encounter with a stingray. We'll have a live report on what happened and ask the question, could this happen to you?

Also, this hour, can the immigration wars get any angrier? It's 7:00 p.m. here in Washington where author and pundit Pat Buchanan is fighting mad. If you have a stake in this debate, you won't want to see him face off with the head of an influential Latino group.

Plus, an exclusive interview inside Iran and its nuclear showdown with the West. It is 6:00 p.m. in Chicago, where former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami went one-on-one with our Zain Verjee. Tonight, some of his opinions just might surprise you.

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

Time and time again, he snatched good fortune from the jaws of death. Yet tonight, many around the world are mourning the death of a man many thought was invincible. Steve Irwin, the khaki-clad crocodile hunter, is dead after a stingray stabbed him in the chest. CNN's John Vause is in Australia where it happened and has more -- John.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, John. We are still waiting on the postmortem results which was carried out in the last couple of hours. That should give us the official cause of death. But according to witnesses, and other officials, it appears that Steve Irwin was swimming in shallow waters on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. He was just above a stingray when, once again, according to witnesses, the stingray lashed out, has a very long sword-like tail, that pierced his heart.

Now according to the marine expert, they suspect the combination of that trauma plus the poisons which were released is responsible for Irwin's death. Witnesses say the crocodile hunter never regained consciousness despite efforts to revive him as they made a dash to a nearby island. He was dragged on board his boat called Croc One. They headed to this island, awaiting MEDIVAC helicopter was there along with a medic crew which had been sent out from the city of Cairns.

Once the boat arrived there, about another 30 minutes passed where medical crews pronounced Steve Irwin was dead. Even now, many, many hours after all of this happened, after news broke, there is still this stunned disbelief that the man who spent so much of his life so close to some of the most deadliest animals in the world has died this way. Flowers have been left outside his Australia Zoo where his American wife Terri is now with her two children.

There have been tributes coming from many ordinary Australians, also from the Australian prime minister. There is even talk here now of a state funeral for the crocodile hunter should his family want it -- John.

KING: John Vause for us with the latest on this tragedy in Australia.

John, thank you very much. Now Irwin's life story is as fascinating as the many adventures he shared with his fans. CNN's Tom Foreman is here with that part of the story -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, you know, the mere fact that they're talking about the state funeral shows you the impact of this guy. His infectious love of nature and of all these things out there that many of us find frightening or even a little repulsive, i think, is really the secret to Steve Irwin and why so many accolades and so much praise is pouring in from all around the world this evening for this young man.


FOREMAN (voice over): Steve Irwin was born in 1962 near Melbourne. A natural showman literally raised in a zoo.

STEVE IRWIN, "CROCODILE HUNTER": My parents actually guided me in the direction that I've gone. They started Australia Zoo in 1970. So I was running around in the wilderness since the day I was born.

FOREMAN: Irwin's path to fame, like his childhood, was unusual. He became the director of the Australia Zoo, married an American woman, and in 1992 the TV channel Animal Planet picked up a small show he was producing, "The Crocodile Hunter."

IRWIN: Oh, crikey!

FOREMAN: The show was marked by Irwin's almost unreal enthusiasm for real danger. He was bitten by his beloved crocks and other animals many times, despite his on-camera bravado.

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": You must have fear.

IRWIN: Yes. Yes, jammed back in the back of my brain. I think everyone has got a fear mechanism. But I try and keep it, you know, suppressed, back there somewhere. FOREMAN: His was heavily criticized when he once fed a croc with his own 1-month-old baby in hand. Irwin insisted the child was never in danger, but he said he was genuinely sorry to his viewers. And those who knew him best say, for all of his over-top-antics, he was always genuine, on-camera and off.

ANNIE HOWELL, DISCOVERY NETWORK U.S.: I remember, I introduced him to the Starbucks "Red Eye," you know, which is like eight shots of espresso, because we were going on to "Regis & Kelly." And he sat in the car and just doing his whole "crikey, this is the best thing I've ever had in my life," you know.

And so he was that way. What you saw is what he was. He was a very special man.


FOREMAN: You just can't help but smile, when you look at what Steve Irwin did with his all-too-short life. A great legacy being mourned all over the world tonight -- John.

KING: Tom Foreman for us, Tom, thank you very much. And more on Steve Irwin's death later in the program.

Tonight, though, top Democrats in Congress are making new demands of President Bush on Iraq. They're calling for a phased redeployment of troops and a change at the top of the Pentagon. And they're doing it on the traditional kickoff day of the fall campaign. Here is our congressional correspondent, Andrea Koppel -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, even though Congress doesn't return from its summer recess until tomorrow, in their two-page letter, Democratic leaders are clearly firing off their opening salvo on what is sure to be a partisan and intensely political month.


KOPPEL (voice-over): Signed by the 12 House and Senate Democratic leaders and ranking members from key national security committees, this is the second letter Democrats have sent President Bush this summer. It lays out a laundry list of reasons why the president's strategy in Iraq isn't working. And says U.S. troops are caught in the middle of a low-grade civil war that is getting worse.

But what sets this letter apart from others is that it also tells President Bush the current civilian leadership at the Pentagon should be replaced. And although it doesn't mention Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by name, some Senate Democrats say they plan to offer up a no confidence motion on Mr. Rumsfeld as soon as this week.

Also today, Democrats released a scathing new report card on homeland security. Giving Republicans an overall grade of C minus.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The bottom line is that the federal government's homeland security effort has been hampered by underfunding, poor management, bureaucratic tangles, and political deal-making. And we're not doing enough.

KOPPEL: The message Democrats are trying to send is twofold. First, that they are united on Iraq. And second, they're not going to let Republicans get the upper hand on signature issues like national security without a fight.


Now, Senate Democratic leadership staffers tell CNN they intend to go toe-to-toe with Republicans on security and are going to keep up a steady drumbeat with events planned for every day this week -- John.

KING: Congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel, Andrea, thank you.

And as the Democrats served notice of their campaign strategy, here's the White House response to the Democrats tonight from spokeswoman Dana Perino. Quote: "In an effort to divert people's attention from their cut and run strategy and to feed the liberal base of their party, Democrats are launching baseless partisan attacks against the secretary of defense. The American people want serious ideas from their leaders in Washington, not campaign letters and political stunts."

For his part, President Bush focused today on economic growth during remarks in Maryland, but he is scheduled to give another in a series of speeches on the war of terror tomorrow.

Jack Cafferty is off today. Coming up here, one party's plotting a return to power, the other hopes to stay in power. So who will host the victory party this fall, Democrats or Republicans? We'll tell you who should be worried by our new poll.

Also, passionate positions lead to a hot debate on the issue of immigration reform. You won't want to miss the face off between conservative Pat Buchanan and the president of a leading Latino organization.

And remembering a life of "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin. Irwin talks about the dangers of his job in a 2002 interview with our Wolf Blitzer. We will have that for you right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: Tonight, as the fall battle for Congress begins in earnest, our new poll shows voters are riled up: 76 percent of those surveyed say they're angry about the way things are going in the country. That's up 17 points since February. Apparently ready for change, more than half of those polled, 53 percent, say they view the Democrats as the party of change. That helps explain why 53 percent of likely voters say they'd choose a Democrat for Congress if the election were today, 43 percent say they'd choose a Republican.

Democrats see voter anger about Iraq as a critical weapon in their fight to win control of Congress. In particular, they're counting on an Iraq war veteran running for the House in Illinois. Here's our congressional correspondent Dana Bash.


DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, for Democrats to wrestle control of Congress back from Republicans, it is this kind of suburban area they need to win. Republican Henry Hyde has served here for more than three decades. He is retiring, and now the race to replace is a toss-up.

(voice-over): It's a typical weekend in a textbook American suburb, high school football. Visit the stands full of Republican parents and frustration with Washington this election year is palpable.

DEBORAH, REGISTERED REPUBLICAN: I am a registered Republican but I will definitely vote for change and probably vote Democrat because that's change.

BASH: That's a problem for Republican Peter Roskam in this GOP stronghold outside Chicago.

SEN. PETER ROSKAM, ILLINOIS STATE SENATE: Hi, how are you, I am Senator Peter Roskam, running for Congress. It's nice to see you today.

BASH: In any other year he would likely be a shoo-in, but this is not any other year. His pitch combines classic suburban issues like tax cuts with one of this year's hot topics, immigration.

ROSKAM: Secure our borders with stronger enforcement, oppose amnesty, oppose taxpayer subsidized health care for illegals. That's what I'm for man. And that ain't complicated.

BASH (on camera): And while Democrats are trying to nationalize this election, seize on voter discontent in Washington, Peter Roskam is following the Republican playbook by trying to focus on issues close to home, like promising to bring federal dollars back to fix this dangerous intersection.

(voice-over): But keeping all politics local isn't easy when your opponent is Iraq war vet Tammy Duckworth.

TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D), ILLINOIS CONG. CANDIDATE: When I talk about securing us here at home, it is because I am actually doing that work in real life.

BASH: Democrats recruited Duckworth, a political novice, because of her national security credentials and compelling story. She lost both legs when the helicopter she was piloting was shot down in Iraq, a war she calls a mistake.

DUCKWORTH: I absolutely support going after those terrorists, but I think by invading Iraq we completely distracted ourselves.

BASH: Accountability and fresh thinking are her themes, a combination she calls a perfect fit for a fed-up electorate.

Back at the football game, Republican Tom Fendly says Duckworth's inexperience in politics means she's not ready for Congress, but he's disappointed with his party and thinks voters should send a message.

TOM FENDLY, REGISTERED REPUBLICAN: I am in the school of shaking things up.

BASH: That's why Republicans here and around the country worry they could come up a few yards short on Election Day.

(on camera): Peter Roskam is trying to appeal to those disillusioned voters the same way other GOP candidates are around the country. He says he is happy to accept the president's help in fundraising, but also wants to make sure voters know it is his name on the ballot, not President Bush's -- John.


KERNEN: Dana Bash for us tonight in the Chicago suburbs. And now to Connecticut where Iraq politics was literally on parade this Labor Day.

CNN's Mary Snow is covering that state's red hot Senate race.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, Newtown boasts about having the largest Labor Day parade in the state of Connecticut, an event not to be missed by any candidate running in November. But no one expected the political battleground in this small town to be as contentious as it was.

(voice-over): Their only face-to-face encounter lasted just seconds.

NED LAMONT (D), CONNECTICUT SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Hey, Joe. Just wanted to say hi. Happy Labor Day to you.

SNOW: The handshake between incumbent Senator Joseph Lieberman, now running as an independent, and his Democratic challenger, Ned Lamont, was civil, but cool, at the start of the Newtown, Connecticut, Labor Day parade.

By the end of the parade, things grew heated among a small number from opposing sides, vying for attention from cameras.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get away from my child!

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: People ought to express it, obviously. I mean, that's the nature of our politics. But what -- I will tell you what has to stop, there is too much hatred.

SNOW: One of the biggest divisions in this race, the war in Iraq. A heckler wearing a President Bush mask chided Lieberman for supporting the administration's decision for keeping troops in Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a lot of respect for Joe.

SNOW: On the flip side, Republicans like Paul Kelly support the veteran Democrat and one-time vice presidential candidate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALES AND FEMALES: Ned Lamont will save the state.

SNOW: Ned Lamont's call to bring troops home helped this political novice defeat Lieberman in last month's primary. On a holiday when the focus is usually on jobs, many in this crowd say the war in Iraq is key.

LAMONT: Nice to see you.


LAMONT: Thanks.

SNOW: Lamont was met with both cheers and boos.

LAMONT: The war in Iraq has been a terrible distraction from the fight on terror, has done nothing to protect the United States of America.

SNOW: Democrat Albert Miles (ph) is still undecided, which he says is not such a bad thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good thing to see. It makes people active. And people should be involved in the political process.

SNOW (on camera): And as the political process continues, the focus on Iraq is only expected to increase as war veterans back both candidates in opposing ads scheduled to be released this week -- John.

KING: Mary Snow in Connecticut. And thanks to Mary Snow, Dana Bash, earlier, Andrea Koppel, all part of the best political team on television, CNN, America's campaign headquarters.

Still to come tonight on THE SITUATION ROOM, the former president of Iran's strong message to President Bush. Current U.S. foreign policy is to blame for the hate and terrorism in the world. That from Mohammad Khatami. It is a CNN Exclusive.

And a very heated debate concerning immigration reform. You will certainly want to see the face off between conservative Pat Buchanan and the president of a leading Latino organization. Stay right there. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: Iran's former president is in the United States right now. And he is countering many of the allegations being made against his country. He sat down for an exclusive interview with our Zain Verjee.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, he got the green light to come to the United States. Now, Iran's former president, Mohammad Khatami, is here and criticizing President Bush.


(voice-over): The U.S. accuses Iran of fueling the fires in Iraq, arming Hezbollah with rockets and guns in its war with Israel. Its president says he wants Israel wiped off the map. Iran has also been blasted for its uranium enrichment program.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Iranian regime is pursuing nuclear weapons.

VERJEE: Iran's former president, Mohammad Khatami, says that is flat out wrong.

MOHAMMAD KHATAMI, FORMER PRESIDENT OF IRAN (through translator): And it has never been the policy nor the mindset of any branch of the Iranian government to pursue atomic weapons.

VERJEE (on camera): Why should the West trust Iran?

KHATAMI: Why should the West not trust Iran? That's my question. See, at this moment, Iran is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has declared many times that it has no interest in building the nuclear bomb.

VERJEE (voice-over): Khatami, seen as a moderate and a reformer in and out of Iran, says making threats makes things worse between the U.S. and Iran.

(on camera): Could the deadlock, if it does come to that, over the nuclear issue lead to attack on Iran? Do you worry about that?

KHATAMI (through translator): We are definitely worried and hopeful that such a thing will not take place, such attack will not take place. Quite frankly, I think the United States has caused itself enough problems in Iraq.

VERJEE: The former president may be more measured than his inflammatory successor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but when it comes to President Bush, Khatami does not hold back.

(on camera): You once said that Osama bin Laden and President Bush are indistinguishable because they both have extremist views. Do you still believe that?

KHATAMI (through translator): Those who start wars, they are the same ones who will bring about violence. I said terrorism and war have one origin, have one spark, one frame of mind. We have to keep ourselves away from this.

VERJEE: Most Americans, though, would be quite shocked, perhaps even appalled to hear a comparison even in the same sentence between the White House and this -- the policies of this administration and Osama bin Laden.

KHATAMI (through translator): The mindset that brings about war and violence, I condemn it. Categorically condemn it. And I definitely believe that the people of the United States are logical enough to think along the same ideals as I do.

VERJEE (voice-over): As the violence in Iraq becomes bloodier and deadlier, the U.S. is pointing the finger at Iran. But Khatami denies Iran is fueling the insurgency.

(on camera): So, you are categorically telling me that Iran is not fomenting violence or influencing the situation on the ground with regard to violence and terrorism in Iraq?

KHATAMI (through translator): Absolutely. That's correct.

VERJEE: But there have been arguments, too, though, that Iran stands to benefit from the instability in Iraq. How do you respond to that?

KHATAMI (through translator): Why? What would we have to gain? No, Iran would have nothing to gain out of this. Our biggest enemy was done away with.

VERJEE (voice-over): Iran's current leader sees Israel as the big enemy now.

(on camera): President Ahmadinejad has said that Israel should be wiped off the face of the map. What are your thoughts on a comment like that? Do you agree?

KHATAMI (through translator): I personally never said that Israel should be wiped off the map. I always said and backed fair and equal peace in the region with a main pillar -- one of the main pillars of which would have to be fair treatment of Palestinians and also the repatriation rights of the Palestinian refugees, and also the creation of an independent Palestinian state, only in that case we firmly believe that Christians, Jews and Muslims can live side by side in peace and prosperity.


VERJEE: Khatami goes on to New York and to Washington. He says he wants to promote his idea of what he's calling a dialogue among civilizations, essentially to promote a greater understanding, he says, of people of different faiths and different cultures -- John.

KING: Zain, as you know, the United States' government would say that Iran is perhaps the principal state sponsor of terrorism in the world, a major financial backer, some one that sends arms and other military supplies into Hezbollah. Did Mr. Khatami give any ground on those points?

VERJEE: No, he didn't. We tried to press him on that but he stuck to his ground, essentially saying that they ideologically support Hezbollah, that it is a resistance group, and that Iran does not back and fund them with either cash or with arms or rockets, for that matter. And it pointed out also an inconsistency, on the one hand criticizing U.S. government policy and President Bush for their policy in the Middle East, which he says incites more terrorism and violence, but yet, on the other hand, the U.S. government accuses Hezbollah and Iran of doing the same.

KING: Zain Verjee for us in Chicago. Zain, thank you for joining us and for sharing your exclusive interview.

Just ahead, pro-immigration rallies in cities across the country on this Labor Day, as the debate starts to heat up again. We'll talk about it with Pat Buchanan who says America is in a state of emergency, and with Janet Murguia of the National Council of La Raza.

Plus, how rare are deadly stingray attacks like the one that killed crocodile hunter Steve Irwin? We'll take you to a water wildlife park for the answers. Stay right here, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: To our viewers, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.

Happening now, fellow wildlife handlers are calling Steve Irwin's death a tragic fluke. A stingray plunged a barb into the chest of TV's "Crocodile Hunter" while he was taping an underwater documentary off Australia today.

The Bush White House tonight is dismissing a new call for a change of policy in Iraq as a partisan attack. Top Democrats in Congress are urging a phased troop withdrawal beginning by the end of this year, and they are pushing for a change of leadership at the Pentagon.

An announcement by the United Nations' secretary general, Kofi Annan says Israel and Lebanon have accepted his offer to broker the return of two kidnapped Israeli soldiers. Their capture triggered Israel's month-long war with Hezbollah militants.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm John King. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

KING: For many American workers, it was a day of rest. Yet for others, it was a day of protest. Crowds took to the streets in several cities for pro-immigration rallies. In Los Angeles, many argued for what they call sensible immigration reform. While in Houston, Texas, hundreds marched and pledged to make their voices heard.

Joining me to debate the pros and cons are two leading experts, Janet Murguia is president of the National Council of La Raza. She is in Kansas City. And here in Washington is Pat Buchanan, a leading conservative and author of the new book, "State of Emergency."

Janet Murguia, let me begin with you. We had Pat on the program last week to discuss his new book. You weren't happy with the way that interview went. I thought I was fair but you wrote this letter to CNN saying this: "Mr. Buchanan's comments on your program went well beyond the immigration debate, into territory that mischaracterizes and demeans all Hispanic Americans and our place in our great nation."

Tell me, Janet, where you think Pat Buchanan goes over the line, whether in that interview or in this new book.

JANET MURGUIA, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF LA RAZA: Well, across the board. In the interview and in several interviews he has been giving. But in his book in particular, I think there is just a lot of non-supported information in there. And there are very outrageous statements that are being made that just aren't true, about the Hispanic community, or about immigrants.

And I just -- I think he needs to be challenged on every statement and comment and I really question where he's coming from on this. This I'm very concerned about the fact that he has said that he believes in the Sam Francis philosophy that only whites have the appropriate genetic endowments to keep America from collapse. And I want to know if he really believes that's true. Because that's very troubling.

KING: Let's let Pat Buchanan -- do you believe that, sir?

BUCHANAN: No, that's a -- Miss Janet here is not cited a single fact that she's challenged of mine though I made the mistakes and blunders in the book, she has not challenged one fact. My late friend Sam Francis had views many which I disagreed with.

I did quote Sam Francis and I said it was wrong to persecute him and drive him out of the job because of politically incorrect statements. My view about immigration is this, illegal immigration is a mass threat to the survival of this country when you've got more illegals here than all the Jews, the English and the Irish who ever came to this country.

And most of them are coming from a country 58 percent of whose people claim that our American Southwest belongs to them. People are marching today for what? For the rights of citizenship despite the fact they've broken in line, broken the law and broken into the country. I gave a simple answer to that. I say, no.

KING: Pat, let me jump in. Janet, just a second. I'll give you time, I promise. I want you both to listen to something Pat said during the interview last week when I was asking him about this issue.


BUCHANAN: I would say simply this. I'm an American. If you're coming here to be an American, fine. That's the immigrants we want. But if you're coming here simply for a job, and you don't give a hoot about the United States of America, I would say stay home. Because there's millions of people all over this world who want to be Americans.


KING: Pat are you saying most of the Latinos, the Hispanics coming across from Mexico don't give a hoot about America? BUCHANAN: I'm saying an awful lot of them come to this country for one reason. I understand it. They come to work. Seventy five percent of Mexicans in a survey, I believe it was Zogby, said Americans are racist. These people, many of them are proud Americans - excuse me, proud Mexicans. They don't want to give up the citizenship, they don't want to give up their nationality.

John, I think as I said, if we or our parents were driven across the border by economic circumstances in the Depression and you had 10 million Americans here, they wouldn't become Mexicans. They would be Americans in exile.

I understand why the Mexican folks are coming here to work but we want immigrants who want to be part of our family. A part of our homeland, who want to embrace our nationality. Most of the folks in the Southwest, or an awful lot of them don't. They've never indicated ...

KING: Pat, our time has run out, actually, so let me let Janet in. Janet just heard some pretty strong statements. Go ahead.

MURGUIA: Yeah. Mr. Pat makes blankets about most people in the Southwest don't want to believe or stay in America because they contribute to America. Well, that's a bunch of hooey, Pat. We really understand that many people come here because they come to work. But they stayed because they believe in America and they believe in the American dream.

And many work very hard every day to sustain America's great economy. And to make sure that they're making contributions in jobs that many people will do not so they add to the economic vitality and to the energy of this country and we have a long history and legacy of this country of receiving so much from immigrants and those contributions have made America. Pat is offering tired, pessimistic view of about American and what ...

BUCHANAN: Pat is offering ...

MURGUIA: ... immigrants to contribute.

BUCHANAN: ... a lot better history than ...

MURGUIA: Immigrants are contributing to the positive and economic vitality and energy of this country.

BUCHANAN: Pat is offering a lot better history than Pat is hearing. The people who came to Ellis Island came legally. These are folks who are breaking in line when other people are waiting in line.

They're breaking in to our country.

MURGUIA: Let's talk about that.

BUCHANAN: They've got a failed government in Mexico which is pushing ...

MURGUIA: ... that. Pat because ...

BUCHANAN: ... millions of people in this country and as a public policy and we ought to secure our border and put a ...

MURGUIA: John, can I get in here.

KING: Let me earn the eager pay, Pat, one second, Janet, please jump in. Address his question, Janet. Just a second. Address the question. Because many Americans are more angry about this issue than years past because of that word "illegal." There are people -- millions coming to this country illegally. Address the point.

MURGUIA: Yeah. Well, there's two issues here. Pat's talking about something else, about America's demise and collapse. That is not -- that's a pessimistic view of America. The real issue is about solving a crisis in immigration and should be talking about practical, reasonable, fair and just solutions to the immigration problem.

BUCHANAN: Let me offer two solutions, Janet. Let me offer you ...

MURGUIA: John, can I talk here, Pat has had a lot of time.

KING: Time out, Pat.

BUCHANAN: All right, sure.

MURGUIA: We need a comprehensive solution to immigration reform. And that's the issue. We need to fix a broken immigration system. And we need to do in it a comprehensive way. And that includes making sure that our borders are secure. No one is proposing open borders. Certainly not me or my organization and I want to be very clear about that but we need to have a comprehensive solution that allows for those folks who have been in this country ...

KING: Let's close this. Time out again. Time out. Time out. Time out.

BUCHANAN: All right. Janet ...

KING: Until Wolf gets back, I'm in charge. Pat, hang on just one second. I want to close with this point.

You're both talking about a solution. I want to read from page 251 of Pat's book "State of Emergency" this is one of his solutions, Janet. And I want you both to talk about this in closing. "The first imperative is an immediate moratorium on all immigration. While the moratorium lasts, we should debate and decide whom we wish to come and whether we wish to alter or preserve the ethnic-religious composition of America. After all, America belongs to us, not the world."

I want you to both to have a chance to comment on that. We're probably going to run out of time. Janet, you go first and let's try to be polite about it.

MURGUIA: Of course. I've been very polite. I just want to make sure he understands when people have a different point of view, we can be respectful about it.

But Pat is trying to sell a book here with self interests in creating a lot of acrimony over this issue and instead of sensible, reasonable solutions and so he is throwing a lot of hate mongering language out there and we should be talking about a reasonable, sensible, comprehensive approach to solving the immigration problem and that's what we're doing in Congress trying to get a comprehensive coalition that supports that including John McCain and Ted Kennedy.

BUCHANAN: John King ...

MURGUIA: They have a real proposal that will solve this immigration problem.

BUCHANAN: John, are you going to let me talk for a second? Let me talk now. Let me talk about a sensible solution.

The people of Pennsylvania who have helped Rick Sanatorium reach a point where he is only six points behind now, John, 79 percent of them - and Pennsylvania does not have a high illegal immigration population. Seventy nine percent of them say no to amnesty. Eighty- two percent of them want a wall on the American border. The American people understand ...

MURGUIA: Nobody's supporting amnesty. We're not supporting amnesty.

BUCHANAN: ... that this is an invasion in this country and they want it stopped and the Senate bill of McCain and Kennedy is a sellout of the sovereignty and independence of this country and that's why nobody in this country is talking about it enthusiastically. Because they know America has turned against them.

KING: I need to call it a day for this discussion right there so that CNN can earn its pay and I can earn mine today. Pat Buchanan, thank you for joining us. Janet Murguia, of La Raza, thanks for joining us.

Up ahead tonight, more on the death of crocodile hunter Steve Irwin. He told Wolf Blitzer why he chose such a dangerous career. We'll share that conversation with you.

Plus, a closer look at stingrays like the one that killed Irwin. How is it that visitors to a Florida wildlife park can swim with them? Stay with us. We'll show you here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: It is a question of, of course, raised in light of Steve Irwin's death by a stingray. How safe or dangerous are those creatures? A short while ago I asked Stewart Clark, he is the vice president of the water wildlife park Discovery Cove in Orlando, Florida. That's an attraction where tourists can interact with stingrays.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) STEWART CLARK, DISCOVERY COVE: You know, though -- for a -- for a stingray to have done that is just amazing to us, because you can see around me. You know, our stingrays here are obviously really into people and hanging out with us. And, of course, here at Discovery Cove, and most zoos, we actually take the barb that's along the back of the stingray and actually trim those off. So they are kept nice and trim.

KING: You trim them off there. I think that is a key distinction.

Steve Irwin was out filming in open waters. Not a place for the stingrays -- for any parent who has taken their children on vacation -- and I have done this -- and you get in a situation just like you are, and you swim and you feed them, in most cases those barbs are trimmed back, if not removed, correct?

CLARK: Right, most -- most zoological places like Discovery Cove here, like Sea World, you know, we trim. We keep all those barbs nice and trim. And that way, you know, it's kind of just like trimming the nails on your dog.

You just keep them nice and trimmed back. We check them every day. We're literally taking a look at them every day and lifting the animals up. And we keep them rounded nice and blunt, and so we really don't have that issue.

KING: Well explain, help us understand the animals. What would it take to get one of those stingrays to get mad at you, to lash out at you even though its barb is trimmed back?

CLARK: You know as far as the animals lashing out at us, that's really rare. The animals really use that barb in a defensive mechanism. So in other words if they just happen to be laying on the sand or laying in the water and a large predatory animal were to come up that would be when they'd use that barb. But as far as swimming after people or using that barb, you just don't hear of that.

KING: You're in a controlled environment where you are in the cove there, where in the beach in the United States could somebody be out at the beach and encounter these out in the open where the barbs obviously have not been trimmed back? Where is that a risk and what should they do?

CLARK: You know you can find that all up and down the coast of the United States, even right here in Florida. And really, what any lifeguard, what any person at the beach will tell you is just make sure you do the stingray shuffle. If you just move your feet as you're walking along through the sand and respect and understand that there are stingrays in the water, that's the safest way to be. And as far as if you are ever stung by a stingray or barbed by a stingray, you know if you just go find the local lifeguards there and seek some medical attention right away, that's usually the worst of it in a foot or a leg or something.

KING: And what do you think will be the result of this tragic death of Steve Irwin? Many would say what is he doing putting himself, even if it's a minimal risk, what is he doing putting himself at this risk and do you think it will affect attractions like yours despite the safeguards and the precautions you take?

CLARK: You know I think people, even guests here today, have already been telling us you know they respect how safe it is here in all of our parks, at all of our Sea World parks and Discovery Cove. And most zoos in the country, very safe and feel a safe interaction and a safe thing to do. As far as being out in the ocean and being around beaches, I think it's still, you know stingrays aren't the sort of the menace that hopefully people might think they are. Truly it's a tragedy and we're very saddened by it in the entire zoological community.

KING: I want to ask you one more time just for any viewer who's watching who might be going to the beach. Because you said the stingray shuffle, explain it in more detail precisely what you mean the precaution anyone in shallow water should take.

CLARK: Well you know, as people are walking through the water, water such as this and you have some of the species of stingrays laying on the bottom, if you just simply take your foot and you're just moving it as you're walking. So you're just kind of shuffling your feet, moving your feet as you're walking along, that lets the animals know that you're on your way and it allows them to kind of swim off and it's a much safer place for you.

KING: Stewart Clark for us at the wildlife park, Discovery Cove, in Orlando, Florida. Stewart thank you so much for your help understanding stingrays today.

CLARK: You're welcome. Thank you.


KING: Now one of our viewers bitten by a stingray wanted to share his experience so he did it through I-report. A new way that you, the viewer, can help us report here at CNN. Our Internet reporter Jackie Schechner is standing by with some highlights.


JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, what you are looking at is Adam Davis' photo of a stingray scar. There it is right there. This was in 1997. He's down in Florida. He says he was fishing with friends. That he lifted the stingray out of the water with a net and when the barb got him and took five and a half hours of surgery to get that barb out and the venom worst pain he ever felt like being hit with a bullet.

These are some of the photos getting through CNN's new I-report. Most of them are more of tribute and remembrance. This one comes to us from Rachael Wilkins in New York City. She is an Australian that went back home last Easter. This was taken on Easter Sunday, there you can see Irwin with the family. She liked this photo. She thought it showed him in the other role, not just an entertainer but as a husband and as a father.

And then this photo that comes to us from David Hethorn in Brisbane, Australia. This was taken in January of 2004. You look closely, you can see Irwin's one-month-old son there and Irwin is feeding a crocodile with one hand and holding his son with the other. You might remember it sparked criticism. People thought Irwin was putting his son in danger. He said he never was. So some of the photos in tribute coming to us through CNN's new I-report.

KING: Jackie Schechner, thank you very much.

Up ahead, remembering the crocodile hunter. He talked to Wolf Blitzer about why he chose such a dangerous career. We'll share part of their conversation with you.

Plus, for Steve Irwin, danger always came with a smile. CNN's Jeanne Moos looks at the crocodile hunter's famous humor. Stay right here. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: His many fans tell you it's hard to remember crocodile hunter Steve Irwin without cracking a smile. For him, danger and humor went hand in hand. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Maybe you didn't know him by name.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You mean that guy in the khaki shorts?

MOOS: The khaki shorts. Always evading the snapping jaws. And always with a snappy sense of humor.


MOOS: But when he faced a storm of criticism for feeding a crocodile holding his infant son it was hard to stay mad at a guy who seemed to be having so much fun.

IRWIN: Mm. You can kiss him on the lips. And she's a pretty good kisser.

MOOS: Whether kissing snakes or cubs. Those who knew him say he was exactly the same off screen as on.

WILLIAM CAMPBELL, PRESIDENT, DISCOVERY NETWORKS: I've never seen a guy that has that much energy, it's almost like electric.

MOOS: He and his animals great for those late-night comedy bits.

IRWIN: There we go. When they get upset like that, mate.


IRWIN: No, no. No. There we go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a baby. It needs to nurse.

IRWIN: I don't think you lactate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You would be surprised. Moving around in there.

IRWIN: Stimulating?


MOOS: For the sake of comedy, he was always getting bitten. For instance in this Fed-Ex commercial.

IRWIN: Oh. No worries, mate. Luckily, we have the anti-venom sent by America by Fed-Ex. In my line of work, if you are not absolutely sure, you are absolutely dead.

MOOS: Talk about a bit part. He was bitten by a talking alligator in "Dr. Dolittle."



IRWIN: Crikey! Me arm.

MOOS: With his earthy delivery, we learned that crocodiles do burp.

IRWIN: Give them a big food source, they'll swallow it down and they'll just go wah!

MOOS: He knew how to tell a story, for instance, the story of how he met the woman that became his wife as he was doing a live crocodile demonstration.

IRWIN: Look in to the crowd and I'm like, you're kidding. This beautiful woman's like staring at me and she had the look, mate. She is like, you know, doing the -- the thing. The crowd left and she stayed.

MOOS: And now he is gone. What might Steve Irwin say of his own demise?

IRWIN: Oh, crikey.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


KING: Wolf Blitzer talked to Steve Irwin about his career and the dangers involved back in 2002. Here is some of their conversation.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: To our viewers who may not be familiar with you and are probably some, why do you look for crocodiles?

IRWIN: Oh, mate. I've been rescuing crocodiles since I was a small boy and jumped and caught a first crocodile barehanded when I was nine years of age. You see there's a conflict between man and crocs. As the east coast of Australia populates, you know, people are pushing further and further into croc habitat and so I'm called on to rescue them.

BLITZER: But you really are an expert in this area, too. You are not just a comedian even though you're a funny guy.

IRWIN: Yeah, no. I'm not a comedian. That's certainly not my forte. My forte is crocs and I reckon I'm a product of my parents and environment. You know, dad started Australia Zoo in 1970 and that zoo was established on the basis of wildlife rescues so I'm virtually a wildlife warrior and I try and work the coal face where there's conflict between man and beast. Rescuing kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, crocodiles is my forte and venomous snakes.

BLITZER: All right. Let's take another caller from Whitehouse, Tennessee, go ahead, Tennessee.

CALLER: Hello.

IRWIN: Good day.

CALLER: I'm so excited to talk to you guys.

IRWIN: Thanks.

CALLER: For starters I'd like to say thank you for risking your life to entertain us. That's nice of you.

And you teach me and my son so much but I wanted to know, do you carry anti-venom with you when you're running around chasing all these snakes? What about your staff and thank you so much for the bottom of my heart for entertaining me and my son.

IRWIN: Thank you. You make me very proud and no I never take anti-venom with me anywhere. I catch the most venomous snakes in Africa, of course in Australia, the top 10 most deadly snakes, United States of America, Southeast Asia. All over the place. I play with cobras, black mambas, taipans, the trick, the secret that I use is don't get bitten. I have never been bitten by a venomous snake. Never been hospitalized. Never needed anti-venom and because of my techniques.

I'm a product of my dad's herpetological skills. He was the greatest wild snake wrangler in the world. He used to do scientific study on them. He used to collect snakes so they could milk them for venom for antivenom and by crikey, he taught me well. He taught me if you love the snake, and if you sincerely, you know, love it like -- and it will ooze out for your hands and grab it, if you can avoid getting hit in the first 30 seconds, pretty soon the snake will understand that you're not trying to kill it and settle down and you're able to bag them up or get them off the road, whatever you want to do.


KING: Steve Irwin was also a guest on LARRY KING LIVE. Larry King will reair an interview with Irwin tonight at 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

And still ahead, countdown toward a Wednesday launch of space shuttle Atlantis. But what are the odds of a liftoff? Our Internet reporters will show you the situation online. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: Weather permitting crew of the space shuttle Atlantis will lift off this Wednesday at 12:29 p.m. Set backs prevented an earlier launch. So what are the chances Atlantis actually gets off the ground? Today NASA officials provided a pre-launch briefing and our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton standing by with the details. Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, the conditions are favorable for the Wednesday launch of Atlantis. As you said, it's had a couple of setbacks but it is now on. This is video from the NASA Web site of August 25th when lightning struck the top of Atlantis there as the shuttle sat on the launch pad. After that, Tropical Storm Ernesto forced the shuttle to move from the launch pad but now things are back on and you can follow along with the mission once it takes off on Wednesday as planned at the Web site here.

On Day Three it's going to be arriving at the International Space Station and three space walks are also planned for the trip. So it's 12:29 on Wednesday. If for some reason they don't make the Wednesday then there are also launch windows on Thursday and Friday. John?

KING: And we'll keep watching. Abbi Tatton, thank you very much. And thank you for joining us. I'm John King. Wolf Blitzer will be back right here tomorrow. Among his guests, the attorney general of the United States, Alberta Gonzales. Up next, PAULA ZAHN NOW. Rick Sanchez is in Atlanta.