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The Situation Room

Head of U.K. Army Argues for Iraq Withdrawal, UNSC Set to Adopt Sanctions Against North Korea

Aired October 13, 2006 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to your viewers, you're in THE "SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring today's top stories.
Happening now, will America's biggest ally pull its troops out of Iraq soon? One British military office has a controversial answer, and surprisingly, it's one that the British prime minister, Tony Blair, now says he agrees with.

Also, ties between church and state. President Bush's long- courted Christian evangelicals, but one insider now says the Bush team is using Christian voters simply to win elections.

And you might ask if she's a woman with nine lives. In New York, a woman who survived one very high profile brush with death skirts yet another. This is an incredible story.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with the burning question many are asking, when should foreign troops leave Iraq? In a surprise assessment, America's most supportive ally in the war now says its troops should leave sometime soon. Those comments from the chief of the British Army and endorsed today by none other than the British prime minister, Tony Blair himself. Our Zain Verjee is following this new development. She's joining us now with more -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, although Tony Blair says some of the words are being taken out of context, the British prime minister says he's in full agreement with the overall comments from the chief of the British Army that Britons should not stay in Iraq forever.

In the London newspaper The Daily Mail, General Richard Dannatt says British troops in Iraq are making the situation worse. And he says the British troops should leave Iraq soon. The paper also quotes Dannatt as saying that the post-invasion plan for the war is poor.

Dannatt has echoed some of his comments about Iraq in a TV interview.


GEN. RICHARD DANNATT, BRITISH ARMY CHIEF: We need to keep energy. We need to keep pressure on. Because we can't afford to be there indefinitely. We have got a major commitment in Afghanistan. We have got commitments in the Balkans still. And I am particularly concerned to make sure there is an army in being for five years' time, for 10 years' time for whatever problems in the world crop up next.


VERJEE: Meanwhile, Dannatt says some of his comments to the paper are being overblown. In remarks on the British Defense Ministry Web site, Dannatt did say the British troops are helping the security effort in Basra, but quote: "There are other parts where our mere presence does exacerbate and violence results" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Zain, for that. Britain has 7,500 troops in Iraq. Many fighting in Basra. Let's go there for a better sense of the situation. And joining us now, our correspondent Michael Ware. He's embedded with British forces in Basra in the southern part of Iraq.

Michael, you've heard of the comments of the British military commander, General Richard Dannatt, suggesting that the mere presence of British forces in Iraq is exacerbating the situation, making it worse. Does that coincide with what you're seeing and hearing on the ground?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very much so, Wolf. I mean, the Brits are struggling to find a fine balance between their presence contributing to a stability and a safe and secure environment, yet also having that presence, as you say, exacerbate attacks.

Indeed, I had a British commander in the field tell me just a few days ago, before General Dannatt made his comments that he had redeployed his forces from their base, because essentially they were a magnet for attack. They were encouraging attacks in the province where this command operates.

I've also just had a conversation with a very senior British diplomat here in Basra. And he says in many ways insurgent groups and militias gained political traction by attacking British forces. This is one of the currencies of political credibility here in the south and particularly in Basra.

The British people have suggested that after the withdrawal of British troops, which he's not suggesting occurs right now, these insurgent and militia forces will struggle to reclaim that credibility as they will no longer have a force to bounce off, that being the Brits.

And the Brits are under daily assault. In the last 24 hours, Brits just here in the city alone have been attacked seven times by small arms, roadside bombs, and mortars and 107 millimeter Katyusha rockets -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Michael, we are showing our viewers pictures from all over Iraq. You spent a lot of time not only with British forces, but with U.S. military forces throughout Iraq over these past three-and-a- half years. Based on all those conversations, do U.S. military commanders feel the same way as this British commander, basically that Iraq, a Muslim country, doesn't want any foreign forces there?

WARE: Well, it's very clear that the American forces, indeed, all of the coalition forces are seen as occupiers. That is an almost universal theme throughout the Arab parts of the country. Plus, there is the religious factor. It is a very easy call to arms, both for the Sunni and Shia extremists, to attack coalition forces.

Indeed, al Qaeda describes them this as, this is where you can come and fight the great Satan itself, that being America. However, U.S. commanders, whilst they have echoed this idea from General Dannatt, that the presence alone of coalition forces encourages attacks, it is not such a firmly held belief among American commanders.

They recognize that it is a factor. However, they believe that their presence still remains for the greater good, despite any exacerbation of anti-American sentiment -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What about, Michael, this comment from the General Dannatt suggesting that U.S., British, the international coalition, they had a pretty good plan to get rid of Saddam Hussein, to overthrow his regime, but didn't have much of a plan for the post-war. In other words, they were relying, in his words, more on optimism than any real, solid plan. What do you make of that?

WARE: Wolf, that's a very commonly held belief. And you don't have to scratch too deep beneath the surface to get top American or British commanders, nor the diplomats to say that grievous errors were made in the early part of the occupation of Iraq.

Indeed, there are many disparaging comments that are made about the original coalition administration headed by Paul Bremer, key decisions to disband military forces in Iraq, the introduction of the de-Baathification program, and essentially this stripping away of the entire government apparatus.

These people now say that they are paying the price for these errors. In fact, they are saying that this has been the legacy that they are encountering and are still trying to combat today. In fact, one of these British diplomats said that we are not even at a standing start in some regards, we're at a handicap even now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Michael Ware is our correspondent on the scene for us, embedded with British forces right now in Basra. Michael, be careful, thank you.

WARE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And let's turn now to the nuclear situation with North Korea. There are new details over whether or not North Korea actually conducted a nuclear test. And now there is a new man who will soon help lead the diplomatic effort in dealing with the defiant nation. Our senior U.N. correspondent, Richard Roth is standing by. But let's go to the Pentagon for our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre with the latest -- Jamie. JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it was the hope of the U.S. intelligence community that when they got back air samples, they would be able to tell for sure if North Korea had tested a nuclear device. It turns out no such luck.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): CNN has learned that air samples collected by a U.S. military sniffer plane flying off the coast of North Korea October 10th, one day after the test was announced, came up blank. No evidence of radioactivity.

But U.S. officials say the negative findings shed little light on the mystery of whether North Korea's relatively small underground blast was or was not nuclear.

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: Now, it is -- the jury is out on what exactly happened. We know that there was an event. There was a seismic event. Something happened in that particular spot in North Korea.

MCINTYRE: Government experts say the air samples collected by the aircraft dubbed Constant Phoenix were just one data point at one location at one time. A number of things could explain why no radiation was detected in the initial test of the atmosphere.

The wind direction could have been wrong. The blast may have been so small the radioactivity was contained. And it's entirely possible it was a detonation of high explosives, not a nuclear device.

The U.S. intelligence committee continues to operate on the assumption that North Korea's Kim Jong Il did test a nuclear device and it just didn't work very well, producing a yield of as little as a quarter of a kiloton.

And the White House says the consequences are going to be the same, nuke or no nuke.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: In the past, the North Koreans may have gotten the impression that they will be awarded for bad behavior. There should be no question that those days are over.


MCINTYRE: Meanwhile, the United Nations is scheduled to vote on broad sanctions, even though the United States still, a week later, can't say for sure if North Korea actually made good on its claim to set off a nuclear device -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jamie, thanks very much. Let's go to the United Nations, Richard Roth is standing by with more on a new leader -- Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Security Council may vote on that North Korea resolution tomorrow morning. But everybody was paying attention when the new leader was officially endorsed to be the next secretary-general, and he comes from South Korea.


ROTH (voice-over): South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon could be forgiven for being distracted during his confirmation vote by the 192 countries of the U.N. At every major diplomatic step on his road to becoming the next secretary-general, North Korea has either announced or potentially tested a potential nuclear device.

BAN KI MOON, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL-DESIGNATE: That made be me resolve my commitment to work for much more -- safer world to de- nuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

ROTH: Once in office on January 1st, the career diplomat said he wants to go to North Korea to help ease tensions. But the Security Council isn't going to wait. The 15 countries are set to adopt a resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea to punish Pyongyang for whatever it tested.

Non-military sanctions designed to block material or technology that could be used for producing weapons of mass destruction, also banned, luxury goods.

JOHN BOLTON, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: I think, you know, the North Korean population has been losing average height and weight over the years. And maybe this will be a little diet for Kim Jong Il.


ROTH: And there was the usual hard bargaining, Wolf, between the U.S. and China. China managed to soften any type of sanctions that would have stop and search of all goods going into North Korea. They're still talking right now about the final technical points -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Richard, thanks very much. Richard Roth at the U.N. Let's check back with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has been an outspoken critic of Republican corruption, the Bush administration, the war in Iraq, and a host of other issues. Fair enough.

But now comes word that Senator Reid may have been involved in a questionable real estate deal in Nevada that doesn't quite measure up to Senate ethics rules. The deal involved a piece of land, a handshake, and eventual profits approaching triple his investment.

Reid says he did nothing wrong. But The Philadelphia Inquirer disagrees. In an editorial today, the newspaper said this: "Simply giving the Democratic leader a mulligan is hardly the way to handle this case. When the Senate debated ethics reforms earlier this year, Reid was out in front to demand the toughest of standards for lawmakers. Unless Reid comes up with a better explanation for this lack of disclosure, Democrats should not keep him as their leader in the new Congress in 2007." So here's the question: Should Democrats replace Harry Reid as minority leader in the Senate? E-mail your thoughts on that to, or go to

I don't know, Wolf, that expression about glass houses and stones and stuff comes to mind.

BLITZER: Let's see what your viewers think. I know they're going to have some e-mail on this as well, Jack. Thank you.

Up ahead, did the Bush team use Christian conservatives while deriding them behind their backs? We're going to take a closer look at some stunning allegations in a new book by a former White House insider.

Also, a behind-the-scenes account of the rift between President Bush and General Colin Powell over the war in Iraq. We're going to talk to the author of a new biography of the former secretary of state.

Plus, she narrowly escaped death almost a decade ago, and it happened again this week with the plane crash that killed Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Welcome back. They're credited with helping George W. Bush stay in the White House, but are ties with Christian conservatives merely a marriage of convenience for the Bush political team? CNN's Brian Todd is joining us now with some surprising new allegations -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, according to a new book by a former official who says he had a close view of that relationship, it was not the unified front it appeared to be.


TODD (voice-over): George W. Bush's alliance with Christian conservatives, a bedrock of his support, solidified shortly after he took office when he launched the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives .

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to assure that faith-based and communities groups will always have a place at the table in our deliberations.

TODD: But a new book suggests the Bush political team simply used the Christian right to win elections. In "Tempting Faith," David Kuo, a top official in the White House faith-based office until 2003, writes: "National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person, and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as 'ridiculous,' 'out of control,' and just plain 'goofy.'"

Kuo writes the office of the president's top political adviser, Karl Rove, was eye-rolling when it dealt with Christian leaders. White House officials say they have not seen Kuo's book. But press secretary Tony Snow said his office asked Rove about the charge.

SNOW: Karl made the same point I did, which is, these are my friends, I don't talk about them like that.

TODD: Among Christian conservatives, mixed reactions. James Dobson's group, Focus on the Family, which says it doesn't participate in the faith-based program, still issued a statement calling Kuo's accounts mischaracterizations, and saying the book seems to represent little more than a mix of sour grapes and political timing.

But we got this from an official with the Family Research Council.

PETER SPRIGG, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: I think it doesn't really surprise me too much to hear that there might be some people on the White House staff who are like that. In fact, they -- I don't think they court our support aggressively enough.

TODD: Peter Sprigg and one Republican strategist say the Bush administration is already losing support among Christian conservatives for steering more toward the center.


TODD: I also spoke with David Kuo's former boss at the White House faith-based office, Jim Towey, who calls Kuo's descriptions in the book absolutely untrue. And he adds that Mr. Kuo was, quote, "not the player in that office that he claims he was."

David Kuo's book publicist would not comment on that and said Mr. Kuo would not either, at least for the moment -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much for that. Please be sure to join us Monday here in THE SITUATION ROOM, 4:00 p.m. Eastern. David Kuo will join us to talk about his new book "Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction." Monday, 4:00 p.m. Eastern, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And as we head into the crucial midterm elections, stay up-to- date with the "CNN Political Ticker." The daily news service on gives you an inside view of the day's political stories. You can see for yourself. Go to

Coming up, why former Secretary of State Colin Powell allegedly viewed the vice president, Dick Cheney, as impediment. We are going to talk to the author of a new Powell biography.

Plus, we'll take you to the bridge of no return of the DMZ, the De-Militarized Zone, the world's most heavily fortified border. Our Zain Verjee traveled there recently. She's going to show us what she found.

Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's check back with Zain Verjee for a closer look at some other important stories making news -- Zain.

VERJEE: Wolf, the Burlington police chief confirmed the body of a missing college student has been found. And the chief suspect in the killing has been arrested on unrelated charges. Twenty-one-year- old Michelle Gardner-Quinn went missing on October the 7th. She disappeared while walking from downtown Burlington toward her dormitory at the University of Vermont. Police have been focusing on a man whose cellular phone Gardner-Quinn borrowed as she was walking home.

The Pentagon denies a British claim that U.S. troops unlawfully killed a British reporter working in Iraq. A British coroner says overwhelming evidence indicates U.S. forces fatally shot ITN correspondent Terry Lloyd in 2003. Witnesses testified that Lloyd was killed when U.S. soldiers fired on his ambulance after he was injured by Iraqi troops. But the Pentagon says its investigation found the U.S. soldiers followed proper rules of engagement.

The U.S. Southern Command will investigate allegations guards were abusing detainees at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. That's according to the Pentagon's Inspector General's Office. The sergeant who was at the base reportedly says she heard guards talking about hitting detainees, denying them water and taking personal belongings away from inmates.

A Pennsylvania jury is ordering Wal-Mart to play at least $78 million for violating the state's labor laws. The jury found the world's biggest retailer unlawfully forced employees to work during their breaks and off the clock. The class action lawsuit involves almost 200,000 current and former Wal-Mart and Sam's Club employees. Their attorney says today's verdict sends a message that people should be put before profit. Wal-Mart plans to appeal -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Zain, for that.

And coming up, she may be the luckiest woman alive. A New Yorker who avoids one brush with death and avoids yet another high profile brush with disaster.

And we'll take you to the DMZ, where tensions couldn't be higher. Zain Verjee will be back with a unique first-hand look at the situation between North and South Korea. She was recently there. Her report, all that, coming up.


BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all of the time.

Happening now, the White House is dismissing North Korea, saying handling the country is, quote, "like dealing with a bratty child." The White House press secretary Tony Snow also says the past approach was to, quote, "give them a piece of candy and hope they'll shut up." But he says this week's alleged nuclear test has changed everything.

Also, Republicans scrambling right now to distance themselves from Congressman Bob Ney of Ohio. He pleased guilty to corruption charges, but is refusing to resign his seat for now. House leaders say they'll move to expel him.

And state of emergency in Upstate New York caught off guard by what is being called a once-in-a-lifetime storm. Get this, almost two feet of snow knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes, and killed at least three people in western New York in and around Buffalo.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Iraq seeing more scenes of violence. Today, 14 workers kidnapped yesterday were found dead about 50 miles north of Baghdad. Gunmen shot dead three members of a family in Baquba. And today U.S. military officials announced that a U.S. soldier died in a northern Iraq explosion yesterday.

Across Iraq, the U.S. military uses special operations to try to stem the violence. Joining us now, Arwa Damon, our correspondent. She's near Yusufiya, in an area called "The Triangle of Death."

Arwa, tell our viewers, you're embedded with U.S. forces, what's going on?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's an incredibly challenging environment. What they're trying to do here right now is really aggressively try to target the insurgent group that they believe are operating in this area.

They use this area mainly as a center to gather in to receive their orders. And then they are believed to then carry out their attacks in Baghdad. It is very difficult, though, for U.S. troops here to try to track down these individuals.

It's an area that is pure farm land, filled with canals. It presents incredible challenges for the Humvees to maneuver through, and also provides the insurgents targets of opportunity to attack U.S. troops as they're moving through this area -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So basically, what the troops are looking for, at least part of the mission is going after insurgents who are planting these improvised explosive devices, IEDs along the roads?

DAMON: Absolutely. I mean that is their main goal here. What they're trying to do is shut this area off so that the insurgents cannot move through what they call rat lines into Baghdad and into al Anbar Province. And essentially the area I'm in, which is close to Yussafiya, what they've done is they've encircled entirely, made checkpoints and essentially closed down all of the routes and each vehicle is meticulously searched to try to prevent weapons flow, fighters flow and any improvised explosive devices from moving any where in the country outside of this area. BLITZER: One problem though I've heard from U.S. military commanders as soon as you clean up one of these areas, there's other areas that spring up with potentially even more insurgents and more dangers. Is that what you're hearing from troops on the ground?

DAMON: Yes Wolf and that is one of the main concerns here, we've seen this over and over again. They move into one area, they clear it out only to have the insurgents spring out elsewhere. What they're trying to do now is concentrate their efforts on what they call these specially volatile spots, to flood these areas with troops and then be able to maintain and sustain that troop presence to prevent the insurgents from coming back into this area. And that is actually where they turn to the Iraqi security forces for backup support, so they can move into these areas, clear them and then continue to maintain a presence to prevent the insurgents from returning. And the thought is that if they repeat this, throughout this area of operations, they can eventually at least deny the insurgency the ability to operate.

BLITZER: Arwa Damon is embedded with U.S. military forces in this area, the triangle of death. Arwa, be careful over there, we'll check back.

DAMON: Thank you.

BLITZER: The reasons behind the Iraq war are likely to be debated far into history. You'll remember key arguments that Iraq was a threat were presented by then Secretary of State Colin Powell before the United Nations in 2003. He presented what he called undeniable evidence Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. But not long after those claims were called into question. And many say that widened a rift between Powell and Bush contributing to Powell's resignation. Karen DeYoung is the author of an important new book entitled, "Soldier." It's the first full biography of General Powell, it's called "The Life of Colin Powell." She's a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and editor for "The Washington Post." Karen, thanks for coming in.


BLITZER: You write in the book that he believes he was fired, that you think he was fired. What happened?

DEYOUNG: Powell I think had always intended to leave he intended to leave at the end of Bush's first term. And that conviction grew as times got tough in the administration. But as the election approached I think he decided that things were looking up for diplomacy, there was some thought that Don Rumsfeld might actually leave. And he was expecting an invitation to stay at least six months to a year, but what he got instead was a phone call from Andy Card saying, the president wants to make a change, please give us your resignation letter in two days.

BLITZER: And that was that. Who did him in?

DEYOUNG: Who did him in? Oh, I think that it was kind of preordained from the start. I think that he was always the odd man out. I think that the administration in terms of foreign policy was going to a place that he didn't want to go and didn't want to go where he wanted to go.

BLITZER: This relationship between Powell and Rumsfeld, I guess it wasn't very good at the beginning but it progressively got worse. Talk a little bit about that.

DEYOUNG: Well I think Powell thought that he could control Rumsfeld. He basically found that Rumsfeld had access to the president that he didn't have. He didn't like the way Rumsfeld dealt with the military and the bad relations went all the way down the line. Not only Powell and Rumsfeld but their deputies, people underneath them, undersecretaries, all the way down to the lowest levels, there just was no agreement at all.

BLITZER: You and I have covered Washington for a long time. There's always tension between the State Department and the Defense Department. But in this particular case it got poisonous.

DEYOUNG: Well I think it general goes one of two ways. Either the staffs don't get along but the secretaries do. Or the secretaries don't get along and the staff sort of works everything out. In this case, neither one was true.

BLITZER: The relationship with Rumsfeld was one thing but the relationship that deteriorated with the Vice President Dick Cheney was another. Because they did have a close relationship when Powell was chairman of the Joint Chiefs at the Pentagon during the first Gulf War, Cheney was the Defense Secretary, I remember those days, I was the Pentagon correspondent. Let me read to you what you write in the book "Soldier." "The defense secretary was definitely a problem, although Powell believed that the main impediment to a more orderly disciplined process in the Bush administration was not Rumsfeld but Cheney. The president tended to pay most attention to the last person to whisper in his ear, Powell though, and that was usually Cheney." What happened to that relationship between Powell and Cheney?

DEYOUNG: Well you know they left on a kind of a sour note when Cheney was Defense Secretary, never said goodbye to Powell, walked out the door, packed up and left, didn't say thank you, didn't say anything. When this administration started, I think Cheney was suspicious of Powell, he thought Powell was far too popular for his own good. And it wasn't what Powell was used to. Powell was used to a national security council where the president usually didn't even come to the meetings. Cheney was there every day, he was a power in the meetings, he had a very powerful staff and he had direct access to the president all of the time.

BLITZER: It was an unusually close partnership or at least it seemed like it was during the first Gulf War. You would see them at Pentagon briefings, it would be a very collaborative, at least appearance.

DEYOUNG: Well I think Cheney felt Powell made him look good. The war went well in 1991. Powell was the public face I think of the war. And it renowned well on Cheney.

BLITZER: Here's what you also write in the book. You write, "The Bush administration had clearly manipulated Powell's prestige and reputation, even as it repeatedly undermined him and disregarded his advice. The question was why he had let them. He was a proud man and he would never have let them see him sweat."

DEYOUNG: That's a saying of his. He won't let them see him sweat. And I think that he interpreted to himself, any idea that he was going to leave would be an admission of defeat. It would be an admission that what everybody else outside said, that he was defeated, was true.

BLITZER: Because of the book. And it's a big thick book. You have done an enormous amount of research entitled "Soldier." And there's a picture of him in his army uniform. He was a soldier. And as you know and as you write, a soldier takes orders, salutes the commander in chief and says, yes, sir. Is that what he did, was he not more forceful in advancing his own positions during the course of the lead up to the war in Iraq?

DEYOUNG: He definitely could have been more forceful and that in fact was the source of some frustration with his own staff. I think part of it was that he was obeying the commander in chief, but part of it also was this supreme self-confidence that he believed that he would prevail in the end. He was so sure of his own charisma, his own ability to persuade and that coupled with his really refusal to admit defeat I think made him wait too long and to be a little bit too reticent in expressing his views.

BLITZER: The book is entitled "Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell." Karen Deyoung is the author, Karen good work, thanks for coming in.

DEYOUNG: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And still to come, fed up with all the political scandals. Are you mad enough to go to the polls this November? We're going to look at what it takes to motivate voters. Jeff Greenfield with that. And we now know the identity of the woman whose apartment was hit by the plane carrying the Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor. And as you're about to learn, this wasn't her first brush with death. This is an amazing story. Mary Snow will be joining us to tell us. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Twenty-five days until the midterm elections. And while the polls are showing some trends among voters, they can't tell us everything. And joining us now with more, our senior analyst Jeff Greenfield. Jeff?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Wolf, good to be here. One of the reasons why all these pre-election polls have to be taken with about a ton of salt is that they can't answer one basic question, who is going to show up and vote. This may seem staggeringly obvious but watch how it's played out in recent can elections.


GREENFIELD (voice-over): As the 1994 midterms approach, a string of bad news dampened Democratic enthusiasm. The Clinton healthcare plan withered and died. Scandals tainted the image of the Congress Democrats controlled. And after 40 years in the wilderness, Republicans believed they had a shot at winning. The result, according to exit polls, Republicans showed up in higher than usual numbers for the midterms. They accounted for some 35 percent of total voters. A jump from four years earlier. And the percentage of Democrats voting actually dropped. The GOP took both Houses. Four years later might have seemed like a replay, with President Clinton mired in scandal and facing impeachment. But Clinton's approval ratings remained high, especially with Democrats. And they responded to the impeachment threat by turning out, not staying home. In 1998 they accounted for 37 percent of the vote and Democrats actually gained seats in the House.

If Karl Rove is right, this last minute story in 2000 that George W. Bush had been arrested for drunk driving as a young man, kept a few million likely Republican voters, mostly white evangelicals, away from the polls. We do know that Democrats showed up in greater numbers, 39 to 35 percent, helping to give Al Gore a victory in the popular vote. And that is why the Bush forces spent the next four years looking for Republican votes in unlikely places, specifically Democratic strongholds. As detailed in a new book, Applebee's America, co-written by key Bush strategist Matthew Dowd, the Bush team used incredibly sophisticated data mining techniques. They looked at everything from what voters read, to what they drove, to what TV they watched to figure out how to reach these neglected Republican voters. They advertised on cable, not broadcast TV. Built an outreach program with volunteers, not paid workers. The result, while Kerry's campaign turned out more than 8 million new voters, Bush's campaign turned out nearly 11.5 million. And Bush got 3 million more votes than Kerry did.


GREENFIELD: And that is why the unanswerable question for this election is, does the Republican turnout operation trump the "we want change" sentiment of the general public. Because the general public doesn't count, only voters do. Wolf?

BLITZER: And so the assumption that the conservative base is not as agitated, not as anxious to vote. This time can we go in three and a half weeks from this election with that assumption?

GREENFIELD: You know, when you assume, you make an ass out of you and me as the old cliche goes. What you can assume is right now the Republicans are really worried about this because nobody thinks the conservative base is going to switch over to Democrats. All they have to do is stay home, not turn out in enough numbers and the Republicans' control of the Congress is in real jeopardy.

BLITZER: We'll see if the Democrats can get their base out and mobilize the way they really want them.

GREENFIELD: And so far the enthusiasm factor so far seems to be on the Democratic side, but the Republicans have shown us in the last two elections they know what to do in those 72 hours before election day.

BLITZER: That's why this is going to be a fun and exciting election for all of us. Thanks very much Jeff.

And as we head into the crucial midterm elections, stay up to date with the CNN political ticker, the daily news service on gives you an inside view of the day's political stories. See for yourself, go to

Investigators are now wrapping up their work at the site of the plane crash that killed Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor. They died when their small plane slammed into a high rise condo on New York's Upper East Side. And new details are now emerging about a woman whose apartment was destroyed by the crash. It turns out this isn't her first close call. CNN's Mary Snow is joining us now from New York, the streets of New York with details. This is really an amazing story, Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf it really is an incredible story and it's emerging as life here at the crash site begins to get back to normal as the street is open and people are going into that apartment building. But consider these odds in a city of 8 million people. That not once, but twice, one person could be affected by two rare freak accidents in New York. And that is the story of Kathleen Corona. Corona first made headlines in 1997 when she escaped death at the Macy's Day Thanksgiving Parade. You may remember strong winds came gusting through and it caused one of the balloons in the parade to hit a lamp post. That lamp post fell on her head and she escaped death. She was in a coma for nearly a month. Later she sued and settled a lawsuit and claimed that she had suffered permanent brain damage.

Now flash forward nine years to Wednesday's plane crash here on the upper east side when Cory Lidle's plane crashed into two floors of this apartment building. One of those apartments belonged to Kathleen Corona. She was not home at the time and did not suffer any injuries, but certainly an incredible story. She did not want to be interviewed today. I did speak with her mother who told me that it was just unbelievable. That was the only word she could describe these events and she called her daughter a very strong woman but said it's just once again a reminder how strange life can be. Wolf?

BLITZER: What a story. Thanks, Mary for that. Mary Snow reporting. Just ahead, Zain Verjee takes us inside the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea. We're going to show you how the so-called bridge of no return got its name. Zain was just there. She's standing by with her report. You'll want to see this. Stay with us.


BLITZER: The tension of North Korea's claim of a nuclear test is focusing new attention on the world's most heavily fortified border, the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea. It's been visited by U.S. presidents and other world leaders, more recently though, it's been visited by our own Zain Verjee. And Zain is joining us now with more on what she saw and heard. Zain?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we went to one spot at the DMZ where you can get a bird's eye view of North Korea. Here's what we were able to see.


VERJEE (voice-over): When presidents want a close-up of North Korea, this is where they come. Checkpoint three, on the South Korean side of the DMZ. This two and a half mile buffer zone is the only stretch of land that separates about 2 million troops from nations still officially at war. Shoot a glance below, a bridge straddles the two countries, the bridge of no return.

(on camera): This is the closest we can get to the bridge of no return. If you look over there, you can just about make out a North Korean guard post. The military demarcation line runs right through the center of the bridge and on the North Korean side the bridge has actually been walled off and it's covered by some bushes, so you can't see it too clearly.

(voice-over): Bill Clinton posed for a photo op here but went too far, throwing security in a tizzy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Clinton walked out, possibly a little too far. Security battalion was rushing to get guys to pull him back. It's not a secure location, the guard post on the other side is manned 24 hours a day.

VERJEE: The bridge is a relic of war, named for Korean POWs faced with a cold choice after hostilities ended. Capitalist south or communist north? If they crossed the bridge, they could never return. American prisoners have also walked this walk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last Americans to cross the bridge were in 1968, Commander (INAUDIBLE) and the crew of the USS Pueblo, after being held captive by North Korea for 11-1/2 months.

VERJEE: Icons of the cold war are everywhere at the DMZ. A fake town juts out from the North Korean side. Tall apartment buildings where nobody actually lives, nicknamed propaganda village. North Koreans used to blast patriotic music and messages from loudspeakers here to entice the other side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They constructed apartment buildings so when they played the propaganda, they could say look how much money we have. You should defect to the worker's paradise.

VERJEE: It may not be a worker's paradise but it's a splendid sanctuary for birds, a strange soundtrack to a landscape loaded with land mines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most unique part is just seeing how well I think the wildlife has flourished within this area and having two armies on opposite sides of it and it being untouched.

VERJEE: For the animals here, the state of war is their peace. If this conflict ever ends the land will be destroyed, the area cleared of mines to make it safe for people. And for the troops stationed here, life goes on with the threat of war always hanging in the background.


VERJEE: Wolf, there's a heavy concentration of troops and weapons on both sides of the DMZ. Tensions along the border appear to have increased since North Korea claimed to have conducted a nuclear test. Wolf?

BLITZER: As a member of the DMZ I covered Bill Clinton's visit there when he was president. Quite, quite a scary spot. Zain, good work, thanks very much.

A helicopter apparently has gone down. Let's check in with our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre, Jamie what are we learning?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, what's the difference between a crash and a hard landing? Apparently it's when the pilot and copilot can walk away. We're getting pictures of this helicopter that went down in St. Mary's County, Virginia from the U.S. Naval test pilot school of Patuxent Naval Air Station. A TH-6 helicopter, sometimes called a little bird made a -- in St. Mary's County, Maryland made a very hard landing, but we're told the pilot and copilot did walk away. This helicopter, again from the test pilot school at Patuxent Naval Air Station. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, good. I'm glad they're ok. Thanks very much, Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.

Up next, with reports Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid may have been involved in a questionable land deal. Jack Cafferty wants to know, should Democrats replace him? Jack, up next with The Cafferty File. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Check back with Jack, once again. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY: Wolf when it comes to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and a questionable real estate deal. "The Philadelphia Enquirer" editorialized today that unless Reid comes up with a better explanation for his lack of proper disclosure, the Democrats ought to get a new leader. So that's the question, should Democrats replace Reid as minority leader in the Senate? CN writes from Bartlett, Illinois, "I'm a Democrat, the only way we can rag on the Republicans and get their crooked butts out of office is to be better than they are. Reid needs to go. He needs to resign as minority leader today. That way, he doesn't become a campaign issue."

Hank in Santa Rosa, California, "For the moment, I think we should replace Harry Reid as Minority Senate Leader. We need to make him Senate Majority Leader. I spent many a commuter flight between Reno and Las Vegas with Mr. Reid, then a congressman in Nevada, and found him to be honest and he actually followed through with real answers to constituents' concerns." B.K. in Davie, Florida, "No. Nothing was wrong in this deal, except for the proper form being submitted. The conservatives are grasping at straws now with all the lies, bribes and kickbacks on their side, they have nothing to lose by throwing anything out there and seeing what sticks."

J.J. in Los Angeles, "The Democrats need to walk the walk if they're going to talk the talk. They need to show some credibility and be willing to hold themselves to the same standard that they demand from Republicans. I know it won't happen but I wish I could see at least one political party show some integrity." Ryan in Fernley, Nevada, "As a Nevada native, born and raised in and out of Reno, I'll stand by my senator. I believe people should give him a fair chance to explain himself before jumping on any election year scandal they can to get their hands on." And Craig writes from Arcata, California, "I'm a lifelong Democrat, I think Reid should be replaced. Not because of these phony allegations, he should be replaced because he's a weenie. He talks too slow and he's too damn old. He's the poster boy for a party that can't get their stuff together."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to, read some more of them online. Wolf?

BLITZER: See you in an hour. Let's go to Brian Todd though in the meantime. Brian, there's a developing story you're working on.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right Wolf. Two federal law enforcement sources tell CNN the U.S. attorney in Arizona has begun a preliminary inquiry into a camping trip taken 10 years ago by Congressman Jim Kolbe. A trip that included two former congressional pages. The official stressed this assessment by prosecutors in Arizona stems from a single allegation regarding Kolbe's behavior on the trip. One person who was on that 1996 trip to the Grand Canyon tells CNN he felt Kolbe was overly friendly with one of the former pages. He said there was hugging but the source said he saw no sexual activity and also noted that everyone slept near each other and in the open because of the extreme heat. He tells CNN he would be talking with the FBI today. CNN agreed not to identify the person because he was concerned about future government employment. Contacted by CNN a spokeswoman for Kolbe said quote, "There is absolutely no basis and no truth to the allegations. And she said the Congressman is shocked and stunned by the allegations." Another person on that trip who asked not to be identified said he saw nothing on toward but said he was not on the trip the whole time. Kolbe is a Republican, retiring at the end of this term and the only openly gay Republican serving in the House. Wolf?

BLITZER: We'll have more on this story coming up. In the meantime, let's go to Kitty Pilgrim in New York, she's sitting in for Lou. Kitty? TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT