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The Situation Room

Analysis of President Bush's Conference; Interviews with Mike DeWine, Sherrod Brown; Will Democrats Take Control of Senate?

Aired October 25, 2006 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.
Happening now, as a bloody battle rages in Baghdad, President Bush urges Americans to stick with an unpopular war.

But will this pre-election pitch make a difference to voters or the troops on the front lines?

As we close in on the mid-term elections, Democrats may be close to taking control of the Senate.

But can they do it without taking Ohio?

From that key battleground state to the SITUATION ROOM, I'll speak with Republican Senator Mike DeWine and his Democratic challenger, Congressman Sherrod Brown. They're both here this hour.

And stem cell showdown -- Rush Limbaugh rushed in after Parkinson's sufferer Michael J. Fox made a campaign ad for Democrats. Now other actors and athletes come out with a competing ad.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Thirteen days before Americans vote, President Bush is asking them not to give up on the war in Iraq, saying the United States is winning. The administration is shifting its strategy and its language on Iraq, but it still faces the shifting sands of public opinion on the war, an extraordinarily low opinion, according to all the latest polls.

This comes as coalition forces go after a death squad leader in Baghdad and as Iraq's leader seemingly takes issue with this U.S. strategy.

CNN's Barbara Starr is standing by at the Pentagon.

Michael Ware is in Baghdad.

But let's go to the White House.

Our correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, with more on what the president said today -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is the second press conference in two weeks. And what you're seeing at the White House is really an extraordinary effort, a very aggressive campaign to try to make sure that those Republicans in the base get to the polls and that Republicans maintain the majorities in Congress.

The gamble here, the real gamble here is whether or not those Republicans are going to get to the polls. And the thinking here at the White House is if they believe in the president's war on terror, that they will be able to get those voters to the polls.

Of course, October being the deadliest month for U.S. troops makes it a lot more difficult. So the president is emphasizing flexibility in tactics.

He also, in a very rare move, decided to deflect some of the criticism from his secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, as well as other Republicans, taking full accountability for the failures in Iraq.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The ultimate accountability, Peter, rests with me. That's the ultimate -- you're asking about accountability, that's -- it rests right here. That's what the 2004 campaign was about, you know? People want to -- people are unhappy about it, look right to the president.

I believe our generals are doing the job that I asked them to do. They're competent, smart, capable men and women. And this country owes them a lot of gratitude and support.


MALVEAUX: Now, of course, as you know, Wolf, the really is no political cost for the president to take full accountability. He is not on the ballot in two weeks. He knows that. But there are some Republicans, some candidates who have been very shy of appearing publicly with the president. They do not believe that it's a good idea.

The president kind of brushed that aside today, saying that, of course, he's going to continue to fundraise, but he's also going to be framing the debate, focusing on, of course, the issues of national security and the economy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much.

Suzanne Malveaux at the White House.

As the war in Iraq turns into a bloody and chaotic freefall, can the Bush administration's shifting strategy change the course of the conflict?

Let's get more right now from our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there's an awful lot of talk about changing military tactics.

But is anything really new?


STARR (voice-over): The president and his generals are on the same page.

BUSH: And that is why we're taking new steps to help secure Baghdad and constantly adjusting our tactics across the country to meet the changing threat.

GEN. GEORGE CASEY, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL FORCE: I can tell you that we have constantly adapted to stay ahead of the enemy.

GEN. PETER PACE, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Every part of the security equation is being reviewed by General Casey, by General Abizaid and by the Joint Chiefs.

STARR: But for the troops, what is new?

Still on deadly patrols, caught between Shia and Sunni violence.

Are there new tactics that might make a difference?

CASEY: And we have also increased our targeting efforts against death squads to match our efforts against al Qaeda.

STARR: An Iraqi Army raid in Sadr City Wednesday did target a death squad commander. U.S. troops still had to provide backup.

The generals only hint at what they say are changes to come.

PACE: We talked about clearing, protecting and building, but we haven't said exactly how we're going to do that.

CASEY: But I think you can expect us to continue to hold onto the focus areas with the Iraqi security forces.

STARR: But was the president signaling a personnel change?

There was, perhaps, a lukewarm response when asked about Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's running the war and the Pentagon.

BUSH: And I'm satisfied of how he's done all his jobs.


STARR: You know, Wolf, Pentagon sources say still the biggest decision to be made is whether or not to send more U.S. troops to Iraq. The president says he will send more U.S. troops if that's what the generals say they need. But military commanders still feel one of the biggest tactical changes that needs to be made is to see more Iraqi troops on the job -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Easier said than done, clearly.

Barbara, thanks very much for that.

Let's go to the front lines right now, which, in these days, means the Iraqi capital itself.

And joining us now from Baghdad, our correspondent, Michael Ware.

The president flatly said today the United States is winning.

We're winning, he said, in this war in Iraq.

From your point of view, does it look like the U.S. is winning right now?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The president's remarks are absolutely striking, Wolf.

I mean I would very much like to ask President Bush how he defines winning, because on the ground here, it looks like anything but.

Given the state of chaos, given the near civil war, given the rising tempo of the Sunni insurgency, given the increasing influence, as Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad pointed out, of Iran and, to a lesser degree, Syria, I would like to know how the president defines victory.

So far in this war, what we have seen with the way things have developed is that two of America's greatest enemies are the only beneficiaries of this conflict -- al Qaeda, which 16 U.S. intelligence agencies say has become stronger, not weaker, as a result of this war. So the very thing the president says he came here to prevent, he has fostered.

And the other one is Iran. Iran's sphere of influence once stopped at Saddam's border. Now, they have great sway not only in southern Iraq, but within the central government, arguably, more sway than the United States -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The argument some are making is that what the United States needs to do now to win is to bring over thousands more U.S. troops.

The counter argument is that could be counter-productive. You'd just have more targets there if you bring 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 more American troops.

You've spent a lot of time embedded with the U.S. military.

Would an introduction of thousands of more U.S. troops right now make a difference?

WARE: Well, Wolf, this is a fantastic question -- 10,000, 20,000, 30,000, 50,000 more troops, nowhere near enough. America, at this juncture in the war, has two options. Clearly, there's no single military solution. So even if you increase the level of troop numbers, much, much more has to be done around that.

The two options -- one is fight this war. Right now, U.S. forces are not fighting to win. They have not been equipped to win. We see in Al Anbar Province, which the president himself says is the central heart of al Qaeda's global plans, the American Marine general in command of that province says he does not have enough troops to win against the al Qaeda-led insurgency.

The same goes across the country. There are enough U.S. forces to defeat the Sunni insurgency, to tackle the Shia militias or to combat Iranian influence.

If you want to occupy this country and fight this war, you need an incredible increase in troops, and, arguably, a draft.

The other alternative is reshaping the political drawing board from scratch and starting again -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Michael Ware reporting for us from Baghdad.

Michael, thanks very much.

WARE: Thank you, Wolf.

A pleasure.

BLITZER: And let's check in with Jack Cafferty once again for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.


Isn't that what Colin Powell said about four years ago, that you needed 300,000 troops minimum to go in there and make that operation work?

BLITZER: There was a lot of -- a lot of military experts who thought you needed hundreds of thousands going in there. I remember when I covered the first Gulf War, to liberate Kuwait, you know how many U.S. troops were dispatched to the Persian Gulf, to Saudi Arabia, to go into a small country like Kuwait and free Kuwait from Iraq?

CAFFERTY: It was a quarter of a million, something like that.

BLITZER: Half a million.

CAFFERTY: Half a million.

BLITZER: Half a million -- 500,000 U.S. troops were deployed to the Gulf to liberate Kuwait. So a lot of experts thought that 150,000 or 200,000, even U.S. troops to liberate Iraq, a much bigger country, was way too few.

CAFFERTY: Well, they were right, weren't they?

While our government continues to pretend that the illegal alien problem doesn't exist, the public is getting fed up.

A new CNN poll conducted by Opinion Research Corporation, 74 percent of Americans want more U.S. agents on the Mexican border. Fifty-eight percent support large fines on employers who hire illegal aliens. Forty-five percent want a 700-mile fence built on the 2,000 plus mile border. And 44 percent support jail time for employers who hire illegal aliens.

Is Washington listening?

Of course not.

Although not everyone agrees on the best method for fighting illegal immigration, they do agree on one thing -- there are too many illegal aliens in this country, around 12 million is the best guess. Another million arriving each and every year. Three thousand a day come here. Sixty-seven percent of us want the number of illegal aliens reduced. Twenty-six percent say the number should be kept the same. Only 2 percent say it should be increased.

So here's the question. What's the best solution to curbing illegal immigration into the United States, besides enforcing the existing laws against it, which we choose not to do?

E-mail your thoughts to or go to

And let me remind you, for much more on this subject, from, arguably, one of the better versed intellects on the topic, we invite you to watch CNN at 7:00 Eastern time for a Lou Dobbs "Broken Borders" special. This is a subject near and dear to Lou's heart. He has been reporting on it in-depth for a good, long while. And tonight, Lou is hosting a live town hall meeting from where I took my basic training, San Antonio, Texas. So you'll want to tune in for that. My friend Lou, 7:00.

Check it out -- Wolf.

BLITZER: San Antonio has changed a lot since you took your basic training there. I don't know if you've been there lately. It's a wonderful city, Jack.

CAFFERTY: I never went -- I never went back.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that.

Up ahead, a broadcast battle between an actor and a radio talk show host. There's fallout after Rush Limbaugh suggested Michael J. Fox was faking the effects of his disease for political purposes.

Also, Ohio's Buckeye battle -- Republican Senator Mike DeWine fighting for his political life against Democratic Congressman Sherrod Brown. Who wins could determine who controls the U.S. Senate. I'll speak this hour with both candidates.

And serving in the U.S. military while speaking out against it -- hundreds of active duty service members are getting ready to tell the Pentagon what they really think about the war in Iraq. They're not speaking out against the U.S. military, they're speaking out about the U.S. war in Iraq.

But could they be punished for that?

Much more of our coverage, right after this.


BLITZER: While the commander-in-chief says the U.S. is winning the war in Iraq, some members of the U.S. military are coming forward with a different message.

Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd.

He has the story -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, on that day when the president tries to stay on message about the war and its mission, that mission is being questioned by some of those asked to carry it out.


TODD (voice-over): Dissent in the ranks -- during wartime, it's usually come from military members who have resigned their commissions. This time, active duty servicemen are speaking out.

SEAMAN JONATHAN HUTTO, U.S. NAVY: You're looking at over 2,700 lives lost. You're looking at over 20,000 lives mangled and destroyed due to this war. You know, you're looking at soldiers, sailors and Marines coming back with all types of ailments. No one is unscathed.

TODD: Led by Navy Seaman Jonathan Hutto, more than 200 serving military members are preparing a Web-based appeal to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq and will send it to Congress.

But Democratic Senator Jack Reed, a former paratrooper who's against the Iraq war, disagrees with this tactic.

SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: If you feel that a course of action is inappropriate, your choice is just getting out of the service, basically, if you can, and making your comments as a civilian.

HUTTO: To say that the only right that military members have is to either obey -- obey orders or get out is -- is, in my view, is actually disgraceful.

TODD: Beyond free speech, one combat veteran is concerned about others in the line of fire.

GEN. DAVID GRANGE, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think it affects the will, you know? And it affects the morale of the soldiers and Marines on the ground in Iraq when something like this goes on, because it's all about will. It's all about having the resolve to go forward. And it kind of undermines it a little bit.

TODD: Hutto, who returned from the Iraq theater last spring, says this effort is just a formal way to express what a lot of servicemen are saying anyway.


TODD: Could Hutto and his allies be court-martialed for speaking publicly against the war?

Not according to military rules, which allow active service members to communicate with members of Congress while off duty and out of uniform and if they make it clear they're not speaking for their units. Beyond restating those rules, a press officer at the Pentagon would not comment on this campaign -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Brian Todd reporting.

The Defense Department strictly regulates what troops on the front lines write online to avoid compromising security. But there are new signs the military may be cracking down on what they read.

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

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, Wonkette is a left leaning, D.C.-based gossip blog. And on this blog, there was a letter that was posted from what purports to be a U.S. Marine. It's an anonymous letter.

The Marine says that he is stationed west of Baghdad and that he tried to get onto Wonkette and other liberal Web sites and was unable to access them. He says he was able to access conservative sites with no problem. And he wonders whether this was done by the military just in time for the mid-term elections.

Well, we contacted military officials in the Green Zone today and we had them test out some liberal and conservative blogs and they were able to get on all of them.

What they weren't able to access, interestingly enough, is, the social networking site. See, the military uses a company called Websense that makes Web filtering software. And MySpace falls under their category of personals and dating, which, according to the military, is not allowed. They block out sites like this to increase productivity during the day.

Now, rules vary base to base and they vary whether you're using an office computer or a recreational computer.

As for the Marine who's stationed west of Baghdad, we talked to officials there and they say it is entirely possible that Wonkette was banned because they want to free up bandwidth for usual day to day operations. But they say that it is not necessarily for political reasons, just for productivity reasons -- Wolf. BLITZER: Jacqui, thank you very much.

Still to come, the two Senate candidates running from Ohio.

Both of them standing by. They'll be here.

Also, New Jersey's Supreme Court rules the state constitution gives same-sex couples the same rights of married, heterosexual couples.

But what did the court leave out today?

Florida Congressman Mark Foley disappeared after the Congressional page scandal elected. We now know where he went. We'll have details.

And CNN is counting down until the mid-term elections. Only 13 days until America votes.



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

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we now know where former Congressman Mark Foley is underground treatment for alcoholism. We're learning today that he's at the Sierra Tucson Treatment Center in Tucson, Arizona.

Foley resigned from Congress a few weeks ago after he was confronted with sexually explicit computer messages he'd sent to male teenage pages who worked on Capitol Hill. His attorney announced that he's gay and was molested by a priest when he was a teenager.

Apparent classified documents from the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory in New Mexico-have turned up in a drug investigation. Police say they found the information in a home where a man suspected of domestic violence and drug dealing was being arrested. The lab director confirms there was a potential security breach by a former lab subcontractor employee. The Associated Press reports the former employee is linked to the man whose home was searched. CNN hasn't been able to confirm that.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the U.S.'s multilateral approach to North Korea is the best course for dealing with the nuclear issue. She says that strategy will build greater security in Asia. She also says the U.S. is working to strengthen international non-proliferation efforts. She made the comments today during a speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, thank you.

Still to come, the stakes couldn't be much higher. Whoever wins the Ohio Senate race could help his country -- his party, that is -- control the U.S. Senate. Candidates Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Mike DeWine both will be here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And Rush Limbaugh suggested the actor Michael J. Fox, was faking the effects of his Parkinson's Disease for political purposes. After much fallout, what are Limbaugh and many others saying right now?

Stay with us.



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

Happening right now, President Bush says he feels your frustration. Today, he said he understands Americans are not satisfied with the way the war in Iraq is going. But the president says his administration is constantly adjusting its tactics.

The New Jersey Supreme Court says gay and lesbian couples have the same rights as heterosexual couples. The court says the state's constitution grants that right. But the court also says the state legislature must decide what to call the same-sex relationships.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Now to one race that could impact the balance of power in the United States Senate. We're talking about the battle in Ohio between the Republican incumbent Mike DeWine and the Democratic challenger, Congressman Sherrod Brown.

A Bloomberg/"L.A. Times" poll just out today shows an 8 point difference between DeWine and Brown.

And joining us now from Columbus, Ohio, Republican Senator Mike DeWine.

Senator, you're fighting for your political life right now.

Let's talk a little bit about Iraq, which is clearly hovering over a lot of these battleground races right now.

Do you agree with President Bush, as he said today, when he said the United States is winning the war in Iraq right now?

SEN. MIKE DEWINE (R), OHIO: I don't think that you can say that. You know, this war has hit Ohio very hard. As I travel around the state, Ohioans want our troops home just as soon as they can. But they also want us to leave in the right way. And they are concerned about what the aftermath would be.

And so, you know, we have to train the Iraqis. We have to get them better equipment. Frankly, we're not giving them the equipment that we should be giving them. And we have to set some time lines in regards to their progress and push them toward that progress...

BLITZER: So you would...

DEWINE: ... so that we can get our troops home.

BLITZER: You disagree with the president when he says flatly "we're winning?"

DEWINE: Well, you know, as long as you've got U.S. troops who are being killed, which is -- can happen in a guerrilla operation against them, you know, this is tough for the United States. And I don't think anyone -- you can describe it as winning.

Certainly there are parts of Iraq that are moving along as well as they should. But frankly, until the Iraqis get their act together, things are not going to be the way they should be. And ultimately this is not our battle, this is the Iraqis' battle. And they're going to have to deal with the problem between the Sunnis and the Shias and the Kurds and the other factionalism that you're seeing in Iraq.


DEWINE: They've got to deal with it.

BLITZER: Your opponent, Sherrod Brown, says you're partially responsible for this mess in Iraq because, as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, you were flatly, he says, negligent.


BLITZER: He says: "People who sit on the Intelligence Committee like Mike DeWine simply haven't done their jobs. They've not demanded accountability. They didn't demand that the president come up with a plan to win, a plan to reconstruct Iraq and rebuild Iraq."

Looking back, were you negligent as a member of that committee in not asking the right questions before going into this war?

DEWINE: No, we all asked tough questions. You know it's ironic for Sherrod Brown to talk about intelligence. This is a man who voted 10 different times in the 1990's to slash our intelligence. He was in the minority even of his own party. Then after September 11th when we all came together, Democrats and Republicans alike and we passed the patriot act 98 to one in the Senate. Sherrod Brown was one of 66 House members to vote no. And just recently he voted no again on the patriot act. He has a pre-9/11 mentality about terrorism and about intelligence.

BLITZER: But what about you? What about you looking in those months before the war, do you wish you would have asked some additional questions that might have gotten a better response? Especially on the issue of the weapons of mass destruction which the president now flatly says the U.S. has found no stockpiles?

DEWINE: Wolf, there is clearly a problem with -- intelligence committee made the wrong assessment. But if you look at what everyone saw, we all were seeing the same information. Bill Clinton saw it in 1998 when he made his famous speech talking about how dangerous Saddam was. We saw it with people like Carl Levin and Jay Rockefeller. You know, whatever they thought about going into Iraq, we all had the same intelligence in regard to the weapons of mass destruction. So it's, revision of history for Sherrod Brown to go back and say oh, Mike DeWine made a mistake on this. Everyone had the same intelligence.

BLITZER: He also says, and the Democrats are running an ad, that sort of paints you in the same corner as the president. Let me run a little of the clip of this ad. Listen to this.


SINGING: The more we work together, together, together the more we work together the happier we'll be.


BLITZER: Basically, he suggests this election in Ohio is a referendum on the president. And because you've been such a close partner of the president, you should pay the price.

DEWINE: Yeah, you know I've worked in a bi-partisan way in the Senate to get things done whether it is working to clean up the Great Lakes or get better medicines for kids. And I've done it with Democrats. I'm doing what the Ohio people want me to do. And that is not to be Partisan, but to be bipartisan and work together and I've done it. And for Sherrod Brown to bring this up, he's trying to disguise his horrible record of 14 years and only passing four bills. You know what the four bills are, Wolf? Four bills. Three bills having to do with helping Taiwan attend a conference in Switzerland. One bill to rename a federal building. If I had that sorry a record, I suppose I would try to divert attention to guilt by association as he is doing.

BLITZER: Are you embarrassed to be seen with the president now in these final weeks before the election?


BLITZER: Because he's been to Ohio several times and I haven't seen him out campaigning with you.

DEWINE: He's come here three different times to do fundraisers for me and I've been seen with him. That picture that Sherrod Brown just showed was me with the president. But look, when I disagree with the president, I say so. I was sent to Washington by the people of the state of Ohio. We have a diverse state. I am advocate and a fighter for this state. And if the president agrees with us, fine. If he does not agree, then I go a different way. I do what I think is best for our state. Sherrod Brown, on the other hand, has been labeled by "The Cleveland Plain Dealer" as an extreme partisan, "National Journal" put him on the fringe of his own party. And when he disagrees, Wolf, with his party, he goes far left. As he did in regard to intelligence. And he's done it time and time again. He is an extremist on the far left of his own party. And is not, does not fit Ohio. BLITZER: All right. Senator DeWine, unfortunately we have to leave it there because we are out of time. But thanks very much for joining us.

DEWINE: Thank you very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: And coming up, we'll get the other side of that tough Senate race. The Ohio congressman, the Democratic candidate, Sherrod Brown, he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM, he's standing by live.

The conflict between Michael J. Fox and Rush Limbaugh. Did the talk show host really apologize or sort of apologize for calling Fox's stem cell ad an act? We'll take a closer look.

And it's only 13 days until Election Day. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Welcome back. Let's get some more now on the very tense Senate race unfolding in Ohio. Among the issues in that campaign, the economy, the war in Iraq among many others. Moments ago as you saw here in THE SITUATION ROOM, I spoke with the Republican candidate, the incumbent Senator Mike DeWine.

Joining us now, his Democratic challenger Congressman Sherrod Brown. Congressman thanks very much for coming in. He paints you as a member of the fringe left wing of the Democratic Party that you are not even mainstream Democrat. What do you say to that?

REP. SHERROD BROWN, (D) OHIO: I say I make the contrast on issue after issue. I'm for the minimum wage. Mike DeWine has voted against it nine times. I'm for embryonic stem cell research, he's against it. I fought the Medicare bill written by the drug industry, he supported it strongly. I voted against the war in Iraq. He voted for the war in Iraq. On every major issue I'm mainstream --

BLITZER: He says though and throughout the 90's after the attack on the first World Trade Center, he says in the years since the first attack on the World Trade Center, Sherrod Brown has voted at least 10 times for stand alone amendments to slash funding for intelligence. That's a serious charge since good intelligence is the front line in the war against terrorism.

BROWN: Well the issue on intelligence has never been do they have enough money. It's the focus of the intelligence community. The oversight committee that Mike DeWine sits on clearly had lost its way and lost its focus. They were more concerned with fighting the cold war than they were the war on terrorism and that's why I joined Jim Sensenbrenner, Republican author of the patriot act. And I joined Porter Goss who later became President Bush's, second President Bush's CIA director, in voting for those amendments to change the focus of the intelligence community from the war on terror, from the cold war to the war on terror.

BLITZER: But he says you are more concerned about the rights of terrorists than protecting the American people.

BROWN: He's wrong. He's wrong. Of course I'm not. The fact is that Mike DeWine is just trying to change the subject because he has failed on the economic situation in Ohio. And more than that, he's failed as a member, 12-year member of the intelligence committee. He never asked the tough questions in the war on Iraq. He brought faulty intelligence. He never demanded of the president a plan to win. A plan to provide body armor for our troops. He never demanded a plan to rebuild Iraq from the president and he's never demanded an exit strategy.

BLITZER: How would you get out of Iraq right now? What is your strategy?

BROWN: Well the first thing you do is you push the Iraqi government to build the security, military and police security forces.

BLITZER: They've been pushing them -- but this Iraqi government is very weak.

BROWN: They push them, but they also say that we're staying for years and years, so there's not the incentive for the Iraqis to do it.

BLITZER: You want a deadline, you want a timeline?

BROWN: I think that we instruct our general, again, we push the Iraqis to do the security forces, military and police. And we push the Iraqis, the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds to come up with a political settlement. Including distribution of oil revenues.

BLITZER: How much time would you give them?

BROWN: And then I would instruct the generals, not Rumsfeld not the president. Not the political people at the White House, but the generals to come up with a redeployment strategy over the next two, to redeploy out of the country over the next year and a half to two years. And do it in the safest way in the most orderly way possible.

BLITZER: That sounds like what General Casey said a year, 12 to 18 months. He thinks that right now, the Iraqi military and police force could take charge.

BROWN: Well, General Casey, I don't think the administration's listening to the generals enough. I mean, the president's comments and Mike DeWine's comments consistently are stay the course, stay the course, stay the course. And if people want to stay the course in Iraq, they should vote for Mike DeWine, but I don't think they do.

BLITZER: What about -- on an issue close to the hearts of a lot of people in Ohio who are suffering economically right now, on employment and other problems. He says, and a lot of Republicans say that if you are elected, you'll vote to raise the taxes of the average people in Ohio. Are you ready to make a pledge now that you are not going to vote for any tax increases for the middle income, the average people in Ohio? BROWN: Absolutely, I'm willing to go further. I want to see tax cuts, elder tax cuts for elder care. Tuition tax credits continued instead of stopped by this crowd when they left Washington to go campaign. They didn't take care of extending tuition tax credits.

BLITZER: Who's going to get their taxes raised?

BROWN: Well the people that are going to get their taxes raised are people who are making over $300,000 a year. As we cancel, as we should not renew or cancel those tax breaks for the wealthiest people. But the fundamental issue in this campaign is Mike DeWine wants to give tax cuts to the wealthiest people in this country. I want to focus tax cuts on the middle class. People in Ohio want a senator who will stand up for the middle class, stand up to the special interest and not betray the middle class.

BLITZER: On the estate tax, what is your position in terms of how much of an estate you can leave without getting it heavily taxed?

BROWN: I think we can bipartisanly work out at what level we do it. I have voted to give it a healthy exemption, $1.5 million, $2 million to protect family farms. My family has a family farm and to protect small businesses. But Mike DeWine, his focus is so much on giving tax breaks to the wealthiest people, the 1 percent wealthiest people, that he turned his back on one vote on 130,000 middle class families on tuition tax credits.

BLITZER: The argument the president makes and a lot of Republicans, the argument they make is if you start eliminating those tax cuts that were enacted during the first six years of the Bush administration, the economy, which has been generally robust, jobs have been created.

BROWN: Wait, wait, the economy has been generally robust for people like us.

BLITZER: In terms of economic growth.

BROWN: Yeah, but it's not been generally robust for 80 percent of Ohioans. It's been generally robust if you're in the top 1 or 2 or 5 percent. Wages are stagnant for college graduates, Wolf, not just workers that have less education or less skills. Prices are up, gas prices, drug prices, health care costs, housing costs, yet, wages have been flat.

BLITZER: Are you scared though that eliminating some of those tax cuts that were enacted over the past six years is going to have an impact on the overall economy?

BROWN: I think first of all, they betrayed conservative principals by busting a hole in this budget. We had a much bigger surplus. A much stronger economy in an economy where the middle class was doing much better when we gave tax cuts more aimed at the middle class. It's the middle class that drives, it's the engine of driving this economy, not the wealthiest 1 percent. Republicans or at least this crowd of Republicans who have betrayed conservative principals by blowing a hole in this budget, Republicans, this crowd of Republicans really thinks the economy is driven by the wealthiest 1 percent.

BLITZER: We have to go.

BROWN: Most people think it's the middle class.

BLITZER: Congressman, we have to go. The president said today a lot of Democrats reading these polls are already dancing in the end zone. Are you among those?

BROWN: I'm not dancing in the end zone, I'm fighting for middle class Ohioans and see what happens.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens. Congressman Sherrod Brown, thanks very much for coming in.

BROWN: Nice to be with you. Thanks.

BLITZER: And as we head into the crucial midterm elections, stay up to date with all the political news, go to That's our political update, 24/7. See for yourself. Up ahead, less than two weeks before Election Day, a major ruling on the issue of same sex marriage. Will it galvanize voters with only 13 days to go?

Also, what's your solution to the problem of illegal immigration? Jack Cafferty wants to know, he's standing by with your email. Stay with us.


BLITZER: It's a closely-watched case concerning whether or not gay and lesbian couples have the same rights as married heterosexual couples. In New Jersey, the state Supreme Court has just ruled on that question. Carol Costello is watching the story for us, she's joining us live with details. Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Wolf. The court did rule gay couples do have those rights. And just two hours after the ruling came down, there is a rally planned for tonight pushing the New Jersey State Legislature to act promptly.


COSTELLO (voice-over): Cindy and Maureen and their two kids have been waiting for this decision for a long time. Together, for 32 years, the couple's wish was to be married in every legal sense. Today, New Jersey State Supreme Court put them on equal footing with married couples, but, gave the state legislature six months to decide what to legally call their relationship.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to say to anybody out there who is already married, would they want it to be called anything else? Our culture, our society understands what the word marriage means. They understand what it means to be married. And that's what we have lived for 32 years and that's what we want our legal agreement to mean. COSTELLO: Their attorneys have always maintained that New Jersey's constitution guarantees liberty and equality. And should grant them the right to marry. The court agreed, but said the issue is not about the transformation of the traditional definition of marriage but about the unequal dispensation of benefits and privileges to one of two similarly-situated classes of people. Episcopal pastors Mark Harris and Denis Winslow also part of the suit, have long wanted those benefits and the right to call their union a marriage.

DENIS WINSLOW, PLAINTIFF: We see it as a civil right that we are denied, even though we pay first class taxes. We're treated like second-class citizens.

COSTELLO: The issue of whether gays can marry has roiled American politics for more than a decade. Voters in eight states will decide November 7th whether to amend their state constitutions to ban gays from marrying. Four challenges in four states seek the right to marry. The issue became all the more heated when Massachusetts became the first and only state to grant marriage rights to gays and lesbians. Six other states followed by granting them most marriage rights, but calling them civil unions or domestic partnerships. But the political tide has mostly run in the other direction. Forty-five states and the federal government have adopted laws banning gays from marrying.


COSTELLO: If you are thinking this is all a game of semantics, Matt Daniels of The Alliance for Marriage certainly agrees. He says, and I quote, they are holding a gun to the head of the legislature of New Jersey. And saying pick between two bullets, one that allows civil unions, and one that allows marriage. And we should mention Daniel supports a federal constitutional ban of same-sex marriage. Wolf?

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Carol Costello reporting. Lou Dobbs getting ready for his program that begins at the top of the hour as well as special primetime town hall meeting. You are in beautiful San Antonio. Lou give our viewers a little preview.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you very much. Tonight, we are coming to you as you say, live from San Antonio, Texas. We are going to have a very special broadcast for you at 7:00 p.m. eastern here on CNN, "America Votes 2006 Broken Borders." And coming up at the top of this hour, employers ignoring our immigration laws, hiring illegal aliens, blatantly discriminating against U.S. citizens and legal immigrants. We'll have that special report.

And the war on the middle class continues. But no one in the White House or the Congress apparently paying any attention. That story as well and less than two weeks to go before Election Day. Poll workers in one state are being sent back to school so they can learn how to handle those e-voting machines. But is it too late? We'll have our special report, "Democracy at Risk." All of that, the day's news, a great deal more at the top of the hour. We hope you'll join us. Now back to you, Wolf. BLITZER: The town hall meeting, Lou, give us a little flavor. What's it going to be like?

DOBBS: Well, I think it's going to be a very interesting exchange of views. We have some of the most outspoken advocates for open borders, illegal aliens, amnesty here. As well as representatives of the middle class who are often the victims of illegal immigration. Certainly in the labor force and as taxpayers. We are going to have more than 200 citizens of San Antonio here to offer their views and to participate in this town hall. It's going to be an exciting hour. And I think a very illuminating one for this issue, illegal immigration and our border security crisis.

BLITZER: Two hours of Lou Dobbs coming up. Our viewers are going to get excited. Lou, thanks very much for that. Top of the hour, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT." That begins followed by his town hall meeting live from San Antonio.

Meanwhile, another issue many Americans are passionate about, embryonic stem cell research. There are new details about a controversy between an actor and a radio talk show host. And commercials from people with varying opinions on the stem cell debate. CNN's Mary Snow is watching the story, she's joining us from New York. Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's no doubt the political ads featuring Michael J. Fox are generating interest. In Missouri tonight during the World Series, there will be a follow-up.


SNOW (voice-over): Days after this political ad featuring Michael J. Fox first hit the air waves in Missouri, the stem cell debate is heating up with a counter ad addressing a state ballot measure on the subject.

JEFF SUPPAN: Amendment two claims it banes human cloning. But in the 2,000 words you won't read, it makes cloning a constitutional right. Don't be deceived.

SNOW: Athletes and actors are featured in the spots by a private group. A group spokeswoman said they sped up its release because of the Fox ad for the Democratic senate candidate who supports embryonic stem cell research.

MICHAEL J. FOX: As you might know, I care deeply about stem cell research. In Missouri, you can elect Claire McCaskill, who shares my hope for cures.

SNOW: It wasn't just the fact that the well known actor was visibly shaking and showing the effects of Parkinson's disease that grabbed attention far beyond Missouri. It was the controversy that followed when on Monday conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh described the ad by waving his arms and suggested Fox was either acting or didn't take his medication to exaggerate the effects of the disease. Two days later the stem cell debate was still dominating the air waves on Limbaugh's talk show and he strongly defended his comments about Fox.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: My apology was if he shows me I'm wrong about my speculations of either acting or being off medication, I will hugely and bigly apologize. That's not good enough.

SNOW: Doctors say it's because of Fox's medication that he shows tremors.

DR. WILLIAM WEINER, UNIV. OF MARYLAND MEDICAL CTR.: There is no question, I want to make that absolutely clear, that any neurologist or doctor who takes care of Parkinson's disease would recognize the movements that Michael J. Fox is making as drug-induced disconesias. In other words, they are a side effect of the medication that he requires to be able to walk and speak properly.

SNOW: The controversy over the comments about Michael J. Fox is just one part of the complicated debate over stem cell research. Some doctors say if there is a silver lining, it will be the attention brought to the issue.


SNOW: Michael J. Fox has done ads in three states for Democrats. His political adviser calls Limbaugh's comments shameful. Limbaugh says he's not attacking Fox personally, and that because he's entered the political arena, he's not above criticism. Wolf?

BLITZER: Mary Snow reporting, thank you. Up next, what's the best solution to curbing illegal immigration in this country? Jack is back with your e-mail right after this.


BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File." Jack?

CAFFERTY: Wolf, the question this hour is what's the best solution to curbing illegal immigration into the United States? We are looking for ideas since the current laws on the books against illegal immigration don't seem to interest the federal government. Jody in Arden, North Carolina, "I think we should put a military base on the border. Our soldier will be training for future battles in desert atmospheres. It's a great area for training while they provide security. We pay our military, so let them help with the immigration problem."

Tony in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, "Since the federal government refuses to enforce the laws, it's up to the states. They must not just fine the employers of the criminal aliens, but they must jail the CEOs and confiscate the assets of the businesses. Once a few CEOs are serving 10 years or more, the jobs will dry right up. No jobs, no more aliens coming." Joe, U.S. Air Force Retired in Pflugerville, Texas, "It's time to send 10,000 troops to the border with orders to shoot to kill. Drop the first two over the line and the rest of them will turn back." Terry in Fayetteville, North Carolina, "Jack I suggest we pass some laws making border enforcement illegal. If it were illegal, we might interest some of our criminally minded politicians in doing it."

And Dave in Lindenwold, New Jersey, "We should shorten our border to 700 miles. That would match the 700 mile fence we plan to build. Problem solved. Hey, that's as good as any logic anyone in Congress has come up with." Dave, I'm inclined to agree with you. Wolf?

BLITZER: It's a serious subject that Lou will handle well, I am sure. At least he loves dealing with this subject. He has a special coming up in an hour from now, but he has his own show coming up first, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Well, Lou absolutely understands as much about the problem as perhaps any journalist in the country. And if I can paraphrase a lot of what Lou says about the issue, it's a question of securing our borders that we can't talk about the war against terror and national security if we don't secure the borders. And then enforcing the laws that are already on the books against illegal immigration. Pretty simple stuff, we just have to get the government to do it.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much for that. And this note to our viewers, all next week we'll having a special expanded edition of THE SITUATION ROOM from New York, 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. eastern as well as 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. eastern. Let's go to Lou Dobbs, he's in San Antonio.