Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

President Bush Prepares to Deliver State of the Union Address

Aired January 23, 2007 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: 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, it's 5:00 p.m. here in Washington. Just hours from now, President Bush goes before the nation and a Democratic- controlled Congress for his State of the Union Address.

Can new initiatives on energy and health care take attention away from a very unpopular war?

As the president's pick to command the Iraq War offers a dire assessment before the U.S. Senate, the killing continues in Baghdad.

Will Iraqis be watching the president tonight? What do the troops actually think?

We'll have new details on the president's speech and I'll get advanced reaction from the Democratic National Committee chairman, Howard Dean, and from the number two Republican in the House, Congressman Roy Blunt.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


The president is primed and ready for his prime time State of the Union Address. The White House promises bold new proposals on health care, energy, the environment. But the Iraq War will loom over everything tonight again. Even Republicans are distancing themselves from the president's new strategy, suggesting they'll need to see quick results.

And the president's new choice to command the war in Iraq is actually not pulling any punches at all, telling a Senate panel the situation in Iraq is dire and that tough days lie ahead.

Our White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is standing by.

But let's turn to our senior political correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, for more on the general's day on Capitol Hill -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, General Dave Petraeus spent most of his five hours before the Senate Armed Services Committee trying to give a reality check and tamp down expectations that he's some kind of miracle worker who's going to ride to the rescue in Iraq.


LT. GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. ARMY: I know how heavy a rucksack I will have to shoulder in Iraq if confirmed.

MCINTYRE (voice-over): General David Petraeus, heading back to Iraq for this third tour, this time as the top commander, knows he's walking into a mine field.

PETRAEUS: The situation in Iraq is dire. The stakes are high. There are no easy choices. The way ahead will be very hard. But hard is not hopeless.

MCINTYRE: Petraeus, widely respected as an incisive military thinker, helped write the military's new manual on counter-insurgency, which argues against an over-application of outside military force.

So skeptical senators questioned if he was compromising his own principals in carrying out President Bush's strategy.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: You wrote the book, General, but the policy is not by the book. And you are being asked to square the circle.

MCINTYRE: Clinton, along with fellow Democrats Carl Levin and Republican John Warner are among Congressional critics supporting various bipartisan resolutions of disapproval for the so-called surge plan.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The course that we've been on is a course toward failure.

MCINTYRE: But other senators, like Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman, argued a formal vote would simply undercut Petraeus, while giving hope to the enemy.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: I fear that a resolution of disapproval will send you over there with us saying you're a good and great general, but we don't agree with what you believe we need to do in Iraq.


MCINTYRE: And General Petraeus, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on the lessons of Vietnam, promised that if he believes the war in Iraq becomes unwinnable, he will say so -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I was struck at how blunt he was in cataloguing the various failures of the U.S. over these past three and-a-half years. It's certainly something that the former defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld; the Vice President Cheney, Dick Cheney; the president of the United States; certainly would not necessarily like their top commander now to remind Congress of.

MCINTYRE: Well, you may recall, Wolf, that in his confirmation hearings, Secretary Gates did acknowledge a lot of those failures, such as the disbanding of the Iraqi Army and the failure to find jobs for -- for Baathist members who were part of that de-Baathification process.

So, there's a general consensus about some of the things that could have been done better early on. The big debate now is where do you go from here.

BLITZER: Jamie will be standing by.

We'll be getting back to you, as well.

In Iraq, by the way, the war rages on. Senior U.S. officials say five civilians died today when a private security helicopter crashed in Baghdad. A senior Iraqi defense official says it was shut down over a Sunni neighborhood.

Also in the capital, bombings claim the lives or at least seven people and 17 more bodies were found on the streets of Baghdad.

We'll get a lot more on this coming up from our Arwa Damon.

She's in Baghdad.

That's coming up shortly.

let's go to our White House correspondent, Ed Henry.

He's getting some excerpts of what the president will actually say tonight -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as we noted in the last hour, the president will begin his speech tonight in the House chamber by congratulating the Democrats, saying: "Some in this chamber are new to the House and Senate and I congratulate the Democratic majority. Congress has changed, but our responsibilities have not. We are not the first to come here with government divided and uncertainty in the air. Like many before us, we can work through our differences and achieve big things for the American people."

One of those issues we've heard about, of course, he wants to reach across the aisle is on energy, as well as health care.

On energy, the president says: "It is in our vital interests to diversify America's energy supply and the way forward is through technology."

We're told he wants to do that through alternative sources of energy. He wants to cut gasoline consumption by 20 percent over the next 10 years.

On health care, he says: "In all we do, we must remember that the best health care decisions are made not by government and insurance companies, but by patients and their doctors."

One final one, on the war on terror, the president very tough language on that: "To win the war on terror, we must take the fight to the enemy. From the start, America and our allies have protected our people by staying on the offense. The enemy knows that the days of comfortable sanctuary, easy movement, steady financing and free flowing communications are long over. For the terrorists, life since 9/11 has never been the same."

But, obviously, you know, Democrats coming out of this speech, even before it, in the prebuttals, have been saying that the president's policies have not necessarily made the country safer.

He's going to get a lot of tough questions about the war on terror, but also Iraq, obviously, shadowing this entire speech -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And I've been told by officials over there at the White House, Ed, that about half of the speech tonight will be on foreign policy; the other half on domestic issues. Iraq clearly very much at the center of the foreign policy section.

The president will lay out what he calls the consequences of failure.

It takes him, what, about 40 minutes or so to -- in his dress rehearsals, to read this speech?

But with applause, it'll go longer.

HENRY: That's right. We've heard estimates of anywhere from 40 to 45 to 50 minutes without applause. You would assume there would be a little less applause with a Democratic Congress than there was with a Republican Congress. But while they've been saying it would be shorter, it's been inching closer and closer to what it was last year, which was just about 51 minutes.

And, finally, on Iraq, as you note, a big difference between last year and this year. In last year's State of the Union, the president was talking about progress. He was talking about his hope that he could start bringing home U.S. troops soon.

Instead, now, in recent weeks, of course, he's been talking about mistakes made and now he's trying to sell this Congress and the -- a skeptical American public on increasing U.S. troops in Iraq, not decreasing them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, stand by, Ed, because we're going to get back to you as we get -- we'll get some more excerpts of what the president has to say on the air, as well.

And to our viewers, remember, please join Paula Zahn and me for our special two hour SITUATION ROOM leading up to the president's State of the Union Address. We start our coverage 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

And this additional programming note. Tomorrow I'll sit down with the vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney. I'll interview him on this day after the president's State of the Union Address. The interview will air at 4:00, 5:00 and 7:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. Chunks will run at 4:00, other parts at 5:00 and other parts at 7:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow night.

Let's go to Carol Costello.

There's another story coming into CNN right now -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, this story is just coming in.

Mississippi's attorney general announcing this hour a settlement with State Farm Insurance over claims by thousands of homeowners impacted by Hurricane Katrina. The company had refused to cover damage from the storm surge and that led to hundreds of lawsuits.

We are awaiting for specific details, but the Associated Press reports the deal would end the state's criminal probe of State Farm.

In exchange, the company would pay about $80 million to more than 600 policyholders whose claims were denied while reviewing thousands of other claims.

We're still checking into this.

Also, appeals for calm in Beirut, where a strike and protest against the government turned deadly. At least three are dead, possibly as many as five killed in violent demonstrations led by Hezbollah. Opponents of the pro-Western government are demanding the prime minister step down, but he is vowing to stay put.

And there's new video out of a botched terror attack on London's subway. It shows one of the accused would-be bombers flinging down a backpack containing what turned out to be a faulty explosive device. This happened in 2005, two weeks after the deadly July 7th bombings. Prosecutors say six men were trying to duplicate that attack. The tape was shown at their trial earlier today.

Russian news media are reporting that a deal to sell air defense missiles to Iran is now done. The head of Russia's state run weapons export company is quoted as saying the contract has been fulfilled. It's believed to include 29 missiles at a cost of $700 million. The U.S. objected to the deal and has called on all countries to stop selling weapons to Iran.

That's a look at the headlines right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Vladimir Putin getting ready to irritate the president of the United States once again. The relationship between the U.S. and Russia, Carol, clearly, clearly strained as a result of this arms sale.

We'll have more on this coming up.

Carol will be monitoring all the developments for us.

Jack Cafferty is in New York, as well, with The Cafferty File -- Jack. JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They aren't too many places that I can think of right off hand where our relationships aren't strained a little bit these days.

Not only is President Bush's approval rating here in the United States now approaching the level of Richard Nixon's before he resigned the presidency in disgrace, Mr. Bush isn't winning any popularity contests overseas either.

Under his leadership, the image of this country has plummeted. In a BBC poll of 25 nations, including the U.S. 49 percent say the U.S. has played a mainly negative role in the world.

When asked about specific policies, 73 percent disapprove of the way the U.S. is handling the war in Iraq.

Sixty-seven percent disapprove of the Bush administration's policy when it comes to detainees at Guantanamo.

Sixty-five percent disapprove of the U.S. role in the Israeli- Hezbollah war in Lebanon.

Sixty percent disapprove of U.S. actions when it comes to Iran's nuclear program.

Fifty-six percent disapprove of the U.S. approach to global warming.

And 54 percent disapproved of the U.S. policy when it comes to North Korea's nuclear program.

A stunning report card.

Here's the question -- what should the United States do to improve its image overseas?

E-mail your thoughts to or go to

Remember back in the times when we used to wear the white hats, Wolf?

BLITZER: But they still like our movies, though, right?

CAFFERTY: I guess they do like the music and the movies, yes.

BLITZER: Good. At least we've got that still going.


BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

Up ahead, new violence rocking Iraq and at least five American civilians are killed in a helicopter crash, their bodies showing gunshot wounds. We're going to go to Baghdad for the latest. Also, President Bush is expected to address global warming as never before in tonight's State of the Union Address. We're going to show you why he's now tackling the issue and what he stands to gain by doing so.

And Democrats already responding to the speech even before it's delivered. The party chairman, Howard Dean, standing by. He's going to join us live. We'll ask him what he thinks.

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


BLITZER: As soon as the president ends his address, Democrats will begin their response, delivered tonight by a freshman senator, Jim Webb of Virginia.

They're already, though, talking very tough.

Joining us now, the Democratic National Committee chairman, Howard Dean.

Governor, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: Have you been able to come up with a consensus that all Democrats will be able to accept in Senator Webb's response tonight?

DEAN: A consensus about what?

BLITZER: About the response on Iraq, for example, that what he lays out...

DEAN: Oh, sure.

BLITZER: ... in his Democratic response to what the president will say in his speech is something that you and the different wings of the Democratic Party can all accept?

DEAN: Well, it's hard to agree ahead of time when you haven't seen the script, so I don't know what Jim is going to say...

BLITZER: You haven't seen what his agenda --

DEAN: ... you know -- no. We don't -- we don't control our members like that. You know, I think Jim is a star in the Democratic Party. He's -- he certainly knows what he's talking about when it comes to warfare, as a former Defense Department higher-up. And he's going to be a great spokesman for the Democratic Party, as he was during the campaign.

What he's going to say, in general, is we ought to be looking to get out of Iraq and not adding more troops and escalating the war. I'm sure he's going to say that. What specifics he gives, I don't have any advance knowledge of.

BLITZER: All right, one thing we do know is the president is going to be laying out what he says will be the consequences of failure if the United States simply picks up and leaves before the job is won, before victory is achieved.

To some, that may be setting up the Democrats, if you will, as a fall guy in case there is a failure.

DEAN: The president should have thought about the consequences of failure before he went to Iraq. He didn't tell the American people the truth about why we were going to Iraq. We still, to this day, don't know why we went to Iraq. And the consequences of failure are going to rest squarely on the Republican Party and the president that led us into this war.

The Democratic view is we need to find a way to get out of Iraq and minimize the casualties to our brave American troops. They were sent over there by a president who wasn't truthful with our troops, either. Now we need to end this -- this misadventure in Iraq. And we need to do it carefully and thoughtfully. We can't bring the troops all home at once. But we need to go in the opposite direction from where the president wants to take the country.

BLITZER: Does it mean cutting funding for the additional surge, the additional troops who are supposed go to over there?

DEAN: I think the first thing we have to do is pass a resolution -- which we're going to do with both Democrats and Republicans support -- saying that the president is misguided and the president is leading us in the wrong direction. We need to establish that there's a clear difference between the Democrats and the Republicans, on the one hand, in Congress who are going to vote for this resolution, and the president and those Republicans who vote for the...

BLITZER: But that's a non-binding resolution and...

DEAN: Yes...

BLITZER: ... if the president ignores it, what do you do then?

DEAN: Well, it's important, first, to establish for the American people that we're doing what we can. Then I do think if the president ignores it and ignores the will of the American people who elected these Democrats, then I think you will see some attempt in the Democratic Congress to place limits on what the president is able to do.

But don't forget, Wolf, that's a very hard thing to do. I was around during the Vietnam War and saw that happen four times and it was very, very hard to get the president to -- to change direction. In fact, when President Nixon finally decided that it was time to -- so-called Vietnamize the war, it was because his poll numbers looked a lot like George Bush's. So I think it's the American people that are gathering to provide the leverage to get us out of Iraq. And that is evidenced in the poll numbers that you are seeing today about how unpopular the president is. And worse for the president, the fact that most people don't think he's honest.

BLITZER: Before you became a politician, you were a physician. You're still a physician.

What do you make of the president's new health care initiative that's designed to make health -- health insurance more affordable for millions of Americans?

DEAN: Of course, it won't do that. It's very much like Iraq and all the other things the president's been saying -- he says one thing and does something else.

Let me tell you what the president's health care plan does. It offers a $7,500 tax deduction. The problem with that is if you're only making $50,000 a year or less, you can't use that deduction because you don't pay that much in taxes, in income taxes.

So what he does is tax the middle class people -- because he's now going to tax your health care plan -- he taxes middle class people and uses that to give tax deductions to people at the upper end of the income scale.

Once again, the president is very good to his people who support his campaign and support him, not so great to the 80 percent of Americans he left behind.

This is the wrong way to go, the opposite direction from the direction we should be going in. You cannot fix health care by taxing health care benefits for ordinary Americans and then giving enormous tax deductions to the people at the top.

BLITZER: So many issues to discuss, so little time. But we'll continue this down the road.

Governor, thanks very much for coming in.

DEAN: Wolf, thanks for having me on.

BLITZER: And coming up, we heard what Democrats are saying. Up next, we'll get some Republican reaction, as well, to what we know about the State of the Union Address. The House minority whip, the number two Republican in the House, Roy Blunt, standing by to join us live.

And is the president trying to score political points by taking on global warming right now?

We're going to show you what the White House is saying.

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


BLITZER: There will be no escaping the situation in Iraq tonight. And ahead of the president's speech, the violence simply rages on.

There were more bombings today in Baghdad and more bodies found on the streets. And, ominously, there's another helicopter down in Iraq, this one owned by a private American security firm. Five people are dead. Their bodies sustained gunshot wounds.

CNN's Arwa Damon is joining us now live from Baghdad with more.

Another day, another round of violence. But what's very disturbing, Arwa, this is the second U.S. helicopter -- one Black Hawk helicopter the other day, now this civilian -- to go down and the suspicion is it was shut down.

Is that right?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what we do know now are very initial details. The investigation obviously still ongoing.

But according to a senior military official, the helicopter crashed, possibly gunfire. It could have been accidental. But the crash did take place in a north central residential Baghdad neighborhood, leaving the five civilians, employees of a private security company, dead.

They had sustained gunshot wounds, but it is unclear if the cause of death was the crash or the gunshot wounds at this point.

Still, Wolf, we are awaiting the details of that investigation.

BLITZER: What are people in Baghdad, Iraqis that you're speaking with, whether Sunni or Shia or Kurd, what are they anticipating to hear from the president tonight? What's the buzz, in other words, over there?

DAMON: Well, to be completely honest, Wolf, there is no buzz and there is very little anticipation. There is this sense that no matter what President Bush says, it's going to be a recycling of words that they have heard before, and the reality that no matter what he does say, it is overshadowed by the day to day violence here.

In just a single day in just Baghdad, 17 unidentified bodies were found. At least eight Iraqis were killed in the violence. Another 25 were wounded.

And by today's violence scale, if you will, this is considered to be a day of low violence, especially on the heels of yesterday, where in a single attack, at least 88 Iraqis died.

So, quite frankly, there is not much anticipation that the president is going to be coming out with anything new or a magical solution to what's going on here -- Wolf. BLITZER: Arwa is going to be staying with us throughout the night in terms of our -- in covering this speech.

Arwa, stand by in Baghdad.

I want to also just read one line from the excerpts the White House has just released: "Many in this chamber understand that America must not fail in Iraq because you understand that the consequences of failure would be grievous and far reaching."

We're going to have more on the excerpts, what the president will say tonight in his State of the Union Address. That's coming up.

Also, what do Republicans want to hear from their president tonight?

I'll ask a top member of the GOP leadership, the House Republican whip, Roy Blunt. He's standing by live.

And later, the members of Congress who have a huge stake in this country's Iraq policy. Their grown children are now in Iraq and on the front lines. Carol Costello is watching this story for us.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Happening now, new details emerging about President Bush's State of the Union speech tonight. He will address the issue of climate change, calling for less gasoline use, as well as calling for a balanced budget by 2012. And he'll also detail his plan to boost health insurance coverage by increasing taxes for some while subsidizing coverage for the poor and others.

Also, Democrats already reacting strongly to what we know about the speech. You just heard from the party chairman, Howard Dean, a few moments ago.

But what are Republicans saying right now?

The House minority whip, Roy Blunt, standing by to join us live with the GOP take on the speech.

And in Beirut, a Hezbollah-led strike turns deadly. At least three people killed as demonstrators take to the streets, calling for the pro-Western government in Lebanon to simply step down. The prime minister, Fouad Siniora, calling for calm, but also vowing to stay in power.

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

Dramatic new initiatives on health care, energy, the environment, that's what the White House promises for the president's State of the Union Address. But he'll have to sell them to a Congress controlled now by Democrats and a public weary of the issue that will overshadow everything else tonight. That would be the war in Iraq.

Standing by, a top Republican leader, the number two Republican in the House of Representatives, Congressman Roy Blunt of Missouri.

But let's go to White House first. Our Ed Henry standing by.

Ed, you've got some more excerpts of what the White House is releasing from the president's address tonight.

HENRY: That's right, Wolf. The president immediately at the top of this speech will acknowledge that new political dynamic you're mentioning, that Democrats are running Congress. But he will note that this is not the first time there's been divided government.

He believes that he can reach across the aisle and work with Democrats, as well Republicans, on the Hill. The White House billing it as big and bold initiatives on the domestic front, as you noted, including Immigration reform.

The president will say, "When laws and borders are routinely violated, this harms the interests of our country -- yet...we cannot fully secure the border unless we take pressure off the border -- and that requires a temporary worker program."

That's not necessarily new, but bold in the sense that it is taking on some conservatives in his own party. Obviously, the president agreeing with more Democrats than the Republicans on that idea of a temporary worker program.

Then on to the war on terror, Iraq. Perhaps, of course, the most controversial issue of all that's dividing the country right now, the president says about his new strategy, "We discussed every possible approach. In the end, I chose this course of action because it provides the best chance of success. Many in this chamber understand that American must not fail in Iraq because you understand that the consequences of failure would be grievous and far reaching."

Of course, a reference to the plan to send more than 21,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq. The challenge for this president, of course, is he made some of these same arguments just two weeks ago about the price of failure in his speech from here at the White House. Public polls showing the American public very skeptical still about this plan -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed, we're going to get back to you shortly.

Ed Henry is over at the White House.

President Bush tonight will go before a Congress that is now controlled by Democrats, but even many Republicans will be somewhat weary of what he has to say.

Joining us now from Capitol Hill is the number two Republican in the House, the minority whip, the Missouri congressman, Roy Blunt.

Congressman, thanks very much for coming in. REP. ROY BLUNT (R), MISSOURI: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We just got this reaction from one of your Republican colleagues, Tom Tancredo. He's very angry at the president for this new immigration initiative the president is going to speak about tonight. "I am disappointed, but not surprised," he said.

Let me read to you what he says. He says, "Once again, the president has chosen to trot out this same old pig, albeit one with a slightly new shade of lipstick."

Are you comfortable with the president's plan for what Tancredo and other critics call amnesty for the illegal immigrants?

BLUNT: Well, I'm not for amnesty. And let's -- I'm going to wait and see exactly what the president has to say.

I believe there are three problems here. My view is you can only solve them in the right sequence. And an important part of that right sequence is to first get control of the border and then look at the temporary workforce needs of the country, and then look at the people that are currently here illegally.

I don't think you can solve them any other way. But let's see what the president has in mind.

If he has some -- some plan where all three of those things happen, but they only happen where something is achieved to secure the border, I do think we need a temporary -- a worker ID card that works for all workers that meets a new standard. I don't know if the president will propose that or not, but Congressman Dreier, Sylvestre Reyes and I and others have been proposing that for a long time, so that we know who these workers are and that they're here appropriately.

BLITZER: All right.

BLUNT: I'm going to wait and see what he has to say on that issue, though. And it's an important speech for him to make. If, as aides suggest, he does acknowledge early that the Democrats are now in control of the House and Senate, I'm pretty sure that will get raucous applause from at least one side of the -- one side of the chamber.

BLITZER: I'm sure the Republicans will be polite as well, as they always are.

Congressman, Iraq clearly is hovering over this speech tonight. How divided is the Republican caucus right now when it comes to the president's plan for increasing the number of troops in Iraq?

BLUNT: Well, you know, the president said that he's dissatisfied with the way things are going in Iraq. If he was asked that question by a pollster, he'd say he wasn't happy with what's happening there. And think our members reflect that. We're not happy with the Iraqi response, but we're eager to have the right kind of victory there for the American people. I hope the president tonight puts the Iraq's speech a couple of weeks ago in the context of the entire war on terror. That's something that he didn't do earlier when he was just talking about what to do next in Iraq.

I do think it's important that the American people are reminded that this is one of many efforts to secure our future, to secure our homeland. And I don't think we have heard that context of the whole war on terror for a while.

I expect to hear it tonight. And we'll see how it's received by members after he makes the case he's going to make tonight. But clearly there's lots of concerns and lots of skepticism that no matter what we do, it may not have the result we want. I'm hopeful that the president's plan works.

BLITZER: Well, I think he'll be pleased on that front.

I was over at the White House today. Got a pretty good update on what he will say. And he will in the half of the speech that deals with foreign policy, put the Iraq situation with the context of this war on terror, go through other issues like Iran and Syria, and the hunt for Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He's going to go through all of that stuff.

But there are plenty of Republicans not only in the House -- and maybe even more so in the Senate -- who are very jittery and nervous right now. What's the single most important thing the president can say that will get your team back full force on the playing field?

BLUNT: I think he has to -- he has to show, and I hope he does show, a continued commitment to the Iraqis doing what the Iraqis have to do. I believe that Congress, in the proposal we've made to have a bipartisan commission of members looking at how things are going in Iraq, looking for the right -- the right steps in the right direction, insisting that the Iraqis do what they need to do, actually help strengthen the president's hand in that resolve.

I believe members want to hear the president say again that he's had the kind of frank commitments from Maliki and some things are happening. I understand that now Maliki and the Iraqis are allowing unlimited action in Sadr City, and then Sadr himself has said, well, maybe we should participate in the government.

So we're seeing some reaction to even the announcement that we're going to try to get that violence under control. But I think the Iraqis are nearing their last chance, frankly, to have our help.

BLITZER: If this is going to work, they're going to have to get a lot more cooperation from the prime minister and his government, but that's a subject for another occasion.

BLUNT: I would say, also, Wolf, you know, we're going to know pretty quickly whether the prime minister is doing what the president has asked him to do or not.


BLUNT: This is something that's going to take a year to figure out. It's something that we should have a pretty good sense of in 60 to 90 days.

BLITZER: We'll be watching.

BLUNT: And I'm prepared to give at that time.

BLITZER: We'll watch every step of the way, together with you.

BLUNT: Thanks.

BLITZER: Congressman Roy Blunt joining us from Capitol Hill.

So what do former Republican Senate majority leader Bill Frist and America's top liberal blogger actually have in common? They're both judges -- get this -- in MyState of the Union, a contest being held on in anticipation of tonight's address.

Here with the winner and details of why this popular Web site is going political, our Jacki Schechner -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this is the winner. His name is Jesse Dolimore (ph). He's 32 years old, a salesman in Boise, Idaho. And he says the state of the union is strong for moderates like him.

Take a quick listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just experienced yet another orderly election where power was relinquished by one political party and handed peacefully over to the other.


SCHECHNER: Well, he does move if you watch the video online.

But MySpace invited people to do short videos to give their view of the state of the union. They had four judges for this.

They had senator -- former majority leader Bill Frist and Jonah Goldberg, who is an editor of "The National Review Online," a conservative Web site.

They also on the left had John Podesta, President Clinton's former chief of staff, and Markos Moulitsas, who runs the top liberal blog

Now, these four judges whittled down thousands of videos to their four finalists. And then the MySpace user community picked Jesse (ph) as their winner. He gets a three-day trip to Washington, D.C., $500. MySpace says they are happy that the political dialogue is happening online on their site -- Wolf. BLITZER: Thank you for that

We'll be watching a little bit more of that.

And this note to our viewers. Please join Paula Zahn and me for our special two-hour SITUATION ROOM leading up to the president's State of the Union Address. Our coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

And tomorrow I'll sit down exclusively with the vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney. That exclusive interview will air tomorrow, 4:00, 5:00, and 7:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll run parts of it at 4:00, other parts at 5:00, and yet more at 7:00. The vice president, a one-on-one chat with me tomorrow

Up ahead, the members of Congress who have a very personal stake in the president's Iraq policy. Their grown children are in Iraq right now.


BLITZER: As Congress listens to the State of Union Address tonight and grapples with the war in Iraq, some members find their decisions especially difficult. They have sons and daughters on the front lines.

Let's go back to CNN's Carol Costello. She's got this story -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Wolf, the president will take of reinforcements tonight, telling lawmakers they understand that the consequences of failing in Iraq will be grievous and far reaching. It will be difficult for many to hear, especially those who must back or argue against the president's decision knowing either stance could put their children in danger.


COSTELLO (voice over): When the president talks about Iraq tonight, he won't just face a hostile Congress, but members of Congress who have a personal stake in this war.

SEN. JAMES WEBB (D), VIRGINIA: We have to reach the point where American combat troops are no longer on the streets of Iraq.

COSTELLO: The Democratic response will be delivered by the newly-elected senator from Virginia who uses his son's combat boots as a symbol.

And then there is Representative Duncan Hunter. His son, Marine 1st Lieutenant Dwayne Hunter, is off fighting the war now under debate.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: In the first battle of Falluja, I got a -- I got a satellite cell phone call from my son from inside Falluja during the battle.

COSTELLO: Representative Todd Akin says his son, Marine 2nd Lieutenant Perry Akin, is always on his mind.

REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: As you see the hometown newspaper, and it says, you know, "Marine killed today," or something, and your heart kind of stops and you look. And you wonder about your own child.

LT. PERRY AKIN, U.S. MARINE: The Marine corps philosophy, there's no one who's special.

COSTELLO: Five members of the House and four senators have spoken publicly about their sons at war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to make good decisions in what we're doing so there is already an intensity of wanting to do the right thing. And then you add to that your own children.

COSTELLO: Senator Kit Bond and Representative Joe Wilson are among those with children at risk. They'll all be listening tonight, anticipating Congress' next move on the war in Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a result of the votes I cast, many other people's children, as well as my own, could die.


COSTELLO: I guess you could say what is asked of these lawmakers is to think beyond their personal sacrifices. All of them say they do, it is their duty -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a speech, especially for these guys, who have their own sons serving in Iraq right now.

Thank you, Carol, for that.

And remember, CNN's special coverage of the State of the Union Address begins in just over an hour. Paula Zahn will join me for an expanded edition of THE SITUATION ROOM right after "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT."

Among our guests, by the way, starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, senator and Democratic presidential candidate, Chris Dodd.

Up next, though, a truly hot topic. Brian Todd looks at whether President Bush is changing course on the issue of global warming.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Lou Dobbs getting ready for his program that begins right at the top of the hour, only a few minutes from now. Lou is here in THE SITUATION ROOM to tell us what he's got in store -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": An honor to be so.

Thank you very much, Wolf. Coming up, President Bush will of course be addressing the nation on a host of issues. Amongst the issues he'll be talking about, of course, illegal immigration.

We'll be talking with Senator Johnny Isakson, who's introduced new legislation, intelligent, rational, humane legislation, to deal with this issue. And it's quite different from anything the Democrats and this president pushed through last year in the Senate.

We'll also be talking to Charlie Rangel, the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, about health care, middle class values, and what has happened to the middle class in this country. Quite different from what some people would hold in this town. It has not been a good year, and we're going to visit with family that we talked with a year ago to see how they have endured the past year.

It has not been easy for millions of middle class families.

BLITZER: Here's what the president, Lou, is going to say tonight when it comes to the issue of immigration reform. He's really anxious to try to get this legislation passed.

He's going to say, "When laws and borders are routinely violated, this harms the interests of our country... Yet... we cannot fully secure the border unless we take pressure off the border -- and that requires a temporary worker program."

DOBBS: If I may say bluntly, that's absurd. Could I ask that we put up that graphic? And I'd just like to show your viewers something that's interesting.

It's a lot of part of that -- "unless we take pressure off the border, and that requires a temporary worker program."

Wolf, as you know, we have lots of temporary worker programs. If we want to take the pressure off the border we secure it.

We incentivize the government of Mexico to be both competent and to defeat the corruption that grips it. Felipe Calderon is showing some early promise of really having...

BLITZER: The new president of Mexico.

DOBBS: ... inspiration -- right.

This is an absurdity. You can either defend the border or you can't. We're either in a war on terror or we're not.

And homeland security run by this administration has been a sham and a joke. And it's time to stop these kind of political games.

I think really the administration should be embarrassed at that kind of sophistry and specious nonsense. It is not going to convince anyone, in my opinion, with paying a passing attention to the issue. And millions of Americans...

BLITZER: Although -- he'll get some applause in this chamber tonight when he says...

DOBBS: Oh, the Democrats in the Senate worked with the Republicans in the Senate to pass that legislation. I don't believe you're going to see even the Democratic leadership in the House acquiesce to this kind of gamesmanship.

This is beneath everyone in this town, and new standards have to be set. It would be nice to see this president begin setting those standards rather than repairing to the old ones, as it appears he will tonight.

BLITZER: Lou's going to have a lot more coming up at the top of the hour in a few minutes.

DOBBS: You better believe it.

BLITZER: It's good to have you in Washington.

DOBBS: It's good to be with you.

BLITZER: President Bush is expected to also call for higher vehicle fuel efficiency and more alternative fuels in tonight's State of the Union speech. Is the president changing course when it comes to the issue of climate change? And if so, why?

Let's turn to CNN's Brian Todd. He's got some answers -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in five previous State of the Union addresses this president has never uttered the phrases "global warming" or "climate change." But we're hearing that is about to change.


TODD (voice over): Senior Republican and White House sources tell CNN the president will talk about climate change as part of his push for cleaner fuels and less dependence on foreign oil.

What do some industry leaders want to hear?

JIM ROGERS, PRESIDENT & CEO, DUKE ENERGY: Our businesses and the national economy can grow, prosper and compete successfully in a greenhouse gas-constrained world.

TODD: But White House officials say the president will set goals for reducing greenhouse gases rather than imposing a government- mandated cap on them that many business leaders want.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What you have to do is to unleash the innovative potential of the American marketplace on the problem of cleaner, more effective energy, and the president's going to talk about that.

TODD: For many years, the president expressed skepticism that humans, by burning fossil fuels, are making the planet warmer. Why does he recommend action now? Analysts point to recent polls, including a new CNN-Opinion Research Corporation survey, showing 75 percent want the government to curb emissions to reduce warming.

Many evangelicals, among the president's biggest supporters, are also calling for action. Democrats, who have long pushed climate change measures, have new momentum on the issue.

Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," just got nominated for two Academy Awards. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is forming a new committee on warming. And analysts say Mr. Bush needs something politically safe to show them he's bipartisan.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: The least risky issue on which he can do that is global warming. If he were to suddenly change his views on stem-cell research or abortion or Iraq, then he would look like someone who is changeable, who's a flip- flopper.


TODD: And the political pressure mounts as the science piles up. Next week, the largest global panel on climate change will issue more evidence of how burning fossil fuels is warming the planet, and will talk about the potentially severe consequences -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian is going to stay on top of this story for us.

Brian, thank you.

And up next, Jack Cafferty notes it's not just the president with sagging poll numbers. He wants to know, what should the U.S. do to improve its image overseas?

Jack and "The Cafferty File" when we come back.


BLITZER: Let's go back to New York and check in with Jack Cafferty -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Thanks, Wolf.

The question this hour is: What should the United States do to try to improve its image overseas?

John in Ashtabula, Ohio, writes, "We can improve our image by ending illegal invasions of sovereign countries, ending our blind support of everything Israel does, and becoming a real beacon of justice by working to end apartheid in the occupied territories. By ending our hypocritical support of corrupt governments and dictators, just achieving a couple of these, would elevate our world standing greatly."

Stephen in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, "Is this a trick question? The only thing we can do to improve our image overseas is impeach President Bush, period."

Andy writes, "We should do nothing to enhance our image overseas. The leaders of the U.S. are charged with serving our best interest, not making themselves popular overseas."

Thomas in California, "First we fire the president, bring home the troops, guard our own borders, invest in intelligence through higher education, invest in alternative fuels -- solar -- keep our nose out of other countries' business. Pretty logical, right?"

Earle in Canada, "Unfortunately, the U.S., despite expressing good intentions and often carrying out good efforts, has goofed once too often in Iraq. In the latest, in an almost endless series of screw-ups internationally. The U.S. needs to pull in its horns, work cooperatively with the rest of the world to achieve mutually agreed upon aims and objectives."

And Barry in Palm desert, California, "Two step program. Step one: impeach George W. Bush, who's responsible for much of our negative image in the world."

"Step two: They like our movies? Elect someone with intelligence and humanity to the office of president. Say, George Clooney."

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

A big night tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's going to be interesting. The president will be speaking, and just above, the new speaker, Nancy Pelosi, will be there. And she'll be joined by the president of the Senate, who happens to be the vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney.

So, at different parts of the speech one will stand up and applaud, the other will sit on his or her hands, and vice versa. It's going to be quite a little juggling act, compared to the earlier ones, when Cheney sat there with Dennis Hastert.

CAFFERTY: They better search them both for weapons on the way into the room.


BLITZER: Jack, thanks.

Jack will be with us for our coverage leading up to this speech as well. Paula will be here.

All of our coverage starts in one hour, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Until then, thanks very much for joining us.

Let's go to Lou. He's here in Washington.