Return to Transcripts main page
The Situation Room
Battle Over Iraq: Washington Impasse; Professional Heckling
Aired April 27, 2007 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, fresh fury over pre-war intelligence and the former CIA director who says the White House made him a scapegoat. George Tenet is angry. He's hurt. And he's not mincing any words.
Also, new plans to use airplanes in terror attacks uncovered in a terror sweep by yielding almost 200 al Qaeda suspects.
Was it another 9/11 style plot in the works?
And a stunning case of bold deception costing a long time dean her job and one of the most prestigious universities in the country. We'll show you how she failed to practice what she was preaching.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Slam dunk -- two words some say helped launch the war in Iraq. But the man who said those words now says they were taken out of context and deliberately spun to make him the scapegoat for the troubled and increasingly unpopular U.S. mission.
The former CIA director, George Tenet, lashing out at the Bush administration in his new book and using some very harsh words, including "disingenuous" and "despicable."
Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd.
He's joining us right now -- Brian, you've been talking to people who know George Tenet.
What are they saying?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one former colleague says George Tenet feels betrayed by the Bush White House and the recriminations over pre-war intelligence and in his new book, that's not even out yet, Tenet seems to direct much of his anger toward one man.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
TODD (voice-over): The former CIA director describes palpable tension between himself and Vice President Cheney before and after the Iraq invasion. In his new book, "At The Center of the Storm," George Tenet boasts of helping to kill a speech Cheney planned just before the war, linking al Qaeda and Iraq.
Tenet writes that during the finger-pointing over pre-war intelligence, the president publicly supported him.
But at a meeting he had with then Secretary of State Colin Powell, "Colin let me know that other officials, particularly the vice president, had quote another view."
The quote, excerpted in the "New York Times" and confirmed to CNN by two sources familiar with the book.
Assistants for Cheney and Powell say they won't comment before reading the book.
One former colleague says this account from Vice President Cheney on NBC's "Meet The Press" in September has especially bothered Tenet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "MEET THE PRESS," COURTESY NBC NEWS)
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When George Tenet said in the Oval Office and the president of the United States asked him directly, he said, "George, how good is the case against Saddam on weapons of mass destruction?," the director of the CIA said, "It's a slam dunk, Mr. President. It's a slam dunk."
TODD: Tenet writes: "I remember watching and thinking as if you needed me to say slam dunk to convince you to go to war with Iraq.
Tenet's former deputy, John McLaughlin, now CNN's national security adviser, was at that 2002 meeting where Tenet said slam dunk.
McLaughlin says the phrase has been taken out of context.
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: What he meant was that it's a slam dunk that we can put more information into the mix to make it clearer why analysts believe there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: White House officials tell CNN the decision to go to war was based on many other reasons, apart from the slam dunk comment -- Wolf.
BLITZER: There's some other explosive quotes from Tenet, as well, Brian.
TODD: One in particular that we flagged today: "There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat."
Important to point out, Dan Bartlett, the counselor to the president, disputes that, saying the president did wrestle with those questions and made the decision to go to war very carefully.
BLITZER: Brian, thank you very much. George Tenet, by the way, will be a guest on "LARRY KING LIVE." That airs Monday night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 Pacific, only here on CNN.
Saudi Arabian officials are reporting a massive terror sweep with almost 200 suspected militants detained, many believed to be tied to al Qaeda and accused of plotting chilling attacks.
Let's go to our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson.
He's joining us from the CNN Center.
What's -- what were these suspects allegedly planning -- Nic?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there were planning to attack oil facilities. They were planning to attack military and security installations in Saudi Arabia. They were planning to attack senior Saudi officials, as well as send money to -- to Iraq to support the al Qaeda -- the al Qaeda elements inside Iraq, part of the $5 million that were recovered in this raid -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Nic, you've spent a lot of time over there in Saudi Arabia. Give us a sense of the implications of this terror round-up.
ROBERTSON: Well, clearly, the implications are that there's a massive number of al Qaeda suspects still at loose inside Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have spent the last nine months tracking down and arresting these people and digging up their weapons that have been stored, they say, in some cases, for years in the desert.
The intelligence that led to this operation came from a failed and botched al Qaeda attack on an oil facility last year. That was a change in al Qaeda's tactics.
What we've seen is a change in the Saudis' tactics to tackle al Qaeda, rather than go in, have gun battles, arrest one or two, taking a long approach, following them, tracking down a great number of them.
But the clear implication is al Qaeda is getting support, training, money. Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia is getting training, support and money from Iraq. And it's spilling over -- the war in Iraq is spilling into Saudi Arabia -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Nic, thank you very much.
And lest we forget, Osama bin Laden himself a Saudi. And the full extent of Saudi Arabia's terrorism problem certainly came to light after the 9/11 attacks, when it was revealed that of the 19 hijackers, all but four of them came from Saudi Arabia.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York for The Cafferty File -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, A Failure In Generalship is the title of a blistering article by an active duty Army officer and Iraq veteran in the "Armed Forces Journal."
In that publication, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling writes that it is the generals who have botched the Iraq War and misled Congress about what's going on in that country.
He writes: "America's generals have repeated the mistakes of Vietnam in Iraq. The intellectual and moral failures constitute a crisis in American generals."
Yingling adds that they went into Iraq without enough troops, without a post-war plan and that they did not give an accurate portrayal of the insurgency.
He also tells the "Washington Post" that: "Our generals are not worthy of their soldiers."
This is tough stuff.
When asked about the article, General Petraeus told CNN: "The branches of the military are "big time learning organizations." He said: "I don't think anyone would say there were not mistakes, that there were not a variety of areas where we could have and should have done better."
So here's the question -- what does it mean when an active duty Army officer accuses America's generals of "repeating the mistakes of Vietnam in Iraq?"
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile.
I'll tell you one thing it means. Colonel Yingling better not be looking for that next promotion real soon.
BLITZER: It's pretty explosive.
BLITZER: You know, I used to cover the Pentagon a long time ago. It's one thing for -- to hear the criticism privately in the corridors and you certainly do. You hear that all the time. But it's another thing to go public against the commanders in such a direct and explosive way.
CAFFERTY: Well, and apparently he -- he focused mostly on the generals in Iraq, with -- and spared the architects of the policy over there -- that would be Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney and George Bush -- from his scathing criticism.
The other thing I think that's worth pointing out is that previous criticisms we've heard about the war and the strategy there have come from retired service people, for the most part.
For an active duty guy to stick his neck out, I mean he -- there is a school of thought that says that's career suicide in the military.
CAFFERTY: And you've got to -- you've got to go along to get along in that deal.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens to this colonel.
All right, Jack, thanks very much.
CAFFERTY: All right.
BLITZER: I'm interested to hear what our viewers think about it, as well.
Up ahead, we're going to have details of the stunning deception that's shocking one of the country's top universities and costing a long time dean her job.
Also, when will Iraqi soldiers be able to take over their country's security?
We'll take a closer look at their timing and get a reality check.
Plus, bitter debate over the war.
How does it impact U.S. troop morale?
I'll ask Vietnam War veteran, former Democratic Senator Max Cleland.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: She was looking at thousands of applications and resumes as dean of admissions at MIT and had been a vocal advocate for honesty and transparency. So you can imagine the shock at revelations that the dean herself lied on her resume and, in fact, never -- never graduated from college.
CNN's Mary Snow is joining us from New York -- Mary, how did all of this come to light?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, MIT says that it received a tip about 10 days ago that raised questions about the dean's background. She had been working there since 1979 and until yesterday, she held the keys to admission to one of the most prestigious schools in the country.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
SNOW (voice-over): As MIT's dean of admissions, Marilee Jones was used to giving speeches to parents and kids looking to get into college. She even leant her expertise to CNN for this interview on the pressures facing high school students.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARILEE JONES, MIT DEAN OF ADMISSIONS: It's an epidemic in America. I really do believe that perfectionism is an epidemic now. I see it everywhere.
SNOW: But it's Jones whose under pressure now, stepping down after an anonymous tip exposed a 28-year-old lie.
In a statement, Jones said: "I misrepresented my academic degrees when I first applied to MIT 28 years ago and did not have the courage to correct my resume when I applied for my current job or at any time since.
In fact, Jones had three college degrees listed on that resume, but she never even attended Union College or Albany Medical. As for the third school, Jones attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as a non-matriculating student for a year.
MIT's admissions office says it's shaken. Students are mixed.
AUSTIN GLASSMAN, MIT JUNIOR: Whatever she was thinking 30 years ago, she's proven herself by now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really liked her when she was here. But I think it's the right thing that she chooses to resign in the interests of integrity.
SNOW (on camera): When it comes to integrity on college campuses, the stakes are high.
JEFFREY SELINGO, "CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION": What colleges are selling, what people pay so much for in terms of tuition, is that credential, is that degree.
SNOW: And when it comes to integrity, Marilee Jones advised college applicants in her book: "Holding integrity is sometimes very hard to do because the temptation may be to cheat or cut corners. But just remember that what goes around comes around, meaning that life has a funny way of giving back what you put out."
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SNOW: And besides shock, many are also expressing sadness. Some who worked on projects with Jones say that it's especially sad because she was so passionate about her job -- Wolf.
BLITZER: How did the fabricated resume go unnoticed by MIT for, what, 28 years?
SNOW: Yes. It really is incredible. MIT says that she had come in on an entry level position in 1979. She was working in the recruiting office. She rose through the ranks. And when she was offered this job as the dean 10 years ago, the university did not verify her credentials. She had been there so long.
BLITZER: All right, thank you, Mary, for that report.
And, by the way, the former dean also dispensed college admissions advice on a popular MIT blog.
Let's turn to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton -- Abbi, what kind of advice did she give parents and prospective students?
ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, at this blog, Marilee Jones talked prospective students and their families through the admissions process. And looking at the comments through the years on what she wrote, you can tell just how popular her advice has been.
Writing in 2005, Marilee Jones writes: "Expectations are so often too high for high school students and the message is sometimes sent that they're not good enough."
She also wrote that parents too often expect their kids to be perfect and no one is perfect.
And this post from December of 2005. Jones wrote that: "Everybody makes mistakes."
This admissions blog has been updated since the news, her staff writing that: "We are in a state of shock at the loss of our leader" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you for that, Abbi Tatton.
Coming up, new developments in the probe into the friendly fire death of Pat Tillman. Congress putting more heat on the Pentagon right now and the White House, as well.
Plus, they often steal the spotlight while putting politicians on the spot -- hecklers. We're going to show you why they aren't necessarily what they used to be.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The commander of the multinational forces in Iraq is here in Washington this week, urging patience and time for the troop increase to have an impact on the war.
General David Petraeus sat down with CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, for a wide ranging interview. He spoke candidly about the troubled mission he now heads.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
PETRAEUS: And I don't think anyone would say that there were not mistakes or that there were not a variety of areas in which we -- we could and should have done better. And my submission to the Senate Armed Services Committee offered several pages...
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: But I guess what...
PETRAEUS: ... of this kind of thing. MCINTYRE: ... Americans really want to know is, is the U.S. making a mistake now with its strategy?
PETRAEUS: Well, I think that we are applying what we've learned.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: Petraeus also says there has been some progress, but he concedes there are setbacks, as well. He states bluntly, "The situation in Iraq is the most complex and challenging he has ever seen."
President Bush today made clear the is standing by, with its pullout timetable, is a dead issue. He said, and I'm quoting now: "Sorry it's come to this," but he added flatly that the measure will be vetoed. The president's latest veto vow came as he hosted the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe at Camp David. Either other world leaders, by the way, have met with the president at Camp David -- the British primary, Tony Blair has visited four times. Others include Abe's predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi; the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak; the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi; Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf; Jordan's King Abdullah; President Vladimir Putin of Russia; and the Danish prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
All of them guests at Camp David from the president.
Meantime, the president has hosted 14 foreign leaders at his ranch down in Crawford, Texas.
We're just checking and making sure we got all those statistics.
Let's check in with Fredericka Whitfield.
She's at the CNN Center with a closer look at some other important stories making news -- hi, Fred.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello to you.
Well, that surveillance video that triggered widespread outrage now potentially has brought some results. Pictures of a man beating 101-year-old Rose Morat in the hall of her apartment all for $33. Well, now New York City police say a suspect is in custody on drug charges and he's being questioned about the March 4th mugging.
As for Rose Morat, well, she suffered a cheek fracture and spent time in a hospital, but she is back now on her feet and doing fine. That's the good news.
In Southeast Georgia, hundreds of people still can't go home as stubborn 11-day-old wildfires now threaten to jump a major highway. If winds carry the flames over the U.S. Highway 1 near the Okapanokee Swamp (ph), miles more of tinder dry forest would lie in its path. The fires have burned 61,000 acres and are said to be only about 50 percent contained. And that isn't final for New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine's medical care after a serious car crash, but whatever it is, Corzine says he'll forego state health insurance and pick up the tab himself. A spokesman confirmed the multi-millionaire governor's intentions today. Corzine was critically hurt when his SUV, driven by a state trooper at 91 miles an hour, crashed into a guard rail. The governor was not wearing his seatbelt.
And news now impacting our bottom line. A record breaking week on Wall Street ends on a high note after a run of trading that shoved the Dow Jones Industrial Average past the 13,000 mark. The Dow finished up more than 15 points today, to close at 13,120. The tech heavy Nasdaq gained almost 3 points, to wrap up the week at 2,557.
We all like to hear that.
BLITZER: Some -- some people are making money this week. But as we say, what goes up often goes down.
WHITFIELD: That's true, too.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens next week.
WHITFIELD: Don't get too excited.
BLITZER: That's right.
Thanks very much, Fred, for that.
Coming up, much of the fate of the war in Iraq resting on Iraqi forces and their ability to take over.
Are they actually ready, though, for the task?
Our reporter on the scene in Baghdad goes out in the field with Iraqi troops. His report coming up.
Plus, the showdown over a time line for U.S. troops to come home. We're going to talk about that with Vietnam War veteran, Democratic -- former Democratic Senator Max Cleland.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: As the death toll mounts for U.S. troops, one of Iraq's top generals says his country will never forget the sacrifices of coalition forces and their families. But he is appealing to the U.S. not to leave yet.
CNN's Hugh Riminton visited an Iraqi training ground -- Hugh.
HUGH RIMINTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the question is are the Iraqi security forces ready to stand up so that coalition forces can stand down? The answer is no, no and no. No from the Iraqi government, no from the top reaches of the Iraqi Army and no from the U.S. general who most closely watches the training of Iraqi troops.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
RIMINTON (voice-over): While America debates troop withdrawal, the men with the most intimate knowledge of Iraq's ability to secure itself are on this helicopter.
The commander of the coalition's Iraq Assistance Group, Brigadier General Dana Pittard, has joined the head of Iraqi ground forces, General Ali Ghidan-Majeed, to visit a dusty base north of Baghdad. They have come to see this.
(VIDEO OF IRAQI ARMY TROOPS)
RIMINTON: Under the eye of Americans, these men are learning how to survive and prevail in a dirty war.
(VIDEO OF IRAQI ARMY TROOPS)
RIMINTON: By the end of this week, these men and 1,500 others will be deployed in Baghdad.
(on camera): What is the standard of these guys by the time they leave here for the job ahead?
CAPT. MARK TOMOLA, U.S. ARMY: The standard -- the standard is -- obviously, we don't hold them to quite the same standard I would hold an American unit to.
RIMINTON: The training attempts to give the Iraqi soldiers real answers in fighting an insidious enemy.
(on camera): They train on this range for the sorts of conditions that Iraqi Army soldiers will meet every day. There is a highway just over here and that is for convoy training, as they pass a village, a typical rural setting in Iraq, suddenly, there are the men with the guns. There are the men with the rocket propelled grenades.
(voice-over): General Ali says Iraq still needs help but he acknowledges the price. "The sacrifice of U.S. soldiers and the families of soldiers, it's incredible," he says. "In Iraq, we will never forget them."
General Pittard says progress is being made. There were just two Iraqi divisions two years ago. Now, he says, there are 10.
BRIG. GEN. DANA PITTARD, COMMANDER, IRAQ ASSISTANCE GROUPS: We cannot leave Iraq in disarray. I mean we -- we came here in 2003. We cannot leave here -- leave this nation as a failed state in disarray.
RIMINTON: A direct appeal to the politicians thousands of miles away.
Hugh Riminton, CNN, Besmiah (ph), Iraq.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: All this happening as the battle over Iraq, funding for the war, and a time line for withdrawal, raging here in Washington with Congress and the White House at an impasse right now.
Joining us now, the Vietnam veteran, the former Democratic Senator, Max Cleland.
Senator, thanks very much for joining us.
Let me get your quick reaction to that piece we just heard.
It's been, what, four years. The U.S. has been training thousands of Iraqi troops, but they're still not ready.
How frustrated are you that it's taking so long to get these Iraqi troops ready to defend their own country?
MAX CLELAND (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Well, it reminds me of Vietnam, quite frankly. The -- the essence of what we're seeing in Iraq is what we saw in Vietnam, that unless you have the political support of the people there, they're not going to support really fighting for their own country.
It's not until we get out will they really take it upon themselves to defend themselves, particularly against al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is just now using them and coming in and -- and attacking Americans, as they did when they killed those nine soldiers from the 90 -- 82nd Airborne.
So, we are part of the problem, not part of the solution. That's why, after five years of war, it's painfully obvious that there is no strategy to win. There is no strategy to end this war. And so the war is essentially unwinnable and untenable militarily. And that's why we have to get out.
But the Iraqis must ultimately take care of their own country. And that's what we need to leave them to do.
BLITZER: Here's what the president said today about the Democrats' desires to include a timeline for withdrawal in the war funding bill.
Listen to the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If the Congress wants to test my will as to whether or not I'll accept a timetable for withdrawal, I won't accept one. I just don't think it's in the interest of our troops. I really think it's a mistake for Congress to try to tell generals, our military experts, how to conduct a war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. What do you say to the president?
CLELAND: Well, this is not a test of the president's will, you know? And Congress is not trying to tell the generals what to do.
The truth of the matter is, there is no strategy that the president is telling the generals to do. You see, that's the problem.
I mean, more and more, generals are coming out of the military, particularly the Army, and saying the war is unwinnable militarily. It is essentially a political war that we're going into. And we're on the wrong side of it. We're trying to occupy a nation that doesn't want us there.
Secondly, we're going after the wrong enemy here. Al Qaeda is morphing around the world. They morphed most recently into North Africa. And George Tenet's book just coming out in the next few days says his concern is still about al Qaeda in the United States.
So, we need to withdraw from Iraq, withdraw our ground forces from there, because we are not part of the problem -- I mean solution. We're part of the problem there.
BLITZER: But you're...
CLELAND: And this is not a test of the president's -- this is not a test of the president's will. He may have his -- he may have his day on this, but when he signs that veto early next week, he will sign it in blood, because he's just guaranteeing the death of more Americans in Iraq.
BLITZER: Saxby Chambliss, the man who beat you in your run for re-election the last time around in Georgia, he says, and I'm quoting now, "It's almost un-American, un-American to come out and tell the enemy that they've won and lost."
Listen to this little clip of what he said on the Senate floor yesterday. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: Men and women of the 3rd ID simply don't agree with the Democrats who want to tuck tail and run. Georgians don't want to do that, the military does not want to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. He says Democrats are almost un-American for what they are trying to do.
What do you say to Senator Chambliss?
CLELAND: Well, first of all, I've been called un-American and unpatriotic by the senator before. It wasn't true then, it's not true now.
And secondly, I don't take my advice on war from somebody, Mr. Chambliss, who tucked his tail and ran from the war of his generation. He got out of going to Vietnam with a trick knee. So I'm not going to follow anybody's advice on that, and I'm certainly not going to back off my view that it's time to protect Americans, it's time to bring our young Americans home, and it is time to set a timetable.
That's what the Congress is voting on, and has voted successfully on. It is now time to change strategy, change policy. If the president won't change, ultimately we will see more Americans die, and ultimately we will get out of Iraq, but after he's gone.
BLITZER: You fought in Vietnam at a time of serious debate here in the United States over what U.S. troops were doing there in Vietnam. You know the impact on moral to fighting men and women.
What about the impact on the battlefield right now in Iraq, as a result of this very serious debate under way here in the United States?
CLELAND: Well, you feel like -- a young French lieutenant in the French Indochina War in Vietnam said he felt like he was shot in the stomach and kicked in the rear end. And I'm sure that members of the armed forces in Iraq feel that way.
I know that's the way I felt in Vietnam when the massive unrest in the United States breaking out in '67 and '68. But the worst morale problem is to commit young Americans to a cause that is not winnable and is ultimately untenable and unsupported by the United States people -- people in America.
So, the best thing we can do is make sure we have as good an exit as possible. And the president, if he vetoes this bill, will give up the last opportunity he has to make a bipartisan exit from Iraq. Ultimately, it's going to be ultimately on his head and shoulders, and he'll be signing that veto pen in blood because more young Americans are going to die when he vetoes this bill.
BLITZER: Senator Cleland, the current U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, has been in Washington all week. He's appealing to everyone for patience, to give him some time, to see if this new strategy can work, at least through September or so. He says at this point, he and the U.S. ambassador, Ryan Crocker, would have a better sense if it's working. He promises that if it's not working, he will tell the American people the truth.
Why not give the general some more time to see if he can make it -- make it better?
CLELAND: Time? This is the fifth year of this war. As a matter of fact, next Tuesday is the anniversary of President Bush standing up on an aircraft carrier, playing dress-up with his flight suit, which he never wore in combat, trying to be the war hero he never was, and saying major combat over, mission accomplished. And later on he said, "Bring 'em on." Well, they came on, surprise, surprise. Have killed over 3,300 young Americans and wounded over 30,000, and over half a million Iraqis have died.
I don't want that kind of patience. It's five years into this thing now. It's time to end it, and it's time to move on and worry about al Qaeda. That's the real threat to this country.
BLITZER: We're going to leave it there.
Senator Cleland, as usual, thanks for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
CLELAND: Thank you.
BLITZER: And still to come, hecklers. They dog conservative and liberal politicians. Now it's become a profession of sorts.
Our Carol Costello standing by to show us how it's done, what's going on. That's coming up.
Also, Mike Gravel is the standout, at least to many, from last night's presidential debate. Mike who? Tom Foreman will make the introduction in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Stay with us. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: They're the bane of just about every public figure, and they are a lot tougher than they used to be. We're talking about hecklers.
CNN's Carol Costello shows us how they are more organized now than ever -- Carol.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, heckling has been raised to a whole new level. It's become so creatively foul, some politicians are having a hard time dealing with it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You killed too many Iraqis already!
COSTELLO (voice over): Hecklers. The effective ones know how to get attention.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have no shame!
COSTELLO: Know how to cut to the quick.
RONALD REAGAN, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, shut up.
COSTELLO: It's the kind of exchange hecklers crave. What better way to insert yourself into the national debate? That's why heckling has gotten ruder, cruder and more organized.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think George Washington stood for automatic weapons?
MAX BLUMENTHAL, POLITICAL BLOGGER: Hi. Hi. I'm Max Blumenthal.
COSTELLO: Watch as liberal political blogger Max Blumenthal carries out a well-planned mission. His target? Conservative political blogger Michelle Malkin. His beef? Her book on Japanese internment during World War II.
BLUMENTHAL: So you made a lot of errors in your book?
MICHELLE MALKIN, POLITICAL BLOGGER: I've made a lot of errors. And I absolutely detest your initiative in trying to smear my work.
BLUMENTHAL (SINGING): There she goes.
That went really well.
COSTELLO: Blumenthal believes he won the day, forcing his opinion and Malkin's distress into the public discourse by posting it on YouTube.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now everyone's a critic.
COSTELLO: This new kind of deliberately cruel heckling is fascinating to producers Michael Addis and Jamie Kennedy. They've made a documentary.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) is this guy?
COSTELLO: It's not that they're against heckling, but wonder if it's gone too far.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don't you make like a Kennedy and die young?
MICHAEL ADDIS, "HECKLER" PRODUCER: They're no longer just wanting to yell out stuff. Now they really want to take people down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They want your head.
COSTELLO: But the mother of all organized hecklers, CODEPINK, wants to change minds. It's turned antiwar protesting into an organized crusade.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're now going to go...
COSTELLO: With their creative take on demonstrating, they have attracted thousands of members, willing to rabble-rouse.
Ask many politicians...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about the...
COSTELLO: ... these women are trained to heckle.
CODEPINK's Dana Balicki has heckled Rumsfeld herself.
DANA BALICKI, CODEPINK: It's empowering once you realize that you have the courage, you have the fire in your belly to stand up and say what you believe.
COSTELLO: Heckling has left many politicians and entertainers struggling to effectively battle this new kind of enemy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I don't have to listen to your stupid (INAUDIBLE).
COSTELLO: But that kind of reverse heckling is tricky from the political stage.
ADDIS: The politician has to have a certain level of dignity. They can't really go after the heckler as badly or as much as a comedian does.
COSTELLO: Just ask George Allen, whose reverse heckling ended in his infamous "Macaca" moment.
GEORGE ALLEN (R), FMR. SENATOR: "Macaca," or whatever his name is.
COSTELLO: Allen lost his Senate bid. The lesson? Leave the heckling to the professionals.
COSTELLO: As you know, some politicians are going to extreme measures to keep hecklers out of their speaking engagements. They are actually hand-picking the crowd. That way, they can make no mistakes -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Carol, I suspect there's going to be a lot more heckling as this campaign heats up, as well.
Up ahead, George Tenet says he got a bad rap from the Bush administration. We'll ask our world affairs analyst, William Cohen, if the former CIA director's vent is valid.
And later, a still is still a kiss. The actor Richard Gere offering an apology for this public display of affection.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story. The former CIA director George Tenet accusing the Bush administration of making him a scapegoat for the troubled mission in Iraq. Let's turn to our world affairs analyst, the former defense secretary, William Cohen. He's chairman and CEO of The Cohen Group here in Washington. And he's just back from a visit to the Middle East.
I want to talk about that. You met with some important people out there.
George Tenet, you worked with him when you were secretary of defense during the second term of the Clinton administration. He was the CIA director at that time. He was asked to stay on by President Bush.
But are his complaints, the slam-dunk, if you will, about weapons of mass destruction, how he's explaining those comments right now, are they credible? You know this guy.
WILLIAM COHEN, FMR. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, I haven't read the book. It's not out yet. I've only seen the excerpts in "The New York Times" and what I've seen briefly on television. So I can't really judge the validity of what he has said in that particular issue, on the slam-dunk. But basically, before you take a nation to war, before you put our sons and daughters in harm's way, you need several things.
Number one, how -- what is the threat. How imminent is the threat? How good is your intelligence?
How much planning is necessary? What are the levels of planning, et cetera? And is the mission feasible, accomplishable? And what's the cost in manpower, in blood, and also in treasure? And what's the exit strategy.
All of the issues have to be analyzed carefully.
From what I have seen of the excerpts of George Tenet's book, he is suggesting that there was little consideration given to the issue of the imminence of the threat. And his statement apparently was directed, according to his words, to the issue, could you persuade Congress that there was an imminent threat coming through? And the answer was, you could make a case.
BLITZER: He's basically saying that -- especially the vice president, Dick Cheney -- that his mind was made up long before he ever spoke of a slam-dunk, and as a result, he hates the fact that we was, in his words, scapegoated for that.
COHEN: I think you have to go back and look at, what was the intelligence we had prior to 9/11, was there any change in that intelligence post-9/11? Prior to 9/11, the Clinton administration felt that Saddam Hussein did not pose an imminent threat, that he was reasonably well contained. That we assumed that he had weapons of mass destruction.
The question is, was it a reasonable assumption? Was it based on the fact that he had had them in the past, used them, and had failed to account for them? So, you could say there was a reasonable case to be made on the presence of weapons of mass destruction. The other issue is, were we in imminent danger? And I don't think that case has ever been made, and that's the issue I think that George Tenet is focused on.
BLITZER: You just came back last night from a trip to the Middle East. You met with leaders in Jordan, in Israel, in the Gulf. What's the mood out there right now among America's friends? As far as Iraq is concerned, the threat, perhaps, of that problem is spilling over.
COHEN: They are worried about the danger in Iraq getting out of control, entering their countries, be it Jordan. We've just seen a recent report on the Saudis breaking up a terrorist operation that may have shut down their oil production capability.
All of the nations in the region are concerned that if this goes uncontrolled and unrestrained, their countries are also at risk. That's why there is a package being put together by the United States to help the Saudis, that's why the Israelis are also concerned about upgrading their capability. UAE, Dubai the same thing.
So they're all nervous about Iraq. They are also very nervous about Iran. And they see Iran as the greater long-term danger to stability in the region.
And they are all very much at risk, which is another reason why we have to intensify the sanctions against Iran to say, look, we're not looking at military options. Really, it's on the table, but it's way down at the end of the table.
We've got o pursue every diplomatic and economic option that we can, squeezing them. And that means going beyond even the sanctions currently that the U.N. has and looking at investments in Iran in order to make a military option remote, if not impossible.
BLITZER: Easier said than done. You need the Europeans, the Russians, the Chinese, a lot of people on board.
COHEN: Well, there are American businessmen that also have interest. And we have funds that are invested in that part of the world that go into Iran. So there are ways to intensify those sanctions. And if you intensify the sanctions, you then are in a better position to reach an agreement with Iran on the nuclear program.
BLITZER: William Cohen is our world affairs analyst.
Good to have you back here.
COHEN: Good to be back.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
BLITZER: Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, so what does it mean when an active duty Army officer accuses America's generals of repeating the mistakes of Vietnam in Iraq? That's Jack Cafferty's question. He's standing by with your e-mail.
Also, Richard Gere offering an apology for getting carried away with an actress in Bollywood. But is it enough to quash an arrest warrant in India?
That's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Just a kiss? Leading man Richard Gere explains the on- camera moment that sparked some international outrage. At least in India.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Richard Gere is apologizing for offending anyone with the kiss heard around the world.
CNN entertainment correspondent Sibilia Vargas has the latest -- Sibila.
SIBILA VARGAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
Some say a kiss is just a kiss, but call this the kiss that won't go away. The "Officer and a Gentleman" star is accused of ungentlemanly behavior, and last night Richard Gere finally got to address it.
RICHARD GERE, ACTOR: Kissing the girl on the cheek was nothing.
VARGAS (voice over): Richard Gere on "The Daily Show" to defend a kiss? This smooch, the "Pretty Woman" actor planted on Bollywood starlet Shilpa Shetty during an AIDS awareness event has caused quite a stir.
Just last week, moms in several cities took to the streets in outrage, burning Gere in effigy. After a local citizen filed a complaint against Gere and Shetty, an Indian court ordered their arrest, calling the kiss obscene.
Gere could face jail time, but he didn't seem concerned about that on his "Daily Show" appearance.
GERE: You know, I don't know that anyone has actually gone to jail. It has to go through a process.
JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": Right.
GERE: I mean, it's like... STEWART: And it would dissipate, and they'd go, OK, say you're sorry and that's it.
GERE: No, it goes to, you know, a reputable court and they throw it out.
VARGAS: Gere told host Jon Stewart that the arrest warrant was politically motivated.
GERE: But there is a very small right wing, very conservative political party...
STEWART: We're talking about India?
GERE: In India, yes.
STEWART: Oh, OK. Sorry.
GERE: And they -- they are the moral police in India. They do this kind of thing quite often.
VARGAS: Indian actress Nandita Das agrees it's much ado about nothing.
NANDITA DAS, ACTRESS: But usually, it's always a handful of people who scream the loudest, and they know they're going to get the attention because it makes good copy because it's sensational.
VARGAS: Public displays of affection are considered mostly taboo in India, and some say Gere put Shetty's image in peril.
LISA TSERING, ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR, "INDIA WEST": Richard Gere should have really appreciated how sensitive her public persona is right now.
VARGAS: Shetty is a rising star in India who earned public support after becoming a victim of racially-charged insults while on the U.K. version of "Big Brother". Shetty has defended Gere, saying he has apologized to her. But Lisa Tsering, entertainment editor for "India West," says Gere should have known better.
TSERING: He knows Indian culture very well. And he knows that -- he knows how women in India are supposed to be treated.
VARGAS: Now some lawyers and legal experts in India are already slamming the court order, calling it indecent. Gere says he's confident it will all be sorted out.
So, Wolf, I'm afraid we'll have to stay tuned.
BLITZER: Sibila, thank you very much for that. And we'll continue to watch.
We invited Richard Gere to join us here in THE SITUATION ROOM today. Unfortunately, he couldn't. Hopefully he will.
He is a frequent visitor, by the way, to India, promoting health issues, the cause of Tibetan exiles. Richard Gere making some news.
Jack Cafferty is in New York.
I know you're obsessed with this story, Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Is Anna Nicole Smith still dead?
The question this hour is: What does it mean when an active duty Army officer accuses America's generals of repeating the mistakes of Vietnam in Iraq?
Sam in Nebraska writes, "Sorry, Jack. The colonel's claims don't pass the sniff test. We've all seen too many instances where the best advice of the generals and analysts in the State Department and intelligence community were ignored by the real culprits in the many screw-ups that constitute the Iraq misadventure."
Patti writes from Kansas, "Hmm, I smell a planted White House story. All the generals literally fall on their swords to save the president and his buddies. Let's watch and see what happens to Colonel Yingling."
Dick in California writes, "The biggest mistake we made in Vietnam was allowing Washington politicians to micromanage the war, including day-to-day operations. The only way we can win the war against terror is for Washington politicians to stay out of it and let the military accomplish the job they've been tasked to fulfill."
Leann writes, "Jack, the truth is, you're right. He's not going to get a promotion. But how many of these officers hold back in saying what's really the truth in order to move up in their career?"
"My father once told me in Vietnam they were called career generals. They were more interested in moving up than doing what's right. Hats off to Colonel Yingling."
Bill in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, "Jack, what it means is the Congress is squarely on target by no longer giving King George carte blanche and running this war. The oversight function of our government is now operating as it should. Bush doesn't know nor do the generals who the hell is running this mess."
And Mark said, "You said it, Jack. It's sunny Florida for the good colonel. I think he's looking for an early retirement package."
"On the other hand, he may get a Medal of Freedom for giving Bush another out for the Iraq debacle. But the generals lied."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile, where we post more of them, along with video clips of "The Cafferty File". But there are no pictures of Richard Gere in "The Cafferty File". None.
BLITZER: What do you think about this new book that George Tenet is about to release as soon as this weekend?
CAFFERTY: Well, I think it's unfortunate that maybe he didn't raise some of these points when he was still on the government payroll and one of the architects in this thing that's going on in Iraq.
BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more on this book coming up in an hour when we come back on the air. But in the meantime, Jack, thank you.
Let's go to Lou in New York.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com