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The Situation Room

Desperate Search Under Way for Wealthy Adventurer; Hacker Attack on Pentagon Gains Access to E-mails

Aired September 04, 2007 - 17:00   ET


Happening now, there's a desperate search underway for the wealthy adventurer, Steve Fossett. The record-setting pilot and balloonist is missing a day after taking off from a private air strip in Nevada.

A hacker attack on the Pentagon gains access to e-mails, possibly involving schedules of the top brass.

Is China trying to penetrate this country's cyber defenses?

And the comedian Jerry Lewis drops an anti-gay slur on the air while raising $62 million for charity.

Did he undermine his own telethon?

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

The aviation adventurer, Steve Fossett, is missing. The pilot and balloonist who holds numerous flight records took off in a light aircraft yesterday in Southern Nevada and has not been heard from since. There's a massive, massive search underway right now.

Let's turn to Carol Costello.

She's tracking this story for us -- Carol, what's the latest?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lots of people searching for him, Wolf.

Six aircraft were in the air doing grid searches over hundreds of square miles and Major Cynthia Ryan of the Civil Air Patrol says no luck yet. No sign of Steve Fossett, a man who has cheated death so many times with his many adventures.

Rescue workers are searching pretty rough terrain near Fossett's Nevada ranch, but they have little to go on because Fossett filed no flight plan. He did, however, tell friends when he expected to be back.

MAJOR CYNTHIA RYAN, CIVIL AIR PATROL: He was supposed to return. He had a hard departure date shortly after noon yesterday. He took off shortly after 9:00. When he didn't return by noon, they launched some of their aircraft from The Flying M and did some preliminary search. When they didn't come up with anything, they, of course, notified the Office of Emergency Management here in Nevada. And as standard operating procedure, we proceeded to do complete ramp checks of any air strip in the area to make sure that somebody didn't just land and, you know, they were without a cell phone that's working or something.


COSTELLO: No like there either. As you can see, the wind was blowing there. The winds are strong in Western Nevada. That means searching from the air is, at times impossible, especially when you're searching up in those mountains.

As you know, Fossett was an excellent flyer. He was flying yesterday to scope out dry lake beds to break a land speed record for a change.

BLITZER: All right, let's watch this story, Carol.

Thanks very much.

We've got some more coming up.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is standing by.

She has some details of the plane officials say Fossett was flying -- Abbi, what are you finding?

ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, photos at this aviation Web site match the details that officials have given of the plane that Fossett was flying yesterday. This is a Citabria Super Decathlon, a small, single engine, two-seater aircraft photographed previously and uploaded to the Web site at different airports.

Online records show that this small plane was registered to The Flying M Hunting Club in Yerington, Nevada.

We know that Fossett took off yesterday from The Flying M Ranch in Nevada. This appears to be the plane that the search team is now looking for -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Abbi.

Thanks very much.

Let's get some more from our space and technology correspondent, Miles O'Brien.

He's joining us on the phone -- so what do you think, Miles?

What are you hearing?

MILES O'BRIEN, CHIEF TECHNOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what we're hearing is a bit of a mystery here. You have a situation where a very experienced pilot gets in an airplane that he should be fully capable of handling and just disappears. Now, what we heard in that news conference just a little while ago leads me down a path which would be interesting -- I'd be interested in exploring.

They indicated that there was some sort of electronic evidence that they were pursuing -- not a radio beacon from the aircraft, which it would have been equipped with and which would have -- it was designed to be tripped off on a sudden impact. But, perhaps, in his search for this dry lake bed to do this land speed record, it is possible Fossett flew into some restricted air space in that area. And there's Nellis Air Force Base is nearby. That's the home of the Thunderbirds. Not far, also from Area 51, which everybody knows a little something about. And it is possible that there was some sort of electronic radar information which the military might have had associated with that restricted air space.

So I'd like to know more about what they saw, potentially, if there was an unknown target which might have appeared that might be giving the searchers some idea of where to at least begin a search.

But at this point, they knew he was headed in a general direction. But beyond that, it's a very big desert -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right.

We're going to stay on top of this story, Miles, together with you and update our viewers as soon as we get some more information.

Let's hope for the best, obviously.

Other news we're following, a hacker attack on the Pentagon may have ominous, very ominous implications.

Is China probing America's cyber defenses?

Let's go to Brian Todd.

He's watching this story for us.

How serious was this electronic break-in -- Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're told it didn't Wolf military secrets. But the information that could have been tapped does draw concern.


TODD (voice-over): E-mails, possibly including the travel plans of Defense Secretary Robert Gates or his deputies, were recently hacked and U.S. government sources believe the Chinese government was behind it.

Gates alluded to the incident back in June.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Elements of the OSD unclassified e-mail system were taken offline yesterday afternoon due to a detected penetration. A variety of precautionary measures are being taken.


TODD: Sources say that unclassified system is not connected to e- mail networks that contain sensitive military secrets. Pentagon officials say none of their operations were disrupted.

If it was the Chinese, what might they have been after?

KURT CAMPBELL, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT DEFENSE SECRETARY: They're trying to understand the nature of our defenses In terms of how sensitive sites are protected and whether it's possible to penetrate them. But it suggests that, ultimately, they would like to penetrate them to understand the nature of, for instance, our communications systems, our war plans and how we operate in a crisis.

TODD: The Chinese Foreign Ministry called the accusation "unwarranted, groundless, a reflection of the cold war mentality."

But Gates said the Defense Department gets hundred the cyber attacks a day. Ira Winkler, a former analyst at the National Security Agency, says other U.S. government departments are also vulnerable.

IRA WINKLER, AUTHOR, "SPIES AMONG US": You have the Nuclear Regulatory Agency. There are a variety of government agencies that are involved with energy production. There are a variety of government agencies, for example, that also deal with food production.


TODD: As for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, we contacted them. A spokeswoman is there says that agency is very vigilant against threats, even hired a contractor to try to hack into its system last year and the contractor failed after several attempts. They say they'll try it again this year -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Any other agencies, Brian, with sensitive issues catching onto these threats?

TODD: Yes. We talked to an official with the National Security Council. He told us experts are looking at whether the White House should restrict the use of Blackberries to prevent cyber espionage.

BLITZER: Oh. Well, that would -- that would -- that with be a significant development...

TODD: It sure would.

BLITZER: ...knowing White House officials and their Blackberries.

All right, Brian.

Stay on top of the story for us.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty.

He's watching this story and a lot of stories in New York in The Cafferty File -- hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, THE CAFFERTY FILE: Wolf, General David Petraeus, the U.S.' top military commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, are headed to Capitol Hill next week to report on the progress, or lack thereof, of the military surge, which brought 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq beginning last February.

One of the main goals of the surge, you may recall, was to slow the sectarian violence in Baghdad. In his report, General Petraeus may cite a decline in insurgent attacks in recent weeks.

But "Newsweek" magazine says that decline in violence is because Shiite militias' cleansing has pushed thousands of Sunnis literally out of the capital city.

A U.S. official in Iraq told "Newsweek" : "The majority of Baghdad neighborhoods are under Shiite control, a trend that is unlikely to reverse itself." Residents in the few remaining Sunni neighborhoods, "Newsweek" was told, stay barricaded inside their homes for their own protection.

The number of Iraqi civilian deaths was actually higher in July than it was in February, when the surge began. But President Bush is urging Americans not to judge the success of the surge until hearing Petraeus' and Crocker's reports next week.

So here's the question -- what does it mean for Iraq's future if the Shiites now dominate the capital city of Baghdad?

E-mail your thoughts on that to or go to

It doesn't sound very democratic to me -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, you know, a lot of the U.N. Human rights groups, other agencies, have documented this ethnic cleansing, in effect, what's going on. Four million Iraqis have been displaced -- have had to leave their homes, two million internally and another two million have been forced into exile, mostly Sunnis -- a million or so going to Syria, a million or so going to Jordan.

And so, as a result, maybe that explains what "Newsweek" was referring to in the decline in some of the sectarian violence. A lot of the Sunnis have simply left.

CAFFERTY: Absolutely. That's exactly what "Newsweek" was getting at. The sectarian violence is down because half of the fighters -- the Sunni half -- have moved out of town. They've left the building.

BLITZER: All right, Jack.

Thanks very much.

Jack Cafferty has got a good question for you this hour.

Up ahead, a new public school opening its doors in New York City with a focus on teaching Arabic.

So why are critics so upset?

And President Bush cries a lot. A new book looks at a tearful president and the White House inner circle. I'll be speaking this hour with the author.

And a new student enters divinity school. It's the former New Jersey governor, Jim McGreevey, who resigned after he said he had a gay affair with a staffer. We'll tell you what's going on.



BLITZER: Tight security for the first day of class in a new academy that teaches Arabic in New York's public school system. Supporters of the academy consider it a great learning opportunity. But there's a groundswell of criticism against the school.

Let's turn to CNN's Dan Lothian.

He's joining us in New York.

So why are people so worked up -- Dan?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the problem that is in this post-9/11 climate, this school is coming under fire because there are concerns about what is being taught -- Arabic and Middle Eastern culture. Fifty-five students are enrolled at the Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn. Capacity is about 60.

Now, it is part of New York City's public school system, as you mentioned. Parents of the students who showed up for the first day of classes today say it is a wonderful opportunities for their children to learn Arabic and get the skills that will help with future post- 9/11 demands and careers.

But long before the first day of school, a group using the slogan "stop the madrassa" has been fighting against it.

Opponents were protesting at city hall today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Based upon the very limited amount of information that has been made available, the concerns that this will, in fact, be more about promoting an Islamist agenda than about the not only innocuous, but laudable objective of teaching Arabic.

GARTH HARRIES, CEO, OFFICE OF NEW SCHOOLS: This school is absolutely not a religious school. It's a public school with a public curriculum and kids are learning the Arabic language.


LOTHIAN: This controversy really started heating up this summer, when the founding principal was accused of having ties to Islamic extremist groups, which is she denies.

Later, when she was quoted defending the use of the word "intifada," she resigned. Now the acting principal is Jewish. But opponents -- they aren't backing down. They are now calling on the city to close the school -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Is the school only for Arabs?

LOTHIAN: No, Wolf.

The Academy is open to everyone. In fact, the goal is to have a diverse student body there.

BLITZER: So what kind of assurance, Dan, are people getting -- the school system getting that this is not going to turn into a religious school because this, after all, is a public school?

LOTHIAN: That is correct. And that's the important question, because school officials say it is part of the school public system and there are rules and guidelines about curriculum. They must be followed, just like Russian and Chinese programs in the city.

And, by the way, Wolf, those programs have not been controversial.

BLITZER: All right, Dan.

Dan is going to have a lot more on this report coming up -- on this Academy. A lot more coming up at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN's "OUT IN THE OPEN" with Rick Sanchez.

Dan Lothian, thanks very much for that report.

As children across the nation are returning to school, a very atypical student entered a divinity school earlier today. That student would be the former New Jersey governor, Jim McGreevey, who resigned in 2004 after announcing he was involved in a gay affair with a male staffer.

Our senior correspondent, Allen Chernoff, is joining us with details from New York -- Allen.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, what a strange trip it has been for Jim McGreevey -- from governor to resignation in disgrace to a messy divorce battle and now divinity school.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): Former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey appears to have found religion -- at least a new religion. He's abandoned the Catholicism that he says magnified his personal turmoil as he was hiding his homosexuality.


JIM MCGREEVEY, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: I come from a wonderfully devout Irish Catholic family where the church preaches, you know, abomination. You know, but I can't act on it. Go straight to hell, that, you know, mortal sin.

But I am a gay American.


CHERNOFF: Three years after McGreevey resigned as governor, he embraced the Episcopal Church, which in the U.S. has been accepting of gays, even consecrating a gay man as bishop of New Hampshire.

And today, McGreevey began studies at the church's General Theological Seminary. He's enrolled full-time in the seminary's non- degree program. After a year, he may choose to pursue a master of divinity degree -- preparation to become an ordained minister.

In yesterday's "Washington Post," McGreevey already was sounding a bit like a theologian.

Regarding Senator Larry Craig's sex scandal, McGreevey wrote: "Being gay is, as I believe, a natural gift of the Creator."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the guy has got a lot of problems, a lot of issues that he has to sort out. And I don't want to engage in an ad hominem attack on the man. He's doing what he thinks works for him.

CHERNOFF: Jim McGreevey has been anything but priestly during his ongoing divorce battle with his ex-wife Dina, charging in court papers that "she has been malicious and misleading" and that "her recently published book is poorly written."

She has countered that he has been guilty of extreme cruelty toward her and married her to conceal his sexual tendencies and thereby advance his political career.


CHERNOFF: McGreevey did not return CNN's calls to his cell phones.

And, also, Dina did not also call back. Wolf -- back to you.

BLITZER: All right.

Thanks very much, Allen, for that story.

Up ahead, women could be the key factor in the '08 vote. Team Clinton launching a new targeted attack today. We're going to show you what's going on.

And the comedian Jerry Lewis uttering an anti-gay slur during his charity telethon.

Could a bad word undo his good work?

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Iraq's government is falling well short of the goals set by the United States Congress to measure progress there. In a report released today, the watchdog arm of the Congress says 11 of 18 benchmarks have not been met. The Government Accountability Office says only one political goal has been accomplished -- protecting the rights of minority parties in the parliament.

Two security benchmarks have also been met. Four benchmarks have been partially received. The standards were set by Congress as part of an Iraq War spending bill.

Democrats say the report is fresh evidence the president needs to start moving on a pullout from Iraq.

In an effort to speed up delivery of life saving glass-resistant vehicles to Iraq, the Pentagon is now planning to lease -- get this -- huge Russian planes to fly more of the heavily armored trucks called MRAPs to the battlefield.

Let's go to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.

He's watching this story for us.

A pretty unusual development -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, the Pentagon tells me that it costs up to $100,000 to fly an MRAP to Iraq. Now, they could do it a lot more cheaply by ship, but the need is simply too urgent.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): With its blast-deflecting V-shaped undercarriage, elevated chassis and super tough armor, the MRAP is the most survivable vehicle yet devised to protect against roadside bombs, as tests like this one at the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground show.

So when American troops in Anbar Province got a chance this week to grill the Joint Chiefs chairman, one of the first questions was where are the MRAPs?

GENERAL PETER PACE, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: We have four or five companies working on building the them and they're going to get over here as fast as we possibly can.

MCINTYRE: By December, almost 4,000 of the mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles are expected to have rolled off U.S. production lines. But delivery to Iraq is taking a month or two longer, when the Pentagon first predicted 3,500 MRAPs would be there by year's end.

(on camera): One of the features that makes this vehicle so safe also makes it a challenge to get to the battlefield. An MRAP can weigh anywhere between 20,000 and 30,000 tons. And that means you can put only two, maybe three at most, on a C-17.

(voice-over): To meet its new goals, the Pentagon aims to fly more than 350 MRAPs a month directly to Iraq. And that will take not just American C-17s and C-5s, but bigger Russian planes, as well. The U.S. is leasing giant Antonov 124s, which can hold up to a half dozen smaller MRAPs at a time.


MCINTYRE: Brigadier General Mike Brogan is the man in charge of overseeing companies given over a billion dollars to ramp up production.

BROGAN: They're starting to make their numbers. Force production, in fact, overachieved last month and delivered more than what's required.


MCINTYRE: Now, the Pentagon says they'll still get their goal of about 3,500 MRAPs to Iraq by early next year. But, Wolf, that still means that for thousands of troops, it will be months before they can get the best protection money can buy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Is it fair to say most of the casualties have come from the other vehi -- the IEDs killing soldiers and Marines inside the less protected vehicles?

MCINTYRE: Well, 70 percent of the casualties have come from IED or other kinds of bomb attacks. And while the protection of these isn't perfect -- there have been some people killed in MRAPs -- usually the people inside survive the attacks.

BLITZER: Let's get them over there as quickly as possible.

Jamie, thanks very much.

Up next, he's set flying records no one has yet to break, but he's now gone -- missing in a single engine plane. We're going to have the latest on the search for the adventurer, Steve Fossett.

And a portrait of a president who butts heads with his top aides and weeps regularly. Inside the new book that goes inside the Bush presidency. The author of "Dead Certain" here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, there's a massive search underway for the adventurer, Steve Fossett. The record-holding pilot and balloonist has been missing since his single engine plane vanished in the Western Nevada desert yesterday. The Civil Air Patrol and search crews are combing hundreds of miles of rugged terrain. We're watching the story for you.

Eight men are in custody in Denmark, suspected of carrying out a terrorist bombing. Danish police say the suspects are militant Islamists with links to Al Qaeda. They're accused of storing unstable explosives in a busy area of Copenhagen.

And it's been a good day after the Labor Day holiday for Wall Street. The Dow rose 91 points, to close at 13,488, as investors snapped up technology stocks at supposedly bargain prices.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


It hasn't been on store shelves 24 hours, but "Dead Certain," the candid new book about President Bush, is already generating controversy. One former official is taking exception with President Bush's recollection of the contentious decision to dismantle the Iraqi Army.

I'll speak with the author, Robert Draper, in just a couple of minutes.

But CNN's Mary Snow is joining us first with more on that dispute and other surprising revelations, Mary, in this book.

Tell us a little bit about them.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, first of all, the man who issued the order to disband the Iraqi Army is now going out of his way to try and show he wasn't alone in the decision-making.


SNOW (voice-over): The rift has pitted President Bush against his former appointee to Iraq, Paul Bremer. In dispute -- who exactly was behind the decision to dismantle the Iraqi Army in 2003, while Bremer -- Jerry, as he's often called -- was in Iraq.

JON ALTERMAN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: I think Jerry Bremer has been so frustrated at being the whipping boy for the failures of the U.S. policy in Iraq that he's finally saying enough is enough. If the president won't stand by me, I won't stand by him.

SNOW: In the new book, "Dead Certain," President Bush is quoted as saying, "Well, the policy was to keep the army in tact. He added, "It didn't happen." Author Robert Draper says he pressed the president on the reaction when he found out the policy was reversed. And he quotes the president as saying, "Yes, I can't remember. I'm sure I said, this is the policy, what happened?" But Bremer is insisting the president was aware of the decision. He took the unusual step of trying to prove his point by releasing to "The New York Times" letters between him and the president. In May of 2003, Bremer references the plan of dissolving Saddam's military and intelligence structures to in his words emphasize that we mean business. A day later, the president wrote a thank you letter telling Bremer, "Your leadership is apparent. You have quickly made a positive and significant impact. You have my full support and confidence." The "Times" points out that Bremer only made a brief reference to his plan in his three pages and that it doesn't show the president approved the order or knew details about it. Still, it's the nonchalant tone of the letter that strikes some observers over decisions seen as a pivotal point in the war.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: That crucial mistake continues to haunt us today because that allowed the snowballing of the insurgency to begin.

SNOW: The White House has said they wouldn't be commenting on the book. We also did reach out to Paul Bremer but he was unavailable for an interview.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Mary. Thanks very much. Mary Snow reporting.

And joining us now is the author of "Dead Certain, The Presidency of George W. Bush," Robert Draper. Robert, thanks very much for coming in.

ROBERT DRAPER, AUTHOR: Thank you for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's pick up on the point. Paul Bremer versus George W. Bush, their respective recollections. They seem to disagree on this whole notion of dismantling the Iraqi army which a lot of people now just conclude it was a huge mistake. Who's right? Who's wrong?

DRAPER: Well, I think in a way, the answer is somewhere in the middle and what the answers, what both men have in common in terms of their recollections. It's just kind of breathtaking sort of casualness about what turned out to be a very momentous reversal of administration policy.

As mentioned has been mentioned, the Bremer memo, the part about disbanding the army is buried into a very long memo. When I spoke to the president about it, his tone was basically nonchalance. He didn't quite remember exactly how he reacted that day when word came down that Bremer had once on the ground reversed administration policy. I think what it goes to, Wolf, is how differential the president was towards the Pentagon and towards Bremer, at this point in time, during the Iraq war. That is to say, that he viewed what Bremer was doing as the actions of a guy who was on the ground who could see the realities that perhaps he and the White House couldn't see. And figured, well, if that's how Bremer is reacting to the situation, then let's follow his lead. BLITZER: You had extraordinary access to this president and his top advisers. At one point, you call him the first optimist. Let me read from page 419. "The first optimist had made pessimists out of Americans. He yearned to make more decisions. And he just knew it. After October and November, we're referring to this year, the strategy would work. Bush would be proven right and that big ball would be back in his hands again and he would heave it long." He still believes that the strategy in Iraq is going to succeed?

DRAPER: Very much so. I also think though, Wolf, that there's an interesting aspect to the president's optimism. And it's as much saying we cannot afford to fail as saying I'm confident we will succeed. He realizes though what the stakes are in Iraq, not only in terms of the region, not only in terms of America, but certainly in terms of his legacy, it's wedded inextricably to the outcome of Iraq, which is why he's been so supportive of Maliki, for example. He knows that everybody else who visits the prime minister is saying you've got to get your government together. The President Bush sees his role as being the guy to sort buttress Maliki, to coach him on leadership and to express optimism whenever possible.

BLITZER: And take us into his mind. When he says I'm the decider, he sort of likes to live by that rule?

DRAPER: He does. He also likes -- I think he's like an umpire in his regard. He makes a decision. He sticks with it. He doesn't look back.

And, you know, I think that there are aspects of the president that are sort of two sides of the same coin. You can interpret his servitude as steadfastness. You can interpret it also as stubbornness. And that's why I came up with the title, basically that I really thought that that was a core aspect of President Bush, that he is, if nothing else, a man of clarity and a man who sticks to his guns sometimes in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

BLITZER: Because he doesn't like to admit he ever makes mistakes?

DRAPER: No, he doesn't. Now he's aware that he has but he doesn't like that exercise. He certainly doesn't like talking to members of the media about it. He's never felt that he has an obligation to any of us to air his own misgivings or ruefulness and I have to say during the six hours or so of interviews that I did with him, the president was very free form. He showed a wide range of emotions. I can't say that for even a nanosecond he ever suggested anything that looked like regret. That's just not who he is.

BLITZER: And he didn't start crying during the interviews with you, even though he talked about the crying?

DRAPER: Yes, he says, I'm a crier. He says, I do tears. And it's interesting for a guy who has this kind of texified swagger that he's more than happy, you know, confident I guess one could tell you of his masculinity to talk about how cries a lot. No, he didn't shed tears in front of me. He said that I would shed tears once he got a hold of my manuscript.

BLITZER: What about when he cries? Did he tell you specifically why he cries?

DRAPER: Yes, he said he gets very moved, particularly when he's visiting families of the fallen, grieving widows. These are really remarkable moments for him.

And he made a point of saying to me that though he goes there to buttress them, to make them feel better that as he puts it, the healer gets healed. That he feels emboldened. Because more often than not, these people have said to him, these families of the fallen, don't let my son die in vain, finish the job. And that to him is taken the support of that he's doing the right thing. Now, whether or not he should be governing or forming administration and Iraq policy on the basis of what the grieving families have to say is an arguable matter.

BLITZER: You have fascinating detail on the relationship he and Laura Bush have had with Karl Rove over the years on page 102. You write this, "Laura would later express her own distaste for pig pen Rove. There was more hate than love in her love/hate regard for Bush's top adviser." Go ahead and elaborate. Tell us why.

DRAPER: Well, I think she sees Karl Rove as a necessary evil. But she knows that getting elected is often an un-pretty blood sport. That doesn't mean that she has to like it. That doesn't mean that she has to like Rove's antics. She also I think has viewed Karl as being someone willing to hog the credit, credit that perhaps belongs to her husband. She'll sometimes say, let's see what boy genius has to say about that. And Mrs. Bush is a very gentle and tender soul. She's not the kind of person -- although she can have a sharp knife in her remarks, she doesn't generally levy it towards people unless she has a less than fond view of them and I think that's a fair description of how she regards Rove.

BLITZER: Did you sit down with her as well?

DRAPER: I did. I interviewed her a couple times.

BLITZER: The book is titled "Dead Certain, the Presidency of George W. Bush," the author Robert Draper, we've just barely skimmed on some of the nuggets in the book. Thanks for writing it.

DRAPER: It was my pleasure.

BLITZER: Jerry Lewis, you're going to hear the anti-gay slur he made during his Muscular Dystrophy telethon. And we're going to give you the reaction as well. That's coming up.

And Hillary Clinton has some high negative numbers among women. We're going to take a closer look at what she's doing to try to turn that around and who she's bringing in to help.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Carol Costello is joining us once again with a closer look at some other incoming stories making news.



Hurricane Felix is losing some of its punch but it's still dangerous. Felix has weakened to a category 2 as it sweeps across Central America. The hurricane made land fall in northeastern Nicaragua today. It's a category 5 with winds gusting to 160 miles an hour. Felix could trigger potentially deadly mud slides and flooding as it moves across Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala.

Hurricane Felix may be a taste of the remaining three months of the Atlantic hurricane season. Hurricane expert William Gray predicts five more hurricanes in addition to Felix. He says three will be major. The season's first two months, June and July, were average with storms but with no hurricanes. Of course, Hurricane Dean came along in August.

A legal battle over Washington, D.C.'s gun-ban law could be decided by the Supreme Court. The D.C. government is asking the court to overturn a ruling that struck down the 30 years old ban on private gun ownership. The law prohibits residents from keeping handguns in their homes or carrying a gun without a license. In March, a federal appeals court ruled the ban unconstitutional.

And top secret documents are about to be secret no more. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says it will release hundreds of confidential documents involving two nuclear fuel plants in Tennessee. This comes after nine gallons of highly enriched uranium spilled at the Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc. plant in March of 2006. No one was hurt but the public didn't learn about the spill until more than a year later, prompting an outcry in Congress from environmentalists and nearby residents.

Those are the headlines right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks, Carol. We'll check back with you shortly.

Lou Dobbs getting ready for his show that begins right at the top of the hour. He's standing by with a preview.

Lou, welcome back.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Wolf. Coming up at 6:00 p.m. eastern here, we'll be reporting on an astonishing outburst by the president of Mexico, Philippe Calderon. In a new threat to the sovereignty of the United States, President Calderon declared that Mexico does not end at its borders. We'll have that special report.

Also, rising outrage over a New York public school that today began teaching students Arabic language and cultural. Opponents say radical Islamists may try to impose their agenda on American society. And will the Bush administration soon begin to withdraw of our troops from Iraq? One of the world's leading authorities on the war in Iraq and the Middle East will join us, just returned from Iraq where he met with top U.S. and Iraqi officials.

Three of the country's top radio talk show hosts join us here tonight to tell us what their listeners are saying about Iraq and a lot of other issues as well.

Please join us at the top of the hour for all the latest on today's news and a great deal more. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thank, Lou. We'll see you in a few moments at the top of the hour.

Jerry Lewis has apologized for a gay slur he uttered during his annual muscular dystrophy telethon. The comedian came under immediate and intense fire from gay activists for the two words that tumbled from his mouth.

Let's go back to Carol. She's watching this story. How over the top did he go?

COSTELLO: Well, it's pretty bad, Wolf. It was an attempt at humor that fell very flat. Jerry Lewis, who is 81 years old, and up all night to raise money for Jerry's kids, as you say, is now apologizing.

JERRY LEWIS: Good evening, how are we? Are we in focus?

COSTELLO: Jerry Lewis isn't the king of tact, but there are those who say he went way over the line in the 18th hour of his muscular dystrophy telethon. Listen to what a weary Lewis says as he attempts to avoid a camera.

LEWIS: Oh, your family has come to see you. You remember Bart, your older son, Jesse, the illiterate fag.

COSTELLO: The gay and lesbian alliance against defamation calls this kind of anti-gay slur, simply unacceptable.

NEIL GIULIANO, GLAAD PRESIDENT: It's very defamatory. It's an anti-gay slur and Mr. Lewis and other folks who use it either by intent or out of trying to be funny need to realize it's not funny and they should apologize when they do use it.

COSTELLO: This isn't the first time that Lewis was politically incorrect.

LARRY KING: I would be remiss if I did not ask what went on when you criticized women in comedy.

LEWIS: Nothing went on. I didn't do that.

COSTELLO: But in 2000, Lewis admitted saying he didn't find women comedians funny. LEWIS: I have it and I said some women comedians make me uncomfortable. Because a man comedian can do anything he wants and I'm not offended by it. But we're talking about a god given miracle who produces a child. I have a difficult time seeing her do this on stage.

COSTELLO: Lewis even angered the people he struggles to help by defending his telethon style this way.

LEWIS: I'm telling about a child in trouble. If it's pity, we'll get some money. You don't want to be pitied for being a cripple. Stay in your house."

COSTELLO: Lewis later apologized for that. About the recent flap, his friend co-MDA host Ed McMahon's wife says give Lewis a break. Pam McMahon said, "He such a good soul. He hasn't been well healthy. Why can we be grateful for the good things people do? Why do we have to dissect every bad thing?

COSTELLO: And she points to Lewis' 63 years as MDA pitch man. This year, he set a record $62 million for Jerry's Kids.

And we did get a statement from Jerry Lewis late this afternoon. He said, "I apologize to anyone who was offended. I obviously made a bad choice of words. Everyone who knows me understands that I hold no prejudice in this regard. I accept responsibility for what I said. There are no excuses and I am sorry."


BLITZER: And he's raised a lot of money for good causes. I think we make that point. Carol, we can't forget about that. Thanks very much, Carol Costello watching the story.

Up ahead, he could be the first, first husband. She could be the first woman president. We're going to take a closer look at who might put them there and why the Clintons are taking nothing for granted.

And Jack Cafferty wants your take. What does it mean for Iraq's future when Shiites dominate the capital Baghdad? He's taking your e- mail and will share some of it with you.

All of that coming up right here on is THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: When it comes to winning the white house, experts say women could be the deciding factor. CNN's Kathleen Koch is following the story for us. Kathleen is joining us live. So does this make the democratic presidential front runner the shoo-in?

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you might think so. You know women do make up more than half of the population. They register and vote in larger numbers than men but it was clear today that even Hillary Clinton is not taking their support or their votes for granted. SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Running for president for dummies. I read, it's very helpful.

KOCH: On the Ellen Degeneres Show calling Hillary vulnerable.

CLINTON: I think when people get to know me, when they get to see me, when they get to make their own judgments, you know, they might not still vote for me or even like me, but at least I feel better because it's more legitimate. And so what I'm trying to do is clear away all of the, you know, the brush so people can get a fair shot at figuring out what they think about me.

KOCH: The front runner with women also has high negatives with them, 40%. The former first couple spent the day on the airwaves try to humanize the candidate. On the Oprah Winfrey Show, Bill on dealing with a tired Hillary.

BILL CLINTON: Some days I get a call from around the country saying, you realize I'm 15 years older than you were when you did this? I said, well, nobody made you run, girl.

KOCH: And on his new title, should Hillary win.

CLINTON: My Scottish friends say I should be called first lady because it's the closest thing to first lady.

JENNY BAUCUS, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: Blue collar women by and large have really identified with Hillary. The problem is, they don't vote. So what you're seeing from Bill and Hillary today is a road show to go out there and to try to bring some of these women into the primary, to get them motivated behind Hillary.

KOCH: The other candidates aren't conceding the women's vote. John Edwards' wife urging greater advocacy for women's rights. Bill Richardson promising Supreme Court nominees who support abortion rights. Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and John McCain, all forming women's voter support groups.

So while Hillary's presence in the race has indeed heightened the focus on women voters, the candidates understand they don't vote as a block. Many of them are up for grabs and looking for a candidate who will make a real difference in their lives, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Kathleen Koch reporting on that story for us.

This reminder, tomorrow night, here on CNN, the former president Bill Clinton in a CNN primetime exclusive. He says he knows how to change the world. He and Larry, an exclusive interview on "LARRY KING LIVE," Bill Clinton on "LARRY KING LIVE" tomorrow night, 9:00 p.m. eastern.

"News Week" magazine reports a recent decrease in sectarian violence in Baghdad may be due to Shiites successfully driving Sunnis out of the capital. If this so called sectarian cleansing is real, what would it mean for Iraq's future? Jack Cafferty with your e-mail. Just ahead right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the Hot Shots coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press. Pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.

In Cabo san Lucas, a tourist braces behind a sign before the arrival of Hurricane Henriette on the pacific coast of Mexico.

In China, a worker checks Spiderman dolls assembled at a plastic factory before they're sent to store shelves.

In India, children dressed as Hindu gods peer into a decorated vase while celebrating a Hindu holiday.

And in Bulgaria, look at this, a man admires the work of French jets performing during a three-day air show.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots. Pictures often worth a thousand words.

Jack Cafferty is joining us once again from New York with the Cafferty File.


JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the question this hour is what does it mean for Iraq's future if the Shiites now dominate the capital of Baghdad, and they do according to "Newsweek" magazine. They've driven the Sunnis out, most of them.

Chris writes, "With the Shia control of Baghdad, it shows that Iran's influence is really dominant in the region. The U.S. has not done anything to create a balance in Iraq. Mission not accomplished."

Robert in Arizona writes, "Basically we have eliminated Sunni rule under Saddam and replaced it with Shia rule under Maliki and Al Sadr with strong support from the Shia led government in Tehran under Ahmadinejad. Our government should have seen the big picture before invading and known that changing the religious sect is not the answer."

Dale in Massachusetts, "It means as soon as we leave, the billions of dollars with of 'lost' weapons will be found and with help and guidance from Iran, used to slaughter the other two ethnic groups in the region. And that's just the beginning."

Jeff in Ohio, "The fact that the Shiites now dominate Baghdad underscores the point that the only long term solution in Iraq may well lie in the 'Three State Solution" proposed by Joe Biden and others whereby Iraq is divided into Sunni, Shia and Kurdish controlled territories. This plan would of course be hard to implement. There's no guarantee we could force the Iraqis to adopt it. However, in what is now a clear civil war, territories are being carved up. Ethnic cleansing is occurring and whether we like it or not, the country is fracturing along tribal lines."

Diane in New Hampshire, "The Shiites who now dominate Baghdad must be looking on in horror as we arm and pay off their enemy, the Sunnis, in Al Anbar province. We're literally funding the civil war that has led to ethnic cleansing in the capital city. If Americans are confused about our motivations, what must the Shiites be thinking."

Ron writes, "We ought to take the Sunni lead, get the hell out of there."

And Mary writes from Florida, "It means the country of Iran just got a lot bigger. Heck of a job, Bushie!"

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to We post more of them online, along with video clips of the Cafferty File.


BLITZER: Here's the question, Jack. Our viewers want to know when is the book, the important book, the book by Jack Cafferty "It's Getting Ugly Out There," when is it going to be available for our viewers? They're clamoring to go to their bookstores and actually buy a copy. We've been you can talking about it now for the last couple weeks.

CAFFERTY: Nice of you to ask. September 10th is the official launch date. But you can order it on the Internet websites now if you want it. They'll ship if it when at the get it I guess.

BLITZER: "It's Getting Ugly Out There, The Frauds, The Bunglers, The Liars, The Losers Who Are Hurting America." Thanks, Jack. We'll see you back here in an hour in THE SITUATION ROOM.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Let's go to "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT."

Lou is standing by in New York.