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The Situation Room

Deadly School Shooting; Interview With Jimmy Carter

Aired October 10, 2007 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, there's the breaking news we're following involving a high school shooting. With a gun in each hand, a teenager opens fire on students and teachers. There's new information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now on what sparked the bloody rampage.
The Bush administration warns Congress not to fit a genocide label on a key U.S. ally. Fears that a furious Turkey could cripple the U.S. war effort in neighboring Iraq.

And the former president, Jimmy Carter, who once sent U.S. troops into Iran on a hostage rescue mission, is now warning against any new attack against Iran, and he's on the attack against Rudy Giuliani.

Why is he calling the Republican presidential candidate, in his words, foolish?

My one-on-one interview with Jimmy Carter. That's coming up.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


But first, new details coming out right now about that high school shooting in Cleveland, Ohio. At least four people injured. The teenaged gunman now reported dead, apparently taking his own life.

Let's go straight to CNN's Carol Costello.

She is following this story for us -- what's the latest information, Carol, we're getting?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, I have a little bit more about the shooter, information about the shooter.

According to WOIO, our affiliate in Cleveland, he was a 14-year- old freshman. He was white. He was Goth, so to speak. He was wearing a Marilyn Manson T-shirt and he had his fingernails painted black. And as you said, Wolf, tonight he is dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.


COSTELLO (voice-over): It's all so agonizingly familiar -- frantic, frightened students calling their mothers and fathers, describing what should never happen anywhere. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All the kids were upset. They were screaming and yelling because they didn't know what was going on. But they did hear the shots and they didn't know what happened. All they know is that someone was in the school with a gun.

COSTELLO: Witnesses say it was a 14-year-old boy with a gun in each hand. He opened fire in a hallway, hitting five people -- two adults and three fellow students. That he was the shooter came as no surprise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he said if he would shoot up the school, he would let me and some other dude he knew go and all of that. But I didn't think he actually meant it. I thought he was kidding around.

QUESTION: And when did he say that to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like a month ago.

COSTELLO: Another student told local reporters the young shooter often came to school wearing a trench coat and an empty pistol holder around his leg. Today he was armed, and as the first shot rang out, a code blue -- a warning -- came over the school loudspeaker system. Some students knew what to do -- hiding under tables and locking classroom doors.

JOANNE DEMARCO, CONSERVATIVE TEACHERS UNION PRESIDENT: You know, schools are supposed to be safe places, safe places and, you know, please, not that Cleveland is immune to anything going on in the nation. But SuccessTech would have been the last place we would have thought of.

COSTELLO: SuccessTech is a small academy -- a rigorous technology high school, funded, in part, by the bill Gates foundation. Students have to apply to get in. Some parents say security has been an issue in the past because the school is overcrowded and there is no metal detector by the doors. Today some say that should change.


COSTELLO: You know, I'd say it's overcrowded. But it's a pretty small school, with only a couple of hundred students. The school is reviewing security. There will be no school tomorrow. But, Wolf, administrators will be back and they'll try to see what they could have done better.

BLITZER: Carol Costello, thanks very much.

She's watching the story.

When we get more information, we'll share it with you.

The Bush administration right now is in a tense standoff with Congress over a resolution that would pin the genocide label on Turkey for mass killings carried out during the First World War. The White House and military commanders are deeply worried about the impact on the current war in Iraq by what's happening in the House of Representatives right now.

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

He's watching this story -- why is the Pentagon, in particular, Jamie, so concerned?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's coming at a really bad time. Turkey sent warplanes and attack helicopters into Northern Iraq today to pound Kurdish rebel positions -- a possible prelude to an incursion. The U.S. is urging restraint on Turkey and at the same time the Bush administration is accusing Congress of making things worse.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The House will be in order.

MCINTYRE (voice-over): As if to underscore her defiance of the Bush administration, Speaker Nancy Pelosi gaveled the House to prayer by an Armenian chaplain.

CATHOLICOS KAREKIN II, ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC CHURCH: With a solemn burden of history, we remember the victims of the genocide of the Armenians.

MCINTYRE: That historical note has become a testy confrontation with the White House. At issue, a House resolution labeling the killings of hundreds of thousands of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I genocide.

President Bush used that word himself as a candidate back in 2000, but says now the timing couldn't be worse.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This resolution is not the right response to these historic mass killings and its passage would do great harm to our relations with a key ally in NATO.

MCINTYRE: The Pentagon argues the resolution would anger Turkey and hamper the war effort in Iraq. Seventy percent of air cargo, including armored MRAP vehicles, as well as 30 percent of fuel, fly by way of the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Access to air fields and to the roads and so on in Turkey would be very much put at risk if this resolution passes and the Turks react as strongly as we believe they will.

MCINTYRE: Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos framed the debate as a sobering choice between condemning genocide and supporting U.S. troops.

REP. BRAD SHERMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: We cannot provide genocide denial as one of the perks of friendship with the United States. REP. DAN BURTON (R), INDIANA: We're in the middle of two wars and we've troops over there that are at risk. And we're talking about kicking the one ally that's helping us over there in the face right now. It just doesn't make any sense to me.


MCINTYRE: And as the Turkish parliament considers authorizing an incursion into Northern Iraq, the U.S. fears that could simply open up a new front in what up to now had been one of the most stable regions in Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre, thanks very much.

We'll follow this story.

I want to go back to Cleveland. One of the victims of that horrific school shooting earlier today is speaking out.

Let's listen in.

DARNELL ROGERS, WOUNDED IN SCHOOL SHOOTING: I don't know, for sure. I'd have to see him to see if I really knew him. But I probably did know him, but...


QUESTION: Darnell, what are you feeling right now?

ROGERS: I'm like shocked, sad and scared. I'm like worried about my other classmates and the teachers.

QUESTION: Did you know any of the other victims?

ROGERS: Yes, I did. But I don't really want to talk about them.

QUESTION: Darnell, your dad told us...


QUESTION: Your dad told us that you were walking down the hall and then you heard screaming.

Can you describe for us the moment you knew something was wrong at school?

ROGERS: Well, I was walking up the stairway. Like a whole bunch of kids had come down the stairway and they were screaming. And they were saying, "Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God."

And I knew something was wrong, but I thought it was probably just a fight, so I just kept going or whatever.

QUESTION: Darnell, you're trying to, of course, come to terms with what happened here right now, I mean just the shock of it all. ROGERS: Yes. It's very shocking. And I wouldn't think this would happen so close to home, seeing that it happened at every other school or they say it's going to happen at every other school. I never thought it would personally happen at my school.


QUESTION: Was there ever a time when you were at school that you felt unsafe at the school?

ROGERS: SuccessTech is a very safe school. I went there all four years of my high school career.

I'm a senior there. It's a very safe school and a very family friendly environment. I never felt unsafe.


QUESTION: Darnell, your dad said...

QUESTION: Your father told me he'd like to take you out of the Cleveland school.

You'd like to stay there?

ROGERS: I mean I'm kind of unsure now. But, I mean, it could happen anywhere, whether you're in the suburbs or whether you're in urban schools. It could happen anywhere.


QUESTION: And your dad said that you called him from the ambulance.

What did you tell your dad when you called him from the ambulance?

ROGERS: I mean I just told him I got shot. And that's all I pretty much told him. And that I was going to be OK.

QUESTION: Darnell, what did it feel like having...


QUESTION: Did you think you'd be standing here just a few hours later?

QUESTION: does your elbow feel?

Are you feeling OK?

ROGERS: It's numb, that's all. And it's thinking of burning. That's all.

QUESTION: Darnell, are you mad, too?

I know there's got to be a range of emotions.

ROGERS: I mean, I'm sad and I want to know who the boy was. But other than that, I'm just sad and shocked and like worried about my other classmates and the teachers.

QUESTION: Are you wondering if you'll ever feel safe there again?

ROGERS: I mean, I know I'm going to feel safe there again, because, I mean, it's a good school and my principal, she's probably going to do whatever she can to like get us better security and make us feel safe. So I know I'm going to feel safe again.


QUESTION: Do you know, did he shoot right at you or do you think the bullet deflected off of something?

ROGERS: I think the bullet probably like deflected off of something, like he probably meant to hit somebody else, but it hit me.

QUESTION: Do you know the teachers who were shot?

ROGERS: Yes, I do, but I really don't want to talk about that. That's not my place.

QUESTION: Have you talked to any of your other classmates after the shooting?

ROGERS: They were worried about me, but I really didn't talk too them much about it.


QUESTION: When did you realize that you were actually shot?

ROGERS: It like took me like a couple of minutes to realize that I was actually shot. When I like felt my arm burning or whatever, that's when I realized that I had got shot.

QUESTION: Did everyone come running to your -- come running to you?

Tell me about that (INAUDIBLE).

ROGERS: When -- yes. When I was like in the classroom, my teachers, they all helped me. And when I got outside, like a whole bunch of my friends and my girlfriend and my little sister was trying to find me and help me.

QUESTION: Does this kind of give you a different perspective on things, Darnell?



BLITZER: All right, Darnell Rogers.

He was shot in the elbow. Fortunately, he's OK. He tells an emotional story of what happened at that Cleveland high school earlier today. A 14-year-old gunman shooting and injuring four individuals -- two students, two teachers. We'll stay on top of this story for you. Two of the individuals shot -- two adult men, 57 and 42 years old, and two teenage males, 17 and 14. The 14-year-old gunman apparently shot himself. That according to the mayor.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York with The Cafferty File.

These are horrific stories. Every time you hear what's going on out there, Jack, it sends a shiver down your spine.

CAFFERTY: Yes, it does. On the other hand, I don't know, realistically, what can be done about the occasional loose canon or grenade, you know, somebody that just snaps out there and goes haywire. It seems to be something that's probably not preventable in an open society.

Remember when President Bush said he couldn't think of any time he'd ever made a single mistake while he'd been president of the United States. He got a lot of grief over that, you'll recall.

Well, now it's House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's turn. "The Politico" reports that Pelosi dodged a question about her own mistakes during a luncheon with reporters. When she was asked whether she thought she made any mistakes during her first nine months as speaker, Pelosi answered that ending the war in Iraq was her biggest challenge, but "I won't call it a mistake."


A lot of Americans who want the war over might disagree with her.

When she was pressed more about whether she had made any mistakes, Pelosi dodged again; said her decisions weren't only hers, but rather a consensus among House Democrats.

In other words, she refused to admit ever having made a mistake herself. Considering the American people handed control of Congress to the Democrats in last year's midterm election specifically to put a stop to the war in Iraq, and Nancy Pelosi is the top Democrat in the House of Representatives, well, maybe that would be a starting point for her.

Here's the question -- Nancy Pelosi won't list any mistakes that she's made so far as speaker of the House.

Can you think of any?

E-mail us at or go to

These politicians are amazing.

They never admit anything, do they, Wolf? BLITZER: Uh, rarely.


BLITZER: Once in a while.

Jack, thanks very much.

Jimmy Carter taking sides in a Bush administration internal dispute.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, almost without knowing the subject, if somebody asks me do you agree with Condoleezza Rice or the vice president, I would just say automatically I agree with Condoleezza Rice.


BLITZER: The former president makes it clear where he stands and why. My one-on-one interview with Jimmy Carter. That's coming up, this hour.

Also, a shocking report on troubled teens facing abuse and worse from people hired to help them.

And look at this -- a noose is found on the office door of a prominent African-American professor. Fear and outrage in a prestigious university campus. We'll tell you what's going on.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Anger and fear are gripping the campus of Columbia University after a shocking, racially charged incident -- a noose, a noose found hung on the office door of a well known African-American professor.

Our senior national correspondent, Allan Chernoff, is live on the campus in New York -- scene of a protest rally just a little while ago.

This is a shocking story because we see these kinds of incidents now popping up all over the place.

What happened at Columbia?

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they've happened all over the place. But to happen here, I have to say, the students and the faculty were absolutely stunned. And they rallied right here in front of the school to express their shock and anger over the act of racism that did occur at the school. (BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Not here! Not anywhere!

CHERNOFF (voice-over): Not here! Not anywhere! Students and faculty of Columbia University responding to a shocking act of racism at Columbia's Teachers College -- a hangman's noose found on the office door of Professor Madonna Constantine Tuesday morning.

PROF. MADONNA G. CONSTANTINE, TEACHERS COLLEGE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Hanging a noose on my door wreaks of cowardice and fear on many, many levels.


CONSTANTINE: I would like the perpetrator to know I will not be silenced.

CHERNOFF: Constantine, a professor of psychology and education, is author of a book entitled, "Addressing Racism."

RICCO WRIGHT, TEACHERS COLLEGE STUDENT: And what we decided to do was to rally together as a community of not only people of color, but of all races, of all ethnicities, to show that this type of hate is intolerable.

CHERNOFF: Students and faculty say they were stunned to learn of the incident, which police are treating as a hate crime.

Perhaps in Jena, Louisiana, some said, but at Columbia University?

(on camera): What did you feel in your heart?

INGRIU CURNIFFE, TEACHERS COLLEGE STUDENT: Well, obviously, as an African-American young woman, anger was the first thing, because I can't believe that in 2007 something like this could actually happen at such a diverse institution.

CHERNOFF (voice-over): Security guards check for Columbia I.D.s at all entrances to the school, leading many to suspect the perpetrator may have been a member of the Columbia community -- a frightening prospect for some of the school's African-Americans.

VALERIE CAMILLE JONES, TEACHERS COLLEGE STUDENT: I personally felt scared for my own security because I was -- I was nervous on how -- what the next attack would be, if it would be an actual attack and not a noose.

CHERNOFF: The New York City Police Department says it has not yet identified any suspects, nor made any arrests.


CHERNOFF: Police detectives are aware that Professor Constantine has had a pretty serious dispute with one of her colleagues, a professor in her own department. That woman, who is not white, did not return CNN's calls or e-mails -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Allan Chernoff, thanks very much.

The Columbia University incident, by the way, follows the recent discovery of nooses in at least nine -- nine U.S. cities. They include New London, Connecticut, where nooses were found at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy -- one in a black cadet's sea bag; another in the office of a civil rights instructor.

On September 20th, two nooses were displayed in the back of a pickup truck in Alexandria, Louisiana on the same day thousands of people attended a rally in nearby Jena for a jailed African-American student.

And the following week, a noose was discovered hanging in the locker room of a Long Island, New York police station.

Troubled teenagers facing abuse, even death, at the hands of the people paid to help them. That's the picture government investigators are painting of some of the so-called boot camps that promise desperate parents they can turn their kids around.

Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow in New York.

She's watching this story -- what else are the investigators, Mary, saying about these boot camps?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, one investigator on Capitol Hill today says to hear the details, you'd think you would be learning about human rights abuses in a Third World country.

Now, the government's focus on these camps comes at the same time a separate case in Florida is getting a lot of attention.


SNOW (voice-over): This shocking video is key evidence in the boot camp death of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson. Seven guards and a nurse are on trial for manslaughter for not getting medical help for the teen soon enough. They testified they thought he was feigning illness.

While that Florida case has been getting a lot of public attention, the government has been investigating a number of other programs for troubled teens and says it's found thousands of cases of abuse -- some resulting in death. A government investigator told a House panel, kids endure disturbing practices.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being forced to lie in urine or feces. Being kicked, beaten and thrown to the ground and being forced to use a tooth brush to clean a toilet, and then forced to use that toothbrush on their teeth.

SNOW: Some of these boot camps bill themselves as wilderness programs and prey on parents desperate to help their kids. Paul Lewis sent his 14-year-old son, Ryan, to a wilderness program on the advice of therapists. While there, Ryan killed himself.

Lewis says he was first told there was no warning signs beforehand. But a police officer later revealed the truth.

PAUL LEWIS, FATHER OF RYAN LEWIS: He told us that the night before Ryan died, he had slashed his arm four times with a pocket knife issued to him by the program. He told them, "Take this away from me before I hurt myself any more."

SNOW: The problem is there is no central oversight of these programs. But one group that is most closely tied to these kinds of boot camps is on the defense.

JAN MOSS, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF THERAPEUTIC SCHOOLS: They are not certified by our organization. We are not an accrediting agency. We're not a licensing agency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What in the hell do you do?

SNOW: The National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs describes itself as a trade organization and is asking for regulations.

MOSS: We are a young organization learning as we're going. We have made mistakes in the past. We recognize that.


SNOW: Now, lawmakers are looking into the possibility of imposing federal regulations on these kinds of camps, trying to prevent questionable camps from closing down in one state only to open in another -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow watching this story.

Mary, thanks very much.

Coming up, my one-on-one interview with the former president, Jimmy Carter. You'll want to hear what he has to say.

Also, she says that she contributed to it, but has now learned her lesson. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton talking about partisanship.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Want to update you on that story we're following in the House of Representatives -- a resolution that would condemn Turkey for genocide against Armenians during World War I.

Jamie McIntyre is at the Pentagon, where they're watching this very closely given the ramifications of what's going on.

So what just happened -- Jamie?

MCINTYRE: Well, Wolf, despite that strong opposition from the White House and the Pentagon and some Republicans in Congress, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in fact, passed that resolution labeling as genocide the mass killing of Armenians in Turkey 90 years ago. That flies in the face of what the president wanted. The vote was 27-21 in committee. It will now go to the full House.

And, again, the Bush administration says if this passes, it's just going to be a slap in the face to Turkey at a time when the U.S. is trying to improve relations and exercise some influence on Turkey to prevent it from going across the border to Northern Iraq.

BLITZER: Very serious potential fallout from this resolution going through the House.

All right, thanks very much.

Jamie McIntyre reporting it's passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It will go to the House floor. We'll watch it.

Meanwhile, a former president of the United States pulling no punches when it comes to a current candidate.


CARTER: He's foolish. I hope that he doesn't become president.


BLITZER: What does Jimmy Carter have against Rudy Giuliani?

My interview with Jimmy Carter. That's coming up.

Also, we're going to go behind-the-scenes and take a closer look at the Bush administration and how it deals with the news media.

Stay with us.



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

Happening now, the first lady, Laura Bush, has a warning for the generals in charge of Myanmar, which used to be known as Burma, that their last shred of legitimacy has vanished. In a rare op-ed column in today's " Wall Street Journal," the first lady tells the military leadership the time for a free Burma is now.

Thirty-two thousand members of the United Autoworkers Union are now on strike against Chrysler. But just a little while ago, the union announced that it has ratified a new agreement with General Motors. G.M. was the target of a two day strike last month.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


As president Jimmy Carter had his personal showdown with Iran, Americans were held hostage on his watch for 444 days. And he sent in troops to try to rescue them. That did not work out.

How should the United States be handling Iran these days?

And what does he think about Rudy Giuliani, and why does he say Giuliani is being, in his word, foolish?

Here's more of my one-on-one interview with Jimmy Carter.


BLITZER: Let's talk about a sensitive subject on the agenda right now, Iran. And I want to play for you a question that was put to -- put to -- by one of our viewers to us in this CNN I-Report.

Turn around and you'll hear the question directly.

CARTER: All right.



I wanted to know what you think of the build-up to war that's being obviously advocated by the vice president and the president, the current administration, and what you think our best actions would be in regards to Iran.

Thank you very much.


CARTER: Well, I basically agree with Condoleezza Rice, who has taken issue with the vice president -- with Vice President Cheney, on whether we should promulgate the possibility of war against Iran.

I have noticed that even some of the administration officials or spokesmen for them have even advocated using nuclear weapons against Iran. I think it would be a horrible mistake to attack Iran militarily.

How would we invade Iran when we don't even have enough troops to give them leave to go home to their families from Iraq? We are short on...

BLITZER: Well, some of these so-called experts say you could do it with air power alone, cruise missiles, bombers, you go in their and destroy their so-called nuclear facilities. CARTER: I know some experts say that. I don't agree with that. And what we should do about Iran -- first of all, do not attack Iran. Secondly, what to do? I think two things to be very brief, we don't have much time. One is to start talking to Iran, communicate with Iran.

After the Shah was overthrown and the Ayatollah Khomeini took over, we continued our diplomatic relations with Iran. I had, as you know, about 75 people in Tehran, some of whom were taken prisoner. And the Iranians had about 75 of their representatives in Washington. So talk to them and communicate with them.

Secondly, use strong diplomatic means to make sure they don't go ahead with a nuclear program. And I think that -- and to quit threatening to attack them, because that just increases their fervor in developing all kinds of protective devices...

BLITZER: You will...


CARTER: ... maybe a nuclear weapon.

BLITZER: You will be surprised that Rudy Giuliani, the Republican presidential candidate, disagrees with you about this. And I'm going to play a little clip of what he says, listen to this.

CARTER: I could almost write it for him, because I know the extreme cases that he has made.

BLITZER: All right. Listen to this.


RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Iran is a greater danger than Iraq. Iraq should not be seen in a vacuum. And we have to be willing to use a military option to stop Iran from becoming nuclear.


BLITZER: All right. What do you say to Giuliani?

CARTER: He is foolish. I hope that he doesn't become president and tries to impose on the American people a conviction that we need to go to war with Iran when we are still at war with Iraq.

BLITZER: But do you believe that Iran is working on a nuclear bomb?

CARTER: I don't know. I think if they are, some people surmise that they are, they are -- several years in the future. And I think we can best deter that by diplomatic relations with them and consultations with them and stop threatening that we are going to attack them so they won't think that they have to respond with all kinds of devices. BLITZER: You know, you have been criticized for your handling of Iran when the Shah was in power, you know, in the late...

CARTER: I have heard about that.

BLITZER: In the late '70s. Looking back all of these years, knowing what has happened, what, if anything, would you have done differently?

CARTER: I would have had one more helicopter in our rescue mission, which would have brought all of the hostages out safe and free. And so I had to wait from April, around until five minutes after I was no longer president when all of the hostages did come home safe and free.

BLITZER: Because the argument is, as bad as the Shah was on human rights and other issues, he was an ally of the U.S. and probably better than the current regime and that the U.S. should have stuck with him.

CARTER: Well, we couldn't stick with him, he was not overthrown by anything the United States did, he was overthrown by his own people. And as I said earlier, after they did overthrow the Shah, we took care of the Shah as best we could and we also continued our conversations with -- our diplomatic relations with the new regime.

BLITZER: The Senate passed a resolution the other day sponsor -- co-sponsored by Senator Lieberman and Senator Kyl saying this: "It is the sense of the Senate that the United States should designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization."

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner, she voted for that resolution that passed 76 to 22. Was that a good vote on her part?

CARTER: She has the complete freedom to vote the way she chooses. Had I been in the Senate, I would not have voted for it because an earlier version of that, which I read, said that this also involved direct military action against Iran.

So in effect, that vote was giving the administration the imprimatur of Congress to go to war against Iran, the same thing that she voted for earlier...

BLITZER: Because some of her critics said...


CARTER: ... to go into Iraq.

BLITZER: ... that she would indirectly give authorization to the president if he wanted to go to war against Iran by this kind of vote. Her critics, some Democrats and Republicans.

CARTER: But I'm not criticizing her. I'm just telling you the way I would have voted had I been there, because I think that a vote for that resolution about Iran opens up the possibility of the administration saying in the future we have got authority from the Congress -- from the Senate to go to war.

BLITZER: The Israelis bombed some sort of facility Syria, as you know, in September. And there are now suggestions, including in The New York Times, that there is a dispute between the vice president, Dick Cheney, the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, on what it entails and whether the U.S. should have authorized or gone along with this in The Times today.

It says this: "It has long been known that North Korean scientists have aided Damascus in developing sophisticated ballistic missile technology. And there appears to be little debate that North Koreans frequently visited a site in the Syrian desert that Israeli jets attacked September 6th. Where officials disagree is whether the accumulated evidence points to a Syrian nuclear program that poses a significant threat to the Middle East."

What do you make of what -- you are an expert on the Middle East, what do you make of this attack, the U.S. response, what should the U.S. response have been, and this dispute, apparently, that has developed between Secretary Rice and Vice President Cheney?

CARTER: Well, almost without knowing the subject, if somebody asked me, do you agree with Condoleezza Rice or the vice president? I would just say automatically, I agree with Condoleezza Rice not even knowing what the subject is.

But in this case I don't really know, I don't any access to any sort of intelligence briefing or the facts. My guess is though that the site did not involve nuclear capabilities, but it might very well have involved long-term -- long-range missiles, because the North Koreans, even though it is a destitute financial country, is superb in technology development with the limited capabilities they have.

I'm thoroughly familiar with that. And so my guess is that they were helping Syria develop some kind of missile technology.

BLITZER: And do you have a problem with the Israelis using F-16s or other U.S.-made hardware in this kind of a strike?

CARTER: Well, that is a judgment for the Israelis to make. And I understand not only has the United States and Israel stayed mute, but also Syria has remained mute about it. So I don't know enough about the subject to comment, Wolf.

BLITZER: In the new afterward to your other bestseller, "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid," you write this. You write: "America must not be seen in the pocket of either side. We cannot be peacemakers if American government leaders are seen as knee-jerk supporters of every action or policy of whatever Israeli government happens to be in power at the moment. That is the essential fact that must be faced."

CARTER: That is certainly true. BLITZER: You caused a big stir in the last book, as you well know. Any second thoughts?

CARTER: No. Not at all. And I think that finally, after seven years of no effort to bring peace to the Middle East. The administration has now taken a very bold step, and I hope a very successful step next month by convening talks in the United States between Israel and the Palestinians for the first time with any substance involved.

This will be a very good step in the right direction, which I pray will be successful. But we can't just say we adopt all of the policies of the Israeli government, now the Palestinians can come in if they want to as a second-class citizen and hope to be successful.

BLITZER: Let's talk about another quote from your new book, "Beyond the White House," page 74: "One of our nation's ill-advised and counterproductive policies is the prohibition against Americans visiting Cuba and the punitive embargo against our 11 million neighbors who live under the communist regime of Fidel Castro."

Now you met with Fidel Castro. He is obviously very sick right now. What do you want, just a complete lifting of all of those restrictions?

CARTER: Yes, certainly. That is what I did within six weeks after I became president. I lifted all restraints on travel to Cuba and started to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba. In fact, we established interest sections, as you know, one in Havana, one in Washington, that are still there after all of these administrations, they see the value of it.

I think what we do with our embargo and punishment of the Cuban people is to turn them against us and it makes Castro into an unjustifiably claimed hero because he blames all of his problems, most of which he causes himself, on the United States over to the north, because we are punishing the Cuban people.

So I think the best thing to do is to open up all travel and commerce and communications between the United States and Cuba. Let the Cuban people see what freedom and democracy is.

BLITZER: Let's wind up this interview with another question from a viewer that was sent in on our I-Report. Turn around and you will hear the question.

CARTER: OK, fine.


VICTOR MAI: Hello. My name is Victor Mai. And I'm a student here in Tempe, Arizona. This question is for former President Jimmy Carter. What advice would you give to the future 44th president of the United States involving the economy, the future of Iraq, and the rising cost of tuition for college students like me?


BLITZER: Why don't we focus in on the rising cost of tuition for a college student like him. We've already spoken about Iraq.

The economy -- if you want to talk about that, you can.

CARTER: I've got 11 grandchildren, so I'm deeply involved in college tuition. I hope we can hold down college tuition and be quite constructive on student loans. But I think that the new president of the United States, that I pray will be a Democrat in 2009, will make a speech that I think in 20 minutes can totally transform the attitude of the rest of the world toward America, just by saying, When I'm president, we will never again resort to torture. When I'm president, we will honor all international agreements, which have been consummated by my predecessors, concerning the control of nuclear weapons.

When I'm president, I'm going to join and be the leader of the rest of the world in protecting the quality of our environment. And now that I'm president -- she's already -- if he or she has already taken office -- to say, I want our country to raise high the banner of human rights. And we will once again be the leaders of these things.

I think in those few moments, which might only take ten minutes of a(n) inaugural speech, we can completely transform the negative image that the United States now has around the world, into a positive image.

BLITZER: The book is entitled, "Beyond the White House: Waging Peace, Fighting Disease, Building Hope." The author is Jimmy Carter.

Mr. President, thanks for coming in.

CARTER: I've enjoyed it, Wolf. Thank you very much.

BLITZER: We called the Giuliani campaign, by the way, for response to our interview, what Jimmy Carter had to say. So far they have not commented. Once they do, we'll share it with you.

This additional programming note. Tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM Senator Obama will be among our guests, my interview with Senator Obama tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Hillary Clinton, is she too polarizing? She said she learned some lessons about partisanship over the years.

And the big three reality shows. A new book takes a critical look at the behind-the-scenes intrigue at the big three TV networks.

We'll tell you what's going on. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our senior political analyst Gloria Borger to talk a little bit about Jimmy Carter. He is getting pretty tough. He's unleashed, I think it's fair to say. GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know it's for me to think of a former president who has been this partisan and you'd have it say looking at your interview calling Rudy Giuliani partisan really taking on Dick Cheney.

BLITZER: Foolish, too.

BORGER: Foolish, yes. It's very strong language for a former president.

BLITZER: Because even without knowing what the issue is, if it was a debate between the Vice President Dick Cheney or Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, he would sign with Condoleezza Rice without even knowing the issue.

BORGER: Right. You know of course, this is good for republicans. It is good for Rudy Giuliani for him to take on ...

BLITZER: Because it helps with the republican base.

BORGER: Exactly. And it stirs up the democratic base, as well. Because Jimmy Carter has been anti-war all along and he's very popular with the democratic base.

BLITZER: Now, Hillary Clinton on this issue of polarization. I want to talk a little bit about that. She said she's learned over the years from the whole partisanship thing.

BORGER: Yes. She gave an interview it the "Washington Post" today in which she essentially said summing that she's both felt it and she's dealt it. Therefore, this qualifies her to be somebody who can unite the country. She really understands, Wolf, that this is her big problem with the electorate. People really want a president now that can unite the country, not divide the country. We've heard that before. And she knows looking at the polls that is really her Achilles' heel. So she's going to start making this argument now that because she's been on both sides, she really knows how it work with people of both parties. It's unclear whether voters who already don't like her and believe she's polarizing will actually believe her.

BLITZER: Gloria, thanks for coming in.


BLITZER: And when we come back, we're going to continue our news but first, Lou Dobbs standing by to tell us what is coming up at the top of the hour.


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Wolf. Tonight we're reporting on a showdown in the Supreme Court over the fate of a criminal illegal alien on death row who brutally murdered two teenagers in the state of Texas. The Supreme Court hearing could determine the outcome of a fight over state's rights and the jurisdiction of international courts in the United States. Two leading congressmen from Texas join us. And outrage after a judge in California blocks a federal government initiative to penalize employers who hire illegal aliens. There may be a conspiracy here, we'll explore that possibility in our special report.

And a new battle in the war on middle class. Union members at Chrysler on strike for the first time in two decades over wages, job security and health benefits. What will be the outcome as it appears they are about to reach agreement.

We'll have the very latest for you and what will it mean for workers throughout the United States?

All of that and much more, all the day's news at the top of the hour. Please join us.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks, Lou. We'll see you in a few moments.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we'll have an inside look at what is being described as the last great TV news war and the constantly shifting dynamic between the White House and the news media.

Also, Nancy Pelosi won't list any mistakes she made as the house speaker. Jack Cafferty wants to know if you can think of any.

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


BLITZER: If you watch THE SITUATION ROOM, as obviously you do, you're probably very interested in the shifting dynamic unfolding right now between the White House and the news media. Now there is a new book and it's offering a true inside look. It's called "Reality Show," and the author of the book is the host of CNN's "Reliable Sources," Howard Kurtz. He's going to be joining us shortly.

But let's go to Carol Costello, first, for some background.

Give us a sense, Carol, what is in this hot, new book?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, a lot of juicy, behind the scene stuff. If you ever wonder how much power TV anchors have and how they use it, you'll want to read this book.


COSTELLO: The White House, 2006, the president holds a private briefing for major network anchors, just hours before the state of the union address.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: The United States will not retreat from the world and we will never surrender to evil. COSTELLO: In private with the anchors, President Bush is even more forceful about pursuing the war on terrorism. "We're not backing away, we're going after the bastards."

CBS anchor Bob Schieffer asks, "Mr. President, do we really have a military option on Iran that's viable?" The president responds, "Hell yes, it's viable." This according to a new book about broadcast news by Howard Kurtz, host of "Reliable Sources" on CNN. It gives a behind-the-scene glimpse at national newsroom and how the White House deals with the media.

For example, the competition by star reporters to secure an interview with the president, "Whether Bush personally liked an anchor was a key factor in how much access he or she would receive." That according to a former White House communications director, who says Brian Williams of NBC is the president's favorite.

But when Katie Couric was scheduled for an interview a year ago, her first ever in five years, Bush gave his long-time aide some grief, but went along with the decision. Kurtz says Couric's predecessor at CBS Dan Rather was persona non grata from day one even before his report questioning the president's service in the Texas National Guard. The network retracted the story and Rather lost his job. Kurtz reports inside CBS the debate grew so intense over whether to air the story, Rather at one point threatened, "I'm going to give one of the documents to the "New York Times" to run in Wednesday's paper." Rather has since filed a lawsuit with CBS over the issue. He says his bosses at CBS caved under political pressure.

DAN RATHER, FORMER ANCHOR, CBS NEWS: Big government and big corporations have far too much influence and are intimidating, especially investigative reporting.


COSTELLO: Now, we called everyone we mentioned in my story. We heard back from Dan Rather's attorney who said, "We have not read the book. However, Howard Kurtz's coverage of the Rather lawsuit has been anything but reliable. On that basis, anything that comes from Howard Kurtz is highly suspect."

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Carol, thanks very much.

The author of the new book "Reality Show Inside The Last Great Television News Wars" is Howard Kurtz. He's also the host of CNN's "Reliable Sources" and the "Washington Post." Howie, first of all, congratulations on writing this book.


BLITZER: What is the most important thing that you learned? You know this story about as well as anyone. In all your reporting, what nugget did you come out with that you simply didn't know before that startled you? KURTZ: Well, I was surprised Wolf the degree to which there was pressure from the administration on the networks and their anchors over coverage of the Iraq war. I mean we knew they weren't happy, administration officials, about what they described as very negative coverage. But during 2005 and 2006, whether it was Dan Bartlett then the White House counselor constantly complaining to NBc's Tim Russert or the president himself trying to give his spin to the anchors at these off-the-record White House meetings. The White House made very clear it was not happy with the direction of the newscast coverage of Iraq, which I believe because of their much bigger audiences played a key role in turning public opinion against the war during that crucial period of time.

BLITZER: What else don't we know abut this relationship between the White House and broadcast news anchors and their associates?

KURTZ: Well, for example, every time the president decides to grant an interview, he huddles with his advisers whether it's Katie Couric, Charlie Gibson, Brian Williams; do I want to do this; what am I going to say; what is the headline going to be?

But also the networks, after a while, began to internalize the criticism and say well maybe we're not doing enough good news from Iraq. So for example, CBS executives asked chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan to consider doing a story about female soldiers who were keeping cyber pets online. Well, Logan who prefers being with the troops out on the front line sent an e-mail back saying I would rather stick needles in my eyes than spend one second of my time on that story.

Also, the White House was concerned about NBC's somewhat overblown insistence last year that the Iraq war would be referred to in the future as a civil war, which of course was a designation the administration wanted very much to avoid.

BLITZER: What kind of pressure do they put on these anchors to try to get the story the way they want it? What are the carrots and the sticks?

KURTZ: Well, I suppose the ultimate stick, you might say, is lack of access to the president. For example, Katie Couric very much displeased the Bush White House when she was at "The Today Show" and pressed Laura Bush on her views of abortion just before the president took over. For five years Katie Couric was frozen out, no White House and the president would not give her an interview. Only when she went to CBS did they relent under advice from Dan Bartlett and say, well, I guess we have to do business with her.

But even below that level, look I mean they decide who goes on the Sunday shows and the administration has ways of expressing its unhappiness. I must say I think the anchors you know push back hard, were relentless in trying to paint an accurate picture of what was going on in Iraq to the point that the administration now acknowledges. It did not at the time that the war was not going well then and that's why they had to change the strategy. BLITZER: And gearing up towards the presidential campaign, the election next year, what do you see happening? How will this play out?

KURTZ: Well, here's a fascinating tidbit from "Reality Show," Wolf. When Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy, a day later she went to all the network newscasts. She did interviews with Charlie Gibson, with Brian Williams, with Katie Couric, that's how important her campaign thought these broadcast networks are. But Charlie Gibson pushed back hard. He did not like being told that you can only do a 3 1/2 minute interview and it had to be taped. He felt that even the president didn't get to set those kind of conditions. They finally compromised on a live interview.

BLITZER: It gives us the inside story, inside the last great television news war. The book is entitled "Reality Show." The author is Howard Kurtz. Good work, Howie. Thanks for coming in.

KURTZ: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: The house speaker Nancy Pelosi won't say if she made any mistakes. Jack Cafferty and his fans, they have some suggestions. You're going to hear them 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 hometown newspapers tomorrow.

In Berlin, the German soccer team goal keeper stretches during a team training session, the team facing Ireland Saturday.

In Bahrain, a cannon blasts at the sunset to signal the end of the Muslim day of fasting. The Islamic holy month of Ramadan ends this week.

At the Vatican, Pope Benedict accepts a flower made of balloons from a visitor.

And in Washington, a 4-year-old gets a face full of leaves from his brother in a park.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots, pictures worth 1,000 words.

Let's get right to Jack Cafferty in New York for the Cafferty File.


JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Nancy Pelosi won't list any mistakes she's made so far as speaker of the house, so we asked our viewers, can you think of any?

Dave in Brooklyn writes, "I can think of only one mistake she made since November. The abdication of all responsibility to the voters who elected the democratic majority and gave them their mandate. She's gone out of her way to acquiesce to every whim of the Bush disaster."

Vince in Carson City, Nevada, "Pelosi's biggest mistake not initiating impeachment proceedings immediately after her hands slipped off the bible at her swearing in ceremony."

Jenny in Pennsylvania, "She's not perfect, that's for sure. But I'm not ready to hand the house back to the GOP. Miss Pelosi doesn't wield power arrogantly and cynically as Hastert and the republicans did. And for that she deserves more time to prove herself."

Mike in New York, "She has made a huge mistake. She could have ended the war by simply not allow any of the supplemental funding bills for Iraq to come to the floor for a vote. It's the Congress' power of the purse. If she had the political guts and really wanted to end the conflict, she simply never would not have allowed any of these funding bills to continue getting passed. She had and has the power in her hand to stop this war and she never has."

Rich in Salt Lake City, "I think the real error is on the part of the American people. Republicans were screwing things up for years and we expect the democrats to clean it all up in a couple months. Maybe Pelosi's mistake was not admitting the real world timeline for such major change, especially with the impatient and unrealistic American public looking over her shoulder."

And Phil in Lexington, South Carolina, "So, Nancy, mistakes are off the table, are they?

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


BLITZER: They're under a lot of pressure these democrats, Nancy Pelosi included, to try to do something about the war in Iraq, but they're finding their options limited.

CAFFERTY: Well, one of the options they have is the power to appropriate money and they decide which bills get voted on the floor and she is the speaker of the house, determines which bills get called up for vote. So you can do the math yourself.

BLITZER: Jack, see you back here in an hour. Don't forget, tomorrow Senator Barack Obama here in THE SITUATION ROOM. In the meantime, that's it for me.

Let's go to Lou in New York.