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The Situation Room
Train Derailment in Washington D.C.; Giuliani's Ex-Top Cop Charged; Record Anger at Congress
Aired November 09, 2007 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, an indictment and an embarrassment to Rudy Giuliani. His ex-top cop in New York now charged formally with corruption.
This hour, the case against Bernard Kerik and the consequences for Rudy Giuliani.
Plus, anger at Congress reaching a new boiling point. And Hillary Clinton may be linked to one of the reasons why.
We'll tell you what's going on.
And Democrats mine new territory out West. They're hoping their convention in Colorado will help them grab election gold and the White House.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
All that coming up, but we begin with some breaking news we're following right here in Washington, a train derailment only blocks away from where we are right now. Some freight cars are now in the water after plunging into a river.
Carol Costello is monitoring this late development.
What is going on, Carol?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll give you what I know right now.
It is a CSX train, Wolf, and I believe that the cars were carrying coal. I also believe -- according to the D.C. Fire Department, they tell me seven cars are now in the Anacostia River. So this train derailed from a bridge over the Anacostia River in southeast Washington.
Now, there are some suspicions that bridge collapsed, but we don't know that for sure. We're still checking out that information, but those seven cars are in the water right now. And you can imagine the mess they are making.
Hazardous materials teams are on the scene right now, as are fire crews. We believe at this point there are no injuries, but of course we also have crews on the way.
When they get there and they send information back, of course I'll pass it along to you.
Back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks. Stay on top of this. As soon as we get more information, Carol, we'll bring it to our viewers.
Other news we're following.
They stood together for years, New York's law and order mayor and his police commissioner. Now as a presidential candidate, Rudy Giuliani may need all the distance he can get from Bernard Kerik.
Kerik pleaded not guilty today to a federal grand jury indictment on 16 counts of corruption, including charges of conspiracy and tax fraud. Kerik says he'll overcome this challenge, but will Giuliani?
What is the political fallout from all of this?
Let's begin our coverage with our Mary Snow. She's over at the courthouse in White Plains, new York, right outside of New York City.
All right. First of all, what is Kerik saying today, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Kerik is saying he's going to fight these charges. You know, prosecutors outlined a long list of charges against Bernard Kerik that one FBI official called repugnant.
Now, Kerik's lawyer says he's been wrongly charged.
SNOW (voice over): Once New York's top cop, former police commissioner Bernard Kerik is now under federal indictment for corruption charges. Following his arraignment, he left the court and took no questions, but vowed to fight the charges against him.
BERNARD KERIK, FMR. NEW YORK POLICE COMMISSIONER: My life has been marked by challenge. Whether it was growing up, being a cop, Rikers Island, the New York City Police department was the worst challenge until this time, my challenge during and after 9/11. This is a battle I'm going to fight.
SNOW: Inside a federal courtroom Kerik pleaded not guilty to 16 counts on charges of conspiracy, tax fraud, and making false statements. Prosecutors allege Kerik accepted more than $250,000 in renovations at his apartment from a company seeking to do business with the city. They allege Kerik never claimed the gifts and was a city official at the time.
MICHAEL GARCIA, U.S. ATTORNEY: It's a sad day when this office returns an indictment against a former law enforcement officer, particularly one who served in positions as high as those held by Bernard Kerik. But we will not hesitate to pursue any public official who violates his oath and betrays the public trust, as Mr. Kerik is alleged to have done. SNOW: Among the charges, prosecutors claim Kerik lied to the White House and other federal officials when he was being vetted for the post of homeland security secretary in 2004, a nomination supported by Rudy Giuliani. Kerik withdrew his nomination citing issues with a nanny. Giuliani now calls his then endorsement of Kerik a mistake.
RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In that particular case I pointed out that I made a mistake. I made a mistake in not clearing him effectively enough. I take the responsibility for that.
SNOW: As Giuliani seeks the Republican presidential nomination, his one-time friend faces trial, marking a dramatic fall from grace. Kerik rose from the detective ranks and went on to become both corrections and police commissioners under Giuliani.
SNOW: Of course, Giuliani and Kerik thrown into the national spotlight after 9/11. Kerik went on to work at Giuliani's private firm until his failed homeland security nomination and his legal problems began -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What's next for Kerik, Mary?
SNOW: Well, today he was released on $500,000 bail. He used his home as a security, and now really the motion is under way to start a trial on the prosecutor's efforts. They have a hearing January 16th. Of course, Kerik's lawyer says that he's going to file motions to drop some of these charges.
BLITZER: Mary Snow, thanks very much.
If convicted on all 16 corruption counts, Bernard Kerik would face a maximum 142 years in prison and $4.7 million in fines. Kerik already has a record. He pleaded guilty last year to a state misdemeanor charge of accepting tens of thousands of dollars of gifts while serving as New York's corrections commissioner. Under a plea deal, he avoided jail time, but he did pay $221,000 in fines.
At least one of Rudy Giuliani's rivals already is trying to use his connection to Kerik against him. John McCain says Giuliani's relationship with Kerik is reason to question the former mayor's judgment.
McCain did not directly point to the charges against Kerik. Instead, he accused the failed nominee for homeland security secretary of doing an irresponsible job training police officers in Iraq.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I went to Iraq not long after the initial victory and visited with Bremer, General Sanchez, and Kerik was there at the time. Supposedly his mission was to help train Iraqi police.
He stayed a couple months, got up and left. That should have been part of anybody's judgment before they would recommend that individual to be head of the Department of Homeland Security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's bring in our chief national correspondent, John King. He's been doing a lot of reporting on this.
Are McCain's comments, John, a sign that the Republican rivals to Giuliani are going to try to use this issue to beat him?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's certainly a sign, Wolf, they're going to test this issue and see whether it is effective against him.
McCain there not just criticizing Kerik's work in Iraq, saying if you knew what he did in Iraq, why would you recommend him to be head of the Department of Homeland Security? Essentially saying Rudy Giuliani should have known his friend was doing a lousy job in Iraq. Why did he recommend him?
There's a question here of judgment. Voters are pretty forgiving. Giuliani says in this one case he made a mistake, but will his rivals now go after the judgment issue?
Private they raise things like his support of Kerik. They say he should have known even back when he was mayor Kerik had some ethical issues. And they also say he's had other judgment lapses.
This is a man who lives in the aura of his 9/11 leadership. They say here's a question of judgment, why did he put his command and control center, emergency response center, in the World Trade Center building after it had already been attacked by terrorists once? They say that's another question of judgment.
Will they do it publicly? Will they do it on a sustained basis? That is the question there.
BLITZER: Is it likely the criticism of Giuliani, when all the dust settles on this Bernard Kerik issue, is going to resonate?
KING: It partly depends how he handles it. It probably depends how the case plays out from here and the timing of how the case plays out from here.
Will it be in the middle of the Republican primaries? Will it be embarrassing for Giuliani?
Again, voters tend to be forgiving, but if you can use this to puncture the aura of leadership of Rudy Giuliani, don't make it just about Bernie Kerik, say you guys think -- voters think this guy did a fabulous job after 9/11, well, guess what? He's made a bunch of critically bad judgments, then you try to get at it. The question is will they try to do that? Because he has such a solid reputation on that issue, it's a tough fortress to crack, if you will.
BLITZER: Thanks, John, very much.
John King doing some reporting for us.
From corruption to taxes to the war in Iraq, there's a lot of fuel for anger at the U.S. Congress, and for the feeling that the government is simply broken. Right now we have new evidence that outrage on this issue is rising once again.
Tom Foreman is joining us with our brand-new poll numbers.
Tom, public opinion of Congress just keeps getting worse.
What's the latest?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wow. The latest is just going lower and lower. I think I figured out why people have so many Congress members in Washington, because it's pretty clear the rest of the country doesn't want then.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The House will be in order.
FOREMAN (voice over): Fifty-three percent of those we questioned in our new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll say that most members of Congress do not deserve to be reelected. That is the highest number since the question was first asked 16 years ago, and here's why.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Today the American people voted for change.
FOREMAN: But Democrats have not been able to deliver much change.
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Important to know that the minimum wage is going to go up.
FOREMAN: Other than some big-ticket items like raising the minimum wage and ethics and lobbying reform, Democrats have not be able to turn their agenda into law.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Congress is not getting its work done.
FOREMAN: From Iraq to domestic programs, Democrats face White House vetoes and little support from Republicans on Capitol Hill.
PELOSI: I know that Congress has low approval ratings. I don't approve of Congress because we haven't done anything... FOREMAN: With the next battle for control of Congress starting to heat up, you would think our poll would be bad news for Democrats and good for Republicans, but when we asked your choice for Congress, 53 percent still said Democrat, and 42 percent said Republican.
KEATING HOLLAND, CNN POLLING DIRECTOR: Politics is a zero-sum game. Anything that hurts one side helps the other. And for now, it looks like Americans are angrier at the Republicans than at the Democrats.
FOREMAN: Here's a rule of politics. Americans always rate their own representative higher than Congress as a whole, but even there, almost four in 10 people we polled want to throw out their own lawmaker.
And that, Wolf, is big news. And that's an all-time record, too.
BLITZER: We're going to be discussing a lot more on this later.
Thanks very much, Tom Foreman.
And this note to our viewers. You can join Tom for "THIS WEEK AT WAR." That airs Saturday nights 7:00 p.m. Eastern, replays Sunday afternoons, 1:00 p.m. Eastern, right after "LATE EDITION."
Jack Cafferty has got the day off. He and "The Cafferty File" will be back on Monday.
Coming up, with all that anger at Congress, could Hillary Clinton be making matters worse? She's beating out other potential hopefuls for what a lot of people consider to be a notorious honor.
Also coming up, your tax bill. We're going to tell you what House Democrats are now trying to do to help middle class Americans escape from a creeping, creeping tax.
And coming up next, the new call to give modern-day GIs the kind of benefits handed to World War II veterans. Senator Jim Webb tells us why he thinks Washington has missed the boat.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: While Congress remains at odds over how and when to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, there is growing concern about what will happen to military men and women once they return home and hang up their uniforms.
BLITZER: And joining us now from Capitol Hill, the Democratic senator Jim Webb of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Senator Webb, thanks for coming in.
SEN. JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA: Good to be with you.
BLITZER: Sunday is Veterans Day, and a study came out only yesterday. It's a national disgrace -- 25 percent of America's homeless people are veterans of the U.S. military.
How is that possible in this great country of ours?
WEBB: Well, some veterans have difficulties transitioning, but the most important thing that I see is that we need at this point in our history to show affirmatively that we respect veterans' service. On the one hand, we have people saying over and over again this is the new -- greatest generation. And on the other -- and this an issue that I care a lot about -- we haven't been treating them when they leave the military in the same way we did people who came back from World War II.
I introduced a bill my first day in office to give the post-9/11 veterans, the people who had gone to Iraq and Afghanistan, the same type of benefits that the World War II veterans gone. When they came back from World War II, they got all their tuition paid for, they got their books bought, they got a monthly stipend, and it was a measurable sign from the country that they respected.
BLITZER: And it was an enormous bonanza for the veterans coming home from World War II, as you and Senator Chuck Hagel and other veterans document in "The New York Times" today.
What's -- but what's the problem? Why isn't this happening?
WEBB: Well, I think, first of all, inside the military, in this volunteer system, there's more focus on the career force then there is on the people who are getting out. There are a lot of people who go into the military who don't look at it as a career route. They do it because of family traditions, love of country, all these other reasons. They're not getting taken care of by the military.
And the second thing is, a lot of people, I think, just missed the boat on how important this educational benefit is as a readjustment benefit. We had Senator Dole in front of the veterans committee a couple weeks ago. I asked him about his experience with the World War II GI bill.
He said in his view, the World War II GI bill was the most important piece of legislation that our country has ever passed when it came to fairness among our citizens. And for every dollar that was spent on the World War II GI bill, we got $7 back in terms of tax revenues because these people were able to become successful.
BLITZER: You voted against that resolution that would declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. A bunch of other Democrats, including the Democratic presidential frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, voted in favor with the Republicans on that resolution.
Why were you right and they were wrong?
WEBB: Well, I think if you look at the Democrats or the people that voted against the resolution -- and they were not only Democrats -- but the top six leaders on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, two Republicans and four Democrats, all voted against the resolution. It's an entirely different step when you move forward and say that an actual entity of a foreign government is a terrorist organization, with all the implications of what that means in the war against terror.
Senator Clinton did vote in favor of the amendment, but then she also cosponsored my amendment, which would require the administration to come to the Congress if it's going to begin a new type of war against Iran. So we need to calm the region down.
I think Senator Hagel made a very important speech yesterday about a different approach on these issues. And hopefully we can get some consensus here for the good of the country rather than for one party or the other.
BLITZER: So is Hillary Clinton trying to have it both ways?
WEBB: I think, you know, there is some consistency in the way that she presents the argument. For me, I -- you know, I believe that my vote was responsible. I did it after a great deal of consideration of what that actual term means, a "foreign terrorist organization."
Terrorism is, in and of itself, an entity that works the seams of international law. And if we are at war against international terrorism, then we could justify, based on that vote -- the administration could justify based on that vote -- military action against Iran. I don't think that's the way you want to proceed to that particular objective.
BLITZER: "The Washington Post" had a story recently saying Webb is seen as a potential 2008 running mate, a vice presidential candidate.
Is that something you're open to?
WEBB: You know, two months from now they'll be talking about somebody else. We've spent a good bit of time putting together I think, you know, a really good staff, and we're focusing on a lot of really good issues here, and this is where I intend to stay.
BLITZER: Senator Webb, thanks for coming in.
WEBB: Thank you. Good to be with you.
BLITZER: The president's father is on the defense of his son's handling of the war in Iraq and he's invoking Saddam Hussein's name to do it. We'll tell you what's going on. And will Bernard Kerik's indictment haunt Rudy Giuliani on Election Day? Donna Brazile and Leslie Sanchez, they're standing by for our "Strategy Session."
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Democrats are throwing up a big red flag for middle income Americans. They're falling victim to a tax that was intended to hit the rich. You're going to find out if you could be affected and what Congress might do to help.
Plus, Democrats dream of a Colorado Rocky Mountain high, but is a convention in Denver enough to help them win votes out West?
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, chaos leads to death. We're seeing the first known deadly violence in Pakistan. This, as the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, is blocked from leaving her home.
We're going to Pakistan shortly.
Slammed if it does, slammed if it doesn't. Regarding a nuclear standoff with Iran, the Bush administration is blasted for too much diplomacy and for too little of it. And the attacks are coming from Republicans on both sides.
And Mitt Romney caught on tape. There's now a recording of the presidential candidate trying to woo some people who may be skeptical about his Mormon religion. We have the tape, you'll hear it exclusively right leer.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
All that coming up. But first, President Bush continuing to face fierce and growing criticism of his handling of the war in Iraq, but the president's father has a new message for his son's critics -- back off.
Let's go to our White House correspondent, Ed Henry. He has more -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these are trying times for the man known as Bush 41, only the second former president in history after John Adams to watch his son follow him into the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GEORGE H. W. BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That was a gift from Gorbachev, I think.
HENRY (voice over): While giving "USA Today" a tour of his remodeled presidential library in Texas, the patriarch of the Bush family lashed out, declaring criticism of his son's handling of the Iraq war is grossly unfair.
"Do they have to bring back Saddam Hussein, these critics?" the elder Bush railed to the newspaper. "Do they want to go back to the status quo ante? Do they think life would be better in the Middle East if Saddam were still there?"
Family friends like Andy Card say this is a case of a father aching for his son. And analysts note the former president has a unique perspective on the challenges faced by a commander in chief.
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Let's not forget that George Bush Sr. sent troops into Iraq and went head to head with Saddam Hussein. He has a unique perspective that perhaps nobody else has on this issue.
HENRY: Despite his father's bruised feelings, the current president continues to claim he doesn't care about the naysayers.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And popularity is just like -- it comes and goes. And I have never been one to really worry about that, you know, and -- because, when it's all said and done, I think the key thing in life is to look -- look in the mirror and say, I didn't compromise my core beliefs.
HENRY: In advance of this weekend's meetings at his ranch in Texas with Chancellor Angela Merkel, the president told German television he is secure about his legacy.
BUSH: I helped this country protect itself, and, at the same time, was unashamed, unabashed at spreading certain, you know, values to others, the main one being liberty, whether it be the freedom from forms of government or the freedom from disease and hunger.
HENRY (on camera): There are now sharp questions about whether that philosophy, which the president calls the freedom agenda, has really worked, not just in Iraq, but also in Pakistan, where the White House's ally, Pervez Musharraf, has now slid off the path to democracy -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Henry, at the White House, thank you.
Right now, tens of millions of Americans should be concerned. If you're middle or upper-middle class, the taxes you pay could soon go up thousands of dollars. It all involves what is called the alternative minimum tax. Congress created it back in 1969 to stop a very small number of wealthy people from using tax breaks or other maneuvers to eliminate their entire tax bill. The problem is this, though. It was not indexed for inflation. So, every year, more and more of the middle class are now forced to pay that tax. Only 20,000 people paid the tax back in 1970, but, last year -- get this -- almost four million Americans did pay that tax. And for the 2007 tax year, that could balloon to almost 24 million people, about $2,000 to $3,000 more in taxes.
It could affect you. That's if the government doesn't act and doesn't act fast. By a vote of 216-193, the House of Representatives has just passed a bill to extend protections for taxpayers facing this tax. It will now go to the Senate. But the White House and some Republicans say it will not -- repeat, not -- become the law.
Let's go to our congressional correspondent Jessica Yellin. She's watching this story with enormous ramifications for a lot of middle- and upper-middle-class taxpayers out there.
Jessica, what's the latest?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is, Wolf, no one is sure what happens next with this bill. It was passed by the House, as you said, today. Everyone in Congress wants to solve the problem, but no one can agree on how it should be fixed and how to pay for it.
YELLIN (voice-over): Ron and Sharon Jakubak (ph) are worried. If this tax bill doesn't become law, their lives will change dramatically.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just feel like the, you know, middle class is getting squeezed out.
YELLIN: This year, the alternative minimum tax, which was meant to capture money from millionaires, could hit some families earning $50,000 a year. And a family of four with a household income of $75,000 could see their tax bill double.
Democrats have proposed a solution that would help millions of Americans avoid that new tax. Republicans object to the way it's paid for, because it raises taxes on others.
REP. TOM REYNOLDS (R), NEW YORK: You're going to hear tax gap, tax fairness, tax equity. I promise you that results right here in this bill as a tax increase.
YELLIN: Democrats say, not so fast. The only ones paying more would be financial bigwigs, managers of major investment organizations, like private equity firms and hedge funds.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The bill is about tax fairness. It's about fiscal responsibility, and, again, it's about keeping America competitive.
REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON: The Republicans are willing to say that 50,000 rich fat cats are more important than 21 million middle-class folks in this country.
YELLIN: It's not clear this bill will get through the Senate and the president has vowed to veto it, which is cause for concern to the Jakubaks (ph).
YELLIN: Now, the disagreement over this bill is even more intense in the Senate, where Democrats are still trying to figure out if there's another way to pay for this bill or if they should find a way to pay for it at all -- Wolf.
BLITZER: If the Senate were to pass it, like the House, and the president vetoed it, what would happen then?
YELLIN: Well, you can be sure Congress wants to find a way to make sure 21 million Americans don't pay more taxes, so it seems possible that the House might -- that the Democrats might have to accept they just won't pay for it, they just make this cut, and do away with their pay-for-it-as-you-go rule -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jessica, thanks very much -- Jessica Yellin watching this story that affects millions and millions of people out there.
Democrats go West, hoping for a gold rush. They hope to turn some red states blue in the next presidential election, but what are their odds?
He embarrassed President Bush in the past. Might former New York Police Commission Bernard Kerik also embarrass Rudy Giuliani now that he's formally been indicted? That happened today. We are going to talk about it in our "Strategy Session."
And a man who tried to assassinate a presidential candidate is now a free man. We are going to tell you about this would-be assassin and former inmate.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: As we head into the presidential election year, Democrats are certainly hoping to gain new ground in Western states that traditionally have been more red than blue.
That brings us to Denver, where the Democrats will be holding their nominating convention next summer, and where our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is getting the lay of the land right now. She's with the CNN Election Express.
Candy, we see it right behind you. It looks like a lovely day out in Denver right now.
So, what are the chances? What does it look like? Will the Democrats be able to get some new ground out West? CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the most you can hear them say at this point is, they believe it's very doable. And one of their steps they are going to take, of course, is having the convention here in Denver.
It's been 80 years, Wolf, since Democrats have held their national convention west of Chicago. So, they're coming here to Denver for some very good reasons.
CROWLEY (voice-over): Democrats are coming to Colorado, not for the bustle of the Mile High City or the awesome Rockies or the open plains, but for the possibilities.
GOV. BILL RITTER (D), COLORADO: I think Colorado is absolutely a state the Democratic Party can win. The president can win. Clinton won it in '92. No Democrat has won it since, but we're in a different place than we have been in the last election.
CROWLEY: Bill Ritter is the Democratic governor in Colorado, who works with a Democrat-controlled state legislature, the first time for that combo in 40 years. The Colorado population has both grown and changed. Many residents now come from the East and West Coast. There are more Hispanics. A third of voters are independents.
(on camera): It's not just California transplants and East Coast retirees changing the nature of politics here. It is concern within a natural constituency of the Republican Party that there's a threat to all that makes Colorado Colorado.
(voice-over): Increased oil and gas drilling particularly across the Continental Divide to the west has sportsman and ranchers worried about quality of life.
JOHN STRAAYER, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY: I think that what you're seeing is some of the traditional Republican-leaning folks finding common ground with environmentalists, who might otherwise lean in the different directions.
CROWLEY: But this goes beyond Colorado borders. In 2000, there were no Democratic governors in the eight Interior West states. Now there are five.
GOV. JANET NAPOLITANO (D), ARIZONA: I would say there's a four- state area, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, that -- that truly are going to be up for grabs in the presidential election, and some others as well could be surprises. So, when you combine those electoral votes, if you're looking at a -- at the map and how to get to that magic number to be elected as president, there's a big clump of votes out there to get.
CROWLEY: One can overstate the case. The Western Democratic governors are moderate to conservative, which is why the head of Colorado's Republican Party can't wait for that Democratic Convention. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are going to adopt a liberal platform that I think will be out of the mainstream of most Coloradans, but, most importantly, I predict they will be nominating Hillary Clinton in that hall in downtown Denver.
CROWLEY: Whatever else, the game is on in the Mountain West. The Denver convention sends a clear message: Democrats have come here to play.
CROWLEY: And one more sign about how hard they are playing, those Nevada caucuses were pushed up during a primary season, so that a Western state could have an important say in who the nominee is for the Democratic Party, which, as you know, Wolf, will make it much more important here in the West when those Nevada CNN debates come up next week.
BLITZER: Absolutely, Candy. And we will be there.
Thank you very much, Candy Crowley, on the scene in Denver. She's heading with the bus further out west. The CNN Election Express is on the campaign trail, bringing all the excitement of the presidential race and the issues you care about right to your backyard. Our campaign bus just traveled from Iowa to the Democratic Convention city, as you just saw, in Denver.
Next, it heads to Las Vegas for CNN's Democratic presidential debate next week. And, from there, the bus treks back to Saint Petersburg, Florida, for the CNN/YouTube Republican presidential debate. That's coming up at the end of the month.
After that, the Election Express will head back to Iowa and other key states, including South Carolina. That bus is going to be moving.
Don't forget, join me next Thursday, November 15, in Las Vegas. I will be moderating the Democratic presidential debate in that key Western state. That will be in Vegas.
Candy Crowley, by the way is part of the Emmy Award-winning best political team on television. And, remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can always check out our Political Ticker at CNN.com/ticker.
In the "Strategy Session": Could this be the reason a majority of Americans don't think members of Congress should be reelected? Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: Fairness for the middle class, fundamental to a democracy. The strength of the middle classes is the success of a democracy.
GOV. MATT BLUNT (R), MISSOURI: The Democrats somehow believe you can grow the economy and grow the tax base of the country by increasing taxes. We just don't believe that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Because they're too busy talking past each other, but not too busy talking toward each other? How much have they actually done, the new Congress?
Also coming up, the debate is on. The presidential field has some second thoughts about participating in a televised Spanish- language debate. But is it too little too late?
That, a lot more, coming up -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Apparently, many of you would kick out many members of Congress, if you could, right now.
Let's get some more on one of our top stories, record anger at the Congress, happening right now.
Let's get to our "Strategy Session."
Joining us, our CNN political analyst and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez.
The new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, Donna, has this question. Do members of Congress, many members of Congress deserve reelection? Only 42 percent say yes. Fifty-three percent say no. That's a record.
And we have been asking this question. There's frustration. There's anger. They think this -- this Congress is broken.
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they think the government is broken.
Look, after Katrina, most Americans don't believe our government is functioning. The federal government is -- is basically absent without leave. And, so, they're tired. They're tired of partisanship. They're tired of bickering. They just want these members of Congress to get something -- get things done.
BLITZER: Having said that, they're blaming Republicans more than Democrats in the poll, Leslie. Among registered voters, would you support -- who would be your choice for Congress, Democrats get 53 percent. Republicans get 42 percent.
So, they may be angry at the Congress, but they're more angry at Republicans than they are at Democrats.
LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Right, Wolf, but that's more perception than reality.
In reality, the Democratic Congress has failed their own base and alienated everybody else. There's a measure by which -- which you can look at them at in terms of a do-nothing Congress. They have failed to pass any of their appropriations bills. That hasn't happened in the last 20 years. They're an ineffective Congress. And I think people are very frustrated by their partisanship and their lack and inability to get things done.
BLITZER: She's right when -- when she says that the Democratic majority, the leadership in the House and Senate, have alienated the Democratic base, largely because they have been unsuccessful in stopping the war.
BRAZILE: Well, that's no reason to -- to blame Democrats.
Look, the frustration is clearly on the doorstep of George Bush, who will not work with Democrats to end the war on Iraq, despite the fact that 68 percent of the American people now want this war to come to the end.
SANCHEZ: You know...
BRAZILE: They're frustrated because the Republicans in Congress have consistently blocked Democrats' -- Democratic attempts to pass much-needed legislation to help the middle class.
That's why they're frustrated.
BRAZILE: But, look, I still applaud Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid for going forward with raising the minimum wage, helping to -- to lower college costs for families, helping military veterans. So, they have done a great deal.
SANCHEZ: No, they -- but they haven't done a great deal. That's the point. They are completely ineffective.
BRAZILE: Are you going to blame Democrats for not getting out of Iraq?
SANCHEZ: Yes, I am going to blame the Democrats.
SANCHEZ: I am going to blame them for not passing an appropriations bill. In 20 years, that has never happened, Donna. You can't excuse that.
They're not passing education bills, child care, veterans health care.
SANCHEZ: I mean, there's a -- a whole litany of things that the Democrats have had an inability to do.
BRAZILE: Have you forgotten the Republican Congress?
BLITZER: All right.
SANCHEZ: Not to mention they want to increase spending by $20 billion above and beyond what the president wants for this year. I mean, people want to put...
BRAZILE: They want to invest in the American people, in the middle class. That's what they want to do.
BLITZER: Let's move on and talk about the Bernard Kerik indictment that occurred today and what, if any, impact that will have on the Rudy Giuliani campaign. They were very, very close associates.
We just got a very tough statement from the McCain campaign chairman -- manager, Rick Davis.
Let me read it to you, because it's very strong: "Rudy Giuliani's history with Bernie Kerik is a story of poor judgment. After being briefed on Kerik's ties to organized crime, Giuliani named him chief of the New York Police Department. Without any further vetting, Giuliani asked him to join his security consulting firm.
"Despite obvious ethical problems, Giuliani went so far as to personally recommend Kerik for the top job at the Department of Homeland Security. A president's judgment matters. And Rudy Giuliani has repeatedly placed personal loyalty over regard for the facts" -- pretty strong words from one Republican campaign going after another.
SANCHEZ: No, there's no doubt about that.
You can tell we're getting to the primary -- it's primary season. People are about to make decisions about their candidates. And -- and John McCain, with good reason, you know, we understand why he's doing that.
But I think two things. One, Giuliani has inoculated himself, because he said Kerik did a good job in that capacity and helped clean up New York.
And the second thing, it does remind of "Casablanca," like that Humphrey Bogart line where he says, I stick out my neck for nobody.
It's almost like campaign politics. Giuliani has clearly distanced himself from this character. And I think it's going to be up to the general public to decide.
BLITZER: What do you think, Donna?
BRAZILE: Well, he's dodging the -- the question right now.
BLITZER: Who's he? BRAZILE: Rudy Giuliani.
Look, earlier this week, he -- he supported Kerik and he tried to defend him, and now he's backpedaling. What people want to know is whether or not Rudy Giuliani has good judgment. This points that he perhaps does not have good judgment.
And I tell you, this is going to dog him on the campaign trail. It's a distraction to his campaign at a time he's trying to present himself as the law-and-order candidate. This will come back to bite him.
SANCHEZ: He's had such a strong reputation on law and order and national security credentials, it's going to be really hard for this...
BLITZER: The Republican presidential candidates have finally agreed to go to a Spanish-language presidential debate. Univision is going to host it with the University of Miami on December 9.
But a lot of the pundits are suggesting, you know what, they alienated so many Hispanic voters out there already, this may be too little too late.
Leslie, what do you think?
SANCHEZ: I would think only Democratic pundits are the ones saying that. I think it was a lot of internal pressure for these candidates to attend this debate. Even though Univision is biased to the left and very much against Republicans in their own editorializing and advocacy journalism, it's an important audience, and it's a natural constituency for Republicans. And Republicans are finally getting that.
BLITZER: A lot of the Hispanics, though, believe they were alienated by the Republicans because of the immigration -- illegal immigration issue.
Look, this has become a wedge issue for Republicans. They have alienated Hispanics. Hispanics make up 8 percent of the electorate today. By 2020, they will make up more than 25 percent of the electorate. The Republicans have alienated the Hispanic vote. Now Democrats have an opportunity to compete in Arizona, New Mexico -- Arizona -- Colorado, and who knows, Florida, because of this alienation. So, we welcome their support.
SANCHEZ: It's true. Donna is right. The Democrats were in a freefall with Hispanic support, losing almost 20 points in the last three presidential elections.
The distinction is illegal immigration debate and the tone of that on the right has hurt Republicans. And we need to correct that.
BLITZER: We have got to leave it right there.
Leslie Sanchez, Donna Brazile, thanks to both of you.
SANCHEZ: Thank you.
BLITZER: It's a CNN exclusive you're going to want to hear: Mitt Romney caught on tape. It's a recording of the presidential candidate trying to court religious conservatives. We have the tape. We are going to be playing it for you.
The Bush administration is slammed for doing too much and also slammed for doing too little on the same thing, engaging in diplomacy with Iran. But, even though the criticism is two-sided, the attacks are coming from one side, from Republicans.
And the latest from Pakistan: the chaos causing the first known deaths and putting the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto...
BLITZER: It's your money, and Hillary Clinton knows just how she wants to spend it. She's reportedly been able to steer a staggering amount of taxpayer dollars to projects in New York State, apparently beating all of her rivals in doing so.
Let's go to Brian Todd. He has been watching this story involving what are called federal earmarks.
Brian, what is going on?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, members of Congress often boast to their home districts how much money they have won for various projects. But, for presidential candidates, the issue is much trickier, because one person's worthy project is another person's pork.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hello, sir. How you doing?
TODD (voice-over): Bringing in the bacon for her campaign and constituents. Out of the five presidential candidates from the Senate, Hillary Clinton wins the most pork projects for the next fiscal year.
According to the latest tally from the newspaper "The Hill," Senator Clinton is bringing in $530 million in projects in New York. Arizona Republican John McCain, a huge critic of special requests, backs it up, asking for and getting nothing.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have got to stop the earmarking. I want to promise you, as president of the United States, I will veto every bill that has a pork-barrel project on it.
TODD: Watchdog groups say Mrs. Clinton's requests are mostly for defense projects or military bases, like $10 million for Fort Drum. They say she's been very effective in winning these earmarks for her state, but they wish she would be more transparent.
RYAN ALEXANDER, TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE: It makes to hard to look at them all and know whether or not they're all good. So, we would certainly like her to see -- to curb her earmarking practices.
TODD: Senator Clinton's office defends her record, saying she's very proud to have helped New York-based projects to improve hospitals, homeland security and resources for the military. Will her spending requests be held against her on the campaign trail?
JEANNE CUMMINGS, LOBBYING AND MONEY CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO.COM: It could possibly be used up there to paint her as your classic Washington insider, working the system to get pork brought home. At the same time, Clinton could try to cut it the other way, to say, look, you know, I am -- have got a sharp, smart staff working in Washington, and I know how to get things done.
TODD: Now, part of the rub here is the issue of disclosure. According to the group Taxpayers For Common Sense, Hillary Clinton has not publicly revealed all of her earmark requests, and neither did fellow candidates Joe Biden or Chris Dodd.
Barack Obama has made all of his earmarks public on his Senate Web site, Wolf.
BLITZER: What a story.
All right, thanks very much, Brian, for that.
Let's get to our Political Ticker this Friday.
Hillary Clinton picking up a key presidential endorsement in the battleground state of Ohio -- Democratic Governor Ted Strickland telling reporters today he's backing Hillary Clinton over her primary rivals because she's -- quote -- "an experienced and strong leader."
Ohio narrowly went to President Bush over John Kerry back in 2004, and was decisive in the final outcome of the presidential race.
Republican Mitt Romney has a new ad running in Iowa and New Hampshire today, and it highlights his opposition to illegal immigration. The spot criticizes Democrats, noting that Romney's opposition to driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, an issue that has gotten Hillary Clinton into some hot water in recent days. Romney also takes direct aim at so-called sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants, such as New York, an apparent shot at the former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The Democratic National Committee is going after Romney in an unconventional way. It's auctioning off a Mitt Romney flip-flop kit on eBay. It's a dig at Romney's changed views on some issues such as abortion. And it's a slap at a Romney fund-raising effort that encourages supporters to sell their old belongings to help put cash into his campaign war chest. The Romney campaign says the stunt is proof that Democrats are worried about running against him next fall.
And, remember for the latest political news at any time, you can always check out our Political Ticker at CNN.com/ticker.
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