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The Situation Room

Bush Insists Iran Poses Danger; Interview With Pat Buchanan

Aired December 04, 2007 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, President Bush apparently unswayed by new intelligence on Iran, still insisting it poses a danger despite new information that it stopped trying to build a nuclear weapon back in 2003. I'll talk about it with "The New Yorker" magazine's Seymour Hersh. He reported that information more than a year ago in "The New Yorker".

Also, what's the likelihood of a conservative third party candidate and what would it do to the GOP?

I'll ask the former presidential candidate, Pat Buchanan. He's standing by live.

And in the culture wars, a new big budget Hollywood production that has some religious groups crying foul.

What's in "The Golden Compass" that has them so upset?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


A dramatic turnaround in the intelligence on Iran's nuclear weapons program, but no change in President Bush's policy. He says Iran is still dangerous, despite new findings that the country actually stopped efforts to build a nuclear bomb four years ago.

Our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee, is standing by live.

She's over at the State Department -- so what impact is this new NIE -- this National Intelligence Estimate, Zain, going to have on the administration's diplomatic strategy in dealing with Iran?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's going to be a lot harder, Wolf.

What President Bush tried to do today was really put the best face he possibly could on what some are calling a major setback for him. He's saying that diplomacy is not dead in the water.


GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Continue to rally the community to pressure the Iranian regime...

For the international community to work together...

The international community...

To rally the international community for the sake of peace.

VERJEE: Hammering it home over and over, President Bush called for the world to stick with the U.S. against Iran.

BUSH: Iran was dangerous. Iran is dangerous. And Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.

VERJEE: A new U.S. intelligence report says Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program four years ago. That revelation could be a blow to U.S. diplomacy and the goal of freezing out Iran.

ROBIN WRIGHT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": The reality is the Russians and the Chinese are not going to be enthusiastic. They will use the U.S. intelligence assessment as ammunition to balk at a U.S. diplomatic effort.

VERJEE: Mr. Bush says this is not the time to relax and quit because Iran can't be trusted. But there could be an opportunity for the U.S.

JOE CIRINCIONE, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: This might be exactly the nuclear shock therapy that U.S. policy needs to reset and restart our policy.

VERJEE (on camera): But some say Iran's nuclear weapons halt shows that U.S. policy was actually working, but we just didn't know it until now.

(voice-over): U.S. intelligence agencies, already discredited in the weapons of mass destruction claims before the war in Iraq, takes a new hit.

WRIGHT: It is going to look -- in terms of the whole U.S. government, to the outside world -- that, once again, we got it wrong, wrong, wrong.


VERJEE: Here at the State Department today, Wolf, they're saying that diplomatic efforts against Iran are going to continue full force. In spite of the intelligence report, the State Department is going to continue to handle Iran the way it has been -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I guess to a lot of people it's going to be that the U.S. intelligence community is no longer seen as it was for so many decades -- as the gold standard in intelligence information. At least, that's the impression given these two blunders -- the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and now this blunder on not knowing when the Iranians actually stopped their nuclear weapons program. All right, Zain, thanks very much for that.

Israel remains very skeptical of this NIE. The defense minister, Ehud Barak, saying it's likely that Iran did halt its nuclear weapons program in 2003 -- for a time, he says. But he tells Israel's Army Radio that Iran is probably continuing its program making a nuclear bomb. General Barak says Iran remains the main threat to Israel and to the world, adding that it's a threat that must be dealt with.

Meanwhile, we're learning about why Iran may have suspended its nuclear weapons program back in 2003.

CNN's Aneesh Raman is the only U.S. television reporter in Tehran right now.

He's joining us with an exclusive report -- Aneesh.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Intelligence Estimate did say Iran had a nuclear weapons program that it suspended in 2003. Now, Iranian officials denied even that, saying they'd never pursued nuclear weapons. But that suspension needs to be put in context.

2003 was, of course, the year the U.S. led the war into Iraq. Prior to that, President Bush had labeled Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an axis of evil. So the regime in Tehran really felt under threat -- that they were next and in a weakened position, reportedly opened up to the U.S. for direct negotiations. Those negotiations were not accepted, it seemed, according to these reports, by a powerfully positioned Bush administration.

Then go to early 2004. Iran did voluntarily suspend its nuclear program, amid international pressure, and began talks with the E.U. to try to find a deal. Iran never said it would suspend permanently. It was a voluntary suspension.

And then, of course, June 2005 -- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a hard- liner, becomes Iran's president and months later takes this up as a nationalist cause and restarts the enrichment of uranium.

For the irregular people, who didn't want conflict over this issue, it really comes to this -- two presidents on both sides who do not seem willing to budge an inch -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Aneesh Raman reporting from Tehran.

A big story unfolding. A lot more on this story coming up this hour and next.

Meanwhile, a military manual leaked on the Internet is revealing details on the way terror suspects are being treated at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. It covers everything from toilet paper to attack dogs.

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

He's standing by live. Why is the timing of this leak so fascinating -- Jamie?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, while the Supreme Court is about to grappled with the big question of whether non-U.S. citizens can challenge their detention in court, this just leaked military manual provides a window into some of the little details about how those detainees at Guantanamo are treated.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): The unclassified manual posted on the Web site outlines the SOP -- standard operating procedures -- for Guantanamo's Camp Delta as of March 2004, when the manual was updated -- before the abuses of Abu Ghraib became public.

Human rights advocates have zeroed in on the rules for a minimum security section designed as a reward for prisoners who cooperate. One requirement for guards to be assigned to Camp Four -- excellent public relation skills.

VINCENT WARREN, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: It shows that the government was much more concerned about creating a show camp -- a Disney on Guantanamo -- than it was about ensuring the international human rights and humane treatment of the detainees there.

MCINTYRE: Some rules spell out fairly trivial matters, such as one section that reads: "For a special reward of a roll of toilet paper, the following procedure will apply. Give the detainee the roll of toilet paper. If the detainee tries to force the roll into the toilet or passes it out, confiscate the roll."

Other sections detail how the treatment of newly arrived prisoners is designed to enhance and exploit their disorientation and concentrates on isolating the detainee. Among the restrictions, no contact with the Red Cross or a chaplain, no books or mail, a Koran, but no prayer beads or cap.

JENNIFER DASKAL, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: I think what's really notable about this is just the incredible petty cruelty and dehumanizing aspect of all of this. Detainees are punished for tearing a sheet or for very, very minor infractions.


MCINTYRE: But the arguments about whether the treatment procedures at Guantanamo are humane really pale behind this much more fundamental question that the Supreme Court will be grappling with tomorrow, that is whether these detainees have the right to go before a judge, Wolf, and argue that their confinement is unjust -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right.

Jamie, thanks very much.

As of November, by the way, a little more than 300 detainees are still being held at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo. That according to and confirmed to us by the Pentagon. That number, by the way, is down from more than 500 earlier.

Since June of 2002, approximately 200 detainees have been released or transferred to their home countries from Guantanamo Bay.

Let's go back to Jack.

He's got The Cafferty File in New York -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wolf, Mike Huckabee is rising rather quickly and by a substantial amount -- at least that's the message coming from the latest "USA Today/Gallup Poll. Check out these numbers. The former Arkansas governor jumped from fifth place among Republicans in early November -- when he was getting 6 percent support -- to second place now at 16 percent. That puts him -- pardon me -- it puts him ahead of John McCain and Fred Thompson.

At that same time, this poll suggests long time Republican frontrunner Rudy Giuliani is slipping. Although he still leads the pack, his standing among Republicans has fallen by nine points in a month.

Support for the Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, has also dropped -- even more dramatically -- in her case, 11 points from early last month. Clinton still tops Barack Obama nationally, 39 to 24 percent. But her lead has been almost cut in half.

And it's worth noting that Clinton and Giuliani have never suffered such steep month to month drops in the polls.

No candidate in either party has scored such a sharp month to month rise as Huckabee has. One strategist says this means that Huckabee's surge is no longer an Iowa only event -- that it's now gone nationwide. And there's still room for improvement. Almost half of those polled have either not heard of Huckabee or have not yet formed an opinion about him.

So here's our question this hour -- what's behind the sudden rise of Mike Huckabee?

E-mail us at or go to

I was listening -- he was on Imus this morning, who's back on WABC Radio -- Huckabee was. And the guy is -- he's very real sounding. He doesn't sound like he's talking off talking points. He's comfortable in his own skin. He smiles easily. He's got a nice sense of humor. He's kind of an attractive guy compared to some of these more rigid and ideologically structured candidates that he's running against. I don't know if that makes any sense or not.

BLITZER: It does. That's part of his charm. And that's why a lot of people who get to know him clearly like him.

CAFFERTY: He's a little Reaganesque almost.

BLITZER: All right.

Well, he'll be happy to hear you say that.

Jack, thanks very much.

Stand by.

Coming up, no WMDs again.


BUSH: If you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.


BLITZER: That was the president a few weeks ago.

How did the Bush administration apparently get it so wrong -- the intelligence community -- even as they were turning up the war rhetoric?

I'll speak with Sy Hersh of "The New Yorker" magazine. He broke the story, actually, a year ago and got slammed by the White House for reporting it.

Plus, Pat Buchanan, the hard-line conservative -- you're going to find out why he thinks immigrants are right now destroying the American way of life. Pat Buchanan is standing by to join us live this hour.

And culture wars -- religious controversy over a new children's film. You're going to find out why some say it's masking a secret atheist agenda.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: The stunning intelligence turnaround on Iran's nuclear weapons program comes as little surprise to Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Seymour Hersh. He wrote back in July of 2006 in "The New Yorker" about the lack of evidence that Iran was trying to build a bomb.

Sy Hersh is joining us now live here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

He also wrote an article in November of last year, 2006: "The Next Act: Is A Damaged Administration Less Likely to Attack Iran or More?," in which you said there was a new National Intelligence Estimate circulating, suggesting they didn't really have a nuclear weapons program that was ongoing any longer.


BLITZER: So what do you think?

HERSH: Well, I...

BLITZER: I mean if you knew that a year ago, you know, what does that mean?

HERSH: At the time, I wrote that there was a tremendous fight about it, because Cheney in the White House -- the vice president did not want to hear this. So that there was a fight about that intelligence. And, actually, for the last year, I think the vice president's office pretty much has kept -- you know, the vice president has kept his foot on the neck of that report. That report was bottled up for a year.

The intelligence we learned about yesterday has been circulating inside this government at the highest levels for the last year -- and probably longer.

BLITZER: All right. But you were suggesting that there was a real run-up to a war developing within the administration, even as there were some in the administration and the intelligence community suggesting, hey, hold off -- maybe they did suspend or freeze their nuclear weapons program.

HERSH: Of course. And I think it's still not over. I mean it...

BLITZER: Well, look, because I want to press you on this.

Does that mean now that this new NIE has been released publicly, it is over, the run-up toward a potential military confrontation with Iran?

HERSH: There's always Israel.

BLITZER: What does that mean?

HERSH: Well, that means that Israel can always decide unilaterally to take action or with us, covertly. Israel objects to this report. I am told that Olmert had a private discussion with Bush about it during Annapolis -- before Annapolis. Bush briefed him about it. The Israelis were very upset about the report. They think we're naive. They don't think we get it right.

And so they have a different point of view. And this is a serious breach (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: Well, let me ask you this, is it possible that this new NIE -- because we know that the 2005 NIE was wrong, the 2002 NIE on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was wrong.

Is it possible this new one that has just been made public, declassified, is it possible they got it wrong again?

HERSH: It's been four years since we've had any positive evidence of a parallel secret program to build a bomb. And we've been all over the country. One of the things that that NIE, that they finished last year, actually, that they were working on last year, it was a result of a lot of covert operations. I also was writing about the fact that we had people on the ground inside. We checked every place we thought there was some secret activity and we found nada -- nothing.

So, sure, it's possible. Everything's possible. But this is -- this is a pretty remarkable document, given the hostility to it inside the White House that it's been made public.

BLITZER: It's pretty amazing when you look at, from many respects, and certainly from your respect. You probably feel vindicated. You know, you were hammered -- and we were hammered for giving you some air time on "LATE EDITION," our Sunday show.

I want to play for you a clip of what the White House press secretary, Dana Perino, said the last time you were interviewed by me.

Listen to this.


DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Every two months or so, Sy Hersh writes an article in "The New Yorker" magazine and CNN provides him a forum in which to talk about his article and all the anonymous sources that are quoted in it.


BLITZER: All right. So you heard that from the White House press secretary. And, you know, we went back and took a look at what you wrote more than a year ago. And you had some pretty good information in there.

HERSH: Well, you know, they also criticized me -- if you remember, I went on your show repeatedly about Abu Ghraib. We did long interviews about it. And they were saying, oh -- literally, senior officials said he's throwing, you know, crap against the wall to see what sticks. So this has been consistent.

What's interesting here is the president's position. As you know, today in his news conference, he said he only learned about this the other week.

BLITZER: He said he only got the word from Mike McConnell, the national intelligence director, last week, that there was, in fact, now a new National Intelligence Estimate, although last August he was told there's some new information. We haven't vetted it. It's not yet confirmed. There may be some new information. He only says he learned about the new NIE last week.

HERSH: Look, it's a lose-lose for them. Either he didn't know what was going on at the highest levels -- the fight I'm talking about began last year. I was writing about something in November and also, you mentioned earlier, they were aware of a big dispute inside the community -- that is, between the White House and the community about this. Now, maybe he didn't know what was going on at the vice presidential level about something that serious. If so, I mean we pay him to know these things and not to make statements based on information that turned out not to be accurate. Or else he's misrepresenting what he knows. I don't think there's any question, this is going to pose a serious credibility problem. I assume people are going to be asking more and more questions about what did he know when. And his statement that McConnell comes to him -- the head of the intelligence services of the United States -- and says I have something serious to say to you and he says great, let me know when I want to hear it, is, you know -- it's his words and we can only say that if that's true, you know, that's -- that's not what we pay the guy to do.

BLITZER: The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, was here in THE SITUATION ROOM in the last hour. He's a hard- liner, as you know, when it comes to Iran. He says maybe this new NIE has been politicized and says they may get it wrong still. And he told me this.

Listen to this.


JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: I think there is a very real risk here that the intelligence community is like generals fighting a last war -- they got Iraq wrong and they're overcompensating by understating the potential threat from Iran.


BLITZER: What do you think?

Because, you know, he reflects a view that's still pretty prevalent out there, especially within the administration.

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Particularly within the vice president's office.

And, also, now -- you would have to say also within Israel. The Israelis think we're very naive about this. They say you guys don't know, you know, you're thinking about it the way Americans think -- not about how Middle Eastern people think.

And so this is literally, what I understand one of their arguments has been to the White House. Look, the bottom line is that we haven't been able to find evidence. And we need evidence. We deal with evidence. We can't find evidence of any ongoing secret parallel weapons program -- period. And we know that the program they have now has gone nowhere -- period.

We report that the NIE was careful to say it's possible that they may get some fissile material from a third country. It's possible they may solve their problems.

But I can tell you, John Negroponte was telling Congress privately in the last few months, it could be as long as 10 years before they really are in a position to get a bomb. BLITZER: And in the report, the NIE, they said maybe 2015, if they were to reactivate that program. But under the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty, they are entitled to enrich uranium, which they say they're doing for peaceful purposes.

HERSH: Tell that to the president. The president's view on this, I think, is pretty tough. His view is simply -- his negotiating position, as I understand it from inside, they have to stop everything, not just -- end it. Destroy it. Get rid of all the centrifuges. Inspectors have to come in that we pick, that we recognize as rational, go inside Iran and verify that they have gotten rid of the program. That's his standard. He's not saying that publicly, but that's the private standard, so I understand.

BLITZER: Sy Hersh clearly feels vindicated as a result of this...

HERSH: I haven't said that.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Sy, for coming in.

We'll look forward to your next piece in "The New Yorker".

HERSH: Soon.



HERSH: A couple of weeks.

BLITZER: A couple of weeks.


BLITZER: We'll see you then.

We have much more on this story coming up. We'll talk about it with the conservative commentator, Pat Buchanan -- as well, he's a former Republican presidential candidate. He'll weigh in on the race for the White House, as well.

Plus, chimps -- you're going to find out why they're apparently smarter than we are -- humans -- when it comes to memory.

Stick around.



BLITZER: Let's check back with Carol.

She's monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on -- Carol? CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a Miami-Dade grand jury has indicted four men in the shooting death of Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor. They're charged with first degree felony murder and armed burglary. Defense attorneys say three of the suspects are being kept on suicide watch. A judge today ordered them held without bail. Taylor was killed in what police believe was a botched robbery at his home.

And Actor Dennis Quaid and his wife are suing the makers of a blood thinning drug over a hospital mistake involving their newborn twins. The boy and girl were accidentally given a massive overdose of the blood thinner Heparin. Quaid's attorney says the children appear to be doing well now. The lawsuit claims Baxter Healthcare Corporation was negligent in putting different doses of the drug in similar looking vials and in failing to redo the packaging after three infants died last year.

And score one for the chimps. Japanese researchers pitted young chimpanzees against college students in short-term memory tests -- and the chimps won. Researchers say the chimps were much faster and more accurate at hitting numbers flashed on a computer screen in the right order. They say the findings suggest people may have had similar memory ability, but lost it to gain other skills.

That's so embarrassing, isn't it?

Back to you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, I saw that videotape. Those chimps were amazing. They put the numbers up, then they took them down and they remembered the order perfectly. It was -- I barely saw the numbers.


BLITZER: And they already had it memorized.

COSTELLO: I wasn't going to mention which university the college student were from, because it's just not fair.

BLITZER: Oh, could I tell you?

They would beat, I think, anybody on that.

Thanks very much, Carol.


BLITZER: Coming up, Pat Buchanan. He's standing by live here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He says America is being destroyed by immigrants who don't speak English and don't want to assimilate.

Does his have his facts right or wrong?

I'll ask him some of the tough questions.

Also, Ron Paul on the couch. The Republican presidential candidate taking a grilling from the ladies on "The View".

And culture wars -- a children's movie is targeted by some Christian groups. You're going to find out why they say

"The Golden Compass" is attacking their religion.

Stick around.



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

Happening now, rescue boats, helicopters and even fire trucks helped to get more than 100 people trapped by floods out of harm's way in the northwest. Back-to-the back storms have caused mudslides and power outages and are blamed for five deaths in Oregon and Washington State.

And R.J. Reynolds Tobacco could face lawsuits in eight states over and in "Rolling Stone" magazine for Camel cigarettes. Prosecutors say the illustrated ad violates the tobacco industry's pledge not to use cartoons to sell cigarettes to children.

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

Polls in the so called second tier of the republican presidential candidates, but don't tell that to republican Texas Congressman Ron Paul. He is campaigning like a front runner and picking up enormous support along the way.

CNN's Mary Snow is standing by. She's watching this story for us. What's drawing so many people to Ron Paul right now, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, for one thing, Wolf, they say they're disenchanted with the republican and democratic candidates. They bristle at the notion of Paul being considered a fringe candidate and say his fund-raising is proof that he can defy the odds against him.


SNOW: Congressman Ron Paul took a seat on the couch on ABC's "The View" following other candidates and appealing to daytime viewers. In recent months, democratic presidential hopeful Senator Clinton was on "The View." Senator Barack Obama appeared on the "Ellen DeGeneres Show." But unlike those front runners, this republican presidential candidate sometimes gets asked a question they don't.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now you probably are not going to win and you know that, right?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very hard; he has front-runners all over the place.

PAUL: You want those pro-war people to win?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I don't. That's why I like you.

SNOW: That kind of talk doesn't discourage the Ron Paul faithful in New York. Paul voters looked past national polls showing them with 4% support. Instead, they focus on the millions he's raised online, including $4.3 million in a single day.

AVERY KNAPP JR., RON PAUL SUPPORTER: More and more people join every day. We just started in May and now we have 1,000 people in New York City.

SNOW: 28-year-old Avery Knapp is a doctor by day and spends his free time drumming up grass roots support for Paul ranging from cab drivers to Wall Street businessmen like Brad Tirpak. Tirpak left his job as a hedge fund manager in October to work full time for Paul's campaign. Paul's selling point, his opposition to the Iraq war.

BRAD TIRPAK, RON PAUL CAMPAIGN ADVISER: It was an error in judgment, an error in judgment and what you look for in a candidate is who has good judgment and Ron Paul has good judgment.

SNOW: It's his judgment on civil liberties, say these New York supporters, that drew them to get involved in the campaign for the first time. Some even say if he loses, they believe he started a movement that will live beyond the election.


SNOW: Paul supporters are now looking for another big money day. That comes on December 16th. That's the anniversary of the Boston tea party in 1773, which helped spark the American Revolution. Supporters hope to raise up to $10 million online that day. Wolf?

BLITZER: That would be amazing, truly amazing, but you never know. Let's get more, Mary, on this '08 campaign. We're joined by Pat Buchanan. He himself was a former republican presidential candidate, ran as a third party candidate himself. He's the author of a brand-new book entitled "Day Of Reckoning." Talk about the book in a moment, let's talk politics first.

Pat, thanks very much, by the way, for coming in. What do you think of this Ron Paul phenomenon because it is pretty amazing? He told me on Sunday he might raise $14 million this quarter maybe even more if Mary's numbers are right.

PAT BUCHANAN, AUTHOR, "DAY OF RECKONING": I think an enormous part of the republican party believes Ron Paul was the only man who was right on Iraq. He opposed going in. He opposes a foreign policy of interventionism. He's the one candidate who is after the neo conservatives and says their influence has got to be removed. I think wisely, in his judgment, he will bring American troops home from cold war commitments of long ago where they don't belong.

BLITZER: So, you clearly like him.

BUCHANAN: I like him personally. I know him personally. I haven't endorsed him, but I will say he is the one candidate that everybody knows who fought against big government. He voted against, I'm sure, Medicare, the prescription drugs and no child left behind. He's consistent. He's courageous.

BLITZER: He ran as a libertarian once for president, too. As you know, you once ran -- do you think there's room now for a viable third party presidential candidate? Let's say Ron Paul doesn't get the republican nomination. There's a good chance he won't. Should he think about running as a third party independent presidential candidate?

BUCHANAN: I would say no for this reason, Wolf. I think Ron Paul would draw votes from the republican candidate and defeat the republican candidate. The "Wall Street Journal" and I think NBC put my name in a poll just as a generic conservative and I got 12% against Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton and most of the 12 percent came from Rudy and dropped him to 35. I think if Ron Paul did that, he would be responsible for the defeat of the republicans and --

BLITZER: Who will get the republican presidential nomination?

BUCHANAN: I think it's down to three people. I would say it's Huckabee, Romney or Rudy. Huckabee has really moved up. Huckabee has got to win Iowa now. If Romney wins Iowa, I think Romney will win the nomination, even though he's running fifth nationally because I think he will win four straight states. Rudy is slipping. Rudy's best bet is to help Huckabee knock off Romney in Iowa and then have it mixed up so he can last to Florida where he takes off.

BLITZER: What do you make of this new intelligence estimate that Iran actually froze or suspended, stopped its nuclear weapons program four years ago?

BUCHANAN: This is a horrendous indictment of the Bush administration, of the Bush intelligence community. The president of the United States and Mr. Cheney have really created almost hysteria in this country where half the country thinks we will have to smash Iran because they're building nuclear weapons. The question, Wolf, is when after 2005 when the intelligence community said that Iran was driving towards nuclear weapons, when did the community come to believe that they had stopped in 2003? Did the president know this when he is talking about a nuclear holocaust and World War III? If he did, what does that say about the president of the United States? If he didn't, what does that say about the intelligence community?

BLITZER: Sy Hersh was writing about this new estimate a year ago.

BUCHANAN: Certainly then Mr. Negroponte and the head of the CIA certainly have got is to tart walking into the president and saying, Mr. President, a lot of the community now believes and we're getting more evidence of this that they shut the program down and if they told the president that, how could the president talk about a nuclear holocaust and World War III and have the whole country and half the country believing we have to attack Iran.

Also, Wolf, look at the republican candidates. Many of them have been saying we may have to use tactical atom weapons. Look at Hillary Clinton. She's for that Kyl resolution which authorizes virtually the president to attack Iran. The whole political community in this country looks like it's doing the same thing we did when we went into Iraq without justification.

BLITZER: Strong words. Let's talk about "Day Of Reckoning," your new book. You painted a dire prediction, a dire assessment here. Let me read a line from the book. "The American majority is not reproducing itself. Its birth rate has been below, below replacement levels for decades. 45 million of its young have been destroyed in the womb since Roe Versus Wade, as Asian, African and Latin American children come to inherit the estate the lost generation of American children never got to see." Now, you know a lot of people are going to say this is racist talk coming from Pat Buchanan.

BUCHANAN: They never said that before, that would be new. Wolf, what I'm talking about in that book is America is decomposing. It is deconstructing. The melting pot that made your ancestors and mine who probably fought in the streets of New York, made us both Americans. That melting pot is repudiated and rejected by America's multi- cultural elite elites. These kids growing up are not being steeped in American heroes and history and holidays. They're getting none of that. So what you've got at the same time is 38 million immigrants and you have ...

BLITZER: What is wrong with new immigrants coming from Asia or Africa or South America, Mexico, whatever? Your ancestors were immigrants. Mine were immigrants. What is wrong with the new wave of immigrants coming up and building up this country?

BUCHANAN: Here's what you need, Wolf. We have plenty of people. What you need now because we have 12 to 20 million illegals, 38 million immigrants. There's never been that many. You need time to assimilate, Americanize them and do the things we're talking about.

BLITZER: You don't think the children are being assimilated.

BUCHANAN: They are not. Look, I mean there 5 million people in Los Angeles County that don't even speak English in their own home. You have all over this country huge Spanish communities. The largest radio and TV stations in the country are Spanish speaking. If we can't understand each other, how can we be common citizens of a common country?

BLITZER: We don't have time, unfortunately, to go into all of it. The book is entitled "Day Of Reckoning." Patrick J. Buchanan is the author. You have a lot of material in this book that will cause a big commotion, Pat.

BUCHANAN: Thank you very much, Wolf. I hope it does. Look, it should because it is really a wake-up call and the candidates in both parties ought to be talking about this. It's not immigration sovereign wealth funds. You've got the dollar is sinking like a stone. We're overextended abroad. We have two wars and what do we got? A 500,000 man army, the size it was in 1939 and we're going to defend the whole world. These are the things the candidates ought to be talking about and not the confederate battle flag.

BLITZER: We know Pat Buchanan is talking about it.

BUCHANAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thanks for coming in.

BUCHANAN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Culture wars, religious controversy over a new children's film. Find out why some say it's masking a secret atheist agenda.

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


BLITZER: It's not in movie theaters until Friday, but controversy already surrounds Nicole Kidman's new film "The Golden Compass." Some Catholics and Evangelicals say the fantasy epic will lure children into atheism and convince them religion is evil.

Let's go to CNN entertainment correspondent Brooke Anderson in New York. Actually, we don't have that report from Brooke Anderson. We're going to get that report.

Let's get Carol Costello to walk in because she has her own report on another subject that's coming in and she's walking into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

You want to talk about this Saudi story, this rape that occurred, a young woman in Saudi Arabia, 19-year-old was gang raped and then she was sentenced to 200 lashes, some time in prison and today the president was asked to react to that.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, at the height of this controversy, I repeatedly asked the White House to comment on this Saudi rape case and each time I was pushed to the State Department. Now, this is a case that enraged the international community. Today, Ed Henry got a chance to ask President Bush face to face how he felt about this barbaric sentence. Listen to what the president said.


PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: My first thoughts were these. What happens if this happened to my daughter? How would I react? And I would have been, I would have been, I would have been very emotional, of course. I would have been angry at those who committed the crime and I'd be angry at a state that didn't support the victim. And our opinions were expressed by Dana Perino from the podium. I talked to King Abdullah about the Middle Eastern peace. I don't remember if that subject came up. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it was that important to you, why wouldn't you bring it up?

BUSH: He knows our position loud and clear.


COSTELLO: I heard him talking about Middle East peace and King Abdullah. At the time the Saudi story broke, the Bush administration was hoping the Saudis would come to Annapolis, Maryland for the talks on Middle East peace. Well, as you know, the Saudis did come and perhaps the president as a dad has to be different than the president as a politician with a bigger rolled agenda. As for this Saudi rape victim, well the Saudi foreign minister is said to be reviewing her case but she's sort of stuck in limbo right now.

BLITZER: You'll stay on top of this story and update us when we get more information. Thanks very much, Carol, for that.

High-stakes version of the bachelorette. You're going to find out why the losers could be kicked out of the country. We'll show you the situation online.

Plus, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton; he's a sharp critic of Iran. Does the new national intelligence estimate change his view? Standing by in THE SITUATION ROOM. So are you.


BLITZER: Let's get to that story now about that new film that is causing some controversy with Christian groups. Our entertainment correspondent Brooke Anderson is in New York. Brooke?

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a fantasy film for kids is now embedded in an adult-size theological debate. Just days before the "Golden Compass" is set it hit theaters, one influential religious group is calling for a boycott and describing the film as a trap for parents.


ANDERSON: The "Golden Compass" presents an alternate universe of armored bears and airborne witches, a fantasy film rated PG-13 aimed at kids and their families this holiday season. But inside this shiny package lies a sinister gift, according it some Christian critics.

BILL DONAHUE, PRES., CATHOLIC LEAGUE: I think that it's really slipping in atheism in a backdoor fashion.

ANDERSON: The film is based on the first volume of British writer and self described agnostic Philip Pullman's best-selling trilogy "His Dark Materials," which ends with the death of god. "The Golden Compass" was first published in 1995.

Although there is no direct mention of Jesus, god or the Catholic Church in the film, children are menaced by a shadowy religious organization known as the magisterium.

Catholic League President Bill Donahue says that's a veiled attack on the Catholic Church.

DONAHUE: The term magisterium is the actual term that is used in the Catholic Church to describe the pope in communion with the bishops as the teaching authority.

ANDERSON: The Christian oriented website,, has issued a warning against the film. Focus on the Family calls the source material viciously anti-god and the Catholic League is calling for an outright boycott of the movie, fearing it would push kids to read the books.

DONAHUE: Movie is fairly innocuous but parents may decide to bring their kids into this a little further by buying them the trilogy for Christmas. At that point, they will introduce their children to the virtues of atheism and the horrors of Catholicism.

ANDERSON: A spokesperson for New Line Cinema, the studio behind the "Golden Compass," tells CNN "The film is neither anti-Christian nor anti-religion" and that the novel has been praised for its "deep spirituality and exploration of important theological issues."

CHRIS WEITZ, DIRECTOR, "THE GOLDEN COMPASS": I don't think the books are a threat to organized religion. First of all, I think organized religion is strong enough to stand on its own. Secondly, I don't think that Pullman is aggressively anti-catholic or anti- religious.

ANDERSON: Not all religious groups are unhappy with the film. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops calls it intelligent and well- crafted entertainment.


ANDERSON: While New Line Cinema isn't making Philip Paulman available for on camera interviews, the author wrote in Sunday's London Times that the film and the book celebrate free expression while criticizing religious intolerance and hypocrisy. Wolf, the film opens this weekend. Back to you.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Brooke Anderson.

This note, New Line Cinema is part of Time Warner, the parent company of CNN.

A new reality show featuring non U.S. citizens with temporary visas hopes to hit U.S. airwaves. It is a game show called get this, here's the name of the show, "Who Wants to Marry a U.S. Citizen." Could this show though be the next big thing.

Let's go our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She's watching this. Is this for real, Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, the show's creator says that they're making six episodes and that they're in talks with at least one cable network. Episode one is online; three foreign-born bachelors vying for the hand of one U.S. citizen. It's on a site called

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll never cheat on you and be monogamous and be there until the end.

TATTON: One will stay in the country, two will probably be deported screens this trailer. You'll see this rather low-budget affair online right now, but producer Adrian Martinez says he's not trying to encourage illegal immigration. He's just trying to play match maker. While a spokesman for the U.S. spokesman for the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service that would be in charge of any resulting green card application said today while not all marriages are stereotypical, the fact that two people met on a show called "Who Wants to Marry a U.S. Citizen" would mean we take a very, very hard look at that marriage. Wolf?

BLITZER: Abbi, thanks very much.

Let's check in again with Jack once again for the Cafferty file. Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour is what is behind the sudden rise in the polls of Mike Huckabee?

Anne writes from Midlothian, Virginia, "As a democrat, I have been watching the rise in the polls of Mike Huckabee with interest. Republicans have been searching for another Ronald Reagan and I think they have him in Governor Huckabee. He's charming, sincere, not arrogant. All this has me worried but of course, not nearly as concerned as Rudy, Mitt and the other guys on the other side of the aisle."

Kim in San Diego, "None of the republican front-runners so far have been able to impress. Naturally voters then look at the next and the next and so on. Huckabee will fade, too, once his weak sides are illuminated. In a weak field, every candidate gets a turn in the spotlight."

Liz in Florida, "Why is Huckabee rising? Because we're all getting tired of the slashing and trashing of the other candidates. Mike Huckabee hasn't really gone on the attack towards any of the other candidates. It's actually kind of refreshing to hear someone communicate their stance without tearing down or insulting anyone else in the process."

Sandra writes from Whittier, California, "Mike Huckabee is surging because Americans don't do their homework. Iowa's number one concern is illegal immigration. Huckabee is an open borders politician. He was for in-state tuition and drivers licenses for illegals. People that didn't have his view of pandering to illegals, he would call them racist. Wake up, we'd be getting another Bush."

Jesse in Texas writes, "He's like a fresh breeze that's blowing the stench from both the democrats and the republicans out to sea. We need him to replace the flotsam and jetsam currently riding the tide."

And Dale in Phoenix, Arizona, "For those in the media and most on the far left that are mystified by Huckabee's sudden surge. Please look up the following words in the dictionary: honesty, integrity, morality." Wolf.

BLITZER: Dale likes him clearly. All right. Thanks very much. See you in a few moments, Jack. We have our round table discussion coming up, as well.

Who is to blame for gridlock in Washington? Lou Dobbs standing by to join us. He has a few ideas. That's coming up next.

Also, former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, you're going to find out why he says there is a real risk here of over judging new intelligence on Iran's nuclear weapons program.

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


BLITZER: Lou Dobbs getting ready for his show. That begins in one hour. He's standing by now live to talk to us.

Lou, the president really went after the democrats today for gridlock here in Washington. Who do you think is really to blame more, the democrats or the republicans for the lack of action, shall we call it, here in the nation's capital?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: In terms of the lack of action on Capitol Hill, you have to blame, squarely, the democratic leadership. In terms of the lack of leadership in the nation's capital, you have to blame both the republicans and the democrats and this president. If we have ever experienced a void of leadership in this country, it is now. If there has ever been a time, in my judgment, which there are critical dangers, geopolitical dangers, as well as economic threats, the time is now because of that total seemingly total lack of leadership.

BLITZER: When you take a look at this situation, though, is there any hope on the immediate horizon, Lou?

DOBBS: If you can find reason for hope that that leadership void would be filled, you're doing far better than me, Wolf. I simply can't find it whether it be economic leadership, economic policy leadership or whether it be leadership for the nation itself. I mean, when we point to George W. Bush to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi as the three principal leaders of the legislature and the executive branches of this country, my god, if you don't think there is a leadership void I don't know what more evidence could be brought to bear.

BLITZER: Lou, stand by, you have a show coming up in one hour, thanks very much for that.

DOBBS: You got it.

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, the president's credibility on Iran. It's under fire.