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The Situation Room

Interview With Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili; John McCain Holds Press Conference; Why Warner's Importance is Key

Aired August 13, 2008 - 16:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Russian tanks on the move again in Georgia. A cease-fire may be in peril. And Moscow makes a startling demand of the U.S. -- choose them or us.
I'll talk live to the president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili.

Plus, a best-selling book could be trouble for Barack Obama. And a convention announcement gives us a hint who's not on the Democrat's VP shortlist.

And breaking news. John McCain's wife, Cindy, has been taken to the hospital. We're looking into that right now on the heels of a new CNN interview with the would-be first lady.

Wolf Blitzer's off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We'll get to the breaking news on Cindy McCain in a moment.

First, at this hour, Russia appears to be delivering a risky new ultimatum to the United States, even as Moscow's cease-fire with neighboring Georgia is in doubt. Russia's foreign minister is quoted as saying the U.S. must choose between supporting Georgia or continuing its partnership with Moscow on international issues. That, from the independent Russian news agency Interfax.

This comes after Russian armored vehicles were seen today in or around the cities of Gori, Poti and the capital, Tbilisi. The military moves an apparent violation of Russia's cease-fire agreement with Georgia that was just reached yesterday.

We are standing by for a live interview with the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili.

President Bush today is declaring America's unwavering support of Georgia, and he's sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region.

Our CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is standing by in Georgia. So is our White House correspondent, Ed Henry.

But first, to the president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili.

Mr. President, are you there? Can you hear us?

MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI, GEORGIAN PRESIDENT: I'm there. MALVEAUX: Thank you very much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

I want to start off by comments that you made earlier today. You said specifically that the cease-fire was over, that it was done. Can you tell us what happened in your country today to support this, to back this up? What is it like on the ground?

SAAKASHVILI: The cease-fire never stood in the first place. Russia never intended to stop fire.

Russian tanks continue to ravage (ph) Georgian towns and villages, killing people, destroying buildings, looting, setting the camps for internment of people, and doing, you know, some executions of people on the side. They've been doing worst things to what I've heard in the past and I could never imagine happening in my country. And they've been advancing slowly but surely towards the capital, Tbilisi.

At the same time, they've been blocking lines of supply for Tbilisi. They've shut down our seaports. They've shut down the main roads to the capital. They've shut down our international airport. And they are continuing to try to strangle our struggling democracy.

MALVEAUX: Earlier today you accused the United States of having language that was too soft. You said earlier on CNN that some of the first statements from Washington were pursued by the Russians as almost a green light for doing this because they were too soft.

There was an ultimatum that was given by a Russian official to the United States that said the Bush administration either backs Russia or Georgia. We heard from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just moments ago. I want you to take a listen to what she said.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: As to choosing, the United States has made very clear that it is standing by the democratically-elected government of Georgia.


MALVEAUX: Are you satisfied with her statement? What more do you want the Bush administration to do in terms of support?

SAAKASHVILI: I never accused the United States in the first place of anything. I just said that the Russians mistook some of the statements at certain levels. That you know, for, you know, an inability of the U.S. to react to flagrant violation of every international law and any principles of justice.

What we've been witnessing for the last few days is brutal, calculated, cold-blooded, premeditated murder by Russia of a small democracy on its borders. And what -- and, you know, it's not about Georgia or choosing between Georgia and Russia for the United States. It's about choosing whether the U.S. is willing to stand up for freedom, not to lose the whole region, not to lose eastern and central Europe, not to lose central Asia and the Caspian and wider Middle East, or -- and succumb to Russian pressure and succumb to never- ending appetites and ultimatums of military rhetoric in Moscow, and of the voice of people who are committing war crimes right now on my territory.

And this is a very, very fundamental issue. And this is not about Georgia. It's not like (INAUDIBLE) about Czechoslovakia in '38 (ph). That, you know, why should we care about a faraway country of what which know very little? Well, they gave up Czechoslovakia, they compromised in Munich, and the huge tragedy of Second World War with tens of millions of people dead have followed.

Now -- what we have now is -- what we really have now is Georgia being -- you know, Georgia being attacked, and I think this is just the starting of a big chain of events that might unfold if Georgia falls...

MALVEAUX: Mr. President...

SAAKASHVILI: ... if people in the West, in the world, don't stand up for freedom.

MALVEAUX: Mr. President, specifically, you spoke with President Bush earlier today. What did he promise you? What has he said in terms of the United States' help or aid to your country?

SAAKASHVILI: President Bush expressed unwavering support for Georgia's elected government, for our independence and territorial integrity. And there will be no compromise at the expense of our territorial integrity like there were compromises in the past in terms of appeasing one dictatorship or another that was in the past century.

The U.S. was famous for never making such deals. The U.S., the only big democracy in the world that never went for appeasement and never went for all kinds of shady deals.

That's the main force and appeal of the U.S. for every small and big nation worldwide. That's why my people are so sympathetic of the United States. That's why we had forces in Iraq to fight for the U.S. and our people died there. But we never, ever asked for extra gratitude, because we have common values, we share those values.

And what Russia is trying to kill right now in Georgia is not just killing my country and getting rid of me as its president, but it's about killing -- it's about killing the idea of freedom, democracy and future for the whole region. And that's a very, very essential dilemma.

MALVEAUX: Specifically...

SAAKASHVILI: I spoke with President Bush. He talked about humanitarian assistance.

MALVEAUX: Yes, as well as -- in addition to humanitarian assistance, was there any desire to actually put U.S. forces, either at ports or airports, to patrol that type of thing beyond humanitarian assistance? Is that something you discussed?

SAAKASHVILI: Well, what they've been talking about is about delivering humanitarian assistance and opening the corridors by the U.S. Navy and by the U.S. Air Force. And this is a humanitarian mission, but this is a humanitarian mission of huge lifesaving importance.

This is going to save five million people, and this is going to save the whole region. And you can never overestimate the importance of this humanitarian assistance.

This is not fighting wars. This is about helping and, you know, bailing out the people that is in deep trouble, that is being attacked, and that is being butchered because we want -- you know, the bombs that are falling on us, having seen a description (ph) on them, this is for America. This is for NATO. This is for the West. This is for Bush.

And certainly I don't know what kind of perverse people are doing this, but this is -- for them it's very serious. They really mean it.

MALVEAUX: Have you spoken...

SAAKASHVILI: But the point is that my people is dying. My people is dying under those bombs.

MALVEAUX: Have you spoken to the Russian leadership at all, either Medvedev or Putin?

SAAKASHVILI: They don't speak to us at all. They don't speak to us at all. Why would they speak to us? They think they are killing us anyway. Why would they speak to their victims?

MALVEAUX: Have you reached out to them? Do you feel that there is any room for negotiation, or at least to begin a dialogue with this country?

SAAKASHVILI: Well, we did our best. So far, we've done our best. But so far, the only thing we've been getting from them is bombs, is killings, is attacks on civilians. It's looting. And it's very, very offensive, angry rhetoric, basically about killing our independence. And this is absolutely not acceptable.

MALVEAUX: You praised one of the...

SAAKASHVILI: And you know what?

MALVEAUX: Yes, please, go ahead.

SAAKASHVILI: You know, the main idea from them was, we don't discuss anything with you. You just succumb to our pressure. You surrender, and then we discuss something. You give up your freedom, you give up your independence, you give up your elected government, you give up your territories.

Well, our response to them, we don't have 1,200 tanks that come rolling into our territory, but yesterday we had huge crowds in downtown Tbilisi, peaceful demonstrations saying we will never surrender. We will never surrender. That's our message of my people to people who invaded my country.

MALVEAUX: Mr. President, earlier you praised one of the candidates, the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain, for saying that, "We are all Georgians." And then you went on to say earlier today that you're looking for more than just words, but some actions here.

SAAKASHVILI: Senator Obama also made statements basically.


SAAKASHVILI: Senator Obama was also very supportive.

MALVEAUX: Do you expect either one of them to be able to do anything at this point, and do either one of these candidates offer something that you believe will move this forward, this peace process, or move this forward here in terms of the conflict with Russia?

SAAKASHVILI: Well, I've been talking to Senator McCain several times a day, and he has been very reassuring. He has been really helpful in raising our morale.

You know, I think he spends less time on his presidential campaign these days and lots of time on Georgia. And I really appreciate that, because Senator McCain has been fighting for freedom of Georgia for many, many years. He understands every issue involved here. He understands what we are punished for.

And the same for Senator Obama. And I think it's very important to understand that these are still candidates. But every word of support, every word of sympathy, every word of outcry in the world, really helps, because people who are against us, they are ruthless. But, you know, is there no way -- you know, this should turn the world upside down. And either the world does something about it or the whole world is in trouble.

We don't exaggerate, because things happening now here triggered huge tragedies in the past -- in Afghanistan in '79, in Czechoslovakia in '68, in again in Czechoslovakia in 1938, in Poland in 1939. These things happened in the past.

I'm not exaggerating. This is happening right now here. Either we wake up and look into the eyes of the bitter truth and do something about it, or it will be never-ending stories of increased tragedies and increased human suffering and loss.

MALVEAUX: President Saakashvili, thank you so much for joining us here on THE SITUATION ROOM. We appreciate it.

We do want our viewers to know we also invited the Russian ambassador to the U.N. to come on THE SITUATION ROOM and talk to us. We certainly hope that he will take us up on that offer. I want to go to our White House correspondent, Ed Henry, who has been listening to all of this. He's been following all of the developments here.

Obviously, a lot of fast-moving events that are taking place. President Bush, Secretary Rice, Secretary Gates all weighing in on what is happening here.

Ed, what is the White House reaction in terms of where we are in this conflict between Georgia and Russia?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, just in the last hour, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that basically this is a new time in world history, that Russia can't just barge into a neighboring country and overthrow its government. But on the other hand, the administration seems to be having a hard time figuring out just how to stop Russia from doing that.


HENRY (voice-over): More tough talk from President Bush, but without any real ultimatum for Russia.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To begin to repair the damage to its relations with the United States, Europe and other nations, and to begin restoring its place in the world, Russia must keep its word and act to end this crisis.

HENRY: The president declared he's dispatching Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region and sending in humanitarian relief. But six days into the crisis, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili charged the West has not done enough to help them deal with Russia's invasion.

SAAKASHVILI: The response has not been adequate. And the West has been -- first of all, they failed to analyze the Russians' intentions in advance, and they failed to react promptly towards what's been happening now.

HENRY: On top of that, withering criticism from the conservative editorial page of "The Wall Street Journal," charging, "So far, the administration has been missing in action, to put it mildly. If Mr. Bush doesn't revisit his Russian failures, the rout of Georgia will stand as the embarrassing coda to his presidency."

Administration officials say they have no regrets, insisting they've taken aggressive action.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We rallied our international partners to help solve -- get the cease-fire in place. That was the most important thing to do so that we could help protect innocent life.

HENRY (on-camera): But the cease-fire is not holding.

PERINO: Well, first of all, you had to get them to agree to it. HENRY (voice over): It was French President Nicolas Sarkozy who took the lead on the cease-fire. And Republican Senator John McCain has pushed for specific punishment of Russia, such as knocking it out of the G-8 or yanking the 2014 Winter Olympics from Sochi, Russia.

The president only hinted at such action.

BUSH: Russia has sought to integrate into the diplomatic, political, economic and security structures of the 21st century. Now Russia's putting its aspirations at risk.


MALVEAUX: We want to break out of this piece. We want to go directly to the Republican presumptive nominee, John McCain, who is at a press conference before reporters. He's actually talking about the situation between Russia and Georgia.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... transporting oil from sources in the Caspian to points west. The United States has canceled a planned joint military operation with Russia, but we will now need to review the full range of our relations.

With our NATO allies, we must address the future of the alliances relationship with Russia, and with our G-7 partners, we should discuss whether it makes sense for Russia to continue its participation in the G-8. We also need to review Russia's aspiration for membership in the World Trade Organization.

In addition, I urge discussions about an international peacekeeping operation, including canvassing nations for possible contributions to such a force. NATO should also begin anew, the discussions about a membership track for both Georgia and Ukraine.

After the events of the past six days, no one should wonder why countries on Russia's periphery so ardently seek the security guarantees alliance membership represents. The situation in Georgia remains fluid and dangerous. And as soon as possible, my colleagues, Senator Lieberman and Senator Graham, will be traveling to Georgia.

They're both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. I hope that other members of the Armed Services Committee in the Senate and they will go together and receive an assessment of the situation and what we need to do in the future to avoid further escalation, and also to protect the independence and freedom of the people of this brave, democratic ally, the country of Georgia.

Thank you -- Ed?

QUESTION: Senator, good afternoon.

Given the events around Georgia, do you think there ought to be tightened security arrangements for Ukraine, for the Baltic states, and even Poland?

MCCAIN: Yes, I do. And I -- one of the really most heartening aspects of this situation was the visit by five presidents of these countries who have all -- to Tbilisi, who all have one thing in common. They've all lived under Russian domination.

And so, yes, I believe that we have to do what we can to reassure other nations in the region that we will try to assist them in maintaining their independence and recognize that this action by Russia against Georgia may not, although hopefully it is isolated, may not be. But I hope is isolated.

QUESTION: Senator...

MCCAIN: Sorry. We'll bring the microphone.

QUESTION: ... an adviser to Senator Obama last night said that your comments about the situation there in South Ossetia and Georgia, at least initially, were aggressive, belligerent and may have complicated matters. I would like to get your response to that, ad also the notion that your tough possession on Russia may tend to make them less cooperative in the future instead of more cooperative.

MCCAIN: First of all, this isn't a time for partisanship and sniping between campaigns. This is about hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent people whose lives are even being taken, or they're rendered homeless, wounded. This is no time for that, to start with.

Second of all, if I may be so bold, there was another president at one time. There was a president named Ronald Reagan who spoke very strongly about America's advocacy for democracy and freedom. He was criticized at that time.

I've been to Georgia on several occasions. I know the president of Georgia, President Saakashvili. I know him well.

I know the people of Georgia have enjoyed an unprecedented period of prosperity and freedom. And I know that at this time they're suffering mightily.

So maybe later on in the campaign, let's have a back-and-forth about whose comments or statements. But now, let's devote all of America and our allies' energy to helping resolve a situation which is froth with human tragedy.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Senator...

MCCAIN: Use the microphone.

QUESTION: Thank you, Senator.

In light of that comment, and frankly, one that you said yesterday in our interview, I'd like to ask you to sort of clarify a distinction between yourself and what Senator Lieberman -- and perhaps you would like to respond to this, too -- said yesterday in Teaneck, New Jersey, when he compared your initial statements and said, and I quote -- Barack Obama and John McCain's statements -- Senator Lieberman said, "One had kind of a moral neutrality to it. That comes, I think, from inexperience. The other, Senator McCain, was strong and clear." That seems a little political to some now.

MCCAIN: Well, let me respond by just saying that I think that whatever we think at the moment, that we can all reserve that for a future time. And I think judgments will be made about how we handle this situation, how we approach the situation in Iraq, and how much experience and knowledge and background means in selecting the American people's decision as to who should be the next commander in chief.

So all I can say is, there will be plenty of time for that. And we'll move forward with it.

Yes, sir. Either one. It doesn't matter.

QUESTION: Senator...

MCCAIN: It always matters. But I'll...

QUESTION: ... I'll follow up on Ed's question. And that is, you said that heightened security for the Baltic states and Poland might be in order.

Could you talk a little bit more about what shape that might take?

MCCAIN: Well, when I say that, I think that we need to make sure that our NATO allies are -- work closely with us. I think it's important that everyone recognize throughout the world that in the NATO alliance, an attack on one is viewed as an attack on all. But I don't think we're going to reignite the Cold War here with Russia. I think this is a very serious situation, but I don't see this as a return to nuclear standoffs, et cetera, et cetera.

I want to have a dialogue with the Russians. I want them to get out of Georgian territory as quickly as possible. And I am interested in good relations between the United States and Russia.

But in the 21st century, nations don't invade other nations. And we will decide in subsequent days as to whether there's a degree of provocation and who was right and who was wrong. But you cannot justify the extent and the degree of the Russian intervention in Georgia, and so we need to obviously show solidarity.

I mentioned the solidarity expressed by the presidents of five countries, all of whom have lived under Russian domination at one time or another. So my point is that all of us show solidarity together and do whatever we can to make sure that behavior in the 21st century is one of respect for the sovereignty and independence of nations, and that includes the country of Georgia. That's what I meant by that in my response.

Yes, ma'am?

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Two questions.

One is, do you think that President Bush's statement today -- or I'm sorry, his declaration of what actions he would take today went far enough? Is there anything else that you think he should be doing right now?

And secondly, would you consider using U.S. military force in this situation?

MCCAIN: The answer to your second question is no.

The first answer is that, as I said in my opening comment, I applaud the president's statement this morning, and I support the various steps that the president has called for, and I think we have sent a clear message. And again, the time is now for us, all together as Americans who cherish independence and freedom, to join together and take the necessary actions in order to bring about an end as quickly as possible to this conflict. And the first step, obviously, is an actual cease-fire, followed by the Russian withdrawal from Georgian territory.

Yes, sir? And then I'll go in the back.

PETER HAMBY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Senator. Peter Hamby from CNN.

After these hostilities began, you were immediately out there taking a very aggressive stance towards Russia, even before Senator Obama came around to your position. I guess, where do these feelings towards Russia come from? What was the sort of genesis behind that initial position you took last Friday?

MCCAIN: Well, let me say my position vis-a-vis the now prime minister of Russia has been very clear for a long period of time, that I've been very concerned about Russian behavior in a broad variety of areas, whether it be forcibly removing corporations and -- that are doing business in Russia, or whether it be reducing dramatically the flow of oil to the Czech Republic after they have made agreements with us, or whether it be the rhetoric that now Prime Minister Putin has used from time to time, the brutality in Chechnya. There's a long list that I have objected to, and at the same time, advocated Russian cooperation in areas that are vital to the world's security, such as the Iranian continued path to acquisition of nuclear weapons.

So for a long time I have been very concerned and talked about and given speeches about Russian behavior since President Putin came to power, now prime minister, formerly President Putin came to power. And so this is not a new statement on my part.

This is another reaction to what is clearly an act of aggression that has caused the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent civilians. And in the 21st century, the world cannot stand or should not stand for such behavior. And we obviously want to work this issue out in the most peaceful fashion, without escalation, and without further loss of life.

So all I can say is, I have a long record of experience and background and knowledge, vis-a-vis our relations with Russia. And so, although I was deeply disappointed at Russian behavior, I must say that this is one in a long series of actions taken by Prime Minister Putin that have been of deep and biting concern to me for a long time.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Eric Sornik (ph), "Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle."

In a speech in Berlin, Senator Obama called himself a citizen of the world. Do you also consider yourself to be a citizen of the world? And in these times of Russia and Iran, do you believe it's a foreign policy asset or liability for a president to consider himself in this way?

MCCAIN: I think that I am a person who has had the great honor and privilege of serving my country for many, many years. And obviously I have always put my country first.

I have also advocated for close cooperation with our friends and allies throughout the world in recognizing we are a member of the international community. But I believe that my experience and knowledge and background leads me to the conclusion that the United States of America is still the world's leader in many respects, and we remain a beacon of hope and liberty for people throughout the world, including the people of Georgia as we speak.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Senator, (INAUDIBLE) with Voice of America.

As you know, there is a proposed U.S. (INAUDIBLE) nuclear agreement hung up in the Congress, and namely because of concern of Russia's cooperation in the Iran nuclear and missiles program. Now Senator Brownback is suggesting, because of this Georgia crisis, Congress should reject this proposed agreement.

I would like to know, are you supporting this approach and this crisis that would decrease the level of U.S. -- Russian cooperation on Iran?

MCCAIN: Let me say I think the president did the right thing, or this administration did when we canceled exercises with Russia. I think we have to act in what is America's national security interests.

Even at the height of the Cold War, there was agreements between the United States and the then Soviet Union that were in the interests of both countries. So I would have to examine this particular proposal in the light of whether it is in America's national security interest to go forward with that agreement.

I'm not advocating cutting off relations with Russia. I'm not advocating a reignition of the Cold War. I am advocating for actions that will make it very clear to the Russians that there are long-term consequences for violation of the norms of international behavior. But I will still support proposals and agreements between our two countries and other countries that are in America's national security interests.


QUESTION: Hey, Senator, I just wanted to follow up real briefly on Carl's (ph) question, because he equivocated a bit. And sorry to make it awkward with Senator Lieberman standing beside you, but I wanted to know whether you thought that his comments last night politicizing the Georgia issue were out of line, and whether you're calling upon members of your own campaign, your own surrogates, to refrain from that.

MCCAIN: I have to -- and I'm sorry to be repetitious. This is no time for that. This is no time for that. The time now is for America to -- the United States of America to act united on behalf of the people of the country of Georgia, and not do a lot of partisan sniping. When this crisis is resolved -- and I hope that it's soon -- I hope that, in the next 24 hours, that Russian troops will be withdrawn and negotiations are initiated, so that there is an agreement.

And, by the way, I remain concerned about the issue of Russian -- of Georgian territorial integrity. And then we will move on back to the back-and-forth of -- of campaigning and comments back and forth.

Yes, sir, in the back.

And I will go to you next, ma'am. Thank you.

GORDON TROWBRIDGE, "THE DETROIT NEWS": Thank you, Senator. Gordon Trowbridge from "The Detroit News." And I apologize for asking a parochial question. But there are...

MCCAIN: Please do so.


TROWBRIDGE: There are a number of proposals making the rounds in Congress right now for loan guarantees that would help the auto industry. There are a number of analysts who believe those guarantees are crucial to keeping the possibility of bankruptcy at bay for those companies.

Among the people who are working on that, those proposals, is Congressman Upton, who is a close -- close ally of yours. I wonder if you had a chance to look at any of those proposals and whether or not you support them?

MCCAIN: Could I say, I have heard many of those proposals.

But I have also had meetings, as you know, with the three big automakers. And they are confident, with the new hybrids, with flex fuels, and other technological advances, which will not only help the auto industry, but create tens of thousands of jobs throughout Michigan and the heartland of America, that they can succeed.

So, I -- in all due respect, I worry a little bit about us predicting failure on the part of the automakers, when they're striving mightily, having made agreements between management and labor on health care issues and pensions, that -- that they're expressing to me their confidence and success with the adaptation of new technology.

Now, I will be glad to consider proposals to help the auto industry, including investing in pure research and development, a $5,000 tax credit for someone who purchases one of these new automobiles that are either hybrid or electric or flex fuels or others.

But, at the moment, for us to somehow predict the doom of the auto industry in America, certainly the big three, I -- I think is, frankly, not timely at this time. And I don't want it to be a self- fulfilling promise.

Yes, ma'am?

MALVEAUX: You have been listening to Senator John McCain primarily talking about the conflict between Russia and Georgia, in his words, saying, "I don't think that we're going to reignite the Cold War with Russia." He says that he believes President Bush does have a strong enough statement towards Georgia and Russia, saying he believes in immediate cease-fire, as well as Russia withdrawing its troops immediately from Georgia.

It was interesting. He declined twice to actually criticize Senator Barack Obama's own approach to this conflict, both of these candidates trying to stay on top of this issue, perhaps even a step ahead of the other one -- Senator Barack Obama, vacationing in Hawaii, issuing several statements. And then we see Senator John McCain on the campaign trail, very much the same thing.

Now, the first business -- business item in this press conference was actually about his wife, Cindy McCain. There were reports of a sprained ankle. We saw her standing side by side with her husband. It's actually a sprained wrist. And he made a little joke about it, made light of it. She was taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure.

Let's take a listen.


J. MCCAIN: I begin by saying that I wonder -- many of you are wondering about Cindy's new attire.


J. MCCAIN: And an individual shook her hand very vigorously in the last event that we were at, and she has a minor sprain. And I'm sure she...

CINDY MCCAIN, WIFE OF SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: I'm fine. J. MCCAIN: I'm sure she looks a lot better and now will not have to shake so many hands. So...


C. MCCAIN: I feel great.


MALVEAUX: So, a little bit of levity there from the press conference, seeing John McCain and his wife, Cindy McCain, that she's fine, just a little bit of a sprain there.

We are following all of this news. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: Conflict rages in Georgia. But, before any gunfire, there were attacks against Georgia in cyberspace. And some experts say Russia's government was behind it.

A city devastated on 9/11 will soon go to even greater lengths to protect its people and properties from another attack. But some in New York wonder, at what cost?

And the man who caused so much pain and suffering to his victims apparently does something to try to prevent them from more pain and suffering. There's a strange new twist regarding the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: Back to the breaking news in the Russia/Georgia conflict, and what appears to be an ultimatum from Moscow to Washington.

Russia's foreign minister is quoted by Russian media as saying the United States must choose between supporting Georgia or continuing its partnership with Moscow on international issues.

Joining me is former Senator and Former Defense Secretary William Cohen. He runs The Cohen Group here in Washington.

Thank you so much for being with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: First of all, did Secretary Rice, did she put herself in a box here when she said, as it comes to choosing, we choose Georgia?

COHEN: Well, I think we have to indicate that we support democracy. We do not support autocracy. And we certainly don't support Russia's attack upon Georgian territory.

This is clearly an invasion of the sovereign territory of Georgia. And it's also a violation of international law. So, if you're ask us whether or not we put ourselves on the side of rule of law, international rule of law, and on the side of democracy, I think there's really no choice here.

And, so, if that's the position of the Russians, then I think it's pretty clear that we have to be on one side or the other, we would prefer to have a negotiated settlement here. But you can't ask us to support this kind of overreaction on the part of the Russians, clearly excessive force. This is clearly something that violates every norm of international behavior and rule of law.

And, so, if the Russians are asking us to support that kind of behavior, it's really a pretty easy question to answer.

MALVEAUX: Does this jeopardize our cooperation with Russia when it comes to dealing with Iran, a nuclear-armed Iran, or even North Korea? Obviously, we need their cooperation. It's in their interests, as Secretary -- Secretary Rice said. But, obviously, the Russians are not happy with what is happening here.

COHEN: It doesn't have to jeopardize those relations.

But I was at the security conference in Munich back in February of 2007. President Putin, at that point, came forward, and he unleashed a Cold -- a level of Cold War rhetoric that we have not heard in many years. In fact, Secretary Gates followed that speech and said he had heard quite enough of Cold War rhetoric during his lifetime; we shouldn't have a return to that.

And that's why I was pleased to hear Senator McCain say we don't want to see a return to the Cold War. It doesn't have to be that way. We have mutual interests with Russia. Russia should not want to see a nuclear-armed Iran. Russia should not want to see a nuclear-armed North Korea continuing on its path to producing more nuclear weapons. So, they have a self-interest here. What we have to do is to appeal to the Russian leadership at this point to say, if you really want to be a member of the international community, you must abide by international rules of law.

And they, under these circumstances, clearly are not doing that.

MALVEAUX: Secretary Rice tonight is actually going to be going to Georgia. She's also going to be talking with some of members of the NATO alliance.

Is it a mistake for her not to go to Moscow and to deal with the Russian leadership directly? Should she not be dealing with them, as opposed to through the United Nations -- the E.U., rather?

COHEN: I think President Bush had an opportunity to deal directly with President Putin during the Olympic Games, when they were both in Beijing. Clearly, those discussions -- I don't know what the substance of them was, but they had an opportunity to discuss this. It didn't produce any positive reaction coming from the Russians. I think, at this point, we need to find out whether we are going to have the support of our NATO allies and the European Union.

If they are with the United States in expressing support for Georgia, that at least gives us a better position to bargain with the Russians. To go it alone to Russia to have more discussions at this point while Russian troops apparently -- apparently continue to violate the -- the sovereign territory of Georgia, I think that would be probably problematic in getting any kind of a positive reaction.

MALVEAUX: What kind of leverage does the Bush administration really have here? I mean, we're talking about perhaps kicking them out of the Group of 8 industrialized nations, the G8, canceling these kind of exercises, naval exercises, between NATO and Russia.

But, beyond that, is this really more symbolic? Does the United States really have any leverage in changing Russia's behavior?

COHEN: Well, I think there are a number of things that can be done that would be very adverse to Russia's overall long-term interests.

I think it's useful to examine what those options might be, but to discuss them in a way of saying, we shouldn't commit ourselves to them at this particular point, but, rather, say, what is it we can do, rather than talking about what we can't do? Military options are not viable, certainly, but there are with other things that would be interest to Russia that should be of interest to us as well.

MALVEAUX: Secretary Cohen, thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

COHEN: Good to be with you.

MALVEAUX: Thank you.

There is a new book out about Barack Obama, and it is not flattering. The facts are mixed with accusations about Obama that are misleading or just flat-out wrong. Yet, despite all of this, there is concern that the author's claims might catch on with some voters.

Our CNN's Jessica Yellin joining me now.

And, Jessica, the author even admits that there is an agenda here behind this book.


I just spoke with the author of the book, Jerome Corsi, and he told me he wrote it because he feels the mainstream media has gone too easy on Barack Obama, and he wants to see Obama defeated.


YELLIN (voice-over): Remember the Swift Boat attacks of 2004?


GEORGE ELLIOTT, SWIFT BOAT VETERANS FOR TRUTH: John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam.

AL FRENCH, SWIFT BOAT VETERANS FOR TRUTH: He is lying about his record.


YELLIN: Now the man who wrote the Swift Boat book has a new book out on Barack Obama, and he's been promoting it in appearances like this one on FOX News.


JEROME CORSI, AUTHOR, "THE OBAMA NATION": I feel Americans know very little about Obama. Four years ago, he was a state senator in the legislature in Illinois. And he has not been fully vetted.


YELLIN: The book debuted at number one on the "New York Times" bestseller list and scored an article on that paper's front page.

It alleges, Obama is on the extreme left of American politics, and has extensive connections to Islam and with radical racial politics, this despite the fact that, for months, Obama's been explaining he is not Muslim.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you get one of these e-mails that says I'm a Muslim, not true, that -- never been a Muslim. This -- this is just stuff that is designed to make people suspicious.

YELLIN: It includes lines that some might consider racially insensitive, such as, "Obama's mother chose another Third World prospect for her second husband, a second man of color, to be her mate."

Obama supporters charge, Corsi has been discredited. In 2004, the Associated Press verified he posted comments on a conservative Web site describing Islam as a religion in which the "boys are buggered and the infidels are killed," and calling Pope John Paul II "senile."

Campaign supporters say that's reason enough to dismiss the book.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think anybody's going to take Jerome Corsi all that seriously, once they learn who this guy really is. Even people on the right wing haven't associated themselves with him, because of some of the pretty bigoted and outrageous things he's said in his career.


YELLIN: Corsi told me that he long ago apologized for those postings online and that he is no way a racist.

Suzanne, the Obama campaign, through a spokesman, tells me they believe this book is nothing but -- quote -- "a series of lies that were long ago discredited written by a person who wrote a similar book to get Bush and Cheney elected." They say this is an attempt to continue those politics four years later, and says many -- they say many people will try to make money off of this election. They plan to hit back hard.

I can only say this book, again, is debuting at number one. So, it looks like they're going to have to respond to these attacks outlined in the book for some time -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Jessica.

Cindy McCain is weighing in on a blogger's coverage of her husband, John. The blogger is her daughter, Meghan. We have a new interview with the would-be first lady.

Plus, new questions about whether Barack Obama is repeating John Kerry's mistakes.

And we're reading the convention tea leaves. What does the Democratic keynote speaker tell us about the Obama campaign?


MALVEAUX: The Democratic presidential nominee of four years ago is trying to help the current presumptive nominee. John Kerry hopes what happened to him does not happen to Barack Obama.

So, Kerry and supporters roll out a Web site called Truth Fights Back. It promises to fight lies from what it calls the right-wing smear machine.

Joining me are CNN political contributor Democratic strategist Paul Begala, and Republican strategist Kevin Madden, a former spokesman for Mitt Romney.

Good to see you guys.


MALVEAUX: Thanks for joining us.

I want to start off here by talking about this -- this new Web site that John Kerry has up. He's saying he's coming back and he wants to make sure that all these smears and lies basically are addressed.

Is -- is Barack Obama, is he responding to some of these attacks quick enough, or is he falling into the same kind of trap that John Kerry was in at this time last summer?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, a little of the latter.

I think a lot of Democrats are worried and wondering if Obama is going to hit, and hit back hard. I think what Senator Kerry is doing is good. It's probably very encouraging to the Obama folks and to Democrats like me.

But, you know, I'm a George S. Patton Democrat. Patton said, the purpose of war is not to die for your country. It's to make the other die guy die for his country, right? The purpose of a campaign is not merely to respond to every attack. So, let's not overlearn all this rapid response. I was part of that with Bill Clinton.

How about rapid attack? How about we set up a Web site where we put out the Bush-McCain record, how John McCain votes with George Bush 91 percent of the time? How about we attack, instead of just saying, oh, poor Democrats, we have to respond to the right wing? It's a good start. I'm not trying to be overcritical, but...

MALVEAUX: Well, isn't that a problem, though? Isn't that a problem for Barack Obama, who has run on a campaign saying that this is going to be positive, it's going to be change, optimistic? I mean, how do you -- how do you do something like that?

MADDEN: No, because the late is that you lose. And, you know, a losing candidate can't change Washington.

So, I think the most important thing that -- that Barack Obama can do is exactly what Paul said, which is counterattack. But the last couple of weeks, Barack Obama has been crouching. They have been waiting back and let everybody else do it for them, or merely hoping that it will go away.

And, as we all know, hope is not a strategy. So, you know, there -- that's the peril right now. And that is where the McCain campaign is making a lot of headway, especially with the celeb ad.

The reason the celeb ad -- the celebrity ad -- did so well was because the Obama campaign didn't refute it. They tried to pooh-pooh it and down-talk it, but they didn't go out there and show them that John McCain was wrong, because, quite frankly, I believe they couldn't.

MALVEAUX: Do you agree with Paul that there -- there should be some sort of more a of a line of attack?

MADDEN: Well, I think that, in campaigns, that Paul is exactly right. From a purely tactical standpoint -- whether or not I'm giving this advice to Barack Obama -- you always have to be counterattacking. You can't just wait for your opponent to -- to basically draw the contours of the race by themselves.

You have to be doing that by always making sure that you're going out there, talking about yourself, but constantly counterattacking your opponent.

MALVEAUX: I want to turn to this subject here. This is Senator John McCain in an interview with Stephen Hayes of "The Weekly Standard." Really kind of some surprising news here, reaching out really pro-choice, as opposed to pro-life.

He says: "I think it's a fundamental tenet of our party to be pro-life, but that does not mean we exclude people from our party that are pro-choice. We have a -- albeit strong, but just -- it's just a disagreement. And I think Ridge" -- that is Tom Ridge -- "is a great example of that, far more so than Bloomberg, because Bloomberg is pro- gay rights, pro, you know, a number of other issues."

Do you think that this is -- is this a good strategy, for him to reach out to some of the -- to the moderates here, that he is actually willing to go this far?


Now, let's see if he does it. I think this is McCain publicly musing. I think that the real McCain probably would like to put Tom Ridge on the ticket with him, above everybody else. Ridge, like McCain, is a war hero. He's from a key state, Pennsylvania. He would be an enormous asset in many ways. And he is pro-choice on abortion.

And I think that makes him anathema to too many Republicans. And, so, McCain can't do it. And I think maybe this was a trial balloon or maybe just publicly musing about it. But I think that's what it's all about. It's all about Tom Ridge. And you saw that come out in that comment from John McCain. He's pretty transparent sometimes.

MADDEN: Look, I think the argument that John McCain makes is factually accurate, which is that we are a party that allows for differing viewpoints.

But I think the argument has been won by the pro-life folks within the party. And that's very important to us. And I think what you're going to have is a -- you're going to have a -- you would have a stampede of social conservatives away from the party if you were to have somebody who is pro-life.

John McCain is talking in a very unifying way. That's smart. But, at the end of the day, the party is going to be held together by a presidential nominee and V.P. nominee that are both pro-life.

MALVEAUX: But doesn't John McCain really have the challenge that he needs to speak to the conservatives, that they have not been convinced that he really is conservative enough?

MADDEN: And I expect right now that this -- the link on this story is being sent back and forth in e-mails between a lot of social conservatives.

And he's going to have to address that. Again, he -- the thing for John McCain is that we can't run the race that we ran in 2004. If we did, we would lose by five points. So, he has to speak in a very -- a larger, more encompassing way to bring in a lot of independents and conservative Democrats.

And I think that's why you're -- you're seeing him not be very dismissive of those that are pro-choice, but, instead, be more unifying. But, at the end of the day, as a party, we have to be a pro-life party, I believe.

BEGALA: This is August 13. It's my son John Paul (ph)'s birthday.

MALVEAUX: Happy birthday.


BEGALA: If, on August 13, you're still worried about your base, you're losing.


BEGALA: Right?

MADDEN: That is a good point.

BEGALA: He needs to be all about swing voters on August 13. That's fine to worry about them on January 13. But he's got -- he's got to have the base by now. And, if he doesn't, he's going to lose.

MADDEN: This race is going to won in the big middle.

MALVEAUX: All right, Kevin, Paul, thank you so much.

And happy birthday to your son.

BEGALA: Happy birthday, John Paul.



MALVEAUX: ... can say happy birthday.

Straight ahead: Former Virginia Governor and current Senate Candidate Mark Warner will give the keynote speech at the Democrats' convention. There's a big reason why.

One of the most notorious killers in the U.S. apparently showing compassion for his victims. From solitary confinement, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski apparently says one thing might cause them more pain and suffering.

And conflict rages in Georgia, but, before any gunfire, there were attacks against Georgia in cyberspace. And some experts say Russia's government was behind it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MALVEAUX: Here's a look at "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your newspaper tomorrow.

In Georgia, President Mikhail Saakashvili, questions from members of the media about developments in the war-torn region.

In England, high winds hamper sea travel, as waves engulf a ship arriving in a port.

In China, the Ivory Coast soccer team's jumps in celebration of an Olympic victory over Australia.

And, in Poland, a three-month-old tiger cub abandoned by its mother plays with a puppy.

That's this hour's "Hot Shots," pictures worth 1,000 words.

On our "Political Ticker," we're counting down to the Democratic Convention. There is new word that former Virginia Governor and U.S. Senate candidate Mark Warner will deliver the keynote address on Tuesday night in Denver.

That raises doubts about Warner's prospects as a possible Obama running mate. Obama's yet-to-be-named V.P. choice is scheduled to speak at the convention on Wednesday.

Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.

Beyond the V.P. speculation, what is the significance of Warner's selection as the keynote speaker, Bill?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it does signify that Mark Warner is a rising star in the Democratic Party, and, the party hopes, so is the state of Virginia.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): A keynote convention speech can signal a bright future in the party. Ask Barack Obama, who delivered the keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention.


OBAMA: There is not a liberal America and a conservative America. There is the United States of America.



SCHNEIDER: In 2004, Obama was running for the Senate. So is Mark Warner, who has been chosen to deliver the 2008 keynote speech.

MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I have not sought and will not accept any other opportunity, because I want to serve in the United States Senate.

SCHNEIDER: Almost 40 percent of the convention delegates are Hillary Clinton supporters. On Wednesday night, former President Bill Clinton will speak. Hillary Clinton is the announced headline speaker for Tuesday night. But she will be sharing the spotlight with Warner, the popular former governor of Virginia, who considered running for president himself.

WARNER: After 67 trips to 28 states and five countries, I have made my decision. I have decided not to run for president.

SCHNEIDER: Under Warner, Democrats began to make breakthrough gains in Virginia, including election of another Democratic governor and a Democratic senator.

When he was elected governor, Warner showed strong appeal to rural and small-town voters, the kind of voters Obama had trouble with in the Democratic primaries. So, immediately after winning the nomination in June, where did Obama kick off his general election campaign?

WARNER: But our candidate, Senator Barack Obama, chose right here in Bristol, in southwest Virginia, to launch this campaign.


SCHNEIDER: That's Appalachia, where Obama needs help and where Warner may be able to help him.


SCHNEIDER: In February, Obama enjoyed a breakthrough victory in the Virginia primary, when he carried both white and black voters in a Southern state.

Virginia has not voted Democratic for president since 1964. Obama and Warner are hoping for another Democratic breakthrough this year -- Suzanne.