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THE SITUATION ROOM

Campaign '08 Heats Up; Top Democrat Calls Cheney Delusional

Aired January 25, 2007 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.
Happening now, Iraq -- defense and counterattack. Senator John McCain tries to calm his colleagues' fears about a troop build-up. And a top Democrat calls Vice President Dick Cheney, and I'm quoting now, "delusional."

Also this hour, the '08 Democrats audition.

Who will get the role of Hollywood darling? Will it be Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama? Someone else?

We're tracking the early tryouts for party -- for party brokers.

And a different kind of protest against President Bush.

Will it prevent his presidential library from finding a home?

There are new developments in the uproar over neo-con philosophy and academic integrity.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

First this hour, blood in the streets of the Iraqi capital and new war skirmishes on Capitol Hill. More than 30 people were killed in attacks across Baghdad today, including an American soldier caught in the blast of a homemade bomb.

Today's strikes came as Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki urged Iraqis to support a retooled crackdown on insurgents.

On Capitol Hill, a leading Democrats is taking direct aim at Dick Cheney's unapologetic defense of Iraq in that exclusive interview we had with the vice president yesterday.

Meantime, Senator John McCain is trying to find some common ground on Iraq among divided Republicans.

Let's turn to Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

She's following all of this for us -- Dana. DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, your interview with Vice President Cheney certainly is getting some attention here on Capitol Hill. Specifically the comment that he made talking about Iraq and saying that there were enormous successes in that country.

First, let's listen to what the vice president said about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, Wolf, if the history books were written by people who are so eager to write off this effort or declare it a failure, including many of our friends in the media, the situation obviously would have been over a long time ago.

The bottom line is that we've had enormous successes and we will continue to have enormous successes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, this morning, the Senate Democratic leadership did a briefing with reporters and the number two Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin, said without prompting that he thought that comment from the vice president was "delusional."

Now, the briefing was off-camera, but we do have audio of Senator Durbin's comments.

Listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP FROM CNN RADIO)

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), DEMOCRATIC WHIP: To have Vice President Cheney suggest that we have had a series of enormous successes in Iraq is delusional. I don't understand how he can continue to say those things while the president calls them slow failure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, another thing, as you remember, Wolf, that the vice president said in that interview is that he -- that the president is going ahead with the troop increase in Iraq regardless of what Congress says or doesn't say in any resolution.

Now, some Republicans who are coming out in favor of those resolutions were not necessarily thrilled with that comment. For example, I spoke in the hallway just a short while ago with Senator Olympia Snowe, a Republican of Maine, who has signed onto the resolution that passed in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday.

She said it sounds like they're dug in and not willing to listen to Congress and he's essentially rebuffing two thirds of the American people -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, what's the latest state of play on these various resolutions that are moving around in the Senate?

BASH: Well, you know, since the vote was cast in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, what we have seen is those who support sending troops to Iraq trying to figure out a way to blunt the impact of any resolution or resolutions that will be on the Senate floor in the next week or two.

John McCain, of course, has been one of the most vocal supporters of a troop increase. And what he said is that he is trying to come up with a resolution that would perhaps issue some benchmarks for the Iraqi people and also in some way increase Congress' oversight on this issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: They were assured that "mission accomplished," "last throes," "stuff happens," "a few dead-enders," you know, the list goes on and on. So -- and then they've -- then they find out that the situation continues to deteriorate.

We want -- I think it would be important to them -- for them to have some specific benchmarks as to whether those are being met or not met.

You see what I mean?

I think the disillusionment was exacerbated by the rosy scenarios.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, McCain admits his resolution is in its embryonic stages right now. He's not sure exactly where this is going to go.

But the bottom line is, Wolf, Republicans who are allied with the president on this issue realize with somebody like John Warner, a very influential Republican from Virginia, getting out there and pushing a resolution opposing the president, it is going to be very hard for them to blunt that, to stop that and to stop that from making an impact and really be a repudiation of the president when this comes to the Senate floor.

BLITZER: Senator Warner, the former chairman, now the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee.

Dana, we're going to get back to you.

Stand by.

There's also word today that President Bush will ask the Congress to spend billions more dollars to strengthen security in Afghanistan. It comes amid fresh criticism that the Iraq mission has taken valuable resources away from what some are calling the forgotten war.

Let's get the latest from our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne. SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this certainly is a stark reminder of that forgotten war. What it really shows is that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, perhaps in a bit of trouble with the U.S. mission in Iraq. We have learned from White House and State Department officials President Bush will formally ask, in February, for $10.6 basin billion dollars, for additional aid in the U.S. mission in Afghanistan -- $8.6 billion of it going to help out with police, security forces, Afghan forces, and then $2 billion for reconstruction.

This is in addition to the $14.2 billion that's been spent over the last six years, since the U.S. went in, invaded Afghanistan, routed out the Taliban, crippled al Qaeda.

But really the reason why this figure is coming out now is Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is going to be meeting with her NATO counterparts in Brussels, Belgium tomorrow. And what they hope is they're looking for more troops, more money from their NATO allies.

it comes at a very bad time, Wolf. This really indicates the concern they have about the resurgence of the Taliban and the potential that it will get even worse in the spring. Also, the opium, the poppy level that's exploded in this country, the shortage of troops that has really put NATO members at odds with one another over the kind of sacrifice they're making. And finally, the concern from U.S. officials that Talabani and al Qaeda are being trained and flourishing in neighboring Pakistan.

So bottom line here, Wolf, is members of Congress not only looking at, of course, funding additional U.S. troops in Iraq but now big, big bucks for this U.S. mission in Afghanistan -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And I'm told by a senior administration official that the president is seriously considering an increase in the number of U.S. troops, anticipating this spring offensive by the Taliban.

Suzanne Malveaux, thank you for that.

Suzanne is at the White House, Dana Bash up on Capitol Hill.

And as you know, they are part of the best political team on television.

And remember, for the latest political news at any time, check out our Political Ticker at cnn.com/ticker.

Our Carol Costello is monitoring the wires, keeping an eye on the video feeds coming in from around the world.

She's joining us now with a closer look at some other important stories making news -- hi, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.

Hello to all of you. Beirut, Lebanon under an overnight curfew in the wake of deadly clashes that broke out today on a university campus. The violence began when student supporters of the prime minister's pro-Western government came to blows with pro-Hezbollah students. At least one civilian was killed, dozens more injured in the fighting. Lebanese soldiers were called in to restore order. Leaders from both sides denounced the violence.

Embattled Israeli President Moshe Katsav has given up his official duties. But seen here in a heated exchange at a Wednesday news conference, he is refusing to quit outright. A parliamentary committee today narrowly approved a three month leave of absence for Katsav, who is accused of sexually assaulting women who work for him.

Dozens of Israeli lawmakers are pressing ahead with efforts to remove him from office. As long as he is technically, president, though, he remains immune from prosecution.

Just today, strong nuclear ties forged between India and Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin is in New Delhi for a two day visit. His negotiator signed a memorandum of understanding offering to build four new nuclear reactors. It was one of several deals on energy, scientific and space cooperation. There was no timetable established for the nuclear agreement, which must still pass muster with global regulators.

And it's just now coming to light -- officials in the United States and former Soviet Georgia confirm the arrest of a man last February for trying to sell weapons grade uranium to an undercover operative.

CNN's Ryan Chilcote has learned that the man was nabbed after a year long sting operation. The sting involved 100 grams of the high grade uranium. It takes about 20 kilograms -- that's about 44 pounds -- of the top quality radioactive material to create a nuclear chain reaction.

That's a look at the headlines right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of people still worried about what they used to call those loose nukes in the former Republics of the Soviet Union, the old Soviet Union.

Carol, thank you for that.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are lots of reasons that you could make the argument for fresh blood on Capitol Hill. Here's another one.

the United States Senate is older than it's ever been. The Web site politicos.com reports the average age of a U.S. Senator is 62, which is up from 60 in the last Congress. The average age of the new Democratic committee chairman is 69 and the oldest member of that august body, Robert Byrd, is 89 years old.

At least 10 senators have had cancer or suffered serious injuries.

Remember Senator Tim Johnson?

He's still hospitalized, being treated for a brain hemorrhage. There are several other senators with chronic illnesses.

Consider this -- until the former majority leader, Bill Frist, who is also a heart surgeon, retired last month, two dozen of his colleagues were seeking medical advice for him. That's almost a fourth of the entire membership of the Senate. A former leadership aide says they went to Frist about all kinds of ailments, most of them related to aging.

So, here's the question -- is the U.S. Senate too old?

E-mail your thoughts to caffertyfile@cnn.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You remember what Bill Clinton says about being 60?

CAFFERTY: What did he say?

No, I forgot.

BLITZER: He said 60 is the new 40.

CAFFERTY: Well, I'm 64, so I'm on Bill's side.

BLITZER: I'm getting close to it.

Thank you, Jack, for that.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: Coming up, the vice president's former aide takes a shot in court from someone still inside the Cheney camp. There are new developments in a legal tug of war with the White House.

Also ahead, a former congressman follows in Bill Clinton's footsteps. I'll ask the new head of the Democratic Leadership Council, the DLC, Harold Ford, Jr. about his aspirations and the race to the White House.

And are the president and the vice president playing good cop/bad cop on Iraq?

Bay Buchanan and Donna Brazile -- they're standing by to join us live in our Strategy Session.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get the latest now on the CIA leak trial unfolding right here in Washington.

Vice President Cheney's spokeswoman took the stand today and contradicted claims made by the defendant, the former Cheney chief of staff, Louis "Scooter" Libby. She was the spokeswoman for the vice president at the time of the uproar, no longer the spokeswoman for the vice president. Still works in the White House, though.

Let's get the latest from our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, her name is Cathy Martin. And she paints a picture of a vice president's office that was pretty obsessed with the whole Joe Wilson story, contrary to the picture that Libby's lawyer tried to lay out for jurors that this was a very busy man and that he had other national security issues to deal with and Wilson was really low on the totem pole.

Martin told the jury how the vice president himself dictated talking points for the press, how he -- they monitored not only the print reporters, but broadcasts, as well, to see what was being said; how they actually called the CIA to find out who was doing these stories so that they could possibly interject and change some of the coverage.

Well, right now Martin is being cross-examined. And what's come out in that is that even though there was so much talk about Joe Wilson and what he knew and who sent him, there wasn't any discussion about his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, which, of course, Wolf, is the crux of this whole thing, you know, who was talking about her?

So at least that works for Libby, at least it seems.

And another thing that the defense lawyer brought out was that he really tries to paint a picture of Martin as someone who was somewhat inexperienced at the time. Mary Matalin, if you remember, was the boss at the time. She left. And so he is trying to paint a picture of somebody who was not really on the ball and that that's why Libby had to interject himself, not because he was obsessed, but because there really wasn't anybody else to handle the press at that time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Did he say, though, that she personally told "Scooter" Libby and the vice president days before "Scooter" Libby terrified that he heard about the wife of Joe Wilson, that he heard about it from Tim Russert of NBC News.

Did she testify that she had told him that the wife of Joe Wilson worked for the CIA a few days earlier?

ARENA: She actually said that she told him about a month before that -- that conversation, Wolf. She said it was a quick aside. The conversation lasted about 15 or 20 seconds. And then she said it was never brought up again, that she did not recall a conversation where they talked about the wife. It was all focused on Wilson, you know, who sent him to Niger, you know, what did they know about this guy? But she, at least, contends no further discussion beyond that 15 second conversation, which she says took place in June, not July -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, we'll continue to watch this.

And Kelli will stand by at the courthouse.

Still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the presidential rivalry everyone's talking about -- Hillary Clinton versus Barack Obama -- they're competing right now for the hearts and minds and money of Hollywood big shots.

Plus, in the race for the White House, are the Democratic hopefuls steering too far left?

I'll ask the new head of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, Harold Ford, Jr. what's going on.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

As the 2008 presidential race kicks into a higher gear at this unusually early stage, there's a new man in charge of one group trying to tug Democratic candidates toward the political center.

And joining us now in THE SITUATION ROOM, former Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. of Tennessee.

Congratulations.

You're the new chairman of the DLC, the Democratic Leadership Council.

This is a group of moderate Democrats that's propelled other Democrats to higher office. When he was an obscure governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton was chairman of the DLC, he became president.

Does this mean you have higher political ambitions?

HAROLD FORD, JR. CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP COUNCIL, (D), FORMER U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Well, right now my higher political ambitions -- thank you for the kinds words -- are really to try to help shape and fashion an agenda that Congressional and Senate Democrats can not only be proud of, but can draw from.

The DLC, over the last 15 years, has played as big, if not the biggest role, in helping to promote -- develop and promote some of the smartest, most progressive national security, pro-family, pro-business efforts, pro-family efforts that we've seen in the party.

BLITZER: Basically, in contrast to some of the more liberal parts of the Democratic Party? FORD: Well, I would dare say that, really, the DLC, from the Family Medical Leave Act, from reducing poverty rates from reducing crime -- I mean I can -- these are progressive goals.

BLITZER: But on national security issues, they've been much more centrist.

FORD: They've been probably more hawkish, as some would describe. But I think the country and the majority of the Democratic Party is there. And the tradition of our party is right where the DLC is.

BLITZER: Let me show you our latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll.

Among registered Democrats -- these are your political people -- Hillary Clinton, 34 percent; Barack Obama at 18 percent; John Edwards at 15 percent; Al Gore, who is not even running, but might run, who knows, 10 percent.

Are any of them centrist enough for DLC?

Because a lot of them are moving to the left.

FORD: Well, understand, the DLC won't endorse any candidate. The purpose of -- the DNC and the DLC are different entities. And the DLC's purpose will be to lay out a series of ideas, policy proposals, all looking for answers and solutions.

And just about all of those candidates have worked with the DLC at some point...

BLITZER: So you feel...

FORD: ... even my friend...

BLITZER: You feel...

FORD: ... even my friend Senator Obama has called to say hey, he's willing -- not only willing, but wanting to work with us. And we welcome the chance and opportunity to do that.

BLITZER: So is going to come into the DLC umbrella?

FORD: Well, there will be opportunities, I think, for him to work with us. I certainly want to work with him on globalization, international terrorism efforts and as the candidates fashion their agenda. Mrs. Clinton is a former head. John Edwards was recognized by the group. Joe Biden has been recognized by the group. Al Gore was one of the former chairs and founders. Bill Richardson the same. Tom Vilsack, a former chairman.

So the DLC has an incredible tradition. Even John Kerry is involved, though he's no longer in it. I wish him the very best. Wes Clark the same way.

There's a strong tradition here of...

BLITZER: So you...

FORD: ... and Chris Dodd, too.

BLITZER: So you're upbeat about that.

I want to play a little clip...

FORD: And, by the way, I'm for Al Gore for that Oscar.

BLITZER: For the Oscar?

FORD: Yes.

BLITZER: OK.

Well -- for his -- for his documentary on global warming.

Let's listen to what the president said on Iraq the other night in the State of the Union Address.

FORD: Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We went into this largely united in our assumptions and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq and I ask you to give it a chance to work. And I ask you to support our troops in the field and those on their way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, with Nancy Pelosi -- we just saw her stand up and applaud.

What's wrong with that appeal from the president to the Democrats and his other critics -- give this chance -- give this peace a chance -- give this new strategy, if you will, a chance to work?

FORD: I think there are many who want to believe the president, who believe the president actually believes in what he's saying, but just can't wrap their arms around his proposal.

BLITZER: Can you?

FORD: No. Don't get me wrong, I don't think we ought to withdraw prematurely, but I'm of the position that John Warner and Chuck Hagel, two prominent Republicans who believe that we didn't ask our troops to go and referee a civil war.

To believe that sending more troops alone will solve this, I think, is over simplifying it. The Baker-Hamilton Commission laid out a series of recommendations. Unfortunately, the White House and the administration really belittled and kind of categorically dismissed their recommendations.

I think those recommendations have to be a part of a broader discussion about what to do.

The American people aren't just going to send more troops because the president believes it's the right thing to do only.

BLITZER: But correct me if I'm wrong, you support these resolutions, non-binding resolutions.

Are you yet ready to say use the power of the purse to stop the war?

FORD: No. I think the president -- and I watched your interview yesterday with Vice President Cheney, which was fascinating -- the president and the vice president have to be willing to sit down with the leadership in the House and the Senate and not try to strong-arm and dictate the policy, but be willing to listen to those who are accountable to voters, as well.

The election in 2006 was as much a referendum on the direction we're headed in Iraq as anything else. I think Democrats recognize that. And thank god the John Warners and the Chuck Hagels and the Dick Lugars and the Olympia Snowes and Susan Collins, and the John Sununus recognize it, as well.

It would behoove this president to sit and be willing not to, again, try to impose his way, but to listen to those who are not only listening to their constituents, but care just as deeply about the security of the country as he does.

BLITZER: We've got time for one final question.

Lamar Alexander, the Republican senator from Tennessee. He's up for reelection in 2008.

Are you thinking about challenging him?

FORD: No, I don't have any plans to run against Lamar Alexander. My plans right away are to try to do a good job at the DLC. I'm proud to say that I'm associated with Vanderbilt University. I'm now a professor of public policy. And my students, whom are watching, the 30 in the class -- we've got a big class next Tuesday.

I'm young and god has worked with me this far and I've just got a good feeling that things will work out in the future.

But I enjoy where I am now. I'm looking forward to being a part of this national discussion for my party and the great work I know we can do if we all put our minds to it going forward.

BLITZER: We hope you'll be a frequent guest here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

FORD: I look forward to it.

BLITZER: Harold Ford, Jr. thanks very much.

FORD: Thank you, sir.

BLITZER: And up next, Hollywood's big shots breaking out their checkbooks for the Democratic presidential field.

Who will get the biggest chunk of their cash?

Our Bill Schneider standing by with a report.

And four big states, very big states, are planning to move their presidential primaries up on the calendar.

Which candidates would that help, which would it hurt?

John King standing by.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.

Happening now: A new effort to crack down on insurgents in Baghdad isn't stemming the violence. Thirty-eight people were killed in various attacks across the Iraqi capital today, including one more American soldier.

A 71-year-old former sheriff's deputy is behind bars in Mississippi. Reputed Ku Klux Klansman James Seale is charged with kidnapping in connection with the 1964 killing of two men. Seale has pleaded not guilty. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says, authorities are dedicated to tracking down criminals, even if the case dates back decades.

And Senator Barack Obama now is calling for universal health care coverage within the next six years. He is joining fellow Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and John Edwards in promoting health care for all.

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

In the early race for the White House, Democrats right now scrambling to try to lock in support from important elements of their political base.

Let's turn to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, almost all the Democratic candidates have declared. Next issue: Who is supporting them?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Just about all the horses are now lined up, but the big Democratic race doesn't start for a year.

First comes the preliminary heats, where the candidates compete for money, endorsements and support from key Democratic constituencies, like African-Americans. Does Barack Obama have the black vote locked up?

REVEREND JESSE JACKSON, FOUNDER, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: He will have to get to know a lot of people he just does not know.

SCHNEIDER: Right now, Hillary Clinton is the front-runner among minority Democrat. Al Sharpton went to the Senate to meet with Clinton and Obama, as well as Christopher Dodd and Joe Biden.

AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Well, I don't want to speculate until after I talked to everybody.

SCHNEIDER: There's a Hispanic candidate, but he says:

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: I wouldn't run as a Hispanic candidate. I would run as an American proud to be Hispanic.

SCHNEIDER: Hillary Clinton has already endorsed by EMILY's List, a prominent network that supports pro-abortion-rights Democratic women. Right now, the New York senator has a strong lead among Democratic women.

Unions provide legwork, money, and organization, all important in the early caucus states. John Edwards has been outspoken on bread- and-butter issues.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Investments to end poverty, universal health care, which I'm completely committed to.

SCHNEIDER: Liberals? They're for Clinton, too. But the netroots activists want to hear strong anti-war language.

TOM MATZZIE, WASHINGTON DIRECTOR, MOVEON.ORG: Democrats have a responsibility to, you know, stand up and stop the president from, you know, escalating in Iraq.

SCHNEIDER: There are big anti-war rallies in Washington and other cities this weekend. So far, the only presidential candidate scheduled to speak is Dennis Kucinich.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: There is also a Hollywood primary, which is more a contest for money than for votes.

Now, the Clintons were always big box office in Hollywood. That's why a lot of plucked eyebrows were raised this week when three major movie moguls invited hundreds of stars to a fund-raiser for Barack Obama next month. But hundreds of stars to a fund-raiser for Barack Obama next month. But Steven Spielberg and David Geffen say they are not yet officially endorsing Obama.

Maybe their people can speak to his people -- Wolf.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Bill, thank you for that.

Bill will watch this story for us. He has got unusually great contacts out in Hollywood. And our viewers know that.

There's another kind of scramble going on right now in the lead- up to the presidential contest. Four big states now appear likely to move up their primaries -- get this -- to early February. Those states are California, Florida, Illinois, and New Jersey.

Our chief national correspondent, John King, is watching all of this.

This is not only a big deal for guys like you and me, who cover all of these political events, but this is politically, potentially, enormous.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is enormous.

It is possible, Wolf, that the first contest of '08 will actually be in '07. That is because Iowa and New Hampshire are traditionally fiercely defensive of their roles as the first kickoff primary states. Other states have already crowded in. Nevada has now squeezed up early on the calendar. That already happened. South Carolina, traditionally, has been just after Iowa and New Hampshire.

But four big states now say they may back up as well. And they are California, Florida, Illinois, and New Jersey. What does that mean? Number one, it means you will get a nominee early. Every cycle, they say: We are going to spread this out. We have the nominees too soon. That's not good for the process.

And, yet, every cycle, they seem to front-load it even more. So, you will get a nominee early. But that means money. This will force some of those other candidates who say they are exploring now and they're in the race now, they won't be in the race, some of them, by the time we get to November and December of this year, because you are going to need to buy advertising money in Miami, in Chicago, in San Francisco, in Los Angeles.

That takes a lot of money. So, it puts a premium on fund- raising. Some say there are other demographic issues, ideological issues. But the main factor, looking at the calendar, is, you could see somebody actually move up, Iowa or New Hampshire, move up into '07. And it is going to take a lot more money.

BLITZER: Because, right now, they're scheduled, Iowa -- on the Democratic side, at least, Iowa caucus, then a Nevada caucus, then New Hampshire, followed by South Carolina. But that begins in January. But, if they moved into December, that would be unprecedented.

KING: And, then, every time, there is a debate about, well, who does it benefit? There are some Democrats now saying, well, if Illinois moves up, well, that benefits Barack Obama -- Republicans saying, if California and a place like New Jersey move up, they are not as ideological conservative as, say, Iowa or South Carolina. So, that maybe that helps Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, who is pro-choice on abortion rights, who is -- who favors gun control. And they think, well, he can't win in Iowa; he is too conservative. Well, maybe he could do better in California or New Jersey.

But, again, we go through this every cycle. Back, in 1988, remember then Senator Al Gore was holding back with a Southern strategy on Super Tuesday. Michael Dukakis got momentum early on. He won four states on Super Tuesday. That was enough. It was over.

In the last cycle, Howard Dean was holding a lot of money. After he started to falter, John Kerry got momentum, and Howard Dean was gone from the race. So, you can argue this any way. Usually, somebody starts winning early, and they go on to sweep the table.

BLITZER: You can't blame these states, though. They want to have a role. And, a lot of times, if they are waiting until March or April or May, you know what? It's over by then, and they have no role in this process.

John is going to watch this for us. Thank you.

And coming up: our "Strategy Session." Why the difference in tone and tenor from President Bush's speech on Tuesday and Vice President Cheney's interview on this program yesterday? And the controversy over President Bush's prospective library -- some members of the faculty simply don't -- faculty simply don't want it, but is there anything they can really do about it?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's take a closer look now at Vice President Dick Cheney's optimistic take on the overall U.S. mission in Iraq, appears to stand somewhat in contrast to President Bush's declaration Tuesday night that there have been failures. Is Cheney's brighter outlook a good move?

Joining us now in our "Strategy Session," our CNN political analysts, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, and Bay Buchanan, the president of American Cause.

You noticed there was a clear difference in tone. On Tuesday night, in the State of the Union address, I thought the president was conciliatory, humble, acknowledging there have been mistakes, reaching out to the Democrats, saying: You know what? Let's work together and let's start afresh right now.

Yesterday, though, the vice president was very defiant.

Let me -- let me put a little clip from what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, Wolf, if the history books were written by people who have -- are so eager to write off this effort, to declare it a failure, including many of our friends in the media, the situation obviously would have been over a long time ago.

The bottom line is that we have had enormous successes, and we will continue to have enormous successes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, Bay, enormous successes -- controversial.

BAY BUCHANAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't believe he should say it.

I think the key here is that the American people feel, right now, after the president spoke, especially, that there is a new turn here, that the president recognizes some problems, put in a new team, a new strategy, and asked us to support it.

To have the vice president come and say, we didn't make any -- or virtually -- that type of an attitude, that just talks about the successes -- it's key that the president make certain the American people recognize he knows mistakes were made, and he is asking us to help him in this new effort. That's significant.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: What do you think...

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well...

BLITZER: ... of the strategy? Because some are suggesting there's a good cop/bad cop, and the president is being the good cop, the vice president being the tougher cop.

BRAZILE: Well, perhaps the vice president is a little testy because he needs to go hunting.

We don't know why he appeared yesterday to -- to basically throw the president's strategy of trying to find common ground, trying to lay the strategy out, trying to build support. Instead, the vice president rolled up his sleeves, began that tough talk, threatening the people on Capitol Hill not to come forward, because nobody pays attention.

Again, it's a mistake. I think the vice president, as Bob Woodward said in his book, is in a state of denial. It's time that he faced the reality and give the American people a plan that -- that we believe will be successful.

BLITZER: In fairness, though, to the vice president, he is under enormous pressure right now. The -- the policies in Iraq have not worked the way so many had hoped they would work. And all of us would love there to be a success, a great democracy emerging. His friend, the former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, was forced out. Scooter Libby, his good friend, longtime chief of staff, is now in -- in a trial, undergoing a difficult ordeal right now.

This has not been an easy time for the vice president.

BUCHANAN: It is certainly not the easy time. And a couple of your questions didn't make it any easier for him during that interview, I my add, Wolf.

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN: It may have caused him to be a little bit even more upset about the situation.

But the key here is, it's the vice president's -- I don't know why they put him out. This is his personality. We know who he is. He's been completely committed to this war. He wants it to go a certain way. It hasn't gone well, but he looks at it as what they have accomplished, rather than what they have failed.

That's his personality, is not to give. Why put him out there, when things were kind of turning around -- maybe not totally, but just beginning for the American people say, let's give this president a chance with this new strategy? I think that was the mistake. We can't expect the vice president to change his stripes, at least in the last couple...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: What is going to be the fallout on Capitol Hill, where these various resolutions are now coming forward, everything from simply symbolic, to some that actually want to use the power of the purse to cut off funding?

BRAZILE: Look, I think Senator Biden and Senator Levin should sit down with Senator Warner and work out the language, so that we can have a bipartisan resolution next week on the floor, a very honest debate, adultlike debate.

And we should send the message, not just to the president, but also to our enemies, that we intend to change course, but we also intend to leave Iraq victoriously.

BLITZER: Do you think that's possible, Bay, to get, because it's a very collegial body...

BUCHANAN: Yes.

BLITZER: ... the Senate, as you know? And they -- they -- these guys and gals, they all like each other, by and large. Do you think they can -- sit down and get the Democratic leadership, the Republican leadership to work -- or at least those who are concerned about the way the war is unfolding, get them to agree on some common language?

BUCHANAN: I don't know that they can, because, you know, this is too critical of an issue. It's too hot of an issue, the war. And they're just not going to back off and say, oh, this will be nice.

I think the problem is what they are trying to do. I think a nonbinding resolution means nothing, does nothing, offends the president. We have a war over there, a new strategy. The problem with the Democrats, this leadership, is, they wanted a change. They told the president he has to change; the policy wasn't working. He changes the policy, and they say, we don't like the change.

They want to run this war. They wanted to do it his way, but they are not willing to give the plan and vote for the plan of withdrawal or phaseout or cap. They just want to vote for a statement that criticizes his plan. That's all this does...

BLITZER: All right.

BUCHANAN: ... criticize...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: What do you think, Donna?

BRAZILE: Well, we're a democracy. And, unfortunately, the president is unwilling to listen to anyone.

And it's -- and if the Democrats and the Republicans on Capitol Hill cannot find a solution that will bring our troops home, I think it's -- it's their responsibility, Bay. They can no longer hide behind, somehow, the president's strategy, when it's not a strategy. It's just more rhetoric.

BUCHANAN: The president is listening to the generals.

There is a new strategy. There is a new general. He has got a plan in action. He believes it's going to be a long shot, but the general himself said it's possible. And he is asking the president, says, give him a chance.

So, what do the Democrats do? Oh, you didn't do it our way. We want to cut you off.

But what -- what upsets me the most is, this is a nonbinding statement by the Congress of the United States. Why don't they do something constructive, like, if they really believe it's time to pull out, vote to pull out? They don't have the guts. They don't want the responsibility. They want to do something that says nothing.

BRAZILE: Well, Bay, I don't know if it's an issue of guts.

But I tell you what it is an issue. It's an issue of being responsible. And what the Democrats and the Republicans are trying to say to the president is that, we want a responsible plan for victory. We want to change the mission. And we will -- we will not have our troops in the middle of a sectarian civil war. That's what they're saying.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I think Bay was on, though, to something General David Petraeus, who is going to be the new head of the multinational force, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq -- he is very highly respected. I have been to Iraq. I spent some time with him. I have met this commander over the years. He is going get a fourth star.

And he can deliver, potentially -- potentially -- because he has got that experience, and probably has a lot more credibility speaking to members of Congress than the president or the vice president has right now.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: Well, he was refreshing. He was plainspoken. He wrote the book on the insurgency.

But let's see if he can go into Baghdad, or go into the Al Anbar Province, and stop the violence, and force the Iraqi government to also curtail the militia. That's the job right now.

BUCHANAN: And, you know, CNN would do a great service if they let the American people really understand who this general is.

He is remarkable. He's a brilliant man. He has an idea. And I believe that, if we understood the kind of person this was, more Americans would say, let's give this man a chance.

BLITZER: A graduate of West Point, got a Ph.D. from...

BUCHANAN: Ph.D.

BLITZER: ... Princeton. We have done that piece. You missed it.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: Profile.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: We have done the profile of David...

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: Look...

BUCHANAN: And let Americans know, this is the fellow over there that the president wants us to support.

BRAZILE: Bay, we're rooting for the troops. We're rooting for the generals. We just want to get our troops home.

(CROSSTALK) BUCHANAN: Democrats want to do it their way. That is all they want.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: We want a winning way.

BLITZER: Everybody wants it to succeed. The question is, how do you get to...

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

BLITZER: ... success, if it's possible? But we will discuss that...

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

BLITZER: ... on another occasion.

Guys, thanks very much.

Up next: The ever-expanding presidential field gets another contender. Is Duncan Hunter ready to split with the president, though, over immigration reform? Duncan Hunter standing by to join us live.

Also, a key fight for the White House, getting the right Web address -- as our Abbi Tatton reports, some presidential candidates are more successful at that than others.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: On our "Political Radar" this Thursday: California Congressman Duncan Hunter has officially launched his bid for the GOP presidential nomination. He's billing himself as a conservative alternative to other Republican contenders, citing, among other things, his stands on military and immigration issues.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R-CA), HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: So, we have got just one message.

And for those -- for those who would come to the United States, you know, America has the biggest front door in the world. But we have a message. When you want to come to the United States now, come knock on the front door, because the fence is going to be up and the back door is going to be closed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Hunter supports construction of new fencing along the U.S.-Mexican border. He calls stricter border enforcement a matter of national security, and he opposes amnesty programs. On Iraq, Hunter voted to authorized military force.

He backs the president's plan to increase troop levels. And he supports a call for the White House to update Congress on the war every 30 days. He opposes abortion rights, sponsored a measure that would define life at beginning at conception. He opposes same-sex marriage, and backs a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Hunter also says Social Security reform is necessary. And he supports the tax cut laws pushed through by President Bush.

Congressman Hunter, by the way, will be our guest in the next hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. You're going to want to see this interview. That's coming up.

Also: Traffic at campaign Web sites is surging, as more and more presidential hopefuls make their announcements online. But how easy is it for a politician to obtain a simple coveted Web address?

Let's bring in Abbi Tatton. She is looking into this part of the story -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, BarackObama.com, the site of last week's online announcement, but this Web site didn't always belong to the senator.

In 2005, a company that specializes in rescuing Web site -- Web addresses after they expired helped the senator get this back. And another, HillaryClinton.com -- lawyers for Senator Hillary Clinton went to arbitration in 2005 to get this Web address back, successfully showing that the person that owned it was using it in bad faith.

But not all 2008 hopefuls are going to such lengths to get these primo Web addresses. Congressman Tom Tancredo's Web site is TeamTancredo.com. The owner of TomTancredo.com, a man in California, tells us via e-mail that he intends to use that Web address as a protest site. A spokesman for Congressman Tom Tancredo shrugged that off, saying that hate sites against Tancredo are a dime a dozen.

And another 2008 hopeful, Duncan Hunter, his Web site, GoHunter08.com, not DuncanHunter.com -- that one is registered to this man, by the name of Lincoln Pickard, and shown here on a video on his own Web site. Online records show that this man owns more than 50 different Web addresses. We tried to contact him today. He didn't get back to us.

It looks like everyone is trying to get in on this Web address thing. Go to eBay right now, and you will see this for sale, Hillary2008.org, going for $10,000. It's closing in about an hour, Wolf, but, so far, no takers.

BLITZER: All right.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: We will watch, together with you, Abbi. Thanks.

In Texas, meanwhile, some faculty members over at SMU, Southern Methodist University, are outraged by plans to build George W. Bush's presidential library on campus. They vented their frustrations during a closed-door meeting yesterday, the third in several weeks.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is on the campus with more on this controversy -- Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's not official yet, but all indicators seem to suggest Southern Methodist University will be the home of the George W. Bush Presidential Library.

Anything with President Bush these days seems to invite controversy. And, when if comes to the library, it's no different.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA (voice-over): For the last six years, SMU's push to win the Bush Presidential Library was moving along as smoothly as the university's finely manicured landscape.

WILLIAM MCELVANEY, PROFESSOR, SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY: This is the icebreaker.

LAVANDERA: But then a retired anti-war professor wrote a little column in the student newspaper. William McElvaney argued, the Bush Library threatens SMU's academic integrity.

MCELVANEY: If we were to develop what turned into a -- I call it a bully pulpit for the neocon philosophies and things, I think SMU would lose respect.

LAVANDERA: What critics are most concerned about is the plan to attach a conservative think tank to the library. But SMU officials say the library has overwhelming support, and will bring history to its campus, a priceless opportunity that cannot be passed up.

REVEREND ANDREW WEAVER, GRADUATE OF SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY: Being able to bring those resources to the fingertips of students, faculty, scholars, researchers and schoolchildren is a very important thing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: Some critics are also beginning to fear that putting the Bush Library here on this campus could also create a terrorist target, where 11,000 students go to school. But SMU officials say that, in a post-9/11 world, those security concerns are going into the planning process -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Ed, thank you -- Ed Lavandera.

Still to come: Is the Senate too old? Jack Cafferty with your e-mail -- when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack is in New York with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: This is just depressing, Wolf.

The U.S. Senate is older than it has ever been. The average age down there now is 62. That's up from 60 in the last Congress. And some of them are a lot older than that. The question we asked is: Is the Senate too old?

Michael in Red Bank, New Jersey, writes: "Yes. For the love of God, either set an age limit at 65, and remove these old codgers, or put them out to pasture. To think, some of these corrupt parasites have been serving for over 30 years. No wonder our country has been such a mess for so long.

Aaron, who describes himself as a 45-year-old conservative father of five white dudes from Ohio that is disgusted with Washington, writes: "The Senate has become a lifelong job for rich old white guys. And it makes me sick. How about a national referendum on term limits?"

Robert writes: "Doesn't anybody recall the very word 'Senate' comes from the same Latin root as 'senior,' also 'senile'? By definition, senators are supposed to be old, with all that implies, not just infirmity, but also great wisdom."

David in Stratford, Connecticut, writes: "Yes, of course they're too old and too rich and way too out of touch with the average person. Then, again, Jack, you're also too old, too liberal, and too out of touch with the average American."

Jim writes: "It's natural that, as life expectancy increases, age in the Senate increases. At the risk of showing my age, what is needed are people who are experienced and young at heart."

Jon in Philadelphia: "Depends. Oh, I forgot. That's what they're wearing. Of course they're too old, but, as long as we keep voting for these antiques, they will continue to struggle in and fall asleep at work."

And Rick in Erie, Pennsylvania, writes: "Jack, if the Senate is too old, what does that make you?" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

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