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THE SITUATION ROOM

Will Politicians Unite Against Troop Build Up?; Interview with Carl Levin; Sex and Scandal in San Francisco; Mary Cheney Reacts to Political Fallout

Aired February 1, 2007 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, a top Republican and Democrat are working together against the troop build-up in Iraq and against President Bush.
Will they get the bipartisan backing they want or just rile up the left and the right?

I'll talk to one of the senators behind the new deal, the Armed Services Committee chairman, Carl Levin.

Also this hour, sex and scandal in San Francisco -- Mayor Gavin Newsom goes before reporters to say he's sorry. It's not just that he had an affair, it's whom he had an affair with.

Plus, Mary Cheney talks openly about the subject her father refused to talk about with me, the subject of the baby she's having with her lesbian partner. The vice president's daughter opens up about her pregnancy and the political fallout.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Frustrations over the war in Iraq are being laid bare on Capitol Hill right now. Senators of both parties have been grilling the president's top commander in Iraq about failures in the war. General George Casey being considered for a new job. That would be the Army chief of staff.

The hearing comes just hours after top Senate Democrats threw their support behind a Republican resolution disagreeing with the troop build-up. They're hoping to build bipartisan support and send the strongest message possible to President Bush.

In the war zone, a source in Iraq's Interior Ministry tells CNN nearly 2,000 civilians were killed in violence in that country in January alone. More than 60 people died in suicide bombings in a crowded market in Hillah today.

Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, is standing by.

But let's go to Capitol Hill.

Our Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, with the latest -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're waiting this hour for a press conference with Senator John McCain. He's going to formally unveil his resolution to set up benchmarks for the Iraqis.

Now, Republican leaders hope that will be an alternative to appeals to the GOP rank and file, who don't -- who are skeptical of the president's plan to send more troops to Iraq but don't necessarily want to outright condemn him.

Now, that is just part of the intense behind the scenes maneuvering today after last night's blockbuster bipartisan deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

BASH (voice-over): The morning after Senate Democrats joined forces with leading Republicans to oppose the president's Iraq strategy, Bush allies scrambled to prevent more GOP defections, lashing out at fellow Republicans who would support any measure opposing a troop increase in Iraq.

SEN. JIM BUNNING (R), KENTUCKY: And I believe they send a dangerous message to our enemies.

BASH: Others pleaded for patience.

SEN. JON KYL (R-AZ), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Years ago, I used to see bumper stickers that said, "Give peace a chance." And I think today we need to dust off some of those bumper stickers and write a couple of extra words in -- give the president's plan for peace a chance.

BASH: That as anti-war protesters walked the halls of Congress, delivering petitions pushing senators to oppose more troops in Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We really need to bring an end to this war.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DW), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: The quickest, most effective way to get the president to change his course is to demonstrate to him that his policy has little or no support in this body.

BASH: Democratic leaders signed onto the less confrontational Republican resolution with the goal of attracting the GOP votes they need to actually pass a bipartisan rebuke of the president.

But in the process, Democrats lost some support on their left flank.

Wisconsin's Russ Feingold says he'll oppose it because it contradicts the goal of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

Democratic presidential candidate Chris Dodd agrees.

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: I don't know how you can vote for this resolution and vote for that language and then simultaneously be for a redeployment of forces.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BASH: Now other Democrats on the left say they actually will support this resolution. Ted Kennedy, Tom Harkin, for example.

Now, we understand that Democrats just came out of a closed door meeting and that they have decided that they do have the votes to at least proceed to the debate when they get to that point. And, Wolf, that will be the first incredibly important test vote, when they get to that motion to proceed to debate on this issue -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And so when it plays out on the floor, we expect that to start next week, is that right?

BASH: We expect it to -- what is going on right now is a big question mark, to be honest with you.

Republicans are trying to figure out their next move; Democrats, as well. They're talking to each other behind-the-scenes.

What we can look for, though, what's really important to look for is something that's going to happen tomorrow, Wolf, and that is Senate Republicans are going to have an all day retreat. It's been long planned. And afterward, they're going to go to the White House and have a meeting, face-to-face time with the president.

And we understand from Demo -- from Senate Republicans, rather, who are undecided about this, that they are going to use that time to really discuss this with the president.

And we understand from a senior administration official, Mr. Bush is going to do the same, something he really hasn't done -- personal lobbying -- since this whole issue of resolutions really got underway a couple of weeks ago.

BLITZER: We'll watch it play out, Dana.

Thank you.

Over at the White House today, the press secretary, Tony Snow, is sending a harsh word of warning to those senators about putting their opposition to the president's new Iraq strategy on the record. He even invoked the name of America's most wanted terrorist.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Osama bin Laden thought that a lack of American resolve was a key reason he could inspire people to come after us after September 11th. I am not accusing members of the Senate of inviting carnage on the United States of America. I'm simply saying you think about what impact it may have.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Now to the president's top commander in Iraq, under fire from both sides today, even as he interviews for a new job.

Let's turn to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie, what's the latest on this front?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, General Casey got the roughest treatment from one of his toughest critics, Senator John McCain, who ripped Casey for his past rosy predictions and slammed him for his failure to ask for reinforcements until things were really getting bad in Iraq late last year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I question seriously the judgment was -- that was employed and your execution of your responsibilities in Iraq. And we have paid a very, very heavy price in American blood and treasure because of what is now agreed to by literally everyone is a failed policy.

And I'd be very happy to hear your response, General.

GENERAL GEORGE CASEY: Senator, I don't think there is any question that the situation in the center of the country, particularly in the capital, is bad. And we are working very hard to rectify that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCINTYRE: Critics -- Casey's critics fault him for not asking for more troops until President Bush stepped in and ordered an overhaul of the policy in December. But he said he sticks by the strategy. He said: "It may not have produced the results that everybody hoped, but he does think it's laid the foundation for success."

That was met somewhat skeptically by other members of the committee, including Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. He asked Casey if he wouldn't agree with President Bush's own assessment that Iraq was headed for a slow failure until the president personally stepped in. And Casey again disagreed, saying that he thought what they were seeing was slow progress -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm speaking to Senator Levin momentarily. We'll ask him what he thinks about this nomination.

Jamie, thanks for that.

We're going to have a lot more coming up on the battle on Capitol Hill and what's happening in Iraq.

But I want to move to a different story right now, a very different story -- a sex scandal going public in San Francisco right now.

The mayor, Gavin Newsom, went before reporters just a little while ago to apologize for having a sexual relationship with his former campaign manager's wife.

Alex Tourk resigned yesterday as Newsom's reelection chief after confronting his boss about the affair. Tourk's wife Ruby once worked as Mayor Newsom's appointment secretary.

Newsom didn't answer reporters questions about calls for him to resign, but he did say this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR GAVIN NEWSOM, SAN FRANCISCO: Everything you've heard and read is true and I am deeply sorry about that. I've hurt someone I care deeply about, Alex Tourk and his friends and family, and that is something that I have to live with and something that I am deeply sorry for.

I'm also sorry that I've let the people of San Francisco down. They expect a lot of their mayor and my personal lapse of judgment aside, I am committed to restoring their trust.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more on this story coming up in the next hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Clearly, an awkward, very embarrassing moment for the mayor of San Francisco.

Let's go to New York and Jack Cafferty for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Biden blows it -- Biden stumbles at the starting gate. Biden unwraps his bid for '08 with an "Oops!" and "Senator Stupid." Not exactly the kind of headlines you're looking for the day after you kick off a presidential campaign.

But that's what the Delaware senator, Joe Biden, got, after describing Senator Barack Obama as "the first mainstream African- American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice looking guy."

The Democratic White House hopeful apologized yesterday. He called Obama. He told reporters he regretted that his comments were taken out of context. He said he meant to say Obama was fresh and an exciting candidate.

But the damage may already have been done. Biden's comments about Obama bring back attention to something he said about Indians last year: "You can't go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent." And he later said that comment was taken out of context, too.

And then there was the senator's first presidential bid in 1988. He was forced to drop out of that race after it was revealed that he was stealing parts of his speeches from a British politician without attribution, something called plagiarism. So, here's the question -- should Senator Joe Biden withdraw from the presidential race?

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

The newspapers took no prisoners, Wolf.

"Senator Stupid" -- big, black headline in the "New York Daily News" today.

BLITZER: I saw him on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart last night. He's not dropping out yet and we expect to have him here in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow. He told our staff earlier in the week he'll be here. We hope to interview him tomorrow, but we're anxious to hear what our viewers think, as well.

Thank you, Jack, for that.

Coming up, he's one of the most powerful Senate voices on Iraq right now, the Armed Services Committee chairman, Carl Levin.

Is he alienating the Democratic Party's base by making a deal with Republicans?

I'll ask him in a few minutes.

Also coming up, something's missing from the race for the White House. Hard to believe, with 18 candidates running or exploring. But our Bill Schneider says it's true.

And she's being applauded by gay rights groups and criticized by some in the Christian right. Now the vice president's daughter, Mary Cheney, speaking publicly about her pregnancy for the first time.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he's on Capitol Hill.

He's standing by.

We're going to speak to him in a moment.

But first, as the White House and the Senate head into a showdown over U.S. policy in Iraq, activists around the country are pressuring their senators to take sides in this debate, and it's all taking place -- at least a lot of it -- online.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, with the latest -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this counter at the Web site of the liberal Moveon.org is right now keeping track of the people all over the country who are calling Senate offices to voice their opposition to President Bush's troop increase. The number is approaching 700,000. Those are the people who are joining what Moveon labels a virtual march on Washington.

There are online tools to help people, to direct people to who the people they should be calling. The group also delivered signatures to Senate offices today, 600,000 of them. Moveon calls the Warner-Levin resolution an important first step.

On the other side -- (AUDIO GAP).

Lights back, no computer. But on the other side, there's been a conservative push to influence Republican senators to oppose this kind of resolution, led by conservative blogger and radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt. He's been urging people to sign an online pledge, telling people that "I will not contribute to any Republican senator who votes for a resolution of this kind."

And that online pledge, Wolf, right now having over 30,000 signatures -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thanks very much.

Someone flipped the switch for a second, but we're back.

Joining us now, a power player in this debate over Iraq and the new deal on a resolution against the troop build-up.

That would be Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan.

He's the chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), CHAIRMAN, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: You're being criticized by the left and the right for this deal you worked out with the ranking Republican, John Warner.

Listen to your friend, Chris Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, a presidential candidate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DODD: This is not three years ago or two years ago. We're being asked to send 21,000 young Americans into a cauldron. And we ought to be able to do better than a resolution here that really brings 70 people together that doesn't have any effect on whether or not they're going to be put in that situation or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, what do you say to Senator Dodd?

LEVIN: Well, first of all, I think that there -- there's a broad consensus against sending the 21,000 additional troops in the country and among Democrats. And if we can get 60 votes -- if we can get 60 votes to defeat a Republican filibuster against the Warner resolution, which I've co-sponsored, which says that we disagree with the president's plan to increase forces by 21,000, it would be a very dramatic statement of senatorial disagreement with the president and would be an important first step, we believe, in turning this ship around and forcing a change of course.

This is the best way, we believe, that we can get a change of course, with a bipartisan resolution disagreeing with the president.

And one other thing. Your -- your reporter there made reference to Moveon.org. Moveon.org is a pretty -- has pretty much of a cross section across the Democratic Party. And as she said, Moveon.org supports, as they put it, the Warner-Levin language because it is an important first step toward Congress blocking the escalation.

So Moveon.org, it seems to me, is a pretty good indicator of where an awful lot of Democrats and others in this country are.

BLITZER: On the right, though, a lot of your critics are saying you know what your doing, senator?

You're giving aid and comfort to the enemy and you're undermining the U.S. military in -- in Iraq, who are serving there right now.

I want you to listen to the White House press secretary, Tony Snow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: Osama bin Laden thought the lack of American resolve was the key reason why he could inspire people to come after us on September 11. I am not accusing members of the Senate of inviting carnage on the United States of America. I'm simply saying you think about what impact it may have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, have you thought about the impact your resolution will have?

LEVIN: We sure have. We sure have. Our troops deserve everything. They deserve our support. They deserve our equipment, the best. They deserve to have their families supported. They deserve the best training in the world. They deserve a reliable ally. They also deserve our best thinking and when 60 senators, which is probably the number we have -- or close -- believe that this additional 21,000 is not going to contribute to success in Iraq, but the opposite -- it's going to contribute to an escalation of the military presence in Iraq. And Saddam Hussein is -- excuse me. Bin Laden is perfectly content. Bin Laden is very content to have American forces stay there occupying a Muslim country.

So, yes, we've given a lot of thought to this question. And we think the current course, which is not working, is a road to failure and we've got to change this course, increase the chances of success by pressing the Iraqi political leaders to take responsibility for their own country and make the necessary political compromises.

BLITZER: I know there's a lot of concern, Mr. Chairman, that the insurgents have a new generation of improvised explosive devices that penetrate even the best U.S. armor on the sides of the Humvees and the other vehicles. And there's concern, there's deep concern you're sending these additional troops, as well as the troops who are already there, into what could be a disaster because they're not going to be as protected as they should be. This came up at your hearing today.

LEVIN: It did, indeed. And we are determined that we're going to give our troops, while they're there, the best possible equipment. This has been an ongoing battle against the insurgents to try to stay ahead of them and we've continued to change technologies. We have told our military and our research and development people we will put all the funds necessary. You've got a blank check when it comes to protecting our troops.

That is the way we feel and we're going to keep working the technologies to try to respond to, but more importantly, keep a step ahead of the insurgents and the terrorists.

BLITZER: Are you -- do you have confidence that General George Casey is the best person to be the new Army chief of staff?

LEVIN: I have confidence that he is a qualified person to be the Army chief of staff. He was the vice chief of staff. And I don't think it's right that would put on his shoulders the policy failures in Iraq. There are some who point to the policy failures in Iraq, which have been major, including disbanding the Iraqi Army, not having a plan for the aftermath and other policy failures.

He shouldn't bear responsibility for the civilian decisions made by this administration. He's made mistakes, by the way, but they're not the major policy mistakes which have put us into the box that we're in.

BLITZER: So you'll vote to confirm him?

LEVIN: I will.

BLITZER: Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

LEVIN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Carl Levin is the chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

And still ahead, Vice President Cheney's pregnant daughter speaking out for the first time since my interview with her father.

What does she think about the criticism she's getting from some in the Christian right?

And later, an Oscar nomination, a Nobel nomination -- could Al Gore go for the Democratic presidential nomination, as well?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening right now, the top U.S. commander in Iraq says he asked for fewer than half the extra troops President Bush is sending to the war zone. General George Casey is testifying before a Senate committee considering his nomination to be the Army chief of staff.

Meantime, the president's Senate allies are trying to stop more Republican defections after a bipartisan deal was struck on a resolution opposing a troop build-up.

Also on Capitol Hill, the leader of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is under fire. Joe Baca is accused of not treating six women in that group fairly. And wait until you hear what one congresswoman claims he said about her -- that story coming up in our next hour.

Also coming up: the charges that Iran is behind some of the bloodshed and the chaos in Iraq. Our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, has Iran's response to accusations from the United States that it's meddling and possibly provoking a wider war.

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

It was one of the most heated confrontations we have seen in the U.S. Senate in quite a while, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Patrick Leahy, going after the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales. People are still talking about it.

I want you to listen to that exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: He would be held. He would be investigated. We also knew damn well, if he went to Syria, he would be tortured. And it's beneath the dignity of this country, a country that's always been a beacon of human rights, to send somebody to another country to be tortured. You know and I know that has happened a number of times in the past five years by this country.

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Before you get more upset, perhaps you should wait to receive the briefing...

LEAHY: How long?

GONZALES: I'm hoping that we can get the information next week.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And, today, there are new developments involving that case Senator Leahy was so angry about.

Let's turn to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena. She is here to explain -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that whole debate focuses on a man named Maher Arar.

Now, he holds both Canadian and Syrian citizenship. He was detained by the United States back in 2002, later deported to Syria, on suspicion that he had terrorist tiles. Well, after he was released, Arar said that he was held and tortured for 10 months.

Now, Senator Leahy was angry, wanted to know why that happened. Why not send him to Canada, where the laws are very similar as they are here in the United States? So, he asked the attorney general for a briefing. He got one today.

The only problem, Wolf, he couldn't say much about it, claiming that it was all classified.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEAHY: The conclusion I have reached from the briefing today is that we have only begun to ask the questions, and we have more questions that have to be asked.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ARENA: Now, Wolf, this whole story is really very confusing.

Last year, a Canadian commission found no evidence to support that Arar posed any threat. And the government actually apologized publicly, paid him millions of dollars in compensation.

But the U.S. just recently told Canada that Arar remains on a U.S. watch list. So, in one country, he is roaming free, but he can't even get into the other country.

Now, Justice will not talk about this. As you heard, the senators won't talk about it. But at least the GAO is doing a study how people actually get put on watch lists. So, maybe then we will get some answers.

BLITZER: The Canadian government, as you know, gave him about $10 million...

ARENA: That's right. Mm-hmm.

BLITZER: ... in compensation for this entire matter.

ARENA: That's right.

BLITZER: All right, Kelli, I know you are going to stay on top of this story for us.

Other news we're following, this time on the road to the White House, it's a real traffic jam these days, with so many contenders. Some might argue enough is enough. Then, again, others might argue, not necessarily. Let's go to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, we have got 18 well-known candidates running or exploring the race for president next year. Do we really need more? Maybe.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Two big question marks hanging over the race for president: Al Gore and Newt Gingrich. Gore has described himself as a recovering politician, adding, you have to worry about a relapse.

Here is Gore on Gore.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not planning to be a candidate again.

SCHNEIDER: Gingrich is devoting himself to finding what he calls a new generation of solutions to big problems, like energy, immigration, and health care.

Here is Gingrich on Gingrich.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: If the best way to help launch the solutions is to run, I will.

SCHNEIDER: Here is Gingrich on Gore.

GINGRICH: I think it's still possible that Al Gore will get in the race, because he has the resources and name I.D. to be very formidable.

SCHNEIDER: And the issues -- Gore has become a fierce critic of George W. Bush...

GORE: The president of the United States has been breaking the law, repeatedly and insistently.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SCHNEIDER: ... and a passionate advocate of environmental action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH")

GORE: This is Patagonia 75 years ago, and the same glacier today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: This news from Oslo: Gore could win this year's Nobel Peace Prize. He's been nominated by two members of the Norwegian parliament.

And this from Hollywood: Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," is the front-runner for the Academy Award for best documentary.

Gingrich, too, is a passionate advocate.

GINGRICH: The Republican Party has forgotten what made it a majority. Republicanism did not make conservatives a majority. Conservatism made the Republicans a majority.

SCHNEIDER: If conservatives are looking for someone to carry their banner, Gingrich could be the guy.

Do Democrats want to see Gore run for president? We asked. They do. Do Republicans want to see Gingrich run for president? We asked. They're not sure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: With 18 well-known candidates, why is there still interest in Gore and Gingrich? Because there are doubts about the leading contenders in both parties: Can they win? Are they ready? Are they really one of us? Maybe we should go with someone we know better -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider reporting -- thank you, Bill.

On our "Political Radar" this Thursday: a talent contest of sorts for three of the Democratic Party's top presidential hopefuls. A new Gallup poll asked Democrats and independents who lean Democratic to rate Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and former Senator John Edwards.

Who did they say was most qualified? Senator Clinton, hands down. Who is the most likable? Senator Barack Obama wins that category. Who is the best public speaker? Obama narrowly edges out Senator Clinton for that title. Who is the best on the issues? Senator Clinton trumps Edwards and Obama on every issue listed, excepted for one. That would be moral values. Senator Obama gets top ratings in that category.

And, finally, who has the best chance of winning the Democratic presidential nomination? Senator Clinton comes out on top again, more than 35 points ahead of her nearest rival on that question. That would be Senator Edwards.

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

And, remember, also, that CNN is a partner with WMUR-TV and "The New Hampshire Union Leader" for the very first presidential debates of the campaign season, two of them, Democratic and Republican, April 4 and 5. It's an unprecedented early kickoff to the race for the White House. You will want to see it right here on CNN.

Coming up: The vice president's daughter delivers a message about her qualifications to be a mother. Our Mary Snow is standing by with the story. And the mayor of San Francisco admits to having an affair with his campaign manager's wife. Is his career in politics done? That's coming up in our "Strategy Session." James Carville and J.C. Watts, they're here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Vice President Dick Cheney told me the other day that questions about his daughter's pregnancy were out of line. But now Mary Cheney herself is speaking publicly about the baby she is having with her lesbian partner.

Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She is standing by in New York with what Mary had to say -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, these are Mary Cheney's first public comments about her pregnancy.

She spoke at a forum held here in New York on Wednesday, saying that her pregnancy is not a political statement.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY CHENEY, DAUGHTER OF VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: I knew, when Heather and I decided to have a baby, that it was going to be not the most popular decision ever.

SNOW (voice-over): It was a panel hosted and videotaped by "Glamour" magazine. The topic? Success at 20, 30, and 40.

But, for Mary Cheney, the questions turned to her pregnancy with longtime partner Heather Poe.

M. CHENEY: This is a baby. This is a blessing from God. It is not a political statement. It is not a prop to be used in a debate by people on either side of any issue.

SNOW: But her pregnancy has generated debate. Some say she put herself into the political spotlight when she worked on her father Dick Cheney's reelection campaign in 2004 -- this as President Bush supported a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Gay family advocates say they want to hear more from her.

JENNIFER CHRISLER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FAMILY PRIDE: You can't have one foot in and one foot out when you're talking about this issue. And she sort of dipped her toe in the water on this topic.

SNOW: On the other side of the spectrum came criticism from James Dobson, founder of the conservative group Focus on the Family. The group said Cheney's pregnancy raised questions about what is best for the child.

That's something Vice President Dick Cheney did not want to address when the question was asked during an interview with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. BLITZER: I have interviewed her.

RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm delighted -- I'm delighted I'm about to have a sixth grandchild, Wolf, and obviously think the world of both of my daughters and all of my grandchildren.

And I think, frankly, you're out of line with that question.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now, asked about her father's response, Mary Cheney was quoted by a "New York Times" reporter as saying she felt the question crossed a line.

The head of Family Pride, however, which works to secure gay rights, disagrees, saying the question was not off limits -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, thank you for that.

And up next in the "Strategy Session," we will get to other politics, including Mayor Newsom of San Francisco. He now admits to hurting his friend and constituents by having an affair with his campaign manager's wife. Can this once rising star in the Democratic Party make a comeback?

And how close is the U.S. going to war with Iran? We will talk with Nick Burns. He's a key aide to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He will be here live in THE SITUATION ROOM in the next hour.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A rocky road lately for the Democrats lately -- one of the party's rising stars may go dim after owning up to an illicit affair. And there's also some discord now among the rank-and-file over a resolution protesting President Bush's proposed troop buildup in Iraq.

Joining us now in our "Strategy Session," Democratic strategist James Carville and Republican strategist J.C. Watts.

Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, went before the press in San Francisco just a little while ago and, among other things, acknowledged he had an affair with the wife of his campaign manager.

And he said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GAVIN NEWSOM (D), MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO: Everything you have heard and read is true. And I am deeply sorry about that. I have hurt someone I care deeply about, Alex Tourk, his friends and family. And that is something that I have to live with and something that I am deeply sorry for. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That's -- that's a political problem.

What do you think?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, I think it's a political problem. I don't...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Is it a career -- is it a career-ender?

CARVILLE: Probably not. I have seen bigger problems than that not big career-enders. But I think, to the extent that he could handle it, that was probably as good an answer as he could given under the circumstances. But he's probably not going to rise very far in national politics for some time now.

BLITZER: What do you think?

J.C. WATTS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I -- in San Francisco, Wolf, I don't know. I don't have a good pulse of how things work out there. Interesting things go on.

But national politics, it's over. He probably didn't have any national ambitions. I would even say state politics, it probably hurts him.

But, you know, I -- I admire the fact that he came clean. And there is an old saying: Confession is good for the soul, but bad for the reputation.

(LAUGHTER)

WATTS: So, we will see how it plays out.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: If you were advising him right now -- he is single -- he's divorced.

CARVILLE: Right.

BLITZER: But he, obviously, admits to having had an affair with this other married woman. What advice would you give him, as a Democratic strategist?

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, I would say, based on what I have seen so far, you're -- you're doing fine.

And the big thing is, talk about what you have accomplished for the city: We all have our failings. I will do better.

And, you know, get married, and, 20 years later, run for anything that you want to. But you are going to have to spend a little time in -- in the cooler here.

BLITZER: Yes, J.C.

WATTS: And, Wolf, the thing is, voters, regardless of -- San Francisco voters may see it differently than I would or maybe than James would or you.

But the fact is, voters will always have a way of dealing with these things. And I think he's gone and he's faced the voters. And now they will have to deal with it whatever way they do.

CARVILLE: But they like the kind of mayor he has been. He -- because he is very popular out there. He may very well win reelection.

Like I said, it's going to be hard. He's going to have to say -- some time, some distance between before he can -- you know, and I don't know how much of a future he had in national politics anyway. He's a nice-looking, articulate guy, but he is the mayor of San Francisco.

Dianne Feinstein was the mayor of San Francisco. She got to be a United States senator.

BLITZER: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: So, you know, who knows.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about another Democrat who has got some political problems right now. That would be Senator Joe Biden.

What do you make of the controversial comments he made in that interview in "The New York Observer" and the way he has dealt with it?

CARVILLE: You know, when I read it, and saw what he said, it was -- I said, oh, this is a problem.

(LAUGHTER)

CARVILLE: And, if I didn't know Senator Biden -- and people know him. They like him. And they're smart.

But I am not -- am I surprised that he got into trouble for something he says? No. Because he says so much. And we have to remember, there are so many candidates running for president over such a long period of time. This is going to be the first of many. It's not going to stop. It's not going to stop.

WATTS: That's right.

(LAUGHTER)

CARVILLE: I mean, but it was a -- it was something that required him to address. I think he could have addressed it a little bit force -- more forcefully.

BLITZER: What did you think?

WATTS: Well, there is another old saying that said -- that says, because you have the right to say it doesn't mean it's the right thing to say.

And I'm a little offended that he didn't think that I'm a mainstream African-American and articulate and...

(LAUGHTER)

CARVILLE: Well, you're -- you're clean, J.C.

(LAUGHTER)

WATTS: I took a shower this morning.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: But you're not running for president.

CARVILLE: No.

WATTS: But I'm not running for president. That's right.

No, I -- I -- like Jim, I -- like James, I like Joe Biden.

CARVILLE: Right.

WATTS: But Joe likes to talk.

(LAUGHTER)

WATTS: And we -- you know, we had the same problem with Newt. We would always say -- you know, some of us would say -- well, we would hope -- we would wish that Newt would understand, there's sometimes wisdom in silence, you know? You don't have to address every single issue.

And, of course, 18 months to go before the election, as I said before, I want the popcorn and Coke concessions, because it's going to be very entertaining over the next 18 months.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: ... the glory of the unspoken thought.

WATTS: Yes. That's right.

BLITZER: He went on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" on Comedy Central last night.

Let's play a little clip. CARVILLE: All right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I spoke to Barack today.

JON STEWART, HOST, THE DAILY SHOW: I bet you did.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: I also spoke to Jesse, and Al Sharpton.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: And I also spoke...

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART: And Michael Jordan and anybody you could get your hands on.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: No, no, no.

STEWART: The Jackson 5. Who else?

BIDEN: Michael didn't call me.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The Jackson 5.

WATTS: Didn't call me, Joe.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: He -- you know, I guess he has got to have a sense of humor to try to deal with that. That could be one strategy.

CARVILLE: You know, he's a good guy. He's a very smart man.

And, when you see that, and people -- and everybody likes Senator Biden. I think most of the other senators like him. And I think the press likes him. And people like him. And they just wince, because they know that he's smarter than he shows.

And that was -- and, on his announcement day, he -- he steps in it.

BLITZER: Briefly, on this resolution, this bipartisan resolution now dealing with Iraq, you have got Senator Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Warner, the ranking Republican, they have reached a deal. The Democrats, a lot of them, at least, like it. And some Republicans like it as well.

What does the White House do, the strategy? If the White House was trying to derail this, even though it's a nonbinding, symbolic resolution, they clearly are not happy it's going to go forward.

WATTS: Well, I think the fact that it's nonbinding, it has no, you know, effect or weight involved.

BLITZER: It does send a political message out there, though.

WATTS: But I don't think this president is concerned about the politics of it.

I mean, how much more damage can the president do or can he have executed against him? I think the president, again, he is focused on saying: How do we win this? Do we want to make these political statements or do we want to win?

I think the resolution is bad for the troops. And I think it says that, you know, we're going to tolerate -- if we withdraw, we're going to tolerate them killing Americans home and abroad, and we're going to learn to live with it.

BLITZER: James...

WATTS: I think that's a horrible message.

CARVILLE: I think that the Senate has about had enough.

And I don't think that senators like Jim Webb, who has won the Navy Cross, who has a son in Iraq, and senators like Chuck Hagel, who's very brave, served his country very honorably, need Tony Snow or the White House talking about, this is this to Osama bin Laden, or this and that.

The truth is, there is great angst over this. There's great angst about this decision. The United States Senate is the place that -- that it's going to manifest itself. They are going to have a debate on this. And, you know, we're in a democracy. And they may not like it, but these people are trying to do the best for their country with this resolution.

BLITZER: We have got to leave it there, guys, unfortunately. But we will continue this conversation down the road.

James Carville, J.C. Watts, thanks very much for that.

And, remember, they are part of the best political team on television.

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

Up ahead, this hour, at least -- excuse me -- next hour, the Democratic Party chairman, Howard Dean, what does he think about the divisions in his own party over Iraq? Also coming up next: "The Cafferty File." Should Senator Biden withdraw from the presidential race? That is Jack's question this hour -- Jack with your e-mail right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here is a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your newspaper tomorrow.

In Boston, protesters hold signs in support of two men charged in yesterday's bomb scare.

In Idaho, fire rages through Middleton High School, consuming at least half of the building.

In South Carolina, a Clemson University student gets pushed through the snow in a kayak.

And in Huron Township, Ohio, sumo wrestlers jump into a swimming pool to celebrate the expansion of a water park -- some of today's "Hot Shots," pictures often worth 1,000 words.

Nice pictures to go to Jack Cafferty with -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Do we have a correspondent on that sumo thing? We should have a reporter out there.

BLITZER: We have a string -- a stringer there, not a full-time correspondent.

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: ... do a live -- live report on the opening of that water park.

BLITZER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: Should Senator Joe Biden withdraw from the presidential race?

G. in Montreal: "Joe Biden withdraw? From what? He never entered the 2008 campaign. After all, he explores or runs for president every 20 years for five minutes, like in 1987, and yesterday, in 2007. To hell with withdrawing. He should just keep exploring for 20 more years, and announce in 2027. By then, he will be articulate enough to run."

Norman in Kingfisher, Oklahoma: "I listened carefully, not only to what he had to say about Barack Obama, but the way he said it. And it's transparently obvious that, despite his unfortunate choice of words, he was paying his colleague a very gracious and heartfelt compliment. There's no reason for him to withdraw."

Dicky, Corpus Christi, Texas: "Joe can forget about it. He never had much of a chance anyway. And now, well, it's over. It would be better for him to spend his millions in his campaign war chest on Katrina restoration or something like that. He would then at least be remembered more favorably. Stick a fork in Biden. He's done."

Dave writes: "Of course Biden should not withdraw. We need not sacrifice another politician to the winds of political correctness. I accept his explanation about what he intended when he said that Barack Obama was clean. And I strongly wish that the other candidates for president were as clean as Biden and Obama."

Steven in Los Angeles: "Yes, he's through. He's got brains and heart. But, sadly, style counts in presidential politics, about as much as it counts in professional ice-skating. And this guy fell on his butt while trying to execute a fairly simple maneuver."

Bob in Bear, Delaware: "As a Delaware resident, I wish Joe would drop out tomorrow and get back to doing what he does well, which is being our senior senator. On the bright side, I picked January 31 in the Biden-blows-it pool."

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

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