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THE SITUATION ROOM

Iraq War Enters Fifth Year; Interview With Steny Hoyer

Aired March 19, 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: Happening now, the start of the fifth year in Iraq. Amid the death and the progress, President Bush asked the nation for more time, more patience, saying the fight is tough, but the war can be won.
We're going to take a closer look at the state of the war right now and the fate of a war funding bill in Congress. I'll speak about it with the House majority leader, Steny Hoyer, this hour.

How patient are you about the war?

Fresh poll numbers out just now showing American opposition to the war growing. And a growing number of Iraqis also feel there's no end in sight to their misery.

And what will the e-mail tell us regarding those eight fired U.S. attorneys?

The Justice Department set to reveal hundreds of pages of messages to explain what happened. This amid the looming showdown between Congressional Democrats and the White House over whether administration officials will testify or face subpoena.

We're waiting for those documents. As soon as we get them, we'll share them with you.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Right now, Iraq stands at the dawn of a new year of war. After four years of chaos and carnage, many war critics say there's been plenty of shock with little as well.

Today is the start of the fifth year of the war. Currently waging that battle, 141,000 American troops in Iraq and thousands more getting ready to head over there. This amid continued calls for them to be pulled out. Congress continues to debate just when and if that should happen. And this as lawmakers ponder a war spending bill that President Bush says Congress needs to pass.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They have a responsibility to pass a clean bill that does not use funding for our troops as leverage to get special interest spending for their districts. And they have a responsibility to get this bill to my desk, without strings and without delay.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Meanwhile, there are fresh polls gauging the mood of an already war weary American public.

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

He has more -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, four years of war -- how's the home front holding up?

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The war began with shock and awe. Just four years later, it has spawned anger and division.

BUSH: Just four years after this war began, the fight is difficult. But it can be won. It will be won if we have the courage and resolve to see it through.

SCHNEIDER: But the American public's support for the war has deteriorated badly, down 40 points in four years. Most of the loss occurred in the first year. Americans were shocked when, instead of being greeted as liberators, an insurgency broke out and no weapons of mass destruction were found.

In a democracy, it's difficult to sustain a response that defies public opinion.

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: The public wants us out. They spoke in the last election. They're ignoring the mandate that the public gave the Congress of the United States.

SCHNEIDER: The war has provoked an unusually partisan response. In 2003, just after the initial fighting ended, the war got almost unanimous support from Republicans. But a majority of Democrats also favored the war.

Now, four years later, Democrats are nearly unanimous in their opposition to the war. But only 24 percent of Republicans oppose the war. Seventy percent of Republicans continue to support it. That is a huge partisan divide.

Bigger than Vietnam?

Yes. In 1971, public opposition to the war in Vietnam was about the same as it is now to the war in Iraq. Even though Republican Richard Nixon was president, there was virtually no difference between Democrats and Republicans -- both opposed the war in Vietnam, which had started under a Democratic president.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Vietnam divided the country, but the division was not primarily partisan. There were plenty of pro-war Democrats and anti- war Republicans in those days. Not now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider with the latest numbers.

Thank you.

As Americans express their frustration with the war, Iraqis also are expressing theirs. A new poll shows many see their situation as bleak and not getting any better.

According to a "USA Today"/ABC News poll -- look at this -- 71 percent of Iraqis described their life as good two years ago. Now, only 39 percent of them say the same thing.

As for looking toward the future, in 2005, 64 percent of Iraqis said their lives would be better in a year, but now only 35 percent of Iraqis say their lives will improve in a year. A gloomy mood in Iraq on this anniversary.

Joining us now to talk a little bit more about this milestone in the war, our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux.

This was a sort of difficult day for the White House to decide how it should mark four years into this war.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what you're seeing and what you're hearing from this White House is really an administration that is changing the goal post here, changing the very definition of the mission and, as well as the definition of success in a way that it makes it sound that it is, in fact, achievable.

Remember four years ago in May, we had a president who said that major combat in Iraq is over before a "Mission Accomplished" sign.

Then it morphed into something else. It was a say the course message.

And then it was just last October we heard the president say that we are absolutely winning this war.

What were the words of President Bush today?

Today he said that this is a war that can be won.

This is ultimately a White House that is changing the definition of what winning means and, at the same time, trying to buy some more time the with American people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to stress that this operation is still in the early stages, it's still in the beginning stages. Fewer than half of the troop reinforcements we are sending have arrived in Baghdad. The new strategy will need more time to take effect. And there will be good days and there will be bad days ahead as the security plan unfolds. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: So, Wolf, today the president tried to show that he is on top of things to the American people, that he had a secure video teleconference call with the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri Al-Maliki, as well as his top officials here in Washington -- the vice president, the secretaries of defense, General Petraeus, as well as others.

But the key question here remains, Wolf, as it did four years ago, and that is whether or not the Iraqi people are going to be able to do this themselves, whether or not they are going to be able to bring those fighting factions together -- the Sunni, the Shia and the Kurds.

That is something, Wolf, that we still do not know -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And he said specifically it's going to take months before we know whether this new strategy is working. It's not a matter of days or weeks. This is very similar to what the top generals are now saying publicly in Iraq, as well.

MALVEAUX: You're absolutely right, Wolf. And this is a timetable that has essentially changed here. You heard the president at earlier times saying we're winning this war and that they -- they were a lot more optimistic, that things have changed on the ground.

But essentially the president here is trying to buy time, essentially begging the American people to be patient, that ultimately this is going to work, that ultimately we are going to win.

But the tricky part of this is that we really don't know what success means yet.

BLITZER: Suzanne, thank you.

Bill Schneider, Suzanne Malveaux -- they are both 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.

Meanwhile, many in the world are worried about a possible attack from Iran. Now the U.S. is urging one form of defense to deal with this potential threat that clearly is out there.

Our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee, standing by with some new details -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the U.S. secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, is ringing an alarm bell. She's warning that the West needs to be on guard and on alert for any possible missile attack by Iran.

Now, Secretary Rice forcefully made her case for a U.S. missile defense shield in Eastern Europe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We live in a world in which we face small nuclear threats, small potential missile threats from, for instance, Iran. And in that world, a limited missile defense that can deal with small threats is very much a stabilizing factor, not a destabilizing factor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERJEE: The U.S. wants to put interceptor missiles in Poland and then build a radar base in the Czech Republic.

Now, that's making Russia really nervous, because it's in Russia's own backyard. President Putin says that it could trigger a dangerous arms race in the region.

And, Wolf, other European leaders are also on edge about this whole idea, as well.

BLITZER: Apparently they're not as worried about it as the secretary of state.

What's the latest, amid this tough talk from Condoleezza Rice, about the U.S. granting a visa to the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to come to New York and address the United Nations?

VERJEE: Well, you know, Secretary Rice's warnings about the possible Iranian missile attacks actually comes as the State Department says that it has approved President Ahmadinejad's visa.

And, Wolf, it's not exactly clear when he'll be here or exactly for how long.

Iran also originally asked for 39 visas, but now it's saying today that it wants even more. It wants 33 more.

We spoke to a senior State Department official today that says -- who says that the additional requests could slow things down, but went on to say that the U.S. will continue to process those requests -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So, that's more than about 60 visas, is that right, Zain?

VERJEE: Yes, that's right.

BLITZER: All right.

VERJEE: Crew and security.

BLITZER: We'll be watching that closely.

Zain, thank you.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty.

He's got The Cafferty File for another week -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, I do.

Good morning, Wolf.

Or good afternoon.

It's the American way, is it?

You promise the voters anything in order to get elected and then once you're in office, hey, forget about it -- do whatever you want.

Remember all the noise about how the Democrats were going to raise the minimum wage, which has not been increased in more than 10 years?

Well, don't hold your breath. The House and Senate both voted to raise the minimum wage, but the versions of the bill that each passed is different. And before workers see any more take home pay, a House- Senate conference committee has to reconcile the two versions of the bill. No indication that's going to happen any time soon.

Meanwhile, the Democrats are having great fun flexing their newfound political muscle at the expense of folks like Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, White House Adviser Karl Rove and Harriet "I Could Have Been A Supreme" Miers.

Talk of subpoenas and hearings fill the air in Washington these days.

But what about all that stuff you said you were going to do about solving the nation's problems?

Here's our question then -- what should be the top priority for the Democrats -- investigating the Bush administration or solving domestic problems?

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

BLITZER: I guess they can't make the increase in the minimum wage retroactive to back November, huh, Jack?

CAFFERTY: They ought to make it retroactive to 10 years ago. That's the last time anybody addressed these folks.

BLITZER: Don't hold your breath on that one, Jack.

CAFFERTY: No, no.

BLITZER: See you in a little while.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: Coming up, despite warnings from the president, are House Democrats moving ahead with their plan to bring the troops home from Iraq?

We'll ask Steny Hoyer. He's the number two Democrat in the House. He's the majority leader.

Plus, which presidential candidate could become a political casualty of this war?

James Carville and J.C. Watts -- they'll be joining us this hour in the Strategy Session.

And later, President Bush is standing by his man. But more voices today calling for Alberto Gonzales to go. We're going to go to Capitol Hill live for some new shots in the fight over Alberto Gonzales.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This week, House Democrats are expected to bring up a measure that effectively would require U.S. troops to be withdrawn from Iraq by the fall of 2008.

But President Bush is blasting those efforts.

Joining us now, the majority leader in the House of Representatives, Steny Hoyer.

Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

Listen to what the president said today, on this, the fourth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: It can be tempting to look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude our best option is to pack up and go home. That may be satisfying in the short run, but I believe the consequences for American security would be devastating.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: A lot of other outside experts agree that there could be even more chaos in the region -- not only Iraq, but in the region -- if the U.S. were simply to pull out.

What do you say to that charge?

REP. STENY HOYER (D), MARYLAND: Well, you know, in the balance of his statement, he also said that it was the responsibility of the Congress to act quickly and, in fact, act on sending him exactly what he asked for.

Too often, I think the Congress has been on the sidelines, has not offered its policy judgments as it's required to do under the Constitution of the United States. That's what we're doing this time. We want to see success, Wolf.

The president is correct when he said in the State of the Union, none of us voted for failure. I certainly did not. I want to see success.

In terms of the chaos, there is chaos there now. We're now four years into this war, entering our fifth year. We have been there longer than World War I, World War II and Korea. And we still see chaos on the ground. We still see the failure to bring security to Baghdad.

And we now see the president is proposing a fourth surge -- this is not the first, this is not a change in policy -- the fourth surge. And whether or not it's successful, we hope it is.

But what we're going to be seeing in our legislation is there need to be timelines and there need to be requirements for the safety of our troops and the equipping of our troops.

BLITZER: But you don't have the votes in the House and the Senate to get this legislation passed. You may have the votes in the House, but in the Senate you certainly don't.

HOYER: Well, that may be the case. But it is our responsibility in the House of Representatives to act as we see the best policy to act on. And that's what we're going to do on Thursday, Wolf.

We think that we're giving them -- all the money that the president has asked for -- we're giving it to him. In fact, we're giving some additional resources for Afghanistan and in addition to that, we're giving some additional monies for the health and treatment of our soldiers and sailors and Marines who are coming back from Iraq and those veterans who are needing of health care.

So we're addressing what the president has asked us for. But in addition to that, we are saying, Mr. President, first of all, the Department of Defense needs to meet its guidelines for training and equipping of our people and how long we lead them in theater and how long we give them a rest. If you don't feel that's appropriate, then you can waive it.

So we're not demanding the president follow that, but he has to tell us why he's not following those guidelines -- yes?

BLITZER: You know the base of the Democratic Party, the more liberal, leftish side, they're very frustrated that the leadership so far is not delivering -- is not delivering on what they saw was a mandate for getting out of Iraq last November.

HOYER: Well, we're setting, in this case, a time line for participation in Iraq and guidelines for what we ought to be doing while we're there.

This is a very significant step forward and in our own caucus, for instance, Maurice Hinchey, who voted against the authorization and has spoken strongly about getting out of Iraq, is a member of the Get Out Of Iraq Caucus, says that this is the best that we're going to possibly pass in terms of moving in a new direction.

I think he's right on that. I think a consensus of left and right hopefully are going to be accomplished and we're going to pass this piece of legislation.

BLITZER: I want you to listen to what former Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney said over the weekend at the anti-war rally here in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CYNTHIA MCKINNEY (D), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: It's sure hard to believe, but now the Democrats are full partners in George Bush's wars. And by funding his wars, the Democratic Congress is explicitly complicit -- complicit in war crimes, complicit in torture, complicit in crimes against humanity, complicit in crimes against the peace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What do you say to former Congresswoman McKinney?

HOYER: Well, we certainly don't agree with that, obviously.

The fact of the matter is we are doing what we can do, given the -- the votes in the House, votes in the Senate, to try to move forward on a rational basis to try to give us a policy which will both encourage the protecting of our own troops, but also giving timelines to the Iraqis and saying you have a responsibility for the security in your own land. You need to step up to the plate.

The president has set various benchmarks. We're saying if those benchmarks aren't accomplished, then we're going to start redeploying our troops. We think that we can get the votes for that. We think that's a way forward. We think it's a change of direction.

And I want to say something, Wolf, because the criticism of the Republicans and the president have been that we are somehow micromanaging the war. That is not the case. There are no commanders on the ground, nor General Petraeus, who will be constrained in tactics or strategy to protect our troops and seek success.

But what it will say is that we expect certain benchmarks to be accomplished by the Iraqis. We expect certain efforts to be successful. And if they're not, that another year of deployment is enough.

BLITZER: Steny Hoyer is the House majority leader.

Mr. Leader, thanks very much for coming in.

HOYER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And coming up, it's the issue that dominated the last election. Will the war in Iraq give presidential candidates in 2008 a headache, as well?

Jeff Greenfield standing by with that story.

But up next, a desperate search in the North Carolina mountains for a missing Boy Scout. We'll have the latest developments on that story and others. All that coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in with Betty Nguyen to get a closer look at some other important stories making news -- hi, Betty.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, Wolf.

Saddam Hussein's former vice president could be executed in just a matter of hours. An Iraqi lawyer says Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan will be hanged at dawn tomorrow. Ramadan's family is appealing to Iraq's government to stop this execution. An appeals court upheld death sentence last week in the killings of 148 Iraqi Shiites in 1982.

Ousted Iraq president, Saddam Hussein, and two top deputies were hanged for their roles in the crackdown.

Well, rescuers are searching in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains for a missing 12-year-old Boy Scout. A missing person alert has been issued for Michael Auberry, who vanished Saturday while on a camping trip with his troupe. Searchers have spotted footprints matching Auberry's shoes. A National Park Service spokesperson says Auberry was wearing a heavy coat and his Scout training should help him survive freezing nighttime weather.

And two New York City police detectives face manslaughter charges in the shooting death of an unarmed man on his wedding day. Sean Bell was killed and two friends were wounded when police fired some 50 shots at them outside a New York nightclub.

Officers Michael Oliver and Detective Gescard Isnora could face 25 years in prison if convicted in Bell's death. Detective Marc Cooper is charged with reckless endangerment. All three have pleaded not guilty.

Wolf, listen to this. The Supreme Court may never have heard agreements quite like the ones the justices heard today. OK, here's what's at issue -- whether a high school senior's banner proclaiming "Bong Hits 4 Jesus!" deserves free speech protection.

Joseph Frederick's high school in Alaska doesn't think so and it suspended him in 2002 when he held up that banner across the street from the school. Frederick says he was just doing a free speech experiment. Well, some experiment. It has led to the Supreme Court. We'll see how it turns out -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Betty, thanks very much.

Betty Nguyen reporting.

Coming up, will Karl Rove be forced to testify about the firing of those eight U.S. prosecutors?

We're going to go live to Capitol Hill for the latest.

Plus, will more Republicans force Alberto Gonzales to step aside?

I'll speak about that with Senator Arlen Specter, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

He'll join us in the next hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now, we soon could be learning a lot more about the firings of those eight federal prosecutors. The Justice Department planning to turn over key documents to Congress. We're standing by for that. The materials may shed some new light on what role U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other top administration officials played in the dismissals that have caused such a huger uproar on Capitol Hill.

A stunning declaration from the mayor of Salt Lake City in Utah. Yes, the mayor of Salt Lake City, at an anti-Iraq War protest, the mayor, Rocky Anderson, called President Bush a war criminal and he urged that the president be impeached.

I'll talk about it with Mayor Anderson.

That's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM in the next hour.

And the FDA says the investigation into the deaths of a number of pets is continuing. Canadian-based Menu Foods has recalled dozens of brands of pet food after at least nine cats and one dog died of kidney failure after eating the products.

I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A show of support from the White House today for the embattled United States attorney general, Alberto Gonzales -- White House Press Secretary Tony Snow saying the president has confidence in the attorney general. But a growing number of Republicans and Democrats want Gonzales to step down over the firing of those eight federal prosecutors. They also want to hear from Karl Rove and former White House counsel Harriet Miers.

Our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is joining us now from Capitol Hill with more.

Dana, what can we expect today?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we expect, on the Senate and the House side, the Judiciary Committees, they are expecting a good old-fashioned document dump, Wolf, lots and lots of pages, in fact.

In fact, they expect as many as 2,000 pages of documents to come late in the day, maybe even as late as 7:00 tonight. All they understand from the Justice Department is that these documents will be e-mails and other internal pages that could provide -- quote -- "additional insight" into just why these U.S. attorneys were fired -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And what about the -- the toing and froing over whether or not top White House officials, like Karl Rove, for example, will be forced to testify under oath?

BASH: The toing and froing are -- that is continuing today, Wolf. In fact, again, they are just kind of in a waiting game here, waiting to find out from the White House whether or not they are going allow Karl Rove and others to testify.

You know, we have heard over and over from Democrats, especially perhaps the most vocal has been the Senate Judiciary chairman, Patrick Leahy, saying that he is simply fed up. He's quite angry, visibly so. He is -- and there is word here that perhaps the White House could come to Congress and offer some kind of compromise, perhaps some kind of private meeting.

Senator Leahy said once again today, that is not acceptable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We don't need another: "We will come up to the Hill. We will brief you on this. Let's have a quiet little briefing, and we will tell you what's going on," and then we pick up the paper two days later and find out what they left out.

Well, I want a briefing all right, Mr. President. I want a briefing where they stand before us, raise their right hand, and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help them God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, we have talked about the fact that certainly Democrats are the most vocal. But this is a bipartisan demand.

There's more evidence of that today, Wolf. The ranking Republican of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter, told our Ted Barrett that he actually took it upon himself to compile some information for the White House to show that there is historical evidence or precedent for aides to any president coming up and talking to Congress.

In fact, he said that he showed them a list of about 40, or even more, former White House officials who testified before Congress. So, it's interesting. That's coming from a Republican, a strong hint to the White House that they -- this is what they expect. They expect to hear from Karl Rove. We are going to see Fred Fielding, the White House counsel, here on Capitol Hill tomorrow, talking to Senator Leahy, and perhaps talking to the Democrats and Republicans on the House side, too. So, we might get an answer as early as tomorrow -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, thank you.

And we are going to have a lot more on this brewing controversy involving the attorney general. In the next hour, I will be speaking live with Republican Senator Arlen Specter. He's the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee.

The U.S. attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, may not be finding overwhelming support among the American public. According to a just- released "Newsweek" poll -- look at this -- 58 percent of those surveyed, including 45 percent of Republicans, say the firings of the U.S. attorneys were politically motivated. Thirty-five percent say Gonzales should -- should -- resign.

Meanwhile, will the war inspire the American public to vote Democratic in 2008?

Our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield, is in New York with a closer look at the cause-and-the-effect relationship between war and politics -- Jeff.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Wolf, of course, the fourth anniversary of the Iraq war was a dominant story today. Only in Vietnam did Americans fight for a longer period of time.

But there's another factor. Counting the run-up to this war and the fast start to the next presidential race, we are likely approaching the fourth national election in which the Iraq war will have a major part.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GREENFIELD (voice-over): Iraq was a significant shadow issue even before the war actually began, in the 2002 midterms, when the specter of September 11 and the war on terror gave President Bush huge job approval ratings and helped the Republicans narrowly win back the Senate.

The war was launched in March 2003, after the Congress...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The joint resolution is passed.

GREENFIELD: ... including most Democratic senators, authorized the use of force.

BUSH: Weapons of mass destruction.

GREENFIELD: It was a war begun with a serious of assertions: that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, but also that Iraq's oil would finance the country's rebirth.

Here's Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz as the war began.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL WOLFOWITZ, DEPUTY DEFENSE SECRETARY: We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREENFIELD: We also heard that a rapid military victory, followed by rapid stability, would trigger what Defense Secretary Rumsfeld called a democratic tsunami throughout the region.

By 2004, the weapons-of-mass-destruction case had essentially collapsed, and conditions were worsening. Public opinion was beginning to turn on the war. But President Bush and his supporters argued that the war was both necessary and would ultimately succeed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to fight.

GREENFIELD: But, by last December's midterms, public opinion has swung decisively against the war. And, after Republicans lost the Congress, onetime staunch supporters, Republicans like Connecticut's Chris Shays, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, and New York Senator John Sununu, all began to speak out against the war.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Trying to end this war.

GREENFIELD: And, now, as the next presidential campaign swings into early focus, the war's political impact shadows many candidates. The Democratic liberal base is uneasy with Senator Clinton's refusal to apologize for her vote authorizing the war. She maintains some U.S. presence in Iraq is required.

John Edwards says his vote was wrong. He wants the troops out. Senator Obama says he was always against the war.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: When I'm president of the United States...

GREENFIELD: Republican John McCain is losing ground among independents, perhaps because he backs the surge.

RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I think the thing that I could do is to supply leadership.

GREENFIELD: Rudy Giuliani's leadership theme can be read as an implied promise to be more competent than the Bush administration.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GREENFIELD: History suggests another lesson about the intersection of war and politics. Except for the Civil War, no American political party has ever benefited when a major war began on its watch. Right now, Iraq does not look like it will provide a second example -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jeff, thank you.

Jeff Greenfield, Dana Bash, they're both part of the best political team on television.

And, remember, for the latest political news at any time, check out our Political Ticker. You can do it. Simply go to CNN.com/ticker.

Coming up; Are two Clintons better than one when it comes to raising campaign cash? The answer appears to be absolutely yes -- the story next in our "Political Radar."

Plus: In the race for the White House, it's becoming easier than ever to reach out and connect with the candidates. We will get "The Situation Online."

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The two Clintons top our "Political Radar" today.

The former President Bill Clinton hosts a fund-raiser for his wife's campaign tomorrow night right here in Washington. The two also teamed up last night in New York City. That dinner pulled in more than $1 million for Senator Clinton's presidential run.

Have Barack Obama and Al Sharpton patched things up? The civil rights leader reportedly says he had a five-minute phone conversation yesterday with the presidential candidate. Sharpton had some tough words directed toward Obama last week, after a newspaper report said he was jealous of the senator from Illinois.

We should hear more about this tonight, when Obama is a guest on "LARRY KING LIVE." That airs 9:00 p.m. Eastern -- Obama on "LARRY KING."

Tommy Thompson will officially jump into the race for the White House. A campaign spokesman tells CNN the former Bush Cabinet secretary and Wisconsin governor will make the announcement on April 4. Thompson set up a presidential exploratory committee back in January.

He joins us tomorrow night, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Tommy Thompson will be here.

And connecting with presidential candidates has never been easier, thanks to the Internet. Now social networking giant MySpace is entering the political fray.

Let's go to Jacki Schechner. She's looking at how the site will impact the political Web wars -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Hi, Wolf. Yes, MySpace just announced its '08 presidential hub. It's called the Impact Channel. And it links to 10 official profiles for the '08 presidential hopefuls so far. For the very first time, they have a new feature. You can fund-raise on MySpace. Not only can you put in an amount that you want to donate to your favorite candidate, but then you can take this button and put it on your own MySpace profile.

MySpace says this has huge implications. They estimate they have about 50 million unique visitors a month from the United States who are of voting age, 50 million unique visitors a month. So far, Barack Obama leads the pack with more than 68,000 friends on his official MySpace profile. But MySpace emphasizes that it's still early, and candidates are still feeling out how to use their web potential.

Elsewhere online, YouTube, at the beginning of the month, launched their '08 hub called YouChoose. And, over there, Barack Obama is outpacing the competition, too. He has more than about nine times as many views as his closest Democratic competitor, in terms of people looking at his video channel.

We also checked out Alexa, which tracks Web traffic. And Barack Obama is outpacing his competition there, as well. He has more visits to his Web site than his Democratic and Republican contenders so far, Wolf.

But, again, it's still early, so we will just keep an eye.

BLITZER: Thank you for that, Jacki. We certainly will.

Up next: the political toll from the war in Iraq. Will any of the presidential candidates become casualties? James Carville and J.C. Watts, they are standing by for today's "Strategy Session."

And we're waiting for the Justice Department to release potentially crucial documents in the firing of those eight U.S. attorneys. As soon as we get those documents, we will let you know what they contain.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Today marks a grim milestone for Iraq. The president, though, did take a moment to address a much lighter issue.

He met with the national champion Florida Gators football team. They were underdogs in their January game against Ohio State. And, amid his own current slump in approval ratings, the president had this to say.

Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: You might remember, all the pregame polls said you couldn't win.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: So much for polls.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And joining us now in our "Strategy Session" to talk about this, our CNN political analysts, Democratic strategist James Carville and former Republican Congressman J.C. Watts.

Guys, thanks very much for doing this.

You want to quickly respond to the president?

(LAUGHTER)

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, every -- whenever somebody is doing poorly in the polls: Oh, the only poll that counts is Election Day. So much for the polls.

Harry Truman. Now it's the University of Florida football team. By the way, they were ranked number two in the country going into the game. It was hardly like it was some kind of a George Mason Cinderella upset of some magnitude.

BLITZER: J.C., you know a lot about football.

You used to play professional football.

(LAUGHTER)

J.C. WATTS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The president needs about a national champion to celebrate once a week, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: If he could do that once a week, he would be in good shape.

WATTS: If he could do it once a week.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Here's the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll numbers on this, the fourth anniversary of the start of the war.

Back in 2003, 72 percent of the American public said they favored the war. It's gone steadily down every year since then. Now it's only 32 percent. Only about a third of the American public supports this war.

CARVILLE: You know, it's evident that that's what's happening.

I think the president made a terrible mistake. He took the Army and the Marine Corps to war. He just didn't take the nation with him. And you are seeing the -- the -- that happen.

And there was a poll today, ABC, and I think "USA Today," about 71 percent of people in Iraq say the war is going terribly. So, we have got ourselves in a dandy fix, where the people in America don't like the war, and the people in Iraq don't the war. Other than that, it's going great.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: J.C., on this anniversary, what do you say?

WATTS: Well, Wolf, I haven't concluded that the American people are saying: Let's give up. Let's pull out of Iraq. Let's not try to win this thing.

I think things are not going well. And, when things don't go well, the American people, they go as the war goes. And I think the president has tried to make some adjustments, tried to modify the strategy, changed strategies. And I think we need to give this strategy time to work. I buy into that line.

BLITZER: Where do you think the -- the war will be a year from now?

CARVILLE: You know, I'm not a -- my guess is not any better than anybody else's, but I suspect pretty much in the same place it is today.

BLITZER: If it's at the same place, give me an assessment, politically. The presidential candidates, who emerges a winner? Who emerges a loser, assuming it's at the same place?

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I think, first of all, the Democratic Party is going to have to be -- if it's in the same place, they are going to have to be moving to something to get us out of there faster. I don't think the party could hold together another year like this.

The Republican Party is going to be blamed for this war forever. The keynote speaker at the 2020 Democratic Convention will evoke George Bush in Iraq. I mean, it just -- it's going to be there for...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Sort of the way people now remember Vietnam; is that what you are saying?

CARVILLE: Right. It's going to be -- that's almost...

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: And it's going to be a Republican war. But the Democrats are going to have a hard time holding together...

(CROSSTALK)

WATTS: I do think that the Republicans will share the -- the brunt of the blame for the war.

However, I don't believe it's a Republican or a Democrat war. I believe it's America's war. I believe America loses if we don't do well in Iraq. The consequences are -- are quite dramatic, if we don't get this thing turned around in Iraq, fight the terrorists there, don't fight them here at home. I think that's the mission.

BLITZER: A lot of pundits out there think, on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is the most vulnerable on the issue of Iraq. Barack Obama, he opposed the war from the beginning. John Edwards has blatantly come out and said: I made a huge mistake. I apologize, should never have voted for that resolution, and want those troops out.

She takes a more -- she Finesses her position a lot more.

CARVILLE: I mean, no, her -- her position is actually the same. She says we should be out in 2008. So, it's a little bit different. We're talking about a vote.

I honestly -- you might expect me to say this, but I actually believe it. I think, a year from now, if we're talking about a vote in 2003 -- or 2002, I guess, October 2002, it was, it may have some effect, but I doubt it. It's what the position is.

And, you know, we're not going to be able to -- again, if we're trying to get out with only the people who voted to get out, it's going to make the same mistake that the Bush administration made by going to war with only the people that voted for the war.

J.C. is right. It's America's war. They didn't choose to take America to war. They chose to take the Army and the conservative Republicans to war. That's why this thing is going so terribly.

Democrats are going to have to -- and I think they will -- learn that, look, anybody that has a good plan to get us out of there, to heck with how you voted in this thing. Let's get together and try to figure a way to get out.

BLITZER: On the Republican side, who emerges, let's say, a year from now, as potentially the best -- the beneficiary from the current situation, if it stays the same. And who loses the most?

WATTS: Well, the Republican candidates, 95 percent of the Republican candidates all support the war. I think John McCain has obviously been more vocal about it. But I don't know how John McCain would pay a greater price than Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney or anybody else, when...

BLITZER: It's been more of the signature issue for him than it has been for the others. (CROSSTALK)

WATTS: It has been. And I think the fact that he is a sitting member of Congress, I think, probably it is a little tighter noose around his neck.

However, I think John McCain -- in his defense, John McCain was saying we needed more troops three years ago. That's not -- he's not new to that position. Had we taken John McCain's advice three years ago, where would we be today? I think we would probably be in a much different situation.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales.

Give me your prediction. Do you think this guy manages to survive?

CARVILLE: I don't think the Democrats care. I think that he -- in terms of the Democrats, I -- if they think that, by getting rid of him, that they are going to help themselves, they will take the heat down, they're not.

The Democrats believe, as I have been saying is, that the White House is trying to use federal prosecutorial power as an arm of the Republican Party. Alberto Gonzales is a bit player in this to them. And, I mean, if they -- if they want him to -- if they want to keep him, then keep him. But -- but don't think, by getting rid of Alberto Gonzales, that you are going to fix this problem, because it's not going to be the case.

WATTS: Wolf, the bottom line is this. You have got a president whose numbers are not very good, if you want to believe the polls.

Secondly, there's blood in the water. We are in a very hostile, partisan political environment. If it was Republicans, they would be doing the same thing. If you think the Democrats are going to let the Republicans off the hook with Alberto Gonzales, I think this is something else that plays into the roll -- atmosphere of corruption, or...

CARVILLE: But, J.C., what the Democrats would say is, is that the White House tried to use federal prosecutorial -- prosecutorial power to go after Democrats and protect Republicans. They aren't happy about that. That's not a very nice thing to do.

(CROSSTALK)

WATTS: But let me ask you...

CARVILLE: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: And I...

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: ... by the way.

WATTS: ... the question is, is not whether or not Republicans went after Democrats or Democrats went after Republicans.

(CROSSTALK)

WATTS: The question is, are there Democrats that broke the law? Are there Republicans that broke the law? If they broke the law, then they should have gone after them.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: What they're saying is, there are Republicans that broke the law they tried to protect, and there are Democrats that didn't break the law they tried to go after.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: All right.

WATTS: If that's the case, he should go.

CARVILLE: OK.

BLITZER: We have got to leave it there, guys, on that note.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: James and J.C., thanks for both -- to both of you for coming in.

Still to come: How far will one American mayor go to take on President Bush?

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROCKY ANDERSON (D), MAYOR OF SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH: He misled us into this war. The president...

BLITZER: Well, it's one thing to misled. But it's another thing to say he lied.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So, what is the Salt Lake City mayor, Rocky Anderson, advocating? You are going to want to hear what he's saying about the president and what should be done to the president.

And your e-mail coming into Jack: Should investigating the Bush administration be the Bush administration -- the Democrats' -- excuse me -- top priority?

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the question is: What should be the top priority for Democrats, investigating the Bush administration or trying to solve the nation's domestic problems?

Bob writes from Florida: "The takeover of the House and Senate has only allowed the Democrats to stop the dictator-style management of the federal government. With a slim majority in the Senate and King George still in the White House, the Democrats are not able to properly solve the problems in America."

John writes from New Jersey: "This is a trick question. Investigating the Bush administration may be the quickest path to solving the nation's problems.

Richard in Washington: "There are plenty of House and Senate committees to simultaneously investigate the executive scofflaws and still legislate urgent help for the most downtrodden social underclass. All we need is Congress to work 40 hours a week."

Tom in Iowa writes: "The Democrats are not in a position to do anything to change current policy, since they don't have a large enough majority in either house. Right now, they need to get a handle on the Bush administration's questionable activities by holding hearings and getting things out in the open while they have the opportunity. They might lose control of the Senate in two years. And, if that happens, the Republicans will once again sweep everything under the table, and an opportunity will have been wasted."

Shirley in Idaho: "Investigations are a waste of money. Bush is a failure. Move on. Take care of domestic issues, like prison and justice system reform. Let's end some of the miserably failed programs, like the war on drugs and No Child Left Behind, and get down to some serious improvements."

And Josef writes: "Hey, don't worry about the minimum wage, Jack. Jobs like yours are only meant to be starter gigs. Eventually, you're supposed to work your way up."

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: I'm trying, Josef. I'm trying -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack.

And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: troops and equipment worn down by war. As the fight in Iraq begins its fifth year, the president asks for more time and more money. But is America's military already stretched too thin? Amid the shouts and the chants, as protesters rally against the war, a top politician makes a stunning call: to impeach -- yes, to impeach -- the president.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com

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