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THE SITUATION ROOM

Bush Visits Walter Reed; Congress Goes on Break; Wild Fire Threatens Hollywood; Poisonous Pet Food

Aired March 30, 2007 - 1900   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Kitty.
We're watching a fast moving fire sending smoke billowing over the famous Hollywood sign and into a movie studio. We're watching that.

Also, we're watching Congress. Heads out on spring break, and to hear the White House tell it, you would think the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has gone wild. What's so wrong about a visit to Syria?

An apology from the commander in chief. Weeks after the Army hospital scandal shocked the public, President Bush pays a visit, but will that make life any better for wounded troops? I'll ask the former senator, a Vietnam veteran, Max Cleland.

And investigators now tracing the source of the poison that's killing America's cats and dogs, but there are new concerns tonight. Could dry pet food also be contaminated?

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

Congress goes on spring break and some are going abroad, but an angry White House now accusing the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, of simply going too far. She's joining a parade of lawmakers to Syria. In fact, three Republicans are there right now. So what's the problem?

Let's go to our White House correspondent Elaine Quijano -- Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the White House view is simply that others have visited Syria before, and it hasn't done any good.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUIJANO (voice-over): The White House pushed back hard against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for a planned visit to Syria, a country on the U.S.'s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't think it's productive to go to Syria and try to -- I don't know what she's trying to accomplish.

QUIJANO: Other Democrats have made the trip, including Senator Christopher Dodd who is running for president and former presidential candidate, Senator John Kerry. And the White House says those visits play right into the hands of Syria's president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know that Assad probably really wants people to come and have a photo opportunity and have tea with him and have discussions about where they are coming from, but we do think it's a really bad idea.

QUIJANO: But foreign policy experts point out Pelosi could use her visit to send the Syrians a harsh message.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: You don't use meetings just to be nice and have tea, you use meetings sometimes to read people the riot act or explain to them why their behavior needs to change.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUIJANO: But a senior White House official says Syria has heard the message before and has not changed its tune. Meantime, a spokesman for Speaker Pelosi is defending her trip noting that she's leading a bipartisan delegation as recommended by the Iraq Study Group -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Elaine Quijano at the White House. Thanks.

There is shocking new video tonight showing another British hostage making a confession and a new letter from a woman sailor accusing her own government of supposed oppression. Once again, Iran is raising the stakes, and that's raising tempers in Britain as well as here in Washington.

Let's go live to our senior international correspondent Matthew Chance. Matthew, what are you hearing right now?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, very dramatic developments in this standoff between Iran and Britain with a second crew member of the captured naval patrol captured eight days ago in the Persian Gulf by Iranian forces appearing on Iranian state television confessing to what he calls trespassing in Iranian waters.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since we've been arrested in Iran, our treatment has been very friendly...

CHANCE: Another propagandist salvo, another disturbing confession, possibly made under duress in Britain's escalating standoff with Iran. This is Nathan Thomas Summers, one of the 15 British sailors being held and now paraded on Iranian television.

NATHAN SUMMERS, HELD BY IRAN: I'm grateful no harm has come to us; just I would like to point out entering the waters without any permission.

CHANCE: Iran's use of the captives to make statements like this has outraged the British government. Prime Minister Blair says it doesn't fool anyone, just enhances the sense of disgust. It's also distressing for family members.

NICHOLAS SUMMERS, BROTHER OF CAPTIVE SAILOR: Obviously it's hard, especially on my mother on my grandparents' side. They have been getting a lot of support from the navy, a lot of people contact. We're hoping they will get returned safe and as quick as possible.

CHANCE: But Iran shows little sign of returning the captured sailors soon. A third handwritten letter has been released from the only female among them, Faye Turney. It says she was sacrificed due to the intervening policies of the Bush and Blair governments. It's now time, her letter goes on, to ask our governments to make a change to its oppressive behavior towards other people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE: And they are watching this developing crisis with concern, but they won't let either that letter or the television address the statement, the confession deflect them from finding a diplomatic solution -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So what are the options out there to resolve this, Matthew?

CHANCE: Well, the options are purely diplomatic at this stage. Tony Blair has been distancing himself from any talk that there could be some kind of military solution to this at this stage. They have already had that unanimous statement from the U.N. Security Council, and now European Union foreign ministers have also backed the British position and called on Iran to release the sailors immediately -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Matthew Chance in London for us. Thanks.

If all else fails, could Britain launch a military raid to free its hostages? It does have some forces nearby, but any operation clearly easier said than done. There are more than 7,000 British troops in Iraq right now, some 6,000 are in Afghanistan. Britain has an air base and a force of about 2,700 in Cyprus, and there's a small presence in the Indian Ocean base of Diego Garcia.

Some 15,000 troops are in Germany where Britain leads an allied rapid reaction force. The Royal Navy has more than half a dozen ships in the Gulf region includes the HMS Cornwall. That's the ship from which the sailors and marines had originally set out.

Closer to home, flames are ripping through the parched Hollywood Hills and smoke is billowing behind that sign that's come to symbolize the entertainment industry. The drama and the danger are unfolding still right now.

Let's turn to CNN Sumi Das. She's out in Hollywood. She's joining us. What's the progress behind you on those hills, Sumi, right now?

SUMI DAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the fire is still burning, Wolf, as you mentioned, but from my vantage point just a couple miles south from the blaze, they have made good progress. A hundred and fifty fire fighters approximately and five helicopters have been tackling this fire for the past few hours, but take a look at the smoke. You can read the smoke to really gauge the progress, and a couple of hours ago there was black smoke billowing behind me, and now we see white smoke and that usually indicates that fire fighters are making good progress against this blaze -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So, Sumi, what are still the dangers that are out there?

DAS: Well, there are some dangers that are still present. Twenty-four acres have burned so far, and this is a very dry, rugged area where the fire is located. The rains have been very light this year, and so there's a lot of brush in that area. It's difficult to access as well.

We have mentioned that there's a corporate housing complex that's located nearby the fire that's threatened by the fire. We are hearing that one of the buildings of that complex, there are many buildings in the complex, one of them has been evacuated as a precaution. Now there are multi-million dollar homes in that area as well. Madonna actually used to own a residence in that area, so as you can imagine homeowners are probably concerned, too -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Sumi. Thank you. We're going to stay on top of this story.

J.T. Alpaugh is a helicopter pilot and photographer; a lot of our viewers remember him from his coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath. J.T. is joining us right now.

You've flown over this area numerous times. Give us the -- your assessment of what's happening J.T. right now.

VOICE OF J.T. ALPAUGH, HELINET PILOT: Well, Wolf, what you're looking at right now is the studio city side. At the top part of your picture there, that's actually Warner Brother Studios. That's -- that area there is close to where the fire started in an apartment building.

Now there are about 30 to 40-foot walls of flame working its way towards this apartment building when this fire broke out about 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time this afternoon. Right now a much different story. Fire fighters are really starting to get a handle on the fire right now, which Sumi says is about 25 acres. You can't really see some of the fire from Sumi's side of the Los Angeles area.

Most of the fire on the San Fernando Valley side of the fire, so what's happening right now is fire fighters are containing a line all the way around this fire, putting water-dropping helicopters, drop after drop, to contain this fire and to keep it into the area. Right now winds are definitely playing a great role in this. The fire burned up the terrain.

It was a fuel-driven fire, and when it got to that top ridge, as you see, right near the Hollywood sign, the wind is working against it, so it ran out of fuel and ran into the wind and the wind blew it back on to the area that already had burn, so that's really good news. Fire fighters are starting to get the upper hand on this fire.

BLITZER: J.T., thanks very much. We're going to stay on top of this story and we'll come back to you.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Traveler beware. The State Department is out with its annual warnings of places you might want to avoid. It does this for every country, mostly for employees of U.S. companies doing business overseas, but the reports are available to anyone who wants one.

Some of the assessments are anything but diplomatic, for example, Mexico where travelers are warned that quote, "police corruption and police involvement in criminal activity is both legendary and true" or Qatar where "driving is likened to participating in an extreme sport"; Strasbourg, France, where vehicle arson has come into vogue with an unofficial New Year's Eve competition claiming several vehicles each year; Croatia, where people are told to be aware of drink prices in gentlemen's clubs, where tourists can run up exorbitant bar bills, sometimes in the thousands of dollars."

Kind of like New York -- then there is Haiti, where "the tragedy of Haiti is that Haitians have become great leaders in every profession and every country, with the exception of Haiti; Greece, where the police have limited ability to deter crime. They receive little support from the Greek government and even less respect from the Greek population.

So it's Friday night, here's your chance to help our government. What warning label would you put on a country that you have visited? E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Excellent question for a Friday night, Jack. Thank you.

Coming up, former U.S. Senator Max Cleland defends wounded veterans and lashes out at the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw a photo-op today. We didn't see real commitment to really make the troops' better -- the troops' lives better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Was President Bush's visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center too little too late? Max Cleland isn't mincing any words about the hospital scandal or the president's Iraq policy.

Also this hour, surprising U.S. allies, Iraqis taking on al Qaeda, but will they turn on America?

And new reason to fear for your pet's life. A recall widens and the dangers spread.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Bush apologized today more than a month after the nation was shocked by the shoddy conditions at the U.S. Army's top hospital. On a visit today, Mr. Bush vowed to fix things, but is he just a little bit late?

CNN's Brianna Keilar is over at the White House -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the White House says just because the president hasn't physically made the trip until now doesn't mean he hasn't been doing all he can to remedy the problems.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): It was President Bush's first visit to Walter Reed since the scandal broke six weeks ago.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is not right to have somebody volunteer to wear our uniform and not get the best possible care. I apologize for what they went through, and we're going to fix the problem.

KEILAR: But Deputy White House Press Secretary Dana Perino citing the replacement of officials at the hospital and the formation of a bipartisan presidential commission rejected the notion that President Bush had waited too long to make an appearance.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE DEP. PRESS SECY.: I would remember that you when this first came to light the president said I want to shine a bright light on this. I want to make sure we leave no stone unturned, so that characterization is unfortunate given all that history and given that the president is so committed.

KEILAR: In an uncharacteristic move the White House allowed a news camera to capture the president's visits with wounded soldiers. He tested out one man's new prosthetic arm, admired another's tattoo.

PRES. Bush: Make sure you get a picture of the tattoo, the man is proud of it.

(LAUGHTER)

KEILAR: And held the baby of Army Sergeant David Gardner, one of many soldiers adjusting to life as a war-wounded amputee.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: After visiting with patients, President Bush commended doctors and nurses at Walter Reed for the medical care they provide for soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying the failures of the hospital were bureaucratic and administrative once -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brianna. Brianna Keilar is over at the White House.

Does the president's hospital visit come too late? What about his pledge to clean up conditions for war veterans? I'll ask those questions to former Senator Max Cleland, himself a vet.

The United States has a secret weapon going on against al Qaeda in Iraq right now, but could that weapon be turned against the United States?

Our Michael Ware explains in this extraordinary report from Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He looks like an insurgent. He's actually a U.S. ally, the new face of America's fight against al Qaeda.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

WARE: Al Qaeda slaughtered our sheikhs, our children, he says, and we will terminate them.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

WARE: By we he means men like these in Iraq's western Anbar province manning this checkpoint which by one official is supported by the U.S. military. The men drawn from tribes or their umbrella network, the Anbar Salvation Council. Police vehicles pass through without question, for the tribes have split their forces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

WARE: Some to the police...

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

WARE: ... who intone (ph) tribal chants before operations...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

WARE: ... while others are kept as private paramilitaries, hit squads, assault teams, sanctioned by the Iraqi government, their loyalty remaining with their tribal sheikhs, all of which sits (ph) an America desperate to crush al Qaeda.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now in Baghdad, Michael Ware. Michael, there have been also some reports involving the motivation of these guys that there may be some money exchanging hands. What do you know about this? WARE: Well, what everything is always about, by and large, in this part of the war is money and power. It's all very localized. It's local politics. These guys want a stranglehold back on their own domain, on their turf, but this has much broader ramifications than just Iraq's western Anbar province because these guys represent what America's Arab's allies like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, so desperately want to see, Sunni Iraqi Arabs re-empowered instead of seeing a government that they see America has put together that is much closer to Tehran than it is to Washington or Amman or Riyadh.

BLITZER: I've heard, Michael that some of the money, maybe a lot of the money, if not all of it, is coming from Saudi Arabia. What are you hearing?

WARE: Well, certainly there's lots of Saudi interest here, not only in Iraq, but particularly in these western provinces. We're certainly hearing that there are very discreet channels open. Nailing down the facts is extraordinarily difficult, but what we do understand is that for now there's a very low level, very covert, very indirect form of support for many of these Sunni communities, particularly the tribal systems, from elements within Saudi Arabia, and we believe from what we're told that the U.S. for now is simply turning a blind eye.

BLITZER: Is it possible these guys are potentially going to turn against the United States almost as quickly as they turned against al Qaeda?

WARE: Oh, absolutely. In fact, they warn of that in our exclusive interviews with their leadership. They say that, you know, we're working on interests that align with the U.S. for now, but at the end of the day, once we've slaughtered al Qaeda, if you're still here, then we're going to turn our weapons back on you, but underlying all of that is something much broader.

There will be no need for them to turn their weapons back on America, they say. Since 2003, they said we're on your side. We're against Iran. We're against al Qaeda. Just empower us, but the ideologues from Washington said the tribes and the Baathists had a new place in the new Democratic Iraq. Well, there's no Democratic Iraq, yet the tribes and the Baathists still remain -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Michael Ware reporting for us from Baghdad, doing excellent reporting as usual -- Michael, thanks.

WARE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM tonight, the threat from Iran. Does Israel have a secret weapon to defend itself from a possible missile attack?

And Hillary Clinton spoofed on the raunchy cartoon show "South Park". Is her presidential campaign upset?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring stories coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What do you have, Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: A couple of things, Wolf.

There is new evidence that the military misled the public about the death of NFL star turned Army Ranger Pat Tillman. Tillman was killed by so-called friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004. For more than a month afterwards the Pentagon insisted he had been killed in an ambush, but a memo from a top general just a week after Tillman's death warned that U.S. leaders could embarrass themselves if they said he died from enemy fire.

Some disturbing new revelations about the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. A report released just a short time ago says there's a, quote, "climate of distrust and cynicism among cadets at the academy." It goes on to say that the academy must focus on character development and leadership. The task force that wrote the report was formed after the first court-martial (UNINTELLIGIBLE) last year.

And a New York City art gallery has cancelled plans to unveil a nude sculpture of Jesus chiseled from a block of chocolate. The decision to shut down the display, which was titled "My Sweet Lord", came after complaints from a Catholic organizations and a church cardinal. The gallery's creative director resigned over the controversy. He says critics used what he called strong-armed tactics and jumped to conclusions without seeing the display, but it was a pretty racy sculpture of Jesus, Wolf. It was anatomically correct.

BLITZER: OK. We'll get back to you very soon, Carol. Thank you.

Just ahead, the showdown between Congress and the president over bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just think that this debate is really pretty much insane. The Congress declares war and the Congress can undeclared it. As Lyndon Johnson used to say, the president proposes and the Congress disposes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Find out what former Democratic senator and Vietnam War veteran Max Cleland wants to hear from President Bush. My interview with former Senator Cleland. That's coming up.

Plus, dry cat food is now added to that massive recall as officials reveal a new toxic chemical is found.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, the attorney general on damage control. Alberto Gonzales now says he doesn't recall being involved in discussions over which federal prosecutors would be fired. Former chief of staff testified yesterday that Gonzales' denials of involvement were inaccurate, his word.

Six Muslim men are going to surprising lengths to seek justice after they were wrongly removed from a plane last fall. They are not only suing the airline, but also the passengers who accused them of suspicious behavior. Some fear the lawsuits could discourage flyers from speaking up when they suspect something unusual.

And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) illegal immigration set to jump into the Republican presidential race. Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado expected to make his announcement Monday in Iowa.

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

New video and new outrage in the British hostage crisis in Iran. As we reported, Iran aired tape of another British captive saying the U.K. sailors and marines trespassed into Iranian waters. Tonight, an outspoken former U.S. diplomat sees this as a critical test in another standoff with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.

Let's go to our senior national correspondent John Roberts -- John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SR. NAT'L CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, John Bolton was hardly a shrinking violet when he was ambassador at the United Nations, but now that he has left the diplomatic core, he's not holding anything back. He says that Iran's seizure of British troops is a test of how firmly the international community will respond to Iran pushing the envelope and is clearly connected to their pursuit of a nuclear weapon, something he says the United States cannot allow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: I think if they continue to try and project power in the region and the Persian Gulf, if they continue their nuclear weapons program, if they continue their aggressive support of terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, they are seeking a role in the region that can only be detrimental to our interest.

ROBERTS: And would you see military action?

BOLTON: I certainly don't recommend it as the first step or as an easy step, but if the choice is between an Iran with nuclear weapons and military action by the United States to prevent that, yes, then I would favor military force.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Ambassador Bolton also believes that despite Tehran's protestations to the contrary, once Iran becomes self-sufficient with its nuclear cycle, it will definitely pursue nuclear weapons. Wolf? BLITZER: All right John, thank you.

And to our viewers, you can hear the rest of John Bolton's interview with John Roberts on "THIS WEEK AT WAR." It airs tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, Sunday at 1:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Iran's missiles and nuclear program may pose a threat to America, but it has called for Israel to be wiped off the map. Now suddenly Israel seems a little bit less worried. CNN's Brian Todd is joining us. Brian, does Israel have any new answers to Iran's problems?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRSEPONDENT: The Israelis believe they do, Wolf, and if so it's not a moment too soon, because Israel is already in range of one of Iran's ballistic missiles that could be launched at any time.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice over): A white streak in the sky, target unseen. This is a missile defense rocket called Arrow, what Israel believes is its trump card against a sworn enemy.

The head of Israel's Missile Defense Agency says, Our Arrow operational system can without a doubt deal with all of the operational threats in the Middle East, particularly in Iran and Syria."

A prominent weapons expert says this missile killer has worked well in tests, but says the Arrow is not always straight.

JOHN PIKE, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: There's always the possibility of your radar being confused by decoys. And as we saw in both Gulf wars with anti-missile interceptors, when you get into actual combat it has a complexity that you simply have not been able to afford to simulate on the test range.

TODD: This is what Israel's most worried about, the Shahab-3, Iran's ballistic missile with a range of over a thousand miles. It can hit Israel, and it's ready to fly right now. If Iran develops nuclear warheads, this can carry them.

U.S. officials worried enough that their ally could be struck with this that they helped build and pay for the Arrows. Why is a top Israeli crowing about his missile defense now? Experts say Iran's growing power, its threat to wipe out Israel, are only part of the reason.

DANIELLE PLETKA, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INST.: The Israelis lost a great deal of deterrent last year in their fight with Hezbollah. They are no longer considered the massive military power they once were, and he's probably seeking to get a little bit of that back.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: But that deterrent only goes so far. Experts say Iran's also working on a longer-range ballistic missile that's faster than the Shahab-3. The Arrow defense may not be able to counter that one, and it definitely cannot defend against cruise missiles that Iran is building which fly low to the ground and are harder to detect. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

BLITZER: And as we noted, President Bush today went to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and apologized six weeks after the scandal broke about conditions for wounded war veterans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Former Democratic Senator Max Cleland was badly wounded in an earlier war. That was the Vietnam War. He also ran for -- he also ran the Veterans Administration. He's joining us now live from Atlanta.

Senator, thanks for coming in.

MAX CLELAND (D), FMR. SENATOR: Thank you.

BLITZER: Here's what the president said today over at Walter Reed when he formally apologized for what had been happening there.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The problems at Walter Reed were caused by bureaucratic and administrative failures. The system failed you and it failed our troops. And we're going fix it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. You're shaking your head. You don't believe him?

CLELAND: It's really unbelievable for the commander in chief five years into this war, five years after he said "Major combat over," "Mission accomplished," "Bring 'em on," and his own failure and the failure of his administration to plan for casualties in this war that have now amounted to more than 3,200 dead, 30,000 wounded, and continuing the loss of our young people at 80 a month, and a thousand casualties a month, it's a little bit late to go to Walter Reed and say, well, it's just the bureaucrats' fault.

The president speaks with fork and tongue here. First of all, he'll go out to Walter Reed with the cameras, but then he threatens to veto legislation that will add $20 million to Walter Reed, take it off the chopping block in terms of being closed, and also threatens to veto legislation for a billion dollars extra for PTSD counseling, for treatment, and for traumatic brain injury, and $2 billion more for the Veterans Administration.

Unbelievable.

BLITZER: So, but, basically. What you're saying, it's a little bit too late for him to be promising to fix the conditions there or other military or veterans hospitals. CLELAND: Well, I mean, somebody's got to do it. I mean, but it's a little bit late to say, excuse me.

You know, it's five years down this path of the war that he created, and a war that has no more justification now. And so the real way to really rectify the situation at Walter Reed is to bring the troops home and really make Walter Reed a center of excellence for wound care.

That's what we need. And for him to sign this piece of legislation that says, yes, we'll take Walter Reed off the chopping block; yes, we'll give it $20 million more; yes, we'll spend the billion dollars more for PTSD and traumatic injury, and we'll give the V.A. $2 billion more.

That's the way to really take care of the troops.

BLITZER: And you speak as someone who is still a patient from time to time over at Walter Reed yourself.

Let me get to the other issue right now. The president's accusing his Democratic critics and some Republicans of undermining U.S. troops by threatening a timeline, a timetable for their withdrawal from Iraq.

Listen to what he said just today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: We expect there to be no strings on our commanders, and that we expect the Congress to be wise about how they spend the people's money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Strong words saying that he's protecting the troops, but you and your fellow Democrats and the other critics would undermine those very troops.

CLELAND: Well, first of all, when there was a Democratic president named Clinton, there were Republicans who were calling for a timeline for withdrawal from Somalia, from Haiti, from the Balkans. So Republicans are now saying, oh, we don't want a timeline.

The truth of the matter is, we've been five years down this road. It is now time to withdraw our ground forces.

Secondly, I just think that this debate is really pretty much in sync. The Congress declares war and the Congress can undeclare it.

As Lyndon Johnson used to say, "The president proposes and the Congress disposes." The Congress is disposed to follow the American people here and say enough is enough, and please sign this legislation, Mr. President, that gives our troops more money at Walter Reed and the Veterans Administration. Now, that's what's at issue.

And we saw a photo-op today. We didn't see a commitment to really make the troops' lives better.

BLITZER: But the Democrats have enough votes to pass this legislation for a timeline. Not enough troops, though. The two- thirds -- not enough votes, the two-thirds majority necessary in the House and the Senate to override the promised presidential veto. The Defense Department says by mid-April the money's going to start running out for the troops.

CLELAND: That's not true. It's more like May or June. This president, though, will take that responsibility. It's his pen that will stop this money, not the pens of the United States Congress.

BLITZER: What's your suggestion? What's your plan?

Republicans are always complaining, you know, you just get the troops out, but what happens, Senator, after American troops leave? Does the United States have a responsibility given -- given its involvement over these past four nearly -- now, as you point out, in the fifth year. What is the U.S. responsibility for Iraq right now?

CLELAND: To work with our diplomats and work with NATO and the United Nations to help stabilize Iraq. But only the Iraqis are going save Iraq.

If you look at Michael Ware's report just earlier in this program he indicates that really the Iraqis want to go out there and kill al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is our mutual enemy. We and the Iraqis stand together against al Qaeda. Let's focus on al Qaeda, and the Iraqis can take care of Iraq.

BLITZER: Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

CLELAND: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And up ahead tonight, an important story for pet owners. Another product now being added to that recall, and we're learning now information about the poison chemical that may be to blame for all the animal deaths. Plus, a raunchy cartoon takes some serious jabs at Democratic presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There are some new developments and very important news for pet owners following that massive pet food recall. More possibly poison products are being added to this list. CNN's Mary Snow has been covering this story from the beginning. Mary, I take it the recall list is now being expanded?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Wolf, it has. And word of that expanded recall only came late today. New concerns are being raised after scientists with the Food & Drug Administration detected a chemical in tainted pet food.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice over): For the first time, a massive recall includes dry pet food. Hills Pet Nutrition says consumers should stop using one of its products, prescription diet m/d feline dry food. The development comes roughly two weeks after wet pet food products from a separate company, Menu Foods, were recalled after cats and dogs suffered kidney failure. Some pets got sick. Others died. Federal officials are at a loss to explain exactly what went wrong.

STEPHEN SUDNLOF, FDR CTR FOR VET MEDICINE: We understand it's confusing. It's confusing to everybody. We're trying to make sense out of it.

SNOW: The Food and Drug Administration says it's found a chemical called melamime in certain pet foods containing wheat gluten from a supplier in China. In China, melamine can be found in fertilizers. It's banned for that purpose in the United States, but can be found in some plastics. As investigators continue working towards solving the pet food supply problems, what are some vets are telling pet owners to do?

BRUCE AKEY, CORNELL UNIVERSITY: If you're really, really concerned, then feed your pet a homemade diet for a few days or weeks and give this thing a chance to run its course.

SNOW: Dog owner Eileen Moriarty says that is what she intends to do.

EILEEN MORIARTY, DOW OWNER: It's a little scary to think it could be in any one of these foods, especially when you think you're buying a premium brand that has better ingredients.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now exactly how many pets have been affected by the tainted food remains unclear. The FDA is only confirming the deaths of approximately 14 pets, but says it's received over 8,000 complaints that are now under review. Wolf.

BLITZER: What about the rat poison that was initially suspected?

SNOW: Yes, you know, last week a lab in New York State that it had detected rat poison. The FDA is now saying it cannot confirm that in the food that it tested.

BLITZER: All right, Mary, thank you. Affording to the FDA, the pet food has killed more than a dozen animals, but one Web site says the number of deaths could be in the thousands. Our internet reporter Jacki Schechner is joining us with some details. What a discrepancy in those numbers, Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Huge difference, Wolf, This is a Web site called petconnection.com and they say they have in their database more than 2,400 pets that have been reported as deceased. This is a syndicated pet care column that has an online presence and when they heard the news of this recall, they built a database online so people could report their pets that were falling ill or passing away.

Dr. Marty Becker (ph) is a veterinarian on the site and he said they anticipated the numbers were going to be much higher than what was being officially recorded so they added this feature to their site, and they say that this is self-reported numbers and can't be considered an official count, but it's a little scary because the numbers do keep rising.

I just want to add this in because people keep asking me all day. Today Menufoods.com, this is the Web site to go. It has a list of all of the brands that are being recalled, Menufoods.com, that's the Web site you want to check, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you for that Jacki. Important story for a lot of people out there.

Up ahead, the hit Comedy Central cartoon "South Park" taking direct aim at Hillary Clinton. And the creator of a much less amusing attack on Hillary Clinton is now speaking out online. We're going to find out who is behind the controversial so-called 1984 Internet attack ad. He's speaking publicly now for the first time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: One of the coarsest cartoons on TV is taking aim at Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton. Comedy Central's "South Park" has a new episode out lampooning Senator Clinton. Let's go back to Carol Costello in New York. Some really tough jobs in this cartoon, Carol.

COSTELLO: Some of them are pretty vile. You know we are talking about "South Park." It pillories Hillary in ways so foul, I could not put some of it into my story, but I did manage to get some in an episode "South Park" calls "The Snook."

(BEGN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): "The Snook" episode starts with a tongue in cheek disclaimer. All characters and events in this show, even those based on real people, are entirely fictional, oh, but then it goes after Senator Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

COSTELLO: First jab, that allegedly phony Southern accent she adopted while campaigning in Selma, Alabama.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I don't believe he brought me this far.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is so nice to be back in a small town like the one I came from. COSTLELO: This episode of "South Park" also mimics the anti- terror favorite "24."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The following takes place between recess and geography class.

COSTELLO: With potty mouth Cartman playing terrorist hunter Jack Bauer, who is looking for a nuclear bomb.

UNIDENTIFIEID MALE: Oh jeez, hello.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Bush, it's Cartman. Are we on a secure line?

COSTELLO: It turns out the terrorists are after the Clinton character, who is now referred to as Hill dog.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hill dog?

COSTELLO: As usual, "South Park's" take is foul and funny, but we wondered why "South Park" chose Hillary to pillory.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I will not be bullied by terrorist threats.

COSTELLO: The show has picked on the likes of Tom Cruise and Oprah, but never a politician running for president. Why not Obama or Giuliani or Edwards?

"Rolling Stone" executive editor Joe Levy has interviewed the creators of "South Park."

JOE LEVY, ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE: They like to lampoon people who they believe are, well, self-important, and frankly that doesn't just include Hillary Clinton. That includes any politician.

COSTELLO: This episode hits every hot button. It satirizes the neo-conservative dislike of Clinton. It pokes fun as what detractors say is her lack of sincerity, but will "South Park's" message influence its young viewers to vote? Levy says they don't care about that.

LEVY: What the "South Park" viewer wants to see is any symbol violated.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: Hillary Clinton is violated in this episode of "South Park." We did hear from the "South Park" people. They said no comment. We also heard from the Clinton camp. They told me they laughed it off -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, good report. Thank you Carol, see you next week.

There are new developments in that controversial 1984 anti- Clinton attack video. For the first time, the creator of that popular video is speaking out and is doing so online. Let's go back to Jacki Schechner. What's he saying, Jacki.

SCHECHNER: Well Wolf, he says he is surprised at how popular this video became. It's now been seen on YouTube close to three million times.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP DE VELLIS, VIDEO CREATER: Yes, I mean, I'm really stunned by all the attention it got. I thought it was pretty cool when I did it and we passed it around on some progressive blogs, but I had no idea it would wind up on TV.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: Phillip de Vellis is speaking out for the very first time today in two online interviews, one of them on YouTube with their news and politics editor. The other one on politicstv.com, which is a progressive political Web cast.

Now he is not doing any television interviews, but I did speak to him on the phone today, and he said he chose to do this in an online venue because that's where the video became so popular in the first place. Phillip de Vellis originally posted this online anonymously under the name Park Ridge 47, but Arianna Huffington did some sleuthing and found him out and posted his identity on her blog. He blogged about his experience as well, but this is the very first time, Wolf, that we are hearing from Phillip de Vellis himself and he of course is doing it on the Internet.

BLITZER: That's appropriate. Thanks, Jacki, have a great weekend yourself.

Let's find out what's coming right up at the top of the hour on "PAULA ZAHN NOW." Kiran Chetry is filling in - Kiran?

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.

Some of the stories we're bringing out in the open for you tonight. What's really going on behind the scenes in those videos of the British sailors and marines that have been held captive now for seven days by Iran?

We're going to see what other captives have gone through when they face similar crises. Also, what's behind Oscar winning actress Halle Berry's latest comments about suicide? Did she really get that close to the edge? We're going to talk about those stories and much more "Out in the Open" at the top of the hour.

BLITZER: See you Kiran and sounds good, we'll be watching. Still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Jack Cafferty wants to know what warning label would you put on a country you've visited? Jack is standing by with "The Cafferty File."

Plus, home from Iraq and a classroom surprise. We're going to show you some very emotional video, a father and son reunion. There he is, you'll want to see more. I promise.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There are a few things as sweet as a homecoming. Just ask the American men and women who are serving in Iraq and their families. Check out this reunion in Washington State. Petty officer first class Bill Hawes surprising his 6-year-old son in his kindergarten classroom after seven months in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM HAWES, US NAVY: It's great to be home, seven months over there. It's nice to see my kids and holly again, my wife.

JULIE HAWES, WIFE: I am so ecstatic to have my husband home. I'm so proud of him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What a nice reunion. Afterwards the entire class took part in a welcome home party. They had been sending the sailor letters and care packages during his deployment. Nice reunion, Jack, very emotional.

CAFFERTY: Unbelievable, the expression on that little boy's face just said it all. I don't know how you'll follow that, but we'll try.

The question we asked is what warning label would you put on a country you've visited?

Philip in Illinois said: "Jack, I would warn Americans against visiting Spain. I was there a couple of years ago. It was wonderful. The people were happy, laid back, convivial, free spirited, and not nearly as consumed by the rat race we Americans can material progress. If you go there, you won't want to come back."

Sharon in North Carolina: "As the hairnet-less cafeteria worker told my husband before serving us our dinner, 'You're in Israel now, hygiene goes out the window.' Coincidentally, later that night, all but one of our party of six were violently ill with food poisoning."

R.M. in Florida: "Four and a half years of living in Japan, dealing with earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons, volcanoes and the scariest bus in any industrialized nation. Warning: the people here are very kind, but Mother Nature is out to kill you.'

Sherrye in Port Jefferson, New York: "Warning about Italy: the public train schedule is are suggestion, and so are the seat numbers on your tickets. When any group of workers strike, debris inevitably is thrown on the rails, grinding the entire transit system to a half. If you pay a couple of hundred euros for a taxi driver, manage to catch up with your train on the other side of the trash pile, your seats will be filled by locals and you'll end sitting on the floor."

Gene in New York: "My recommended warning label for our close, personal national friend, Great Britain: Don't let the almost identifiable language fool you. Beware, the beer is warm, the women are ice cold. Coalition of the willing? Forget about it."

And Kathryn in Ann Arbor, Michigan: "The French don't care what they say as long as they pronounce it properly. Nor do they care what you say, unless your grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation are perfect. They will interrupt a conversation to lecture you on the correct way to say something. Reports of Americans with brain hemorrhages are common."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile where we post more online along with video clips of "The Cafferty File" -- Wolf?

BLITZER: You got any visit to a country that stands out in your mind, Jack?

CAFFERTY: Ireland. Some days I'm sorry I came back. It's a wonderful place.

BLITZER: It's a nice place, indeed. All right, Jack, have a great weekend, thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: You, too, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's close this hour with a look at some of the hot shots, pictures coming in from our friends over at the "Associated Press," pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow.

In Sadr City, a Shiite area of Baghdad, a man sits upright during Friday prayers.

In Colorado, a rancher follows trail rules after wrangling a bull that escaped from its pasture earlier today.

In Ohio, Bluffton University students wait for the first baseball game of the season, the first since five players died in a Georgia bus crash.

And in Florida, a bottle-nosed dolphin explodes to the surface, scaring pelicans away from an afternoon snack. Nice picture.

Some of this hour's hot shots, pictures often worth a thousand words.

That's it for us. I'll be back on Sunday for "LATE EDITION." Among my guests, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kit Bond, both on the Senate Intelligence Committee. "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk. It airs for two hours, starting 11 a.m. Eastern, Sunday.

Until then, thanks for watching. "PAULA ZAHN NOW" starts right now and Kiran Chetry is filling in - Kiran?

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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