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America Votes 2008; Campaign Cash; Crossing the Line; The Italian Letter

Aired April 3, 2007 - 23:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: She's the speaker of the House, but should she also be speaking to serious dictator? The president says in so many words that Nancy Pelosi should have had a road to Damascus moment, turned around and gone home. She says otherwise.
It's a conflict as old as the constitution, but an issue was fresh as the headlines.

More on that just ahead.

We begin though with a man who wants to be the next president -- Senator Barack Obama. He's in New Hampshire where the rock star crowds are reflecting in a new batch of polling. Good news for him and John Edwards, apparently at Senator Hillary Clinton's expense.

More on that now from CNN's Candy Crowley.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I obey the cardinal rule of any politician, and that is to ask you all for your vote.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's a change up in the batting order of the Democratic presidential race in New Hampshire. A new CNN/WMUR state poll shows frontrunner Hillary Clinton losing her footing, dropping eight points in a month. She is still ahead, but no longer the runaway.

John Edwards has pulled up five points into a virtual tie with Barack Obama.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's pretty clear that this is a very competitive race. I've been moving up. We have some momentum now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Enjoy your stay in Iowa.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, I'm having such a good time.

CROWLEY: More worrisome for Camp Clinton than the upward movement of John Edwards is a second number from the poll showing the senator's favorable rating has dropped 10 points.

On the campaign trail, candidates were spread out across Iowa and New Hampshire, where the war is never far from the frontline.

Obama, who opposed the war from the start, never passes up a chance to tacitly criticize Clinton's yes vote on the war resolution.

OBAMA: We've got a war that I believe should have never been authorized and should have never been waged. A war that...

CROWLEY: Locked in a no-names mentioned battle to show who's tougher, who's righter on the war, Clinton and Obama have found new fodder in the president's promise to veto a bill which ties Iraq war money to troop withdrawal.

Obama tells town hall meetings in the wake of a veto, Congress should tell the president he will get war money in four-month increments.

OBAMA: And we will then review the situation and if you have not initiated the withdrawal at that point, then we may put you on an even shorter leash, right? So that at some point we are ratcheting up the pressure on him.

CROWLEY: Obama says nobody wants to play chicken with troops on the ground.

In Iowa, Hillary Clinton says, rather than conceding the president is going to veto the bill, Democrats should pressure him to agree to troop withdrawal.

She declined to directly criticize Obama, but no translator needed to read between the lines.

CLINTON: What I think is that we need to negotiate with the president from a position of strength. We are now a Democratic majority.

CROWLEY (on camera): With Congress out of session, the campaign trail becomes the place to debate an arena of one upsmanship on the war, playing to an audience increasingly impatient to bring it to an end.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.


ROBERTS: And we wanted to drill down a little bit deeper into this batch of new poll numbers. To do that, I spoke earlier Jennifer Donahue at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.


ROBERTS: Jennifer, let's take another quick look at that CNN/WMUR poll. First of all, with Hillary Clinton it shows that since February, her favorability among Democratic voters in New Hampshire has slid pretty dramatically, 35 percent to 27 percent.

But look at this, John Edwards' favorability up from 16 percent to 21 percent.

Barack Obama holding steady at around 20 percent.

And Al Gore, who's not even a candidate, with 11 percent approval.

First of all, let's take on Hillary Clinton. What's responsible for that drop in your mind -- and her campaign's got to be awfully troubled about it.

JENNIFER DONAHUE, NH INSTITUTE OF POLITICS: You know, it's funny because she's hired the best talent New Hampshire has to offer, she's got the endorsements, she has the establishment, and yet I think she's in trouble.

She's got the money, but she doesn't have the support. She's up here campaigning on the wrong side of the war issue from a lot of the Democratic basis perspective. She voted for the war. That's all the Democratic primary voters are seeing. That's making Obama very appealing. That's making John Edwards very appealing.

And I think there's another element here which is that Hillary Clinton may be suffering from some Clinton fatigue because her favorability numbers are actually going down. The more candidates are up here and the more that voters see new faces, see her and say, oh yes, I'm starting to remember I may not have liked her that much.

So I think it's sort of a Clinton fatigue that we're seeing and it's really somewhat remarkable.

ROBERTS: It's almost like a replay of the 2000 campaign. Give us something different.

What about John Edwards? What do you attribute his rise to?

DONAHUE: Well, I think one thing that happened is that he's been here a lot. I mean, part of what happened is he had the news conference. He had his wife there. He became humanized through that process. I mean, you can't find someone who is not affected by cancer in some way. And I think he really found a way to show the human side of him. They looked like a team. They looked formidable. And I think he was a viable candidate months and months ago, but it became evident to the public, to the press, that this was a real person to consider.

ROBERTS: Take a look quickly, Jennifer, though, at this graphic from our CNN/WMUR poll -- 85 percent of respondents said that the announcement that Elizabeth Edwards' cancer had returned did not affect their view of John Edwards. So how do you square that with what you were telling us about this humanizing aspect?

DONAHUE: Right. This is where polls don't measure people's emotions really and why polls aren't always accurate. And in 2000 you had Bush beating McCain in polls and then losing by 19 percent in the New Hampshire primary. I think what polls show you is they take a snapshot of how people are feeling. And while people don't necessarily describe that yes, they had an emotional humanizing response to what happened with the Edwards family. You see his favorability is going up anyway even though most people wouldn't actually say this would change my vote.

ROBERTS: What about Al Gore? As we said, 11 percent favorability rating. People seem to like him now more than they did in the year 2000. Is that just because so much time has gone by they've forgotten what they didn't like about him?

DONAHUE: It may be. And actually, if he comes up here, he may have the same problem Hillary Clinton does, which is Clinton fatigue -- which isn't something that can't be gotten past, but it is a real issue.

ROBERTS: Hey, what...

DONAHUE: I think...


DONAHUE: Also, Al Gore's issue is ripe now. Climate change, global warming is understood now.

ROBERTS: People care very much about that in New Hampshire as well.

One quick question to you. A poll this far out, does it really mean anything?

DONAHUE: What it says is both sides are fluid. It says it's wide open on the Democratic side between three contenders. It think it also says that there's a lot of play on the Republican side. And the money numbers that came out show that McCain is vulnerable, Romney is making gains and there is a lot of play. It's way too soon to call a frontrunner on either side.

ROBERTS: Jennifer, I'll tell you, I'm getting tired by this process already. I can only imagine how the candidates are feeling.

Jennifer Donahue, thanks very much. Appreciate it.


ROBERTS: Views from the granite state for you tonight. Democrat or Republican, when it comes to winning elections, cash is king is a way of winning vote. But also is a sign of how viable donors think a candidate really is.

Yesterday many of the top contenders revealed how much they have raised so far, with Hillary Clinton leading the Democrats and Mitt Romney topping his fellow Republicans.

Some analysis on all that now from CNN's Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider, who we spoke with earlier tonight. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Bill, just a few months ago, John McCain was the frontrunner in the polls. And everybody thought that he was going to be the frontrunner in terms of fundraising. Now he's lagging in the polls and he's running well behind people like Romney and Giuliani in the fundraising. What's going on with the McCain campaign?

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's -- ran into some trouble. He's really stumbled. He tried to mend his relations with conservatives, Jerry Falwell, with President Bush. But it didn't do him much good. A lot of conservatives continue not to trust him because he's picked fights with them in the past. And he jumped aboard the Bush ship just before it ran aground.

Now he's firmly tied to Bush's policy in Iraq. He went there. He endorsed it. He's tied to the success of that policy, which he said is not being reported by the press. And it's just not doing his campaign any good at all.

ROBERTS: It's no surprise, Bill, that Mitt Romney is a good fundraiser. He's a businessman, got a lot of connections, particularly in the Mormon community. But do you think he's a better fundraiser than he is a candidate?

SCHNEIDER: Well, he's got a message and he says the fundraising is following the message. What's the message? He says he's the candidate of change. Change? He's a Republican. Are Republicans looking for change? Yes, actually they are. They know that Bush has -- he's now with two years without majority support. They want things to be done differently -- the voters do.

And Romney is a Republican who comes from outside Washington. He was the governor of Massachusetts. So when he says I can bring change, I can make government work, I'm an experienced businessman, I've run the Olympics, a lot of Republicans say, well, maybe that's what we need, someone from outside Washington.

ROBERTS: But Bill, even as his numbers in terms of fundraising go up, his poll numbers go down. And Fred Thompson, who's not even in the race, is polling higher than he is.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. Fred Thompson -- a lot of the conservatives are unhappy with all of the three leading contenders, McCain, Romney, Giuliani, and they're looking for someone to be Ronald Reagan. Well, here comes Fred Thompson, who says he's thinking about running. He's an actor turned senator turned actor. He was once a lawyer. Now maybe he can turn politician again. And they say maybe he could play Ronald Reagan. That's what they're hoping for.

ROBERTS: Yes. A lot of people already think that he's the president from the number of movie roles that he's played, so, want to actually put him in the Oval Office.

What about Giuliani? Where does he stand after the first quarter reporting? SCHNEIDER: Well, he came in second in fundraising. He did respectably. Look, $14 million in money raised would set all records. Even George Bush -- that's twice as much as Bush raised in the first quarter of 1999. But actually he came in second behind Romney, a little bit ahead of McCain in fundraising. So he's done respectably, but he's still got to prove that he's acceptable to the conservatives in the Republican Party.

They liked his stand on terrorism. They liked the way he handled the mayoralty in New York. But there's a view here in Washington at least that they're not sure he can go the distance. So yes, he's still alive. He's still going. The fundraising was enough to keep him going. But he's not first in the fundraising totals.

ROBERTS: Interesting to note, too, Bill, that the Democrats outraised the Republicans. I don't know when that's ever happened before. Interesting race. We'll keep watching it.

Thanks, Bill. Appreciate it.

SCHNEIDER: Absolutely.


ROBERTS: Coming up, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trip to Syria. We'll look at whether her freelance diplomacy is sending the wrong message.

First though, Erica Hill, from "HEADLINE NEWS," joins us now for a 360 bulletin.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, the first aid shipment arrived in the Solomon Islands today for survivors of yesterday's earthquake and tsunami. Flights over the western province has shown widespread destruction. Thousands are homeless. Food shortages are a major concern. The death toll is at least 20. It is expected to rise as the debris is cleaned up.

A top researcher is predicting a very active Atlantic hurricane season this year. Forecaster William Gray expects 17 named storms. Thinks five of them will be major. At least one is expected to hit the U.S. He predicted an active season last year, but it turned out in to be pretty normal.

And we are getting our first look at a remarkable crash in Boston yesterday. A tractor-trailer plunged at least 50 feet off an Interstate 93 exit ramp, snapping a light pole, which then hit another car. The truck then hit another vehicle and hit the ground. The remarkable part here, no one was killed. The truck driver is in critical condition. The other drivers, though, got away with just minor injuries -- John. Talk about incredible.

ROBERTS: All of them very lucky.

Erica, thanks very much. So many people are asking how their cats or dogs got sick. Tonight, some answers. The pet food recall. We're keeping them honest for you.

Plus, these stories.


ROBERTS (voice-over): Mrs. Pelosi goes to Syria. President Bush doesn't like it one bit.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Going to Syria sends mixed signals.

ROBERTS: But the speaker of the House doesn't see it that way.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: We think it's a good idea. We have no illusions, but we have great hope.

ROBERTS: Smart diplomacy or is she crossing the line?

Sixteen words proven false.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rove started to question, has he gone too far? Is he a little bit too much out there for us?

ROBERTS: Tonight, new details on how a bogus letter became the case for war in Iraq, when 360 continues.


ROBERTS (on camera): Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi getting a warm welcome in Syria today, but kicking up a firestorm of outrage back in Washington.

President Bush going so far as to call Pelosi's trip, quote, "counterproductive." So what's all the fuss?

Here's CNN's Jill Dougherty.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Syria and its President Bashar al-Assad embody much that the U.S. finds wrong in the Middle East. And that's precisely why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi believes she needs to spend some time there.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: Of course, the role of Syria and Iraq, the role of Syria supporting Hamas and Hezbollah, the role of Syria and so many respects that we think there could be a vast improvement. So therefore we think it's a good idea to establish the facts, to hopefully build some confidence between us. We have no illusions, but we have great hope.

DOUGHERTY: Syria is on the State Department's list of nations that sponsor terrorism. Washington accuses Syria of supporting dangerous Islamic fundamentalist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. During last year's war in Lebanon, between Israel and Hezbollah, U.S. and Israeli intelligence claimed Syria was arming and funding Hezbollah fighters. And also allowing Iran to shift weapons to Hezbollah through Syrian territory. But the U.S. released no evidence. The Syrians have admitted giving money to the guerrilla groups, but no weapons.

Another major cause of friction, when former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri was assassinated in 2005, many blamed the Syrians.

More than a million Lebanese protested in the streets. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, the presence of Syrian forces in Lebanon was at least partly to blame.

Syria denied any involvement, but eventually pulled its troops from Lebanon.

In the Iraq war, the Bush administration charges Syria allows insurgents to cross from Syria into Iraq to attack. Syria denies that charge as well.

Despite all the problems between the two countries, the United States does have lower level diplomatic relations with Syria, unlike with Iran.

U.S. officials, Democrats and Republicans, have visited the capital, Damascus. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit hit a nerve with President Bush. He says it sends mixed signals.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Photo opportunities and/or meetings with President Assad lead the Assad government to believe they're part of the mainstream of the international community, when in fact, they're a state sponsor of terror.

DOUGHERTY: The speaker says she's just following recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which calls for constructive engagement with Syria to build an international consensus for stability in Iraq.

(on camera): President Bush says visits to Syria aren't having any effect, except to hand President Assad a public relations victory.

The Bush strategy is to show Syria that it's isolated, that its behavior is unacceptable. But so far that approach doesn't seem to have produced any concrete results.

Jill Dougherty, CNN, Washington.


ROBERTS: And here's the raw data now on the man that Speaker Pelosi will sit down with tomorrow. Bashar al-Assad was born in 1965. He came to power in the year 2000, following death of his father. He was groomed for the highest office, following the death of his older brother in a car crash in 1994. At that time, Assad seemed destined for a private life and was studying to be an eye doctor. He is married with three children.

For some perspective on Speaker Pelosi's trip, as well as the criticism it has stirred up, I spoke earlier with Faiz Shakir of the Center of American Progress and Brian Darling of the Heritage Foundation.


ROBERTS: Let me start with you, Brian.

First of all, do you think that this is a public-relations victory for Assad?

BRIAN DARLING, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Yes, it is. And it's a real problem.

I mean, we have the president of the United States leading our country. He's the commander in chief of our armed forces. He's the chief diplomat. And now you have Speaker Pelosi traveling to Syria, and trying to engage in diplomacy. It's inappropriate. It's a bad idea. As a nation, we need to speak with one voice. And, today, we are not speaking with one voice.

ROBERTS: Faiz, you agree with that?

FAIZ SHAKIR, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, it would be one thing if that one voice was succeeding. But President Bush has had a failed policy for three or four years now in the Middle East.

And it's a -- it's kind of a welcome development here that somebody is courageous enough, in this case, Speaker Pelosi, although there have been plenty of other Republicans, to go to Syria, and say that this actually needs to be part of the agenda. We need to talk to this regime if we're going to make them part of the solution, which they should be.

ROBERTS: Brian Darling, what is wrong with talking to Syria?

DARLING: Well, Syria is a terrorist state. It's one of the few states listed by the State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism.

It's supporting insurgent elements in Iraq. It's supporting and giving weapons to the individuals that are fighting our men and women in Iraq today. Why would we be supporting and talking to a government and giving it the imprimatur that it's OK to go talk to these nations that are supporting our opponents?


DARLING: It's inappropriate, and especially for the speaker of the House, who is not the commander in chief of our armed forces, is not the secretary of state. It's very inappropriate that the speaker is going to Syria to talk to Assad. ROBERTS: Faiz, is it also possible that Bashar al-Assad is using Nancy Pelosi to drive a wedge between the White House and the American people? And is it possible, too, that this could undermine U.S. foreign policy, as the president has charged?

SHAKIR: No, I don't think it's undermining U.S. foreign policy. Everyone understands that the -- President Bush remains the commander in chief for the next two years.

But what Speaker Pelosi is doing is putting out an alternative agenda, which says that -- that engaging with Syria is a productive step that can help address a lot of the problems that we have experienced in Iraq.

For instance, Brian mentioned that they have been very unhelpful to us in Iraq. And I agree with everything he said there. But, if you are going to want to address that, what do you need to do? You need to talk to this regime. You need to say that these are our concerns, that if you don't address them, you know, we are going to have to come after you in different ways.

ROBERTS: Speaker Pelosi addressed the criticism that President Bush leveled at her. Here's a quick look at what she said.


PELOSI: We think it's a good idea to establish the facts, to hopefully build some confidence between us. We have no illusions, but we have great hope.


ROBERTS: Brian Darling, so far, trying to force Syria to change hasn't worked. Why not confidence-building measures, and eventually dialogue?

DARLING: Well, look, Speaker Pelosi supports a plan to start the withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 120 days, and have a complete withdrawal by March 31 of 2008. That ties the hands of the president to fight the war.

And going and speaking to Syria serves no purpose because she's the speaker of the House, not the secretary of state. We have Condoleezza Rice to do that. And when this administration is ready to talk to Syria, they will do so. And they clearly are not ready. And they're very unhappy with the activities of the speaker of the House. And they stated that today.

ROBERTS: Faiz, let me finish up with you. Quick answer, if we could.

What about that point, that Speaker Pelosi doesn't carry the weight of diplomacy in the United States, and therefore this visit is really meaningless?

SHAKIR: No, it's not meaningless. Look at what's going on right now. We're talking about the fact that we need to engage with Syria. This is what her trip has done. And you know, we haven't even talked about the fact that Republicans have been over there, Arlen Specter has been over there, that there is a majority of all the American people and Congress now, I think, who want to do this. And it's -- the question should be, why isn't Condi Rice out there? Why isn't President Bush taking these steps?

ROBERTS: Well, it certainly got us talking.

Faiz Shakir, Brian Darling, thanks very much. Appreciate you being with us.

SHAKIR: Thank you.

DARLING: Thank you.


ROBERTS: And still to come, the administration losing a fight in the Supreme Court over the air that we breathe. We'll explore what it means to all of us.

Also, 16 worlds built on faulty intelligence about Iraq and nuclear materials. They made it into the State of the Union address in the run-up to the war. New details tonight on how they got there, when 360 continues.


ROBERTS: One among many controversies dogging the Bush administration, President Bush's State of the Union assertion in 2003 that Iraq had tried to acquire nuclear material from the African nation of Niger.

That's the focus of a new book. It's titled, "The Italian Letter: How the Bush Administration Used a Fake Letter to Build the Case for War in Iraq."

Earlier I talked with one of the book's two authors, Peter Eisner of "The Washington Post."


ROBERTS: Peter, the book really is sort of one-stop shopping to more fully understand the story that's been going on for a number of years now.

But there was at least one piece of business that I wasn't aware of before. And that was the real rocky relationship between Karl Rove and Dick Cheney that really came to a head back in 2004, prior to the election. What did you find out about that in your research?

PETER EISNER, CO-AUTHOR, "THE ITALIAN LETTER": We found out that, as a result of Cheney's role in developing the march toward war in Iraq, Rove started to question, has he gone too far; is he a little bit too much out there for us for running again in 2004?

So, Rove started to talk to people, particularly Grover Norquist, and in turn, to conservative financial backers, just gently, to say, do we really want him on the ticket? It's an outrageous thing to say. And it really upset Cheney when he found out about it. And it was squelched quickly. But the bad blood between Rove and Cheney, as a result, exists to this day.

ROBERTS (voice-over): The Rove-Cheney drama is just the latest revelation in a complicated story that began more than four years ago and continues to this day. But how did we get here?

One of many key players in the run-up to the war, the White House Iraq Group -- its mission, claims Eisner, to sell the war in Iraq to the American public by whipping up fear about Iraq's nuclear program. In 2003, what looked like the perfect smoking gun emerged, a letter now known as the "Italian letter," supposedly documenting Niger's intentions to sell uranium to Saddam Hussein.

The only problem, the letter was a fake.

(on camera): How easily could this document have been proven to be a fake, Peter?

EISNER: Well, the Italian letter itself, which is a letter purported to be from the president of Niger to Saddam Hussein, for starters, has a large mistake in it in which the so-called president of Niger says that he's using his powers under a constitution that no longer existed, so that anybody, for instance, that, if they didn't know about Africa, didn't know about Niger, could simply go to the Internet and find out that that wasn't the ruling constitution, for instance.

But other documents also showed wrong dates, impossible names, misspellings, and things that were just easy to find. And in fact, the Italian Journalist Elisabetta Burba, realized quickly that there were some problems here.

ROBERTS (voice-over): Italian Journalist Elisabetta Burba was given the documents by an old source. Eisner and others believe he got the documents from Italy's intelligence services.

Suspicious of their authenticity, Burba took them to the U.S. Embassy in Rome for confirmation. She never heard back, but later discovered on her own that the documents were fraudulent. The CIA also dismissed the documents initially, and yet the administration went on to use them to make this now familiar case for war in the 2003 State of the Union Address.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

ROBERTS (on camera): Peter, how important was this document, this Italian letter to going to war in Iraq? Had it not existed or had been proven to be a fake, do you think the U.S. still would have gone to war in Iraq?

EISNER: Can't say for sure. We can't predict. But the Bush administration knew that the one thing that would make the difference for Congress and for the American people was the threat of a mushroom cloud, that there was an imminent danger from Saddam Hussein, not from vague biological or chemical weapons, but from nuclear weapons. And this was tailor-made for the Bush administration to say, there is evidence to show that Saddam Hussein has tried to obtain uranium in Niger, even though it was absurd in many different ways.

ROBERTS (voice over): The thought that she gave the United States a fake document that helped make the case for war now haunts Elisabetta Burba.

(on camera): How does Elisabetta Burba feel about all of this now?

EISNER: She feels embarrassed and misused. She wished that she had been able to write a story ahead of time saying that this all was a fraud and that there was -- there was a great mistake, and that there was no evidence of Iraqi uranium purchases. But she was blocked from doing that until months after the Iraq war. And as a result, she feels like at least she was scooped, but at most she unwittingly participated in helping the documentation that fed the war.

ROBERTS (voice over): It was also the document that led to former ambassador Joe Wilson's trip to Niger, the outing of his wife as a CIA officer, and then recently, the felony conviction of the vice president's chief of staff.

(on camera): You suggest in the book it would have been very easy for the White House to avoid Joe Wilson, Valerie Plame, Scooter Libby if they had just done a little bit of research?

EISNER: An easy Google search on one document that showed that the dates were wrong, the names were wrong, that it was impossible, would have made it impossible, in return, for the United States to carry this information about Niger to saying that mushroom clouds were on the horizon. And as a result, we never would have heard of Joe Wilson, we never would have heard of Valerie Plame, and likely, Scooter Libby might not be convicted and could still be in office.

ROBERTS (voice over): And at almost every step along the march to war, says Eisner, was one man, Vice President Dick Cheney.

(on camera): Was Dick Cheney really the man behind the curtain here? And to what degree did he believe intelligence that might have been suspect? Pat Lang, the former Middle East chief for the Defense Intelligence Agency, who I know quite well, is quoted in your book as saying Cheney was delusional on this idea of the intelligence as it pertained to Iraq.

EISNER: Pat Lang worked closely with Cheney in a previous incarnation, and he was not alone in saying this was not the Dick Cheney that he knew, Dick Cheney that was measured in his -- in his analysis, and what they called an excellent consumer of intelligence. He knew how to analyze the information and he knew what -- what the incoming information meant.

Many of the intelligence sources that we spoke to, not only unnamed, but people like Pat Lang, also Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, they said Cheney was at worst leading a -- kind of a second tier that was operating in various parts of the government that was pushing the United States toward war with scant evidence.

ROBERTS: Peter, since the end of 2003, when David Kay came back and said no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the American people have wondered, who's to blame for going to war in that country on faulty intelligence? From your research, from what you found from this book, who do you believe is to blame?

EISNER: The Bush administration pushed the envelope and could have given a more measured look at what was go on with the intelligence. The intelligence was, as they say, cherry-picked to make the worst possible case because they wanted to go to war, anyway.

ROBERTS: Peter Eisner, thanks very much. Good book, good read.

EISNER: Thanks a lot.


ROBERTS: The book is "The Italian Letter: How the Bush Administration Used a Fake Letter to Build the Case for War in Iraq".

For the record, AC 360 asked the White House to respond to Peter's assertion that Karl Rove was exploring the possibility of dropping Cheney from the 2004 ticket. The White House spokeswoman says, "I can just tell you that I think that's ridiculous, it's not true."

Up next, Americans want answers on another vital topic, the health of their cats and dogs.


ROBERTS (voice over): What's killing our pets?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel leak my dog was taken form me and he was murdered.

ROBERTS: The pet food recall, why did it get this bad? Who knew what and when? We're keeping them honest.

Plus, a defeat fort for the Bush administration. What why did the Supreme Court have to force the EPA to clean the air you breathe?

When 360 continues.



ROBERTS: We have been receiving hundreds of e-mails tonight on the pet food recall.

Ray in Santa Cruz, California, writes, "Please excuse Menu Foods for refusing to be forthcoming with all information that we need to protect our pets. Over 30,000 pet owners have called them with complaints."

Ray, we hear you.

CNN's Joe Johns has looked into the hard questions that are now being asked. He's "Keeping Them Honest" tonight.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In terms of sheer scale, the nationwide impact of the contaminated pet food problem is enormous: 10,000 complaints yet to be verified. The recall of 60 million cans and pouches of pet food.

But to get a real feel for how this thing is affecting people, you have to take it down to the individual household. Alexander Nunez had a French terrier named Bam-Bam.

ALEXANDER NUNEZ, DOG DIED FROM EATING TAINTED FOOD: I feel like my dog was taken from me and he was murdered.

JOHNS: The dog had just gotten a clean bill of health from the vet when he started eating wet pet food from a batch that had been recalled.

NUNEZ: The kidney failure was so bad the doctor recommended that I put him to sleep.

JOHNS: How nearly 100 brands of pet food got contaminated is a scientific detective story, and there's a lot we still don't know.

(on camera): Among the obvious questions, as always, who knew what and when? Six weeks ago, on February 20, Menu Foods, the company at the white hot center of all of this because it supplies almost 100 pet food brands, got the first warning: complaints from owners whose pets were getting sick or refusing to eat.

The company started testing animals a week later, and some of them died.

(voice-over): But the Food and Drug Administration apparently wasn't told about the problem until much later and still has not been able to confirm how widespread it may be. In Congress, some are already calling for hearings.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), MAJORITY WHIP: I think when you have a company that discovers a problem that's killing animals and they don't report it for three weeks to the Food and Drug Administration, it is, at best, gross negligence.

JOHNS: Menu has said it delayed the recall to try to confirm whether the food was the source of the problem and not something else. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were testing the wheat gluten. We were testing the finished product to try and find something wrong.

JOHNS: It turns out the source of the contamination is not rat poison, as was originally suspected, but apparently wheat gluten, which is used basically to make gravy. It contained a chemical called melamine. Melamine is used in plastics and pesticides.

A veterinarian and toxicologist who works for the ASPCA, which by the way, was the first to discover the toxic chemical was not rat poison, says melamine may be even more of a danger to cats than to dogs like Bam-Bam. Cats seem more sensitive.

STEVE HANSEN, ASPCA ANIMAL POISON CONTROL CENTER: The feeding trial was done in which several cats died. That's very important information. We know it's something in the diet that's causing death in cats and the kidney failure is the result.

JOHNS: So how and where did melamine get mixed into the wheat gluten and then get mixed into the pet food? Right now that's the mystery.

What we know is that the wheat gluten went from manufacturer in China to a plant in Kansas City owned by a company called Kimnutra (ph) that has recalled products containing wheat gluten from the Chinese supplier.

Kimnutra (ph) earlier had sent some of the suspect products to two Menu Foods plants, one in Emporia, Kansas, the other in Pennsauken, New Jersey.

If you're wondering whether it could have gotten into the human food supply, too, FDA says there's no indication of that, but the investigation is ongoing. Kimnutra (ph) says it did not ship to facilities that manufacture food for human consumption.

Legal experts say, though pet owners may be able to recover some of their vet costs, there is little that can be done for their grief and emotional distress.

ANDREW POPPER, LAW PROFESSOR: It's direct out of pocket costs. It's veterinary, animal hospital related expenses plus the loss of direct value of the animal itself.

JOHNS: For now, though, it's the scientific investigation that matters most to keep this from happening again. Though that's little comfort to the families that have lost their beloved pets.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


ROBERTS: A list of the 42 cat food and 53 dog food products involved in the Menu Foods recall is online at

Still to come tonight, gunfire at the CNN Center in Atlanta. A news story that was just too close for comfort.

Plus, the debate over global warming playing out in the Supreme Court of the United States. A landmark ruling against the EPA, and what it means to a planet in peril, next on 360.


ROBERTS: Well, it might surprise you to know that carbon dioxide, the stuff that's causing the greenhouse effect and the stuff that we breathe out every time we take a breath was not considered a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. Yesterday, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States said that the EPA, for the first time, did have the authority to regulate CO2 emissions as pollution.

Earlier tonight I talked about the implications of that with former EPA general counsel Anne Klee, and David Hawkins. He's the head of the Natural Resource Defense Council's Climate Center.


ROBERTS: Anne Klee, you have called this ruling by the Supreme Court a disappointment. Why?

ANNE KLEE, FMR. EPA GENERAL COUNSEL: Well, I think the ruling is significant, but for all the wrong reasons. As Chief Justice Roberts pointed out in his dissenting opinion, this decision will have virtually no effect whatsoever in terms of mitigating climate change or global warming. And the reason for that is because the decision focuses on an infinitesimal percentage of the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. And it's just that very small slice, and dealing with that slice will do nothing to address the larger issue.

ROBERTS: Dave Hawkins, do you agree with that?

DAVE HAWKINS, DIRECTOR, NRDC CLIMATE CENTER: Not at all. That's what we call the salami-slicing technique, that one slice of salami doesn't make a difference. It's absolutely wrong.

Automobiles in the United States are responsible for about a quarter of the global warming pollution in the United States, and the United States is about as responsible for about a quarter of the global pollution. So, if the United States takes an action on automobiles, it will send a signal that will be heard around the world.

ROBERTS: Dave Hawkins, the White House has said up until this point that it doesn't have the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions in this particular class. Now that the Supreme Court has said that it does under the existing EPA Clean Air Act, do you expect that the White House is going to suddenly take action here?

HAWKINS: Well, you know, hope springs eternal. This is a victory for democracy.

The court ruled that Congress wrote the laws that authorized EPA to take action to solve a problem. And we think that the White House will listen to the Supreme Court. We think that it will start to listen to some of the major corporations in this country that are telling the White House, telling Congress, it's time to act.

ROBERTS: Anne Klee, do you expect President Bush is going to act on this ruling?

KLEE: I think the Bush administration has already taken significant steps to address greenhouse gas emissions. It has invested $5 billion annually since 2001 to address greenhouse gas emissions, to bring on line new technologies, and they expect that...

ROBERTS: But not carbon dioxide.

KLEE: Carbon dioxide. In fact, the steps that the administration has taken has done more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, carbon dioxide, than virtually every other country, including those that have signed the Kyoto protocol. The problem is that this court has stepped into a significant global policy issue, and you don't get good public policy out of the courts.

ROBERTS: Do you agree with that, Dave, that this administration has taken significant steps to cut emissions of carbon dioxide?

HAWKINS: No. What the administration has done since it's in power is spend taxpayers' money on research. Unfortunately, the way it spends that money it wastes the taxpayers' dollars.

Why? Because the private companies that get that money don't have a market motivation to actually go out and invest their own money in figuring out solutions.

ROBERTS: And Anne Klee, how do you think that the auto industry is going to respond to this? When we look at CAFE standards, average fuel economy has actually gone down in cars in the last 25 years. They seem to react to market pressures, that if the price of gasoline goes up, we see more fuel-efficient cars.

They don't react so well to regulation.

KLEE: I think what you're seeing across U.S. industry is more and more companies stepping up to the plate and on their own investing in technologies. I disagree with David completely on that. They are significantly reducing the greenhouse gas emissions, and I think the auto industry is looking forward to engaging in the debate to a national, federal solution that is part of a global solution to a global problem, and not piecemeal solutions on a state-by-state basis.

ROBERTS: Steve Hawkins, Anne Klee, thanks very much. Really appreciate your time.

KLEE: Thank you.

HAWKINS: You're welcome.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ROBERTS: Up next, gunshots ring out the CNN Center in Atlanta. Tense moments too close to our newsroom.



ROBERTS: With Easter just days away, two new 360 specials explore the question: What is a Christian?

Thursday, sex and salvation.

First, tomorrow, God, faith and hard science at war in America for more then a century. But even as battle lines are drawn, some Christians see more common ground than conflict.

Anderson Cooper reports.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Dinosaurs and people living together in the Garden of Eden. A new museum claims that that's the way it was and the founder says he can prove it.

KEN HAM, FOUNDER, CREATION MUSEUM: Genesis is written as literal history. Why are we sinners? Because there was an original sin because a real man, in a real garden, with a real tree and a real fruit, a real event, really happened.

COOPER: One of the most famous and respected scientists says no human being can solve the greatest riddle ever, how it all began.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're saying that's one of those fundamental questions that science doesn't seem designed to answer?

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, NATIONAL HUMAN GENOME RESEARCH INST.: How could something like the universe have had a beginning without having a creator, and a creator who is outside of the universe involved in that event? And that sounds like God.

COOPER: And millions of Christians believe God still move as long us, healing the sick through the power of prayer.

PASTOR EVON HORTON, BROWNSVILLE ASSEMBLY OF GOD: Some say the age of miracles has past. I don't believe that. I believe God is still doing miracles today.

Do you? It is true.


ROBERTS: Don't miss two special reports this week on 360 -- "What is a Christian?" at 10:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow, and then on Thursday as well.

We'll be back with more AC 360 in just a moment.

Stay with us.


ROBERTS: Tomorrow, an "AMERICAN MORNING" exclusive: overworked flight attendants.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's no reason why we should be responsible for people's lives, you know, and we're not getting enough rest.


ROBERTS: "Safety in the Skies," a report that you won't want to miss tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING," beginning at 6:00 a.m. Eastern.

The most news in your morning is on CNN.

And a reminder that we want you to help us keep them honest. If there is a wrong that needs to be made right in your community, tell us about it at

I'm John Roberts, in for Anderson Cooper.

Thanks very much for joining us. See you again tomorrow night.


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