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THE SITUATION ROOM

Battle Over Iraq; Sheryl Crow's Showdown With Karl Rove

Aired April 23, 2007 - 19:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou.
Happening now, the battle lines are drawn over Iraq -- Democrats daring the president to do something about their withdrawal deadline. We'll hear from the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid and Congressman John Murtha.

A White House wannabe moves to impeach the vice president, Dick Cheney. Does Congressman Dennis Kucinich really think he has a chance with that charge?

And pop star Sheryl Crow's showdown with the White House political adviser Karl Rove. What made their worlds collide?

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

Tonight President Bush and Democrats in Congress are barreling closer to a head-on collision over the war in Iraq. House and Senate leaders are scrambling to send Mr. Bush a war-funding bill within days that includes a timetable for withdrawal. The president is sticking to his veto threat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe strongly that politicians in Washington should not be telling generals how to do their job, and I believe artificial timetables of withdrawal would be a mistake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: But the Senate majority leader says when it comes to Iraq, the commander in chief, in his words, is in a state of denial. Our congressional correspondent Dana Bash interviewed Senator Reid today. Dana is joining us now.

What's in this bill that Democrats are trying to push and pass that so upsets the president, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's a $124.2 billion emergency spending bill that will fund the war in Iraq but with the requirement that troops start coming home in October and a goal of completing withdrawal of combat troops by this time next year. The Senate majority leader laid out that plan in a blistering speech today where he said Congress will no longer turn a blind eye to what he called the Bush administration's incompetence and dishonesty. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): The Senate majority leader opened a showdown week in the Iraq political debate by mocking President Bush's suggestion the surge in U.S. troops is beginning to show positive results.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: He further said, so far the operation is meeting expectations, end of quote. The White House transcript says the president made those remarks in the state of Michigan. I believe he made them in the state of denial.

BASH: In his speech Reid promoted a Democratic plan he says will start bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq and away from policing a civil war. Reid's new attack did not include his controversial comments last week, that when it comes to the military mission in Iraq...

REID: That this war is lost.

BASH: Republicans pounced, calling it defeatist, like waving a white flag. In an interview with CNN Reid studiously avoided repeating the "war's lost" phrase but didn't take it back either.

REID: General Petraeus has said the war cannot be won militarily. He said that. President Bush is doing nothing economically. He's nothing diplomatically. He's not doing even the minimal requested by the Iraq Study Group. So I stick with General Petraeus. I have no doubt that the war cannot be won militarily, and that's what I said last Thursday, and I stick with that.

BASH: Reid also brushed aside Republican accusations that his "war is lost" comment is insulting to troops in combat.

REID: General Petraeus has told him that.

BASH: How has he said that?

REID: He said the war can't be won militarily. He said that. He said it. He's the commander on the ground there...

(CROSSTALK)

REID: Are they critical of him?

BASH: There's a difference between that and saying "the war is lost". Don't you think?

REID: Well, as I said, maybe it's a choice of words. General Petraeus has said the war cannot be won militarily.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: General Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, is in Washington now to try to convince Democrats a timetable for withdrawal is a mistake. The Senate majority leader may be relying on that commander to back up his assertion that militarily the war is lost. But Reid says he won't believe Petraeus if he tries to convince him the so-called surge in U.S. troops in Iraq is working -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana Bash reporting for us -- thanks, Dana.

Let's get to the White House and reaction to Senator Reid's fighting words. Our White House correspondent Ed Henry is standing by.

What are administration officials, Ed, saying about Senator Reid's charge Mr. Bush, in his words, is in a state of denial?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the president today was asked that very question. He dodged it, but other officials are not holding back. In fact tonight just in the last hour, they've put out this attack sheet headlined, Reid versus Reid, a state of confusion. It goes through point by point, ripping apart the senator's speech, as well as the various plans the Democrats have put out there, as well as the spokeswoman, Dana Perino, today really firing away with some tough talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: And he's also in denial that a surrender date, he thinks, is a good idea. It is not a good idea. It is defeat. It is a death sentence for millions of Iraqis who voted for a constitution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: The problem for the White House right now, it basically turns out in terms of facts on the ground. The White House certainly trying to push back against Senator Reid, but even the president today when he was with General Petraeus in the Oval Office, the president asserted, look, there's been some progress, but in the next breath he himself noted that the violence has been getting worse and it's a tough situation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed, and another showdown with the Democrats and some Republicans in Congress, the future of the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, strong words of endorsement, of support for the attorney general from the president.

HENRY: That's right. That's right. It was shocking in that the president went beyond just saying once again as he said before he has full confidence in the attorney general. Instead today, he said his confidence has actually increased since last Thursday's testimony in the Senate. That was shocking to some people on the Hill in both parties.

As you know, leading Republicans like Arlen Specter are saying in fact that that testimony really shredded the attorney general's credibility. I think what's really going on here when you talk to people behind the scenes is that the president is sorting of getting his back up, which is what he does when people outside the White House try to tell him what to do personnel wise. So even though White House officials privately admit that testimony didn't go so well, the president is getting his back up right now. He's not going to let people outside the White House tell him what to do and he's standing behind his man -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry at the White House -- thanks very much.

Coming up, by the way, an influential Iraq war critic, Democratic Congressman John Murtha takes on the question "is the war lost?" That's coming up.

Meanwhile, Iraqis may feel like no one is safe. Insurgents struck at will today once again. The suicide car bombing in one restaurant killed 20 people. A suicide bomber walked into another restaurant killing seven more. Bombers also attacked a Sunni mosque in Baghdad. In the Adhamiya district there, the U.S. military hopes a concrete wall can help. But now there's a battle over that barrier.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, U.S. and Iraqi troops now plan to wall off up to 10 Baghdad neighborhoods.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(CHANTING)

STARR (voice-over): In the Baghdad neighborhood of Adhamiya, residents are protesting the new security barrier aimed at keeping out suicide bombers and explosives. People here worry, though, that they're being forcibly shut off behind a 12-foot wall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The aim of this wall was to isolate Adhamiya. It is a step we think that is not for the good of the people, but is to isolate them.

STARR: Adhamiya is a Sunni stronghold surrounded by Shia neighborhoods, a flash point for sectarian violence. Could a barrier help?

ANDREW EXUM, WASHINGTON INST. FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: If you're just trying to stop the violence, if you're trying to reduce the amount of killing that's taking place, then it certainly may be a short-term fix that's worth exploring.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

STARR: But Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stopped construction. He said there will have to be other ways to protect neighborhoods. He warned this is a reminder of other walls, a not-so-veiled reference to the fence dividing Israel and the West Bank. In Israel, the fence has worked. Attacks there have dropped. But in Iraq, there may be a longer-term price to play.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It underlines in a very concrete way -- literally concrete -- it underlines the fissures and Iraqi society between Shia and between Sunni and in a lot of ways it hardens the ethnic and sectarian divisions that have emerged in Baghdad really over just the past two years.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: U.S. commanders were surprised by Maliki's objections. They say he knew about the plan right from the start and that these types of barriers still may be the best way to protect Baghdad's neighborhoods -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr thanks very much -- still to come, the fierce war critic, Congressman John Murtha.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every time something happens over in Iraq, they make excuses for the Iraqis and then they finally give in and send more Americans in. This is a civil war, and our troops are caught in between.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You're going to find out why he wants to hold the president accountable but says he's not ready to impeach.

Also, rock star versus Rove. Sheryl Crow and the president's top adviser exchanging heated words over global warming.

And calls for impeachment -- the vice president, Dick Cheney being targeted by a presidential candidate -- stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Right now presidential candidate has his sights squarely set on the vice president, Dick Cheney. That would be Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. He has scheduled a news conference for tomorrow to announce he's introducing articles of impeachment against Cheney.

And joining us now our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley -- why is Dennis Kucinich, Candy, doing this right now?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well I think, remember, this is the most left candidate that we have. So we have to give some credence to the fact that he truly believes that Vice President Cheney ought to be impeached. Having said that he's an asterisk in the polls right now -- this is a very popular issue with the left wing of the Democrat Party, a small minority of it, but nonetheless, it's a very popular issue. This will give him some face time. This will give him some headlines.

BLITZER: And it might help him raise some money, too, in his campaign.

CROWLEY: Absolutely.

BLITZER: What are the chances though, realistically speaking, that the House of Representatives will actually impeach the vice president?

CROWLEY: Slim to none and closer to none than slim. Look this is something that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have ruled out long before now. They know they didn't get elected to come in and impeach the president. They got elected to stop the war and bring home some things that the American people think ought to be done. They also look back at the Bill Clinton impeachment, which Republicans basically got slammed for and they know the country is at this moment not in the mood for impeachment.

BLITZER: Candy Crowley is our senior political correspondent -- Candy, thanks.

CROWLEY: Thanks.

BLITZER: The worlds of politics and show business colliding in more ways than one at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner here in Washington this weekend. People are still talking about a very heated confrontation between top presidential adviser Karl Rove, singer Sheryl Crow and Hollywood insider Laurie David.

Let's go live to CNN's Mary Snow. She's in New York. She's going to tell us what prompted all of this -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, to set the stage, you could describe this annual dinner in D.C. as sort of a political prom. You have politicians, journalists and celebrities all mingling. However, there were some unexpected fireworks when the topic of global warming came up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

SNOW (voice-over): In one corner rock star Sheryl Crow and global warming activist Laurie David. In the other, President Bush's most trusted political strategist, Karl Rove. Their worlds collided at the White House Correspondents Dinner and when their words over global warming clashed, the political Web site, the Politico, captured the moment.

LAURIE DAVID, PRODUCER, "AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH": It was odd because he got immediately hostile and very combative and you know the conversation went downhill from there.

SNOW: David is the producer of "An Inconvenient Truth" featuring Al Gore. She and Crow detail their conversation on "The Huffington Post" Web site, describing Rove as a spoiled child throwing a tantrum. Their account, David and Crow are working to raise awareness about global warming. They seized the opportunity to talk to Rove. They say things got testy when Crow touched his arm.

ANN ARGETSINGER, "WASHINGTON POST": There is some exchange to the extent of the two of them saying, hey, you work for us. Karl Rove saying, no, I work for the American people and walking away.

SNOW: Crow then apparently said we are the American people. Fallout from the Rove rogue continues at the White House.

PERINO: I just wish that they would channel some of that Hollywood energy into something constructive rather than baseless finger pointing.

SNOW: And the White House spokesman added...

PERINO: I think Karl Rove just wanted to have some fun on Saturday night, and I think he wasn't the only one.

SNOW: Sound familiar? They strike a similar chord to the lyrics of a popular Sheryl Crow tune.

(MUSIC)

SNOW: Team Crow and David aren't laughing about the matter.

SHERYL CROW, SINGER: I felt it was very disappointing because...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

CROW: ... you want to with leadership, you want to be able to engage because we're all-Americans here and we all have the same concerns and to be shut down, it was very disappointing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

SNOW: At the dinner, Rove was a guest of "The New York Times", Crow a guest of "Bloomberg News" and David and husband Larry sat with CNN.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm sure Hollywood sees it as the people versus the powerful, which is the way it was deliberately staged.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: And the fallout continues with Sheryl Crow now being targeted. An idea she proposed to reduce toilet paper use to help the environment has become fodder for ridicule. Just the latest act in the Hollywood versus Washington showdown and a showdown, Wolf, you were there for, right?

BLITZER: I was. I remember when they came back from that encounter with Karl Rove, Sheryl Crow and Laurie David, they clearly were agitated. They began writing right away. They were ready to start talking about it, blogging about it. In fact, as soon as reporters started asking them about it, they didn't hesitate at all in giving their side of the story. Thanks very much, Mary, for that.

Up ahead, the first President Bush and why the country may not necessarily be ready for a third.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's something to that. There might be a little Bush fatigue now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The former president and why he hopes his son Jeb stays out of politics for now.

Plus, battling the president over the war in Iraq -- critic Congressman John Murtha right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our Carol Costello is monitoring stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What do you have, Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Well let's start in Illinois, Wolf. DNA evidence has cleared a man of a rape charge there. Jerry Miller served 25 years in prison for a crime science says he didn't commit. And his case is a milestone. He is the 200th person wrongly convicted of a crime and exonerated by DNA. Advocates say it's just the tip of the iceberg and they're calling for major changes in the way cases are investigated and prosecuted.

Check this out, 40,000 pounds of cocaine, one of the largest maritime busts in U.S. history. The Coast Guard showed off the holiday near San Francisco. It was seized from three ships off the coast of Central America. Estimated street value, half a billion dollars. The drugs are being sent to Miami to be destroyed.

Most people know there's a pay gap between men and women in the United States. Well now a new study shows it starts almost immediately and it just gets worse over time. According to the finding, one year after college women make only 80 percent of what their male counterparts do. By 10 years, women make only 69 percent of what the guys get.

And there's a new Harvard study just out that finds having an abortion does not increase the women's risk of breast cancer. That's of course earlier findings, although three states require doctors to inform women of a link and that would be Texas, Minnesota and Mississippi. The new study followed more than 100,000 women for 10 years.

And we're just learning that the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist David Halberstam has died. The coroner's office in San Mateo, California says he was killed in a car accident this morning near San Francisco. Halberstam was a well-known journalist and author and he made frequent TV appearances. Halberstam was 73 years old -- back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: He was a great, great journalist and author, indeed -- our deepest condolences, Carol, to his family. Thank you very much.

Courageous and controversial -- he took to the streets to confront communist diehards then steered Russia over a very rough road toward democracy and reform. The former president, Boris Yeltsin died today at the age of 76. CNN's Jill Dougherty is a former Moscow bureau chief. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He had a lot of faults, but he seems to have been the right man at the right time for Russia.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's at least one argument you could make, Wolf. You know everything about him was huge, the man himself physically, his role in history and also the debate over his role in history.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY (voice-over): This is the Boris Yeltsin the world will long remember.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

DOUGHERTY: August 1991, astride a tank, the president of Russia facing down a coup against Mikhail Gorbachev, president of the Soviet Union.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): At that time I had only one thought, to save Russia, to save this country.

DOUGHERTY: But this, too, is Boris Yeltsin. October 1993, troops on order of Yeltsin opened fire on the parliament house, the very building where he had made his stand two years before. For Gorbachev, long his nemesis, Yeltsin had revealed his true colors.

MIKHAIL GORBACHEV, FORMER SOVIET PRESIDENT (through translator): The first freely elected parliament in Russia and he fires on it with tanks.

DOUGHERTY: For Boris Yeltsin, conflict and survival were the main themes of his life. For Boris Yeltsin it is the first of many rebirths. In June 1991, the first democratically elected president of Russia. As Russia celebrates, the Soviet Union is disintegrating. Yeltsin helps to speed up the process. Gorbachev resigns December 25, 1991.

Six days later, the USSR officially is dissolved. After 70 years of a Soviet command economy Yeltsin's shock therapy, raising prices to world levels all at once, hits average Russians with a vengeance. As the presidential election of 1996 draws closer, Yeltsin seems certain of losing. But, once again, Boris Yeltsin, phoenix like, rises from the ashes.

But Boris Yeltsin never really begins his second term. Aides say he has a cold. In reality, it's a heart attack. In November 1996, he undergoes a quintuple heart bypass operation followed by pneumonia. December 31, 1999, Boris Yeltsin shocks the world with the announcement that he is stepping down as Russian president, handing the reins of power to Vladimir Putin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY: So the former Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, said that there were good aspects and bad aspects about President Yeltsin. And then President Putin today said that essentially he was a man, a historic figure who created a new epic in Russia -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I remember being there when the collapse of the Soviet Union occurred and Yeltsin clearly was the right man at that time, although history will judge how he did after that. No doubt that he was good in bringing the old Soviet empire down and creating a new democracy in Russia, which hasn't exactly turned out to be as fully democratic as a lot of people would like.

Jill, thanks very much -- Jill Dougherty used to be our Moscow bureau chief. She's here in Washington with us right now. Thank you.

And just ahead, a leading war critic makes demands of the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're saying to the president, Mr. President, we're holding you accountable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Democratic Congressman John Murtha takes on the president of the United States and whether Iraq is a lost cause.

Plus, even the president's father thinks the country may be suffering right now from a little, quote, "Bush fatigue". We'll explain.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, congressional Democrats effectively ask who's afraid of President Bush. Defying a veto threat, Democrats push ahead with a war-funding bill that sets a March 31st deadline for pulling U.S. combat troops out of Iraq. It was approved by both House and Senate Democrats. It will be voted on by the full Congress this week.

The president of Iran wants some one-on-one time with President Bush. According to Iran's state run media, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is reportedly proposing a direct dialogue. Ahmadinejad did not say what he'd like to discuss with President Bush.

And a controversial finding regarding the cycling champion Floyd Landis -- a French newspaper reports follow-up tests on some urine samples have found traces of synthetic testosterone, but Landis will not confirm that, saying it's all part of an ongoing attempt to strip him of his Tour de France title.

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

And now a CNN exclusive -- what you're about to see is one of those Baghdad neighborhood patrols we've been hearing so much about, but you'll see how a wrong turn led to a very, very close call.

CNN's Hugh Riminton was out with the troops.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUGH RIMINTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just an hour ago, this patrol of the 5th Calvary was narrowly missed by an RPG attack. The day is not about to improve.

(SHOTS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jesus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go right. Go right. Go right. Go right.

RIMINTON: It's a buried bomb, an IED, the biggest killer of American troops. And then a second one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there one behind us too?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, go, go, go!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to pick up the speed and we're going to go pick up...

RIMINTON: But for patrol leader Staff Sergeant Matt St. Pierre, the problems may just be beginning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this a dead end?

RIMINTON: They're caught in a classic trap. The Humvees wheel around. If this is an ambush, they are dangerously exposed. Four years and more into this war, there is nothing safe, still, about Baghdad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Slow down, slow down.

RIMINTON: Immediately ahead of them, an abandoned car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not passing that car, stop.

RIMINTON: Sergeant St. Pierre bellows in Arabic for the car to be moved. Someone comes. The car is not a bomb. The patrol moves on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Pick it up.

RIMINTON (on camera): Now what happened just back there counts as a lucky miss, but even that gives some clues as to the insurgents' tactics and their increasing sophistication.

(voice-over): The first bomb went off seconds too early. It was designed to drive any survivors into the path of the second one. Ironically, the turn into the dead-end street thwarted that plan.

Then as we reach the main road, one final threat, a burst of small arms fire. Staff Sergeant Matt St. Pierre has spent two of the last three years in Iraq. He is pessimistic now of what might be achieved.

SGT. MATTHEW ST. PIERRE, U.S. ARMY: We've talked at length, my soldiers and myself, and a term that comes off often is this is our generation's Vietnam. I don't think this can be won. We're caught in the middle of a civil war.

RIMINTON: He says the morale among U.S. troops is still good, but he fears the United States will leave this country worse than it found it, leaving a slaughter behind it.

ST. PIERRE: We are the buffer right now. And when you pull us out, the people that support us are going to feel a wrath, and the people that were against us, and they're the majority, they're going to, I believe, ultimately win, and that's unfortunate.

RIMINTON: It is one soldier's view from the evidence of his eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jesus!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which way, which way, which way?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go right, go right, go right, go right!

RIMINTON: Hugh Riminton, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And that one soldier has spent two of the last three years in combat in Iraq.

President Bush insists progress is being made in Iraq, but some top Democrats see an unwinnable war and a president who needs to be held accountable.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: We're joined now by one of the most influential and vocal advocates of a pullout from Iraq. That would be Democratic Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania.

Congressman, thanks for coming in.

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Nice to be here, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, the president spoke out once again. I'm going to play a little clip of what he said, going not only after you, in a sense, going after all of his critics.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe strongly that politicians in Washington shouldn't be telling generals how to do their job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, Congressman, what do you say to the president?

MURTHA: Well, let me tell you something, Wolf, we will have appropriated $1.2 trillion. Our responsibility is accountability. They have 125,000 contractors in Iraq, some of them making more money than the secretary of defense.

Now, we're going to make this accountable. This is called the Iraq Accountability Act. We're going to make this executive branch and the president accountable to the Congress of the United States and the people of the United States.

BLITZER: But he's saying that politicians shouldn't be telling generals how to go ahead and fight this war.

MURTHA: Very clearly under the Constitution, we have the responsibility to make sure the troops are taken care of. We give the president $4 billion more than he asked for. We put money in for MRAP, which is a new vehicle. We put money in for health care. We put money in for traumatic brain injuries. And we put money in for PTSD, which is the post-traumatic stress.

We're putting everything the president asked for and we're saying to the president, Mr. President, we're holding you accountable. You can't send the troops back in less than a year. He has finally agreed to that. We're saying to the president, Mr. President, you can't send troops who are unequipped, and he has agreed to that. But he is extending the troops. He probably had no alternative because we don't have enough troops.

But, finally, we have to have a deadline to give the Iraqis the incentive to stop. I mean the Iraqi -- every time something happens over in Iraq, they make excuses for the Iraqis and then they finally give in and send more Americans in. This is a civil war and our troops are caught in between.

And these guys are individuals. You know, we listen to what happened down -- this tragedy down at Virginia Tech. And it showed each one of them. It talked about those 33 people who were killed.

Well, each one of these individuals has families. Each one of them has a face. Each one of them he desires. Each one of them has kids. The kids at Fort Bragg, Wolf, are more truant than they were before. They're not achieving as much. They need counseling.

BLITZER: All right...

MURTHA: So this president doesn't understand the tremendous pressure he's putting on his troops. We're trying to help him to make him understand. He has got to start to redeploy. And let me tell you, if he doesn't plan for redeployment, Wolf, we're going to have a real problem, because you're going to have the same problem when he didn't plan for a transition to peace or occupation...

BLITZER: But...

MURTHA: ... in the initial invasion.

BLITZER: ... the congressman (sic) says if you send them legislation that includes a time line for withdrawal, it's going to be a bonanza for the enemy, for the terrorists.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I believe artificial timetables of withdrawal would be a mistake. An artificial timetable of withdrawal would say to an enemy just wait them out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What's your response, Congressman, to that argument?

MURTHA: We are giving the Iraqis the incentive to do what they should have been doing. We're giving the Iraqis the incentive.

We have a responsibility to take care of the troops and to give the Iraqis the incentive to do this themselves.

He has to -- if he doesn't start planning for redeployment, Wolf, here's the problem we're going to have, the same thing we had when we went in with inadequate planning for transition to peace.

We're going to have the disaster he predicted. He predicts a disaster if he doesn't work with the international community, if he doesn't work with the Congress, if he doesn't listen to the public. We're going to have a disaster and it's going to be because he didn't plan for the redeployment.

We're going to redeploy. We're going to redeploy some time this year and the president better start planning for it.

BLITZER: The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, says as long as we follow the president's path in Iraq, he says the war is lost.

Is the war lost?

MURTHA: Well, I have said for two years -- you've heard me say this, Wolf, you can't win it militarily. It has got to be a diplomatic effort. It has got to be international -- we've got to ask the international community to help us.

But the Iraqis have to do their bit. They have to change the constitution. They have to make these troops go out and do their job.

The Americans are taking the lead in so many of these things. What we hear is pure propaganda from so many of the leaders. You know, it's the same optimistic report we have heard, and yet when you look at the statistics, you look at oil production, electricity production, water production, it's all below pre-war, below pre-war level.

We've been there for four years. And in addition to that, Wolf, incidents are up 10 percent. So this surge, this escalation, is not working and it's time to redeploy the troops and the president is going to have to come. He'd better start planning for it right now.

BLITZER: We just got a press release, Congressman, from your Democratic colleague, Dennis Kucinich, from Ohio, a Democratic presidential candidate.

I'll read one -- the sentence for you: "Congressman Dennis Kucinich will hold a news conference tomorrow afternoon to announce the introduction of articles of impeachment relating to the vice president of the United States, Richard B. Cheney."

What's your reaction to that?

MURTHA: Well, I hear the phone calls that we get in our office are up from 5 percent to 10 percent of the public calling for impeachment. But I think we have to work together to solve some of these problems. I think it's not responsible to get involved in that area right now.

What we want to do is get the White House working with the Congress, working with the international community, trying to solve these problems.

BLITZER: John Murtha, thanks for coming in, Congressman.

MURTHA: Nice talking to you, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And I'll ask Dennis Kucinich about his plans to try to impeach the vice president. Kucinich will be joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow.

Up ahead tonight, does America have a case of, quote, "Bush fatigue"? The president's father offers his surprising diagnosis.

And when Washington goes Hollywood, does anyone get the last laugh? Our Jeanne Moos with the answer. Coming up, her "Moost Unusual" take on what happens when the stars and Sanjaya, there he is, come out. Stay with us, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The former president, George Herbert Walker Bush, usually is a cheerleader for his sons, the current commander-in-chief and the former governor of Florida. But even Bush 41, as he is known, is sounding somewhat skeptical about the current status of the Bush political dynasty. Our Brian Todd is joining us, once again, with that.

Some surprising words from the former president in an exclusive interview with our own Larry King, Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Surprising, indeed, Wolf. You know, with all of the candidates who have thrown their names in for the 2008 presidential race, why not another member of the Bush family? Well, if the first President Bush is any indication, I would not count on a third.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEB BUSH (R), FORMER GOVERNOR, FLORIDA: I'm not running for president in 2008.

TODD (voice-over): We have heard it from him time and time again. Jeb Bush is not running for president. But now we're hearing from his father, former President Bush.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, 41ST PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think he has got a future, but it's not now, in politics.

TODD: The former Florida governor left office at the beginning of the year, after two full terms as one of the Sunshine State's most popular politicians in years. His older brother hasn't enjoyed that kind of support.

President Bush's approval rating remains in the mid-30s, thanks to an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq. So, is the timing wrong for another Bush presidency?

CNN's Larry King put this question to the former president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Earlier this month, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney praised your son Jeb as quite a guy. And he said, if his name wasn't Bush, he would be running for president.

What do you think of that?

G.H.W. BUSH: There's something to that. There might be a little Bush fatigue now. I hope that Jeb, who left office looking good, is not through with politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Straight talk from a proud dad, who broke down in tears while praising his son at an event in Tallahassee.

While you won't see a Bush at the head of the ticket in 2008, could a Republican vice presidential nomination be out of question?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: There's no question that Jeb Bush is on everyone's short list as a potential running mate. But the timing couldn't be any worse for a person with the last name Bush. Even his father acknowledges that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: So what is Jeb Bush doing these days? After moving back to Coral Gables, Florida, Bush recently joined the board of directors of Tenet Health care and he was honored by the state legislature which renamed the College of Education at the University of Florida the Jeb Bush College of Education -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Brian, thank you. And to our viewers, you can see all of the interview with George Bush and Barbara Bush. That will air later tonight right here on "LARRY KING LIVE." It airs at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 Pacific. The former president and Barbara Bush.

Whoever succeeds President Bush at the White House, he or she will have to deal with angst in Europe about America's power and influence. In France right now, two presidential candidates are heading into a runoff after a first round of voting yesterday. And they have very different views of the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

And joining us now in Paris, our correspondent Hala Gorani.

Hala, thanks very much for coming in. Let's talk a little bit about these two candidates. One is a socialist. One is more of a conservative. One seems to like the United States. The other one is more critical. What does she say -- Royal say about President Bush and his administration?

HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Segolene Royal, the Socialist candidate, has always been, throughout the two terms of George W. Bush, very critical of his administration's policies. She has called the Iraq War, for instance, a catastrophe.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the Conservative, has traveled to the United States. He is perceived as a more pro-American, but he also opposed the Iraq War. What his adviser told me today is, he opposed it throughout, but may not have expressed it in the same way, had he been president, as Jacques Chirac did and his prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, in the run-up to the Iraq War.

BLITZER: How much of an issue is this in France, based on all the public opinion polls, their respective stances toward the United States?

GORANI: Inside of France, it's not much of an issue. It's mainly outside of France that people are looking at this election and wondering, how will the relationship France has with the rest of the world, including the United, change -- including the United States, change, depending on who is elected?

Outside of France, the big issues are unemployment, immigration and crime.

BLITZER: And he is slightly ahead in the polls right now, but we will stand by to see who wins in two weeks. Hala, thanks very much for joining us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And up ahead, did a gaping loophole contribute to the deaths of 32 innocent people? One action may have stopped the shooter in the Virginia Tech massacre from getting his hands on guns.

And how many people does it take to have a good party? Mix some celebrities and some journalists, a comedian, an "American Idol" sensation, things can really heat up. Our Jeanne Moos will take a "Moost Unusual" look.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A bell tolled 32 times and 32 white balloons rose to the sky, one for each of the dead. With much lingering sorrow, classes resume today at Virginia Tech, exactly one week after the worst mass shooting in modern American history. So how did the obviously disturbed shooter Seung-Hui Cho slip through the cracks? How was he able to purchase guns? Let's turn once again to CNN's Brian Todd.

Brian, what are you learning?

TODD: Wolf, we know that while Seung-Hui Cho got past Virginia's safety net, he should not have been able to slip past the federal government's.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Under U.S. law, this man should never have been able to buy a handgun. The law says anyone deemed a danger to himself or to others because of mental illness is prohibited from buying a gun.

More than a year ago, a Virginia special justice determined Seung-Hui Cho to be an imminent danger to himself as a result of mental illness. That would have placed him in the federal government's background check system, called NIC.

REP. CAROLYN MCCARTHY (D), NEW YORK: Unfortunately, that information never got into the NIC system, so he was able to buy a gun.

TODD: Cho's information didn't get into the NIC system because Virginia officials didn't notify the feds of his mental status. Why not?

Cho was never involuntarily committed to a mental institution, and in Virginia, that made the difference, allowing Cho to make the purchase.

ROBERT MCDONNELL, VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: It was clearly authorized by state law. We're taking a good look at whether the federal law would have been an absolute disqualifier and they're -- but the gap clearly is there in the state and federal law. TODD: Gap or no gap, every state is required to notify the feds when someone is deemed mentally ill so it can be seen on a federal background check. Only around 20 states do it because, legal experts say, it costs money to train people and put the computers in place to share the information. Some states cite privacy reasons, as well.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: But of those states that do put mental status entries into the federal background check system, the ATF says Virginia leads the way -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Any other loopholes, Brian?

TODD: Yes, there are. Experts say even if Cho had been denied a gun at a licensed gun shop, he likely could have bought one at a gun show or maybe from a private seller. Many estimates say about half the guns sold in the U.S. each year are private sales.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us, thank you.

Meanwhile, Virginia police are looking into Seung-Hui Cho's e- mails to try to learn more about the Virginia Tech shooting rampage. Let's bring in our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton.

We are also learning, Abbi, that Cho was also a user of eBay, and they're closely watching to see what he purchased there.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Yes. Wolf, we know that he had bought a gun holster and empty ammunition clips from eBay. EBay confirmed today that Cho used the site to buy and sell numerous items in recent months, though no weapons, no ammunition. EBay says those items are not permitted on the site.

We do know that Cho had gone online to buy one of his weapons on February 2nd from this Internet gun store. Police have identified an e-mail account Cho used with the handle Blazers5505. That same name shows up as a past eBay user shipping from Blacksburg, Virginia, the seller of books and Virginia Tech sports tickets. EBay says the company is working closely with law enforcement officials -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you very much. Let's find out what's coming up right at the top of the hour on "PAULA ZAHN NOW." That means Paula is standing by.

Hi, Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, HOST, "PAULA ZAHN NOW": Wolf, thanks.

The Virginia Tech massacre, of course, has brought the gun control debate back out into the open. At the top of the hour, we're going to take you to the only state that allows college students to carry guns to class. Should that be allowed all across the country?

Plus, a 20-year-old who put his phone number on YouTube and discovered a world of people who are so desperately lonely. His phone hardly stops ringing. He is going to join us tonight. He is going to bring along his phone and we will get to hear what people need from him.

BLITZER: Good. All right. Thank you, Paula. We'll be watching at the top of the hour.

And up ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the stars of Washington and Hollywood colliding at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a "Moost Unusual" look. You'll want to see this. Stick around, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's an annual gathering, a very strange bedfellows with a healthy dose of Hollywood thrown in to boot. So where can you find the likes of "American Idol's" Sanjaya rubbing elbows with senators? Jeanne Moos takes a "Moost Unusual" look at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's an event where all the strange bedfellows leave you craning your neck. There's Condi. Wait, there's Larry. Helen Thomas here, Larry David there. And the biggest hubbub of all, the Sanjaya sighting. Even dead presidents were here.

RICH LITTLE, COMEDIAN: Who the hell are you people?

MOOS: These people are the White House Correspondents Association, plus politicians, plus guests.

JAMES DENTON, ACTOR, "DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES": It's just nice to get out of Hollywood and come to a place where real important things happen.

MOOS: The only important thing this night was deciding whether Rich Little bombed a little or a lot.

LITTLE: You thought Colbert was bad.

MOOS: That would last year's main attraction, his performance bombed in the room but became a hit on YouTube and beyond, dissing the press and the president...

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers.

MOOS: This year the president of the Correspondents Association played it safe by choosing Rich Little who opted to do impersonations. For instance, Andy Rooney...

LITTLE: If your vacuum cleaner sucks, is that a good thing?

MOOS: One of the good things about last year was George Bush appearing with George Bush.

GEORGE W. BUSH IMPERSONATOR: Nuclear proliferation.

BUSH: Nu-ki-er pro-liberation.

(LAUGHTER)

MOOS: But this year, on account of the shadow cast by the Virginia Tech shootings...

BUSH: I have decided not to be funny.

MOOS: Some say Rich Little did likewise. Take his Arnold impression.

LITTLE: Do you know what I prefer to be called? President Arnold Schwarzenegger. That's what I want.

MOOS: Vanity Fair writer Christopher Hitchens called the event so lame and mediocre that it is beyond parody.

LITTLE: The event went terrific. I'm very happy it's over.

MOOS: It was a tough crowd, Little said. But the secretary of state and the first lady seemed amused, even when Little impersonated President Bush.

LITTLE: When this war-a-thon thing against all extreministic fractions is concludified -- take a look, is the president laughing?

MOOS: Oh, he was. Though the biggest laughs came in the Letterman top 10 most memorable Bush moments, featuring the president spitting, bumping his head, getting his left and right wrong.

BUSH: The left hand...

(GESTURES WITH RIGHT HAND)

BUSH: ... now knows what the right hand...

(GESTURES WITH LEFT HAND)

BUSH: ... is doing.

MOOS: And there was Sanjaya marveling, and got to rub shoulders with the political elite.

SANJAYA MALAKAR, FORMER "AMERICAN IDOL" CONTESTANT: It was really a life-changing experience. I mean, I've never done anything like that.

MOOS: While Sanjaya partied in Washington, he was parodies on "Saturday Night Live." Hey, at least Rich Little didn't reduce anyone in his audience to tears.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you, Jeanne. That's it for us. We'll be back tomorrow. Let's go to New York and Paula Zahn -- Paula.

ZAHN: Wolf, thanks.

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