Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Redrawing the Map: Partitioning Iraq; Congress Passes War Bill; Richard Gere Accused of Violating India's Obscenity Laws
Aired April 26, 2007 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, an act of defiance the White House likens to an act of defeat. The Senate passing a bill with a timetable for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq.
Is history repeating itself? Is Iraq turning out to be another Vietnam?
I'll speak about that with conservative radio talk show host and author Bill Bennett.
Also, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And why is the actor Richard Gere facing an arrest warrant right now?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Weeks of controversy, debate and threats coming to a head as Congress sends President Bush an Iraq War funding bill which the White House says is dead before arrival.
The Senate, following the House, approved the measure today, 51-46. But it's destined for a veto, the president rejecting inclusion of a time line to withdraw U.S. combat forces.
A day after he appealed to lawmakers for more time, the U.S. military commander in Iraq is over at the Pentagon speaking bluntly about the war.
Let's turn to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.
General Petraeus is speaking out to reporters over there.
What's the bottom line?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as bad as things may look in Iraq right now, General Petraeus says it could be a lot worse if U.S. troops left. And he says although it may not look like it, right now, he says, it's a good bit better this just a few months ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
MCINTYRE (voice-over): The problem General David Petraeus is trying to fix in Iraq is, in his own words, the most challenging he's ever seen.
GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ: The situation in Iraq is, in sum, exceedingly complex and very tough.
MCINTYRE: At a Pentagon briefing, he laid out the key problem.
PETRAEUS: This effort may get harder before it gets easier. Success in the end will depend on Iraqi action.
MCINTYRE: And right now, the government of Nuri Al-Maliki is dysfunctional.
PETRAEUS: He's not the Prime Minister Tony Blair of Iraq. He does not have a parliamentary majority.
MCINTYRE: And while some violence is waning, such as so-called sectarian murders, down two thirds since the first of the years, that's buried under the rubble of spectacular bombings that inflict mass casualties.
PETRAEUS: The sense of gradual progress and achievement we feel on the ground in many areas in Iraq is often eclipsed by the sensational attacks that overshadow our daily accomplishments.
MCINTYRE: The surge is only in the early stages, but U.S. casualties are already up and will likely go higher over the summer. And the enemy is everywhere -- first of all, al Qaeda.
PETRAEUS: But it is a very significant enemy. I think it is probably public enemy number one.
MCINTYRE: Then the Sunni insurgents and the increasingly troublesome Iranian network, with training, funding and even direction from Iran's Kuds Force.
PETRAEUS: They were provided substantial funding, training on Iranian soil, advanced explosive munitions and technologies, as well as run of the mill arms and ammunition; in so many cases, advice, and in so many cases, even a degree of direction.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
MCINTYRE: And General Petraeus said today he's drawing up four benchmarks he'll use in September to decide if the surge is working. They include politics, economics, the security and the rule of law. And he says if it's not working in September, he will tell President Bush the truth -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jamie, thanks for that.
Jamie McIntyre reporting.
This bill, by the way, marks the fact of the matter the Democratic controlled Congress will send President Bush binding legislation on the war. And when he carries out his veto threat, it will be only the second time he's actually done so during his entire presidency.
Meanwhile, the bill sets some benchmarks, as they're called, for the Iraqi government. Among them, deploy trained Iraqi security forces in Baghdad and give Iraqi commanders more leeway to make decisions without political intervention.
The second goal is the disarming of Iraq's militias. Another benchmark -- ensure that Iraq's oil and other resources benefit all Iraqis.
The bill says Iraq should reform its process of removing officials with ties to the Saddam Hussein regime and it calls for the protection of minority rights.
What might the practical effect of all of this be on Iraq?
Michael Ware is joining us now.
Michael is our special correspondent in Baghdad.
He's joining us from New York on this day -- Michael, thanks very much.
Good to have you here stateside.
What would it mean, practically speaking -- and you've been there from day one; you've spent four years covering this war -- if the Democrats had their way and by the end of March of next year, U.S. combat forces pulled out of Iraq?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, at that point, or very soon after, you would have some kind of regional conflict in the Middle East, almost without doubt.
You would instantly see the Shia militias that essentially are driving this government -- they're the ones who own this government, because this government is not a government in the sense that we understand. It's a loose alliance of these militias that U.S. intelligence says is backed by Iran.
So you would immediately see them consolidate their power. That means consolidating Iranian influence. They'd also look to expand that.
Now, the Arab states in the region, America's allies, who have been screaming about this since before the invasion, would not be able to sit back. They'd have to respond by supporting the Sunnis.
So you would see the country immediately turn into an Iranian proxy kind of territory or Iranian sponsored territory and then an al Qaeda-dominated Sunni-Arab regional backed semi-state, at war with each other, that would suck in all the regional players.
It's nothing but disaster -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And it's an awful scenario, the way you described it.
But what about this September?
It's still a few months down the road. The president keeps referring to what General Petraeus says, that by September, we should know, basically, whether this new strategy, the so-called surge, is working?
What changes would you expect to have occurred by September?
WARE: OK, for a start, I think many people are looking to General Petraeus' remarks and his reference to September as him coming to deliver the magic solution. Well, it's not that at all.
Simply, what General Petraeus is going to do in September is have a look at the strategy that they're using now and he's going to say if it's working or if it's not.
He has no expectation that he's going to say it has worked and that the job is over and that it's finished. He's merely going to say we continue this and go forward or we need to look at other options.
We're now hearing top military commanders talk about what some of those other options are. A major general in Iraq has now opened the door to the possibility that the solution in Iraq, the political solution everyone talks about, may be a non-democratic state.
So even in September, if things are going as best as they could be hoped, the generals are saying there won't be an end to the violence, we're going to need patience. This is just the beginning. It's not the end.
BLITZER: I've heard several Arab leaders, allies of the United States, say to me privately what they need in Iraq, Michael, is another strongman, almost like Saddam Hussein, who can control the situation there on the ground.
WARE: Indeed. What this U.S. major general, Robert Mixon, who commands a division in northern Iraq, pointed to was precisely that.
When he listed the elements of U.S. victory, he said it's leaving behind an effective and functioning Iraqi government that can deliver services to its people and that is a partner with the U.S. and the world against terrorists.
Now, it seemed to them, you can have all of those things without a democracy.
Indeed. You see that across the Middle East.
So that's what's shaping as the alternative. That's Plan B, a Musharraf like Pakistan, a strongman with a quasi-democracy who first and foremost delivers security.
BLITZER: Michael Ware in New York for us.
Michael, thanks very much.
WARE: Thank you.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is in New York, as well.
A good chance for you and Michael to sit down -- Jack.
I know you're a big fan of his.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I am a big fan of his. And it's interesting to hear him talk about a solution perhaps taking the form, the exact same form, that Iraq was in before we invaded.
A new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll shows only 22 percent of Americans think the country is going in the right direction. Sixty-six percent say we're not. And the overriding issue in those poll numbers it the war in Iraq.
Read any sampling of public opinion over the last few years. Americans want this war over. They want our troops home.
Both houses of Congress have now passed the funding bills necessary to continue the war, but with a timetable to begin winding things down.
It's funny, isn't it?
The public and the Congress seem to be in agreement. But none of that matters to President Bush. Remember, he's the decider. And he's decided we're not going to set any timetable for withdrawal.
On the contrary, tours of duty for combat soldiers have just been extended and Bush says he's going to veto the funding bill.
Isolated and almost alone in his determination to continue the insanity that is the war in Iraq, Mr. Bush clings to a 4-year-old failed policy that has cost this country its reputation, more than 3,000 of its finest young people and a half a trillion dollars of your tax money.
Thousands of our soldiers have been crippled for life.
And, of course, finally, it's not working -- not on any level. There is no effective Iraqi government. There's no democracy. There's no political solution. Nothing. Just bloody day after bloody week after bloody month of violence, death, destruction.
Here's the question -- what message will President Bush send by vetoing the Iraq War funding bill?
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile.
Who was it said you break it, you own it?
Was that Colin Powell?
BLITZER: That was supposedly Colin Powell, the Pottery Barn doctrine. He says he didn't exactly phrase it like that, but it's -- it's gone down in history as perhaps associated with it -- you break it, you own it.
CAFFERTY: Yes, well, no truer words perhaps ever spoken, huh?
BLITZER: Thank you, Jack Cafferty.
BLITZER: Go talk to Michael Ware.
Up ahead, is Iraq this generation's Vietnam?
The author and CNN contributor, Bill Bennett, makes some comparisons. He's going to join us to talk about it.
Also, we'll be joined by the Democratic Party chairman, Howard Dean. You might be surprised at what he has to say about the private life of Republican presidential frontrunner Rudy Giuliani.
Plus, an arrest warrant in India for the actor Richard Gere over what you're about to see right now. This. Check it out. That's why there's an arrest warrant for Richard Gere in India.
We'll explain what's going on.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The chorus of voices calling for the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, to resign is growing and getting louder. But Gonzales so far standing firm with the backing of President Bush, not necessarily a lot of others.
Let's go to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena.
There's growing pressure on the attorney general to step down.
Does it seem to be having any impact?
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, I'm sure it must be on a personal level. But professionally, he is not letting anything on. He's in Rochester, New York today. He was there to talk about an anti-gang initiative. But that is not what reporters wanted to talk about.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice to meet you, Attorney General.
ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you.
Good to see you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Same here.
ARENA (voice-over): Alberto Gonzales got out of Washington, but he couldn't get away from all those nagging questions about whether he should keep his job.
GONZALES: I continue to believe that it can be effective as attorney general and I'm going to -- I'm going to stay focused on doing my job.
ARENA: People close to Gonzales say it's for real. They insist that he is focused and fully engaged, in a way that some of them haven't seen before.
But by all accounts he wasn't exactly engaged when those eight U.S. attorneys were being fired and now can't catch a break.
He met with Democratic Senator Mark Pryor this week in an effort to mend fences, but that went over like a lead balloon.
SEN. MARK PRYOR (D), ARKANSAS: I told him that I still think it's in the best interests of the department and the administration that he resign.
ARENA: Republican presidential candidate John McCain also says Gonzales should resign.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think out of loyalty to the president that that would probably be the best thing that he could do.
ARENA: Asked about that today, Gonzales hit the rewind button.
GONZALES: Again, I'm going to stay focused. I'm doing my job. The president -- that's what the president expects me to do, is to -- is to stay on as attorney general.
ARENA: And the hits just keep on coming, with new questions about whether the U.S. attorney from Arizona was fired because he was pursuing a corruption case against a Republican.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ARENA: Well, Gonzales will get yet another chance to try to clear the air when he testifies before House members in two weeks. But it doesn't look like this crowd is going to be any friendlier -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Any indication that Senator Leahy, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, or Senator Specter, the ranking Republican, were satisfied with what they heard?
ARENA: No. No indication. As a matter of fact, they sent a letter to the attorney general saying that they would like answers to those 60 plus questions that the attorney general just couldn't answer and would only say "can't recall," "don't know." They said unacceptable. We want the information provided.
BLITZER: Kelli Arena reporting for us, our justice correspondent.
Congress, meanwhile, and the president locked in a battle over an increasingly unpopular war. We're seeing it now with Iraq and some say it's the history of the Vietnam War repeating itself.
Joining us now our CNN contributor, the author, Bill Bennett. He's got a new book, "America: The Last Best Hope."
This is volume two...
BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, sir.
BLITZER: ... a very strong book on American history from world -- "From A World At War To The Triumph Of Freedom."
Give us a little historic perspective. The war in Iraq right now compared to the Vietnam War a generation ago.
BENNETT: What I think it's very interesting is -- I don't know if it's conscious or not, Wolf, but the Democrats are essentially trying to equate Iraq with Vietnam.
BLITZER: They're saying that Iraq is a disaster...
BLITZER: ... a debacle, just as Vietnam was.
BENNETT: A quagmire. But even in more subtle ways and in insinuating ways. They're talking about George Bush, the liar, the imperial presidency. George Bush has been weakened by a series of mishaps, a series of problems, including the war in Iraq. Not as weakened as Nixon was.
They're talking about Karl Rove as a kind of Haldeman. So we see -- in fact, I heard Joe Biden last week refer to President Bush as -- as another Nixon.
So the more they can create that angry, I think the happier they are.
BLITZER: And you've made that comparison, as well, Nixon now being played by George Bush.
BENNETT: Right. Well, I mean that's -- that's the attempt to put him in that role.
Don Frasier (ph), you remember, from Michigan -- not a lot of people remember this -- he pushed hard in the House...
BLITZER: He was a congressman.
BENNETT: Right, from Michigan, very much now the role given to Jack Murtha. Ted Kennedy pushed in the -- in the 1974, that role being reprised by Ted Kennedy again.
But, again, helplessness, quagmire, there's nothing we can do.
BLITZER: Is it hopeless?
BENNETT: No. I don't think it is hopeless. And if we read the history -- I try to recount the history in the book -- there were real consequences to our withdrawal. One can cite a lot of them.
But I think the withdrawal of America led to the withdrawal of American power on the world stage.
BLITZER: But the argument was made by anti-Vietnam War critics that the U.S. should have never gone into Vietnam to begin with, that it was a mis -- a misplaced war.
BENNETT: Right. The same argument, essentially, isn't it?
Because people are saying the same thing about Iraq.
The consequences, I think, are actually greater for a with -- a premature withdrawal from Iraq, as John McCain has said.
But remember what happened when we pulled out of Vietnam. There was a bloodbath in Vietnam. There was a bloodbath in Cambodia. American power in withdrawal for 10 years. The Russians moved on us. It was a very sad time.
Hafez Assad said something which is -- was, I hope, not prophetic. He said -- this is the guy, of course, who's Bashir Assad's father, the president of Syria. In '76 he said, "You abandoned your ally in Saigon. You may abandon your ally in Taiwan. When you abandon your ally in Israel, we will be there. We will be waiting."
The point is, when America withdraws from its allies, even an unpopular -- in very unpopular and difficult circumstances -- it ricochets around the world and is bad for freedom.
BLITZER: But -- but 30 years later, that domino effect clearly did not materialize in terms of the cold war, which was the dominating fear going into Vietnam at that time. And Vietnam is now seen as a major trading partner with the United States.
BENNETT: It is a trading partner. It has some capitalism. But, look, the Freedom House rating of Vietnam, it's still at the bottom. And the bloodbath did take place at Syruc Matac (ph) in Cambodia, the Pol Pot...
BLITZER: So you're afraid that there would be a similar bloodbath in Iraq?
BENNETT: I know -- I'm confident there would be. I think almost anyone -- any fair-minded person would say that. What some of the Democrats will say, I guess, if they're honest, is it's worth it, it's not our problem.
BLITZER: Listen to John McCain.
BLITZER: In making his formal announcement yesterday, he had some biting criticism of the way the Bush administration waged this war.
BLITZER: Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: America should never undertake a war unless we're prepared to do everything necessary to succeed, unless we have a realistic and comprehensive plan for success and unless all relevant agencies of government are committed to that success.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That's pretty strong criticism that this war was simply not waged the right way.
BENNETT: He's been consistent that we haven't waged this war hard enough, if you will.
I take back, I harken back to presidents who said the same thing. The irony is the presidents I harken back to most of them are Democrats. If you look at the language of FDR, he is very careful in his language to talk in absolute terms about unconditional surrender, this treachery shall be removed from the face of the Earth.
It was that notion of the Democrat Party that drove a lot of people like myself into the Democrat Party and now that retreat from that engagement in the world has sent many of us into the other party.
There's a lot to be learned from history and a lot of parallels.
BLITZER: It's already a major best-seller, "America: The Last Best Hope, Volume 2."
Bill Bennett, congratulations.
BENNETT: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thanks for coming in.
BENNETT: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And coming up, new developments in a politically charged investigation. The White House making new revelations about meetings critics are calling illegal.
Plus, cooking -- yes, cooking for a cause. President Clinton teaming up with Food TV star Rachel Ray.
What did the former president have to say about his childhood? You're going to want to see this.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Our Carol Costello is monitoring some of the stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What's going on -- Carol.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A couple of things to tell you about, Wolf.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has thrown down the gauntlet over missile defense systems. He says he'll freeze a key European defense pact if the U.S. deploys a missile shield in Eastern Europe. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calls the idea that radar and interceptors will threaten Russia's nuclear deterrent is ludicrous.
The White House is acknowledging that there have been briefings on the election prospects of Republican candidates. An independent unit began an investigation into the 20 presentations to determine if they constituted inappropriate political activity under the federal Hatch Act. The Hatch Act bars federal employees from engaging in political activities with government resources or on government time.
In news impacting small business, federal housing assistance is being extended for people still displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The Bush administration announcing today another $1 billion to extend the help through March 2009. Federal aide had been scheduled to end on August 31st. Many of the tens of thousands still displaced by the storms will be evaluated to determine if they need further help beyond that deadline.
That's a look at the headlines right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Carol.
Coming up, a radical proposal for an intractable war.
What if Iraq was divided along sectarian lines?
Plus, harsh criticism from the White House for Democrats insisting on a time line for withdrawal. The party chairman, Howard Dean, firing right back. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, a desperate search for survivors in the rubble of a collapsed building in Istanbul, Turkey. Two people pulled out alive so far, including a young girl. One more person believed still to be trapped. No deaths are reported.
In Atlanta, two police officers pleading guilty to manslaughter in the death of a 92-year-old woman killed in a botched drug raid. They were facing felony murder charges. They're also expected to plea bargain to federal charges.
And the New Jersey governor, Jon Corzine, taking his first steps since almost being killed in a car accident two weeks ago. Doctors said to be pleased with Corzine's progress as he recovers from multiple broken bones. And in his first public comment, Corzine is saying, and I'm quoting now, "I'm the most blessed person who ever lived."
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Back to our top story. The Senate today passed a bill that sets a timetable for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq despite the president's veto threat. Amid all the uproar over Iraq, some are now proposing a controversial solution that involves breaking up the country along sectarian lines.
We take a closer look at that solution by asking the question, what if?
BLITZER: And joining us now, our special correspondent, Frank Sesno.
Frank, let's play "What if?"
FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: OK. Let's. Let's start with the map.
Down there some place is Iraq as we know it. This is the days before Christ, though -- Mesopotamia, the Persian Empire. It changed later on through the Ottoman Empire. When it fell, the British came in and redrew the map, making it something like it is today, today when the Americans are trying to hold Iraq together, General Petreaus, as we heard earlier.
But what if we redrew the lines in Iraq?
SESNO (voice over): It would jump out in a region already seething with ethnic rivalry --- Kurds here, Sunnis there, Shia over there. And then, what if they actually managed to divide up the oil, keep out those meddlesome neighbors, and promise to protect all of those civilians who have already suffered enough?
Well, unfortunately history isn't encouraging. And a little globe trekking proves it.
Take British India. When they divide it along sectarian lines, mostly Hindu India, Muslim Pakistan, 15 million people were uprooted, as many as two million perished in terrible violence.
Or let's go to Europe, the Balkans. When Yugoslavia's dictator died, they tried a collective presidency and ended up with collective hatred, ethnic cleansing, a country torn apart. It took more than 500,000 international peacekeepers, 90,000 of them American, nearly a decade to stabilize Bosnia. In Kosovo, NATO troops are still on patrol.
Or, head over to Asia. The Korean peninsula divided more than a half century ago. North and South are still technically at war. The North an improvered pariah with nuclear weapons.
So now back to Iraq. What if it were partitioned? There are already refugees, already tent cities. But millions more would have to move.
Already resentment and revenge run very deep. New borders wouldn't erase that.
Breaking up nations is ugly business, and like war itself, never predictable.
SESNO: Never predictable, Wolf.
Back to the map. It looks so easy, three colors, three lines. It's anything but.
BLITZER: What's the toughest thing, Frank, inside?
SESNO: The toughest thing inside? Two things.
One, the cities, the big ones, are mixed populations. You have to pull them apart.
And the oil. It lives in the blue. It lives in the green. Not in the orange. Gigantic problem.
BLITZER: And what's the toughest thing outside?
SESNO: The toughest thing outside, go back to this map and look at the region. Turkey, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, not to mention Jordan and the others, even Israel, they all get pulled in.
If Iraq is divided along sectarian lines, many argue, and I think persuasively, that you have more instability, not less.
BLITZER: Frank Sesno, our special correspondent.
Good work. Thanks.
BLITZER: And as you know, Congress did go ahead now -- the House yesterday, the Senate today passed the war spending bill, with its pullout timetable seen by many as an act of defiance. The White House likening it to an act of defeat.
The administration saying it includes a date of "surrender". So how did Democrats respond to all this harsh criticism?
BLITZER: Joining us now, the chairman of the Democratic Party, the former governor, Howard Dean.
Governor, thanks very much for coming in.
HOWARD DEAN, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Wolf, thanks for having me on.
BLITZER: Sam Brownback, among other Republicans, they're really railing against this Democratic initiative to try to bring the troops home from Iraq.
Listen to what Senator Brownback, a Republican presidential candidate, just said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If the president were to sign this -- he's not going to sign it -- but if he does sign it, if he would sign it, it would be the day that al Qaeda would declare victory.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Those are strong words from Senator Brownback.
DEAN: Wolf, many of us believe that al Qaeda earned a victory when George Bush made the incredible blunder by deceiving the American people and going into Iraq. And that is a huge problem.
This president has mismanaged our defense, he's mismanaged our positions in the Middle East. And now we're paying the price for it. But the fact of the matter is, the American people want us out of Iraq. The Democratic -- the Democratic Party was elected to control the House and the Senate because the American people want us out of Iraq.
We're doing what the American people have asked us to do.
BLITZER: But there are al Qaeda elements now in Iraq. Maybe they weren't there before Saddam Hussein was overthrown.
What do you do about that threat of al Qaeda that obviously still exists right now in Iraq/
DEAN: The plan that most of the Democrats have embraced would be to leave a significant number of troops in the Middle East. Not in Iraq, but in the Middle East, for dealing with terrorism.
We know we have a terrorism problem around the country. The problem is, we don't have the leadership in the Republican Party to fight that terrorism the way it needed to be fought.
BLITZER: The Republican presidential frontrunner right now, the former New York City, Rudy Giuliani, he's also going after Democrats.
He said this on Tuesday: "If any Republican is elected president -- and I think obviously I would be the best at this -- we will remain on offense. I listen a little to the Democrats, and if one of them gets elected, we are going on defense. We will wave the white flag on Iraq. The Democrats do not understand the full nature and scope of the terrorist war against us."
You want to respond to Giuliani?
DEAN: Well, he's got two problems, Wolf. The first is he sound likes Dick Cheney. That's the kind of stuff the Republicans have been talking about for a long time, but they're incapable of defending America, as it's turned out, because they have not told us the truth.
The second problem is that Rudy Giuliani was mayor of New York when 9/11 struck. There was a previous terrorist attack. He had a number of years to do the things that a commission recommended that they do and he didn't do them.
So I would argue that Rudy's put himself in a pretty serious problem. One, sounding like one of the most unpopular vice presidents in American history. And two, he's got his own record of not being prepared when he should have been.
BLITZER: Joe Lieberman has a column in "The Washington Post" today, agreeing with the Republicans, basically. "There is only one choice that protects America's security," he says, "and that is to stand and fight and win."
DEAN: Well, you know, we appreciate Joe. But Joe is not in agreement with the Democratic Party on this one.
BLITZER: The Giuliani campaign is doing really well among the Republicans. And I suspect you're probably worried if he gets the Republican nomination. Based on these new Quinnipiac University polls, in three battleground states that have just come out, hypothetical match-ups.
For example, the Democratic frontrunner right now, Hillary Clinton versus Giuliani. In Florida, Giuliani wins 49 percent to 41 percent. In Ohio, he wins 46 to 41 percent. In Pennsylvania, he wins 47 percent to 43 percent.
And if Barack Obama were to get the Democratic nomination in this Quinnipiac University poll, Giuliani does even better -- 49-38 he wins in Florida, 45-37 in Ohio, 45-41 he wins in Pennsylvania.
How worried are you that a moderate Republican like Rudy Giuliani, who supports abortion rights for women, gay rights, has reservations about guns, how worried are you that he could make a dent among Independents and Democrats?
DEAN: I'm not very worried honestly, Wolf. First of all, poll numbers in this stage of the game mean virtually mean nothing.
Second of all, he has a lot of character issues that he has to answer for. And overwhelmingly, Americans are going to vote on honesty and integrity. And, you know, Mayor Giuliani is going to have a lot of -- a lot of things to answer there.
We've begun to reach out to evangelical Christians, and that's a real problem for him. His personal life is a serious problem for him.
BLITZER: Well, describe those character issues...
DEAN: No, I'm not going to get into that stuff. I don't like attacking people on their personal lives, but I can assure you that in the Republican primary, given what went on in the 2000 Republican primary in South Carolina between George Bush and John McCain, those attacks will be made in the Republican Party.
So that's the first issue.
The second issue is, is why wasn't New York prepared for 9/11 when Giuliani was mayor?
And the third issue is, he has adopted the Bush-Giuliani -- the Bush-Cheney approach to the Iraq war, and that is not what the American people want.
So I'm not the least bit worried. I think we've got a very strong field. I think the Republicans are experiencing Bush fatigue, and they really are running in the opposite direction from where the American people want to go.
BLITZER: I want to give you a chance to clarify some remarks you made on the news media the other day at a mortgage bankers association meeting.
The AP quoting you as saying, "Politicians are incredibly careful not to say anything if they can possibly help it, except if it is exactly scripted. And if you want to hear anybody's true views, you cannot do it in the same room as the press." You went on to say, according to the AP, "If you want to hear the truth from them, you have to exclude the press."
Clarify what you mean by that.
DEAN: Sure. I think a lot of times -- and you'll see it again and again. I certainly saw it when I was running for president, particularly in print, folks will say things and rearrange things so as to take out of context what people have said. And I think that's happened again and again.
Politicians in both parties are very, very fearful of that. What I advocate is, once in a while -- I mean, obviously you need a First Amendment and you need a free press. But once in a while, people ought to go to town meetings and talk directly to the American people without -- without having the print reporters and the columnists and opinion makes make those opinions.
I think there ought to be a free exchange between people and their candidates, and I don't always think you can rely on the press to let the facts be known as the facts actually happened in the hall.
BLITZER: Governor Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic Party.
Thanks, Governor, for coming in.
DEAN: Thanks for having me on, Wolf.
BLITZER: And up ahead, Richard Gere gets carried away with an actress. Now there's a warrant -- yes, a warrant out for his arrest. We're going to take you to India to find out what's going on.
Also, Bill Clinton fighting childhood obesity. Carol Costello, she's standing by to join us. She's going to tell us his latest tactics in the battle of the bulge.
Stay with us. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: The actor Richard Gere appears to be a wanted man. The Hollywood star set to be in hot water right now. And it all involves an industry that patterns itself after Hollywood.
CNN's Seth Doane is in New Delhi, India -- Seth.
SETH DOANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, an Indian court has ordered the arrest of Hollywood actor Richard Gere after he kissed Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty on stage at an AIDS fundraiser here in New Delhi earlier this month. The court based in Jaipur called the kiss an obscene act committed in public. Gere could reportedly face up to three months in prison or have to pay a fine if he was, indeed, arrested, though Gere is not in India at this time.
Protests were sparked in several parts of India following the kiss, reportedly among Hindu fundamentalist groups who called that kiss an affront to Indian culture. Effigies were burned here in India of both Shilpa Shetty and Richard Gere.
Now, Shilpa Shetty is the Bollywood actress who was in the news recently just before her win on the U.K. TV show "Celebrity Big Brother" after a fellow contestant allegedly made racist remarks aimed at her -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Seth Doane in New Delhi for us.
Thank you, Seth.
Other news we're following.
He wants to be a warrior prince, but British defense officials are now reportedly rethinking plans to deploy Prince Harry to the frontlines in Iraq.
CNN's Cal Perry is in London with details -- Cal.
CAL PERRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the talk of the press here in the U.K. today is about Prince Harry, and perhaps him not being shipped off to war after all. There's concerns for his safety. Recently, the press has reported he could be targeted by certain insurgent groups that are already embedded inside British bases.
Now, Harry has always said he's desperate to go off to war. He doesn't want to leave his fellow troops behind. But, of course, it's a very difficult decision for the Ministry of Defense.
Do they put potentially more soldiers in danger if Harry goes on deployment with them, or are the soldiers better off without Prince Harry? Harry himself has said repeatedly he wants to go to Iraq, he's trained heavily to go to Iraq, and he sees it as his duty as a soldier -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Cal Perry in London for us.
Thank you, Cal.
BLITZER: It's a far cry from the diplomatic dinners he's used to. So why was former president Bill Clinton cooking in the kitchen of TV culinary star Rachael Ray?
Let's go back to CNN's Carol Costello. She's in New York.
All of this done, Carol, for a very good cause.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, it was a good cause. And, you know, it is a smart move to appear with Rachael Ray. She is a force.
Oprah Winfrey launched Ray's talk show, and Ray is a hit with the Oprah crowd. Bill Clinton, well, he was on to talk about childhood obesity, but he did manage to mention his wife.
RACHAEL RAY, TALK SHOW HOST: Please welcome President Bill Clinton.
COSTELLO (on camera): He's still got it. President Clinton entered the land of Rachael Ray, where perky cooking terms abound. And he didn't miss a beat.
RAY: I was just chatting with him, and I said, "Now, you stand over there, Mr. President. And I'll do all the cooking over here." He said, "I can cook. When Hillary and I were dating I did all of the cooking."
Can you believe that?
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, not all the cooking. That's not fair.
COSTELLO: Actually, that was one of two Hillary references. The rest of the hour was devoted to Clinton's alliance for a healthier generation, an organization that combats childhood obesity. Ray, who is enormously popular with women, has joined Bill Clinton's fight.
RAY: And I'm going to be his parental ambassador. I'm pledging that.
COSTELLO: After that, the Ray-Clinton team launched their partnership by reminding us Clinton weighed 185 pounds at the age 13, recalling his love of popular foods like greasy burgers and French fries, his constant battle of the bulge.
Who can forget those jogging clothes?
RAY: I am very guilty of standing in line at the fast-food places.
CLINTON: Oh, me too.
RAY: Kids like a lot of the fast foods because they're fun.
CLINTON: They are fun. And I've got a scar down my chest to prove it.
RAY: Oh, great.
COSTELLO: He's referring to his heart surgery.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: He's going to be fine.
COSTELLO: He told Ray's audience his heart condition was the result of years of eating unhealthy food. He urged parents to buy healthy, even at fast-food restaurants.
CLINTON: Let's be fair. A lot of these places have offered healthier meals, and they do it to sort of check the responsibility box. But there's not a lot of demand for it from their customers.
COSTELLO: Clinton ended his visit stirring turkey bouillabaisse. And he had the audience eating out of his hand.
COSTELLO: And that turkey bouillabaisse was good, Wolf.
Seriously, childhood obesity is a problem. Clinton urges parents to help their children to eat healthy and to exercise, or he says the next generation is in danger of dying younger than their parents.
BLITZER: All right. Good report.
And Bill Clinton is paying a price for some of that unhealthy eating earlier in his life. Let's get some startling statistics right now to drive home the weight problem plaguing our young Americans.
Look at this.
In 1971, 5 percent of children ages 2 to 5 were considered obese. Now that's more than 13 percent.
Four percent of youngsters ages 6 to 11 were obese back then. Now the figure is over 18 percent.
And the percentage of obese kids from 12 to 19 has now gone up in the past three decades from more than 6 percent to more than 17 percent.
Startling statistics. All of us have to pay attention to that.
Up next, Jack Cafferty with your e-mail on his question of this hour. What message will President Bush send by vetoing the Iraq war funding bill?
Plus, a brilliant mind escapes the confines of his disabled body. Stephen Hawking's flight of fancy, that's coming up as well.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Today, a world famous scientist went after an ultimate thrill, and in the process he got it. The physicist Stephen Hawking, bound to a wheelchair, got the chance to experience what it feels like when weight does not matter.
Our space correspondent, Miles O'Brien, is at the Kennedy Space Center -- Miles.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Stephen Hawking had been waiting for this not so weighty moment for years. He's been in a wheelchair for the better part of four decades.
As you well know, he suffers from ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease, and he's almost completely paralyzed. He can just basically twitch some of his facial muscles.
He flew aboard a specially-rigged 727 run by a company called ZERO-G. It provides astronaut-style thrills for the rest of us, for civilians who are willing and able to pay $3,500 a pop, get an opportunity to fly on this specially-rigged 727 with a padded interior. It flies a steep roller-coaster pattern which provides about a 25-second spurt of weightlessness on the downhill part of that pattern.
Hawking did much better than expected. Sounded by a medical team and spotters to ensure that he was safe, especially on that rise up which causes you to feel one and a half times the force of gravity, he did much better than expected. Eight so-called parabolas in all, eight spurts of weightlessness.
We're told he was euphoric -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Good for him.
Thank you, Miles, for that story.
Let's go back to Jack Cafferty. He's in New York with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: What message will President Bush send when he vetoes the Iraq war funding bill? He's promised to do that.
Stan writes from Illinois, "Bush will be sending the message that he's holding the hostages now. He's holding our soldiers, their families, and our country."
Alan in Altadena, California, "I continue to be amazed no one remembers that President Eisenhower, the former supreme allied commander in World War II, once said that the people of the world so longed for peace that some day their leaders will have to step aside and let them have it."
Lew writes, "If Bush vetoes the funding bill, he's basically telling the American people to go to hell. The Democrats need to hold their ground. If the military do not get the needed funding, then it's Bush's fault, not the Congress'."
John in Florida, "Bush and his enablers are counting the days when they can walk away from this mess. He doesn't seem to know he lost this war the day he launched it. For those of us who knew it at the time, it's not easy to be happy about being right after all."
Charles in Colorado writes, "The message is you don't set a timetable with the enemy on when you'll stop fighting. The Democratic Party doesn't understand the evil of our enemy. You can fight now or you can fight the Islamic terrorists later, but we will have to keep killing them in greater numbers than they are killing us."
Sid writes from Dalton, Georgia, "Jack, the Democrats should put a note on the Iraq funding bill: 'This is the only funding you'll get.' And then see who blinks first."
And Fred in Michigan writes, "He is simply telling us to do what his vice president suggested Senator Leahy do on the floor of the United States Senate."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile. We post more of them online. There are also clips of "The Cafferty File".
You recall that famous exchange between Vice President Cheney and Senator Leahy, don't you, Wolf?
BLITZER: He's now the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Leahy. And of course, I think a lot of our viewers remember it as well.
Jack, thanks very much. See you back here in an hour.
We're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
In the meantime, let's go to Lou in New York.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com