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THE SITUATION ROOM

Fighting in Tripoli, Lebanon. Speaker's TB Treatment. Presidential Candidates to Visit Iraq? Bill Clinton's role in the New Hampshire Primary

Aired June 1, 2007 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, Pentagon concerns -- the Defense Department says it's preparing for a possible onslaught of requests from presidential candidates who want to visit Iraq.
Also, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency is criticizing what he's calling -- and I'm quoting now -- "new crazies who say

let's go and bomb Iran."

But was Mohamed ElBaradei talking about Vice President Dick Cheney?

We'll ask the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice.

And President Bush effectively saying take the risk. He says voting for the immigration bill may not be -- may be politically risky, he says, but urges Congress to have the courage to pass it.

Meanwhile, one Republican Senator is in his home state trying to make this very hard sell.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in the in THE SITUATION ROOM.

As the Iraq War and the presidential race heat up, many of the candidates say they want to visit Iraq. And that's just what the Pentagon is concerned about. It says it's preparing for possibly several requests from the various campaigns -- Democrats and Republicans.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is joining us now -- Barbara, if all of these candidates they start showing up in Baghdad, from the Pentagon, from the U.S. military's perspective, what's the problem?

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it could be a security nightmare at this point.

You know, the military says it doesn't do politics, but this presidential campaign is coming to the military whether it likes it or not.

Pentagon officials say they are girding for virtually all of the candidates to try and find their way to Iraq and ask the military for help in doing it. It's something that they expect. They haven't seen it as much as they expect to see it this year because, of course, there is no sitting president or vice president running for office. All of the candidates are fresh to the slate.

We have seen some of this already. Sitting Senators like Senator McCain -- he has gone to Iraq. And those candidates who are members of Congress certainly can go with a Congressional delegation, can readily get the security that is given to Congressional delegations.

But what about everybody else?

What Pentagon officials are telling us is that's what they have to start planning for. One candidate they know wants to go to Iraq is Rudy Giuliani. They have been told that. They're trying to prepare for that. They don't have any request yet but they're trying to figure out how to make this all happen.

Who will provide security?

How will they get them there?

How will they move them around the combat zone?

They know it's a photo-op that all of these presidential candidates want to have happen -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So the bottom line is they're concerned about diverting resources, whether troops or other assets -- other resources that they have right now in Iraq to get them away from, let's say, the war effort, to go ahead and giving these guys a tour and protecting them?

STARR: Well, absolutely, Wolf, because there is an obligation there on the part of the military. Helicopters, security, everything that is needed, ground convoys to move them around -- they can't just have them come to Iraq and get around on their own, of course.

And right now, with the security crackdown in Baghdad, with the situation on the ground, security resources are at a premium. So they're going to have to figure out how they prioritize this, especially for those candidates who aren't already a member of Congress and part of an official delegation.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thanks very much.

Barbara is watching this story for us at the Pentagon.

Two days from now, the political spotlight will focus on New Hampshire. CNN, WMUR and the "New Hampshire Union-Leader" are sponsoring back-to-back presidential debates.

The Democrats lead off Sunday. The Republicans face off Tuesday.

And this is a sneak peek we're getting. We're putting the finishing touches on our stage right now, which is atop a hockey rink at the arena at St. Anselm's College. That's just outside of Manchester. In fact, the Zamboni machine, which sometimes smooths the ice off there, is just off to the side. You can see it -- maybe you'll see it in some of the tape we're bringing in.

We'll be close to the candidates, as well, walking alongside the podiums.

Also close by, an audience of New Hampshire voters who get to ask the candidates their own questions, as well.

This event will be watched around the world. It will be simulcast on CNN International. The international news media already gathering in New Hampshire. In fact, more than 600 journalists from the U.S. and around the world are gearing up to cover our debates. I'll be heading up tomorrow.

And New Hampshire, of course, stepping into the political spotlight with this Democratic presidential debate Sunday night.

Hillary Clinton is considered the front runner for the nomination. And in New Hampshire, what could be called a very large circle of family friends is doing its best to see that she stays in that position.

Let's bring in our chief national correspondent, John King.

He's already on the ground for us in Manchester.

So who are these people that have circled around the junior Senator from New York -- John?

JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, 17 years now, Bill and Hillary Clinton have rewarded and nurtured the loyalty of the hard core group of supporters that helped, then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, when he ran for president back in 1992.

There were White House visits during the Clinton presidency. There were phone calls when there were major events in the families, notes and letters, cards at the holidays, a private lunch whenever former President Clinton comes through New Hampshire.

He says he does this because it's important to him personally. But make no mistake about it, he sure hopes it helps now that there's another Clinton campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

KING (voice-over): From the outside, it looks like any other New Hampshire middle class home. But inside, it is a shrine to a president who, to many in these parts, remains the stuff of legends.

ANITA FREEDMAN, BILL CLINTON SUPPORTER: He treated us -- well, I guess I could say like family, from the start.

KING: Anita Freedman is a friend of Bill from way back and didn't hesitate when the phone rang several months ago.

FREEDMAN: And the voice at the other end said, "Hi, Anita. This is Hillary Clinton."

KING: Then the former president joined in.

FREEDMAN: We must have talked for a half hour about campaigning and how to help her and what, you know, what, if anything, they wanted me to do and stuff like that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED CLINTON SUPPORTERS: We want Bill!

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED CLINTON SUPPORTERS: We want Bill! We want Bill!

B. CLINTON: All right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's a safe bet you won't hear Hillary Clinton borrow this old line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

B. CLINTON: What do you think of our real slogan -- buy one, get one free?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: But nowhere is the Bill factor more of an issue than New Hampshire. Anita Freedman one of the Clinton 1992 veterans doing all they can for the other Clinton now. Most insist their support wasn't automatic, that Mrs. Clinton earned it through her work as first lady and now as senator.

KING: Just because she's his wife is not reason enough, right?

FREEDMAN: No. She's got to earn -- I mean, no. Because there are plenty of dumb wives running around.

KING: Terry Schumaker is another long time friend of Bill turned friend of Hill, one person who deals with the skepticism and doubts of younger New Hampshire Democrats who weren't involved back in 1992 or 1996.

TERRY SCHUMAKER, CLINTON CAMPAIGN WORKER: The questions that are asked the most often are can she win?

Is she polarizing?

Is she this ambitious, brittle, shrill person that we've heard about in the media?

And, of course, I say no, she isn't. But now the genius of the New Hampshire primary is that people are getting to find that out on their own. (END VIDEO TAPE)

KING: And it is worth remembering what that Clinton group lived through and fought through back in 1992. There was the controversy about then Governor Clinton's Vietnam draft status, then public allegations of marital infidelity.

Sure, Wolf, 1992 was a long time ago. Many say the old Clintons' networks days have passed. They would counter back saying they've got a little more fight left in them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And they've also got a lot more experience. In '92, New Hampshire, you were there. You were a young political reporter working for the Associated Press in those days.

It made Bill Clinton the comeback kid, is that right?

KING: It sure did. That was the self-described nickname he took that night. Again, worth remembering, he didn't win New Hampshire. Many people, years later, think he somehow came back and won New Hampshire.

But he had dropped 17, 18 points in the poll, from first into third or fourth place, fought his way back in the final days with a remarkable around the clock effort -- exhausted all of us -- many much younger than him. Had second place to then Senator Paul Tsongas -- former Senator Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts. But that second place gave Clinton momentum and he went on, of course, to win the nomination and two terms as president.

So he very much likes to keep in touch and say thank you to those here who helped make it all happen -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I see John king is having a little reminiscing going on from those early days on the political campaign.

John is going to be covering all of this over the next several days with us.

Thanks, John, very much.

KING: Thank you.

BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack Cafferty.

He's in New York for The Cafferty File.

It brings back a lot of memories covering these political campaigns -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I was just listening to John's report. I was there, too, that same year that he was, the year that Bill Clinton finished second to Paul Tsongas.

I tried to get Hillary to do a live interview for the New York television audience as she was walking through one of the reception halls there. She graciously declined. I had no idea I was in the presence of such a fine political reporter as John King, lo those 15 years ago.

Two million refugees in Iraq, a lot of them women and children, have fled the war and have nowhere to call home now. In February of this year, the Bush administration said it will allow up to 7,000 Iraqis into the United States by the end of September. But the White House has been understandably cautious about letting these people come here for security reasons.

This week, some new guidelines were finalized to screen Iraqi refugees. And the Department of Homeland Security promptly approved the applications of 59 Iraqi refugees, who will be arriving here now in the next few weeks. Fifty-nine, of course, is a long way from 7,000. Only 202 Iraqi refugees came to the U.S. in 2006 and fewer than 800 have been allowed into the country since the start of the war.

For resettlement in the United States, these Iraqi refugees will get assistance from the government, as well as private agencies. The assistance includes language and job training in the communities that will be their new homes. Obviously not a bad deal, if they can just get here and get into the country.

So here's the question -- is the United States doing enough to help Iraqi refugees?

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

I suppose, Wolf, you could make the argument that we do have a debt to some of these people inasmuch as the invasion by the coalition caused them to become refugees.

BLITZER: We took in a lot of Vietnamese with the fall of Saigon, as you remember.

CAFFERTY: Sure.

BLITZER: And a lot of people are making the comparisons right now. And we'll stand by and hear what our viewers think. Jack, thanks very much.

Coming up, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency now criticizing what he's calling -- and I'm quoting -- "new crazies who say let's go and bomb Iran."

But was Mohamed ElBaradei talking about Vice President Cheney?

We'll ask Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Also new developments regarding the man infected with that rare form of tuberculosis. He says he has proof -- he wasn't told he was contagious before he got on those planes. And he suggests it's a risk worth taking.

President Bush has a special message for members of Congress who are deeply worried about the political risks of voting for immigration reform. Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

COMMERCIAL

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we have an exclusive interview with President Ricardo Alarcone. He's president of the Cuban National Assembly. This is a rare interview. He's widely seen as the third most powerful man in Cuba, right after Fidel Castro and his brother Raul Castro, who is the acting authority right now.

My interview with President Ricardo Alarcone -- that's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

You're going to want to see that.

Other news we're following right now, President Bush's long serving aide is resigning from the White House effective July 4th. That would be Dan Bartlett. He says he wants to begin a career outside of government. Later this hour, Dan Bartlett will be joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

I'll ask him just what he hopes his next moves will be. That's coming up.

Of course, he's the -- just the latest person from the president's tight Texas inner circle to leave. Harriet Miers served the president in various roles, including White House counsel. The president wanted her to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court, but Miers later asked her nomination be withdrawn.

Karen Hughes also served the president in various roles. And although she's still in the administration -- she's now over at the State Department as an undersecretary of state -- she's not serving at the White House.

Other members of that Texas inner circle who no longer work in the administration -- they include Joe Alba, the FEMA director from February 2001 to March 2003. Don Evans was secretary of commerce until January of 2005. And Scott McClellan -- you remember him -- he was the White House press secretary from 2003 to 2006.

President Bush says voting for the new immigration bill may be politically risky. But in comments earlier this afternoon, the president stressed that the law itself is not risky.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America must not fear diversity. We ought to welcome diversity. We ought to have confidence in what we have done in the past and not lose confidence about what we will do in the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: But critics say the law would amount to amnesty. Others say it's simply too harsh.

Our Congressional correspondent, Andrea Koppel, is joining us with a closer look at how supporters are countering all those claims -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, one of a handful of Republicans who helped to craft this immigration bill, spent his Memorial Day break trying to convince voters back home this may be the best deal they'll get for years to come.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, what's in season?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Squashes. Strawberries. Lettuces.

KOPPEL (voice-over): But Senator Lindsey Graham wasn't really looking to buy. He'd come to the Greenville farmer's market to sell.

GRAHAM: The best thing I can do for South Carolina and this country is taking a broken immigration system that nobody can understand and rely upon and make it work.

KOPPEL: Work for many South Carolinians usually means farming -- peanuts, vegetables or fruit. Agriculture is the state's second largest industry, which depends on cheap foreign labor.

Just days before the Senate resumes debate on immigration reform, which could allow up to 200,000 temporary workers a year into the U.S. Graham's pitch?

Passing the bill is critical to South Carolina's economy.

GRAHAM: It is in jeopardy if we do not act quickly to make sure that the farmers of the future can have the workforce they need.

KOPPEL: A workforce essential to farmers like Charles Wingard, who say he supports Graham, even though the bill is far from perfect.

CARLOS WINGARD, VEGETABLE FARMER: We're willing to give up some of what we want so we can get a workable program to get -- for us to get affordable labor into the country.

KOPPEL: But just down the street, truck driver Steve Zehr wasn't buying it.

STEVE ZEHR, TRUCK DRIVER: You can put all the spin on it that you want to but -- and pour perfume on it, and it's still amnesty, and it still stinks.

KOPPEL: This may be conservative Republican country, but that didn't stop Republicans at the party's state convention from booing Graham last month because he struck a deal on the immigration proposal with liberal Democrats like Senator Ted Kennedy. GRAHAM: There are some people telling me, I'll never vote for you again if you do this. Well, if I based every decision as a senator on that statement, I would do nothing. So what I'm going to do is lead.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

KOPPEL: Still, Graham confidently predicts that when the bill goes to a vote in the Senate this month, it will pass. But between now and then, he and other lawmakers will have to do a lot more selling -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Andrea Koppel watching this story for us.

We're going to stay on top of the immigration debate, obviously, in the weeks and for, potentially, months to come.

Still ahead, new developments regarding that man infected with a rare form of tuberculosis. He says he has proof -- proof he was not told he was contagious before he got on those planes.

And what's changed?

Since the last Democratic presidential debate just weeks ago, what's happened that might be fodder for our upcoming debates?

Much more of our coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.

COMMERCIAL

BLITZER: We're watching some new developments regarding that man affected with the rare form of tuberculosis. Andrew Speaker spoke with ABC News.

Our medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is joining us in Atlanta -- first of all, what's the latest, Elizabeth, on his condition?

We know he's at a hospital -- a special hospital in Denver.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. He's still at that special hospital in Denver, where they're trying to give him antibiotics, very high-level antibiotics that they don't usually use because they're so toxic. And he may be facing surgery in the future.

Wolf, the latest from the CDC -- they just had a press conference. They say they are still trying to get in touch, four days later, with the 310 people who were on his flight from Atlanta to Paris. They say they've gotten in touch with the Americans who were on the flights near him.

Also, interesting news from the CDC is what they didn't say. Reporter after reporter asked basic questions about what did public health authorities know, when did they know it, what did they do about it? And they refused to answer them.

CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding refused to answer reporter after reporter's questions.

BLITZER: And I guess the big question, Elizabeth, is did he defy orders from the CDC not to board a plane because that could be dangerous?

COHEN: Right. That's the question everyone wants the answer to.

Fulton County authorities here in Atlanta say, look, we told him we did not want him to travel.

And he said how about if I wear a mask?

And they said well, we would certainly feel better about that.

Other passengers who CNN has interviewed say they don't recall that he did wear a mask on those flights, which is very interesting.

Now, of course, Andrew Speaker has a different take on this. He told Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America" something different.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "GOOD MORNING AMERICA," COURTESY ABC NEWS)

ANDREW SPEAKER, HOSPITALIZED WITH TUBERCULOSIS: My father said, OK, now are you saying you prefer him not to go on the trip because he's a risk to anybody or are you simply saying that to cover yourself?

And they said, well, we have to tell you that to cover ourselves. But he's not a risk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COHEN: So that's Andrew Speaker's version of what public health authorities told him. They say something very different -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He also says he has proof, that he has a recording of that conversation.

But so far they haven't made it available, right?

COHEN: Right. And, also, the Fulton County authorities say they weren't aware anyone was recording the conversation. But certainly we haven't heard it.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to have more on this story coming up.

COHEN: Thanks.

BLITZER: Elizabeth Cohen is watching it for us.

Up next, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency -- he's criticizing what he's calling "new crazies who say let's go and bomb Iran."

But was Mohamed ElBaradei talking about the vice president of the United States?

We'll ask the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice.

And the third most powerful leader in Cuba is speaking out on the health of Fidel Castro. My exclusive interview with Ricardo Alarcone in Havana.

That's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Stay with us.

COMMERCIAL

BLITZER: Happening now, the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, trying to thaw relations with an old ally. But an old enemy may be getting in the way. We're watching this story.

And in the next hour, he was once called Dr. Death. Now, after eight years in prison, Jack Kevorkian is free on parole. Find out what he had to say to get out.

And the popular online dating service eHarmony says it has a proven method for helping you to find your match. But there's one group of people who say eHarmony just can't help them. We're going to tell you who it is.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in the in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The Democratic candidates are preparing for their big debate this Sunday in the key primary state of New Hampshire.

Let's go to Bill Schneider.

He's watching this for us.

What's changed in this Democratic debate Sunday night since the last debate -- Bill?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, lots of things have happened since the last debate, which was 38 days ago, but not much has changed.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): In the months since the Democrats last debated, Congress voted to continue funding the troops in Iraq without a timeline for withdrawal. Senate leaders announced the bipartisan compromise on immigration. Two new biographies of Hillary Clinton have appeared. Barack Obama has offered a health care plan. Stories have come out about John Kerry's Edwards' investments.

All those subjects are likely to come up in Sunday's debate.

But one issue continues to dominate the race -- Iraq.

Democrats in Congress split over the Iraqi funding bill. Seven of the eight Democrats running for president oppose the bill, including the frontrunners.

Clinton and Obama voted against it.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I understand why my colleagues had a tough time on it. But I couldn't, in good conscience, say, we are just going to continue on a course that is not working.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because the president will not change course, and so we are doing everything we can to persuade him to do that.

W. SCHNEIDER: Edwards denounced it.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They shouldn't have backed down on this one.

W. SCHNEIDER: No Democrat wants to appear less anti-war than the others, not even the one who voted to continue funding.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Do you think, by us cutting off funding, he's going to withdraw troops?

W. SCHNEIDER: Has anything changed in the Democratic race? In five national polls of Democrats taken in April, before the last debate, Clinton led the field. Obama was running second, and Edwards third. The other declared candidates were all in single digits.

In five national polls taken since the debate, the standings were unchanged, Clinton first by a slightly wider margin, Obama second, Edwards third, others in single digits.

Lots happened, but nothing changed.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

W. SCHNEIDER: The Democratic race does look pretty stable. Senator Clinton wants to keep it that way. All the other Democrats hope the debate Sunday night will shake things up -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I guess they are spending a lot of time, these candidates, on the Democratic side for Sunday night, the Republicans for Tuesday night, going through dress rehearsals, if you will, with their staff.

Walk us through a little bit, Bill, what they are doing right now.

W. SCHNEIDER: Well, they are trying to anticipate what you and your co-moderators are going to be asking them. And their -- their allies and supporters are trying to come up with some tough questions about some of the subjects I just mentioned, issues that have come up, to see if the candidate can answer tough questions with aplomb.

And they are also trying to rehearse some good grabber lines to use in the debate. They always try to trot them out. No matter what you ask, they have some lines that they want to spring in the debate, because, after all, there are eight contenders up there, and it's hard for any of them to get a lot of attention.

So, a good line, they expect, would be played on the news again and again and again.

BLITZER: And one thing we're going to try to do is make sure they answer the questions.

W. SCHNEIDER: Yes.

BLITZER: And, if they don't, we're going to say, excuse me, you have got to answer the question. And we will see if they continue to dodge.

Thanks very much for that. Bill Schneider is watching all of this with us.

Don't forget, we're gearing up for these big debates in New Hampshire. CNN, WMUR and "The New Hampshire Union Leader," we're sponsoring back-to-back debates. This weekend, they start. The Democrats meet Tuesday -- excuse me -- Sunday night, June 3, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. The Republicans go head to head Tuesday June 5. That's next Tuesday, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, two hours, uninterrupted, by commercials for each of those two debates.

You're going to want to watch both.

They're stinging words aimed at someone, but who would that be? Regarding the nuclear crisis with Iran, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency says he wants to prevent another war. And Mohamed ElBaradei used some critical and cryptic comments to describe those he says most want war with Iran.

Our State Department correspondent Zain Verjee is traveling with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Europe, and has some reaction -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's the U.S. vs. Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE (voice-over): Sparring over Iran -- a dire warning from the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, who says he's worried about new crazies who say, let's go and bomb Iran.

In an interview with the BBC, he was asked who those new crazies were. He says he wasn't talking about President Bush, but about -- quote -- "those who have extreme views and say the only solution is to impose force."

Within the U.S. administration, Vice President Cheney has been most direct about stopping Iran from going nuclear, saying, on board an aircraft carrier in the Gulf last month:

RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will stand with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region.

VERJEE: So, I asked Secretary of State Rice about ElBaradei's remarks.

(on camera): Do you think he's talking about the United States in general or Vice President Dick Cheney in particular?

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I have no -- I have no idea. You can ask him who he's talking about.

VERJEE: But can you assure us that Vice President Cheney does not want to use military action on Iran to deal with its nuclear policy?

RICE: The president of the United States has made very clear what our policy is. That policy is supported by all of the members of his Cabinet and by the vice president of the United States.

VERJEE (voice-over): She said that policy was diplomacy and demanded the IAEA get on board.

RICE: We aren't going to get to that favorable diplomatic outcome if we muddy the message toward the Iranians.

VERJEE: The U.S. wants the world to send Iran one message: Suspend enriching uranium, the key ingredient which can be used to make a nuclear bomb.

The spat started about two weeks ago, when ElBaradei said Iran should be allowed to keep enriching uranium before formal negotiations could start with the U.S. and its allies. The U.S. was outraged and dispatched its envoy to the IAEA in Vienna to protest strongly.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE: ElBaradei says he wakes up every morning and sees hundreds of Iraqis dying. He says he doesn't want to see the same thing happen with an attack on Iran -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain Verjee traveling with the secretary in Europe right now -- Zain, thanks. Good report.

Coming up: one of President Bush's most trusted advisers calling it quits, Dan Bartlett set to go from consummate White House insider to outsider. I will ask him why he's leaving the president.

And the third most powerful person in Cuba behind Fidel Castro and his brother Raul Castro, that would be Dr. Ricardo Alarcon, the president of the Cuban National Assembly. In an exclusive interview with me, he talks about Fidel Castro's health, a lot more. And he also has some very harsh words for President Bush.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In the presidential races, all eyes are turning to New Hampshire Sunday for the Democratic debate. Republican candidates get their chance two days later.

So, how are the candidates preparing? What's their strategy?

Joining us now for our "Strategy Session," Democratic strategist Paul Begala and Republican strategist Rich Galen.

Paul, I will start with you.

You have been through a lot of these strategy sessions as they -- these candidates prepare. What's the single biggest piece of advice you would give any of these Democrats who are gearing up for the debate Sunday night?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: They have different needs. I think Hillary Clinton needs to show more humanity. I mean, she, for example, as a Yale-trained lawyer, would be perfectly competent to criticize the Supreme Court's decision last week making it harder for women to sue on pay discrimination cases.

Instead of thinking like that, though, she ought to show her humanity. She was a working mom. She actually knows what it's like to have to find some extra money to pay for braces for your daughter. And I think she ought to show more humanity.

I think Barack Obama needs to show more specificity. He's at the other place. He's very good at 30,000 feet, but people want to know the specifics.

But I think both of them are going to be looking for a lot of bombs and grenades coming from -- from two other candidates.

BLITZER: And Edwards?

BEGALA: John Edwards is probably going to throw grenades. And I think Chris Dodd might as well. He's already running ads poking some of the leading Democrats for -- for being maybe insufficiently anti- war.

So, I would look for those two to take some shots at the front- runners, Edwards and Dodd maybe starting to attack.

BLITZER: It's a delicate moment for these Democrats Sunday night, because, on the one hand, they want to be positive, but they want to do some negative work, as well, going after their rivals.

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think, if I -- just at the biggest level, I think the first thing -- the first piece of advice you give is, don't lose your concentration. Stay with it. Stay in the game.

And we saw what happened, you know, when Tommy Thompson wasn't paying attention, and he answered some questions...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: He had to pee or something...

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

GALEN: And his hearing aid went out.

BEGALA: Right.

GALEN: The -- but I think, in Edwards' case, what -- what he's going to want to do is, he's going to want to drive a wedge between his position, especially on the war business, and the positions of Senators Obama and Clinton, even though they are kind of edging to him. He has that -- sort of that base ground, and he's not going to want to give it up.

I think that, for Obama, what he's got to do is, he's got to reverse what happened in that first debate, when he clearly was unprepared. And I think that really kind of dampened some of the enthusiasm for him. If he can rebuild his momentum, I think that will help.

For Mrs. Clinton, I what she's got to do is, she's got to get people to start changing their minds. She's stuck in the mid-30s. She's got 117 percent name I.D., 50 percent fave-unfave. She's got -- I think you are exactly right. She's got to show people that they need to give her another look, even if they don't think they like her.

BLITZER: You know, they all prepare. They have got their talking points. They do their rehearsals.

But we're going to try to make sure they actually answer the questions, as opposed to simply going to one of those talking points, and hold -- and hold them to the -- the question. And, if they don't answer it, we're going to say, you know, you didn't answer the question.

There's always a temptation, if the subject is Iraq or education or health care, or whatever it is, to go to your talking points. But they don't answer the questions.

BEGALA: Right. But there are good questions and bad questions. You're going to ask good questions. I have a lot of faith in you.

But some of these questions are silly. I -- frankly, I think Brian Williams, who I used to work with when I was at MSNBC, I thought he wasted the country's time in asking John Edwards how much he pays for a haircut. Who cares? Edwards is a wealthy man. Guess what? So is Brian. OK? Who cares? They both have great heads of hair. They are both rich.

Meanwhile, there's 150,000 guys with shaved heads, courtesy of the government, in Iraq. That's what they ought to be talking about. And I think the candidates should be free to dispute the premise. Say you ask something that they think is not relevant.

I also like it when a candidate says, no, Wolf, that's not the issue. So, I'm not going to answer that question.

But, in the main, you're right. The political consultants get blamed a lot for telling these candidates to dodge the questions. Good political consultants say, no, you have to answer the question. But, then, if you need to, then say, here's a bigger issue. This is why I'm really running for president, because that's the big question. Why do you want to be president?

BLITZER: And the temptation is always to -- no matter what the question is, to go into a speech about why -- why they should be president.

(CROSSTALK)

GALEN: To go into your press release language, exactly right.

But I worked for the guy who is one of the best in the world at this, Newt Gingrich. I mean, you could ask whatever you want. And it took you two days to realize that he answered something else entirely, but he sounded so convincing when he did it.

But -- so, you can do -- you can do both things. But I think, because you are -- you will be on your game, and you -- and -- and the way you have got this thing structured will work very well, that -- that keeping the candidates, Republicans and Democrats, to -- to the questions and not let them slide off and answer something else entirely was very important, especially as we get into a state like New Hampshire, where this will be very big.

BLITZER: I think we're going to put the question up on the screen, too, so that the viewers know...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: ... like Password, yes, right.

BLITZER: ... what the question was...

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: ... so that, if they don't answer it, you know, we're going to hold their feet to the fire, guys.

BEGALA: Excellent.

BLITZER: It will -- it will be interesting. But, hopefully, more important than that, I think -- let's hope that the American voters out there have a better appreciation who these various candidates...

(CROSSTALK)

GALEN: These things -- these things do count.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: And let's hope that happens.

BEGALA: Well, but that's why always the best questions -- the best one I ever saw was when Roger Mudd asked Ted Kennedy, when Kennedy was starting to run for president, just that: Why do you want to be president?

BLITZER: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: That's always the big one.

BLITZER: Sometimes, the best question is the simplest.

BEGALA: Absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: All right, thanks, guys, very much.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Still ahead, we have just been learning additional details about a tropical storm out in the Gulf of Mexico. There are watches up now in Florida on this, the first official day of the hurricane season.

And a key member of President Bush's inner circle calling it a day -- Dan Bartlett, the counselor to the president, he's been at the president's side since the president was the governor of Texas.

We will be speaking with Dan Bartlett. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're going to be getting a report on Tropical Storm Barry that's just forming now in the Gulf of Mexico. It's expected to hit some part of Florida over the weekend on this, the first day of the hurricane season.

Bonnie Schneider, our meteorologist, is watching this. We will go to her shortly with the latest on Tropical Storm Barry.

But we will move on to other news we're following, including President Bush's longest serving aide. He's resigning from the White House, effective July 4. That would be Dan Bartlett. He says he wants to begin a private career.

Dan Bartlett is joining us now from the White House.

Dan, thanks very much for joining us.

DAN BARTLETT, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT BUSH: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of people are wondering, why now? Why did you decide this is a good time to leave the president's side? You have been with him so many years.

BARTLETT: Well, it has been all those years, Wolf.

After about more than 13 years of service to the Bush family, it was time to start serving the Bartlett family. I have three young sons that are growing up very fast.

And I took a look at the situation. We have got about 600 days left in the administration. I felt like it was too much for me to -- to stay with the White House to the very end.

So, with that in mind, I went and talked to the president about this and to the chief of staff, Josh Bolten, and made it clear that I felt it was important that they have the opportunity help recruit somebody new to come to help put their mark on helping this president accomplish the goals he's trying to achieve, while I start a new chapter in my life with my family, and...

BLITZER: Did they try to talk you out of it?

BARTLETT: Well, I think he understood.

Look, we're very close. And he knew I wouldn't come to him at this juncture, unless it was really -- if the gig wasn't really up. He knows I have got very small children that are growing by leaps and bounds.

And, so, he knew. He -- obviously, he was disappointed, as I was, too, that I couldn't stay to the end. It's one of those things you hoped you could do. But, at the same time, I have had an extraordinary experience here and will always treasure it.

BLITZER: Is there a specific job in the private sector you're eying right now?

(LAUGHTER)

BARTLETT: No. It's too difficult, really, from the inside, Wolf, to start thinking about specific jobs on the outside.

I'm going to keep an open mind. I have got good help and a lawyer, Bob Bennett (sic), who is going to help me -- advise me on how we take the next steps. Obviously, working in the highest levels of government, I will have an opportunity to see if those experiences will help me in the corporate sector, so, going to look at a wide range of opportunities, both here in Washington and back in Texas. BLITZER: Bob Bennett is your lawyer, not Bob Barnett?

BARTLETT: Bob Barnett. Thank you for the -- for the clarification there.

BLITZER: I was surprised to hear Bob Bennett...

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: ... because you remember whom he has represented in the past.

BARTLETT: Absolutely. Absolutely.

BLITZER: Although Bob Barnett has represented the -- a lot of Democratic politicians as well.

BARTLETT: That's true. That's true.

BLITZER: Both excellent lawyers here in Washington.

BARTLETT: As you can tell, my mind is swirling today.

BLITZER: I can see.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Let me just pick your brain on one question before I let you go.

BARTLETT: Sure.

BLITZER: Newt Gingrich, in the new issue of "The New Yorker" magazine, he has some tough words for the president.

He write -- he says this. He say: "Let me be clear. Twenty- eight percent approval of the president, losing every closely contested Senate seat, except one, everyone that involved an incumbent, that's a collapse."

What do you say to Newt Gingrich, who sees this president -- presidency, I guess, pretty much as a failure?

BARTLETT: Well, and it sounds like somebody who is trying to distinguish himself from the president and somebody who is trying to -- may potentially run for president himself.

And he's entitled to his views. I don't agree. The president has grown the Republican Party through his work not only in Texas, but as president, through two successful national elections, a successful midterm election in 2002. We have added seats to the House. Obviously, 2006 was a disappointment.

But we are a nation right now going through difficult times. The president has asked a lot of the country. That's why we have the type of consternation. And, as we start ending -- coming to the end of his tenure, it's not surprising that people are going to start trying to distinguish themselves from the president and chart their own path and make their own headlines, as they try to determine whether they, themselves, are going to run for president.

BLITZER: Dan Bartlett, want to wish you a lot of success out there in the private sector, but, most important, a lot of success with your family.

BARTLETT: Thanks. I appreciate it, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much. Good luck to you.

Let's get back to this Tropical Storm Barry. It's in the Gulf of Mexico right now. It's apparently heading toward Florida.

Bonnie Schneider is over at the CNN Weather Center.

Bonnie, this is the first day of the hurricane season.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes.

BLITZER: And I guess this sort of just developed. Is that what's going on?

B. SCHNEIDER: That's right.

You know, earlier today, an Air Force reconnaissance aircraft flew into this system. And they found strong enough winds that we now a tropical storm, Tropical Storm Barry. The location right now is about 235 miles west of Key West, Florida. So, it doesn't really look very impressive on our satellite perspective.

But, when you look at the radar, we're getting some very, very heavy rain in Florida already. Now, as far as tropical storm warnings, we do have one now in effect. And that means that tropical- storm-force winds will occur within the next 24 hours.

That goes down from the south here, all the way south from Bonita Springs, all the way the Keaton Beach area. So, we are going to see very strong winds. Currently, this storm has maximum winds at about 40 miles -- 45 miles per hour.

Now, it's not expected to strengthen further at this point, because it's so close to the shoreline. But the main thing to note is, within the next 24 to 36 hours, we will be looking at very strong wind and rain for Florida.

Wolf, the only good thing about this, of course, is that rain is needed for Florida, unless we get the strong winds. But we can certainly use the rain here.

BLITZER: Let's hope it just rains without too much of the wind.

We're going to check back with you shortly, Bonnie. Thanks very much.

Tropical Storm Barry out in the Gulf of Mexico heading toward Florida.

Still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM: my exclusive interview with Ricardo Alarcon, the third most powerful man in Cuba. He says Fidel Castro is practically fully recovered. So why haven't we seen him lately?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: As the Democratic presidential candidates gear up for Sunday's debate, they are finding ways to make sure their supporters gather to watch.

Let's bring in Jacki Schechner.

What are the candidates, Jacki, doing online?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, Wolf, they don't just want their supporters to watch. They want the whole experience to be as interactive as possible.

So, we're seeing many of the campaigns do things like blog. That's what Senator Clinton's campaign is doing and Senator Biden's campaign are doing.

But we're also seeing some other interesting tactics. Senator Barack Obama's campaign says they are going to have something on the front page of their Web site where you can submit your policy ideas on topics that come up as they come up during the debate.

We're also seeing him help organize house parties, so people can get together and watch. We're seeing that from a lot of campaigns, from Mike Gravel, from Dennis Kucinich, from John Edwards, from Bill Richardson, as well.

One of John Edwards' supporters put this bingo card online that you can download. And, then, whenever Senator Edwards -- former Senator Edwards -- mentions a popular topic, like his wife, or his apology for his vote for the war in Iraq, you can mark them off, play bingo with your friends.

Governor Bill Richardson's campaign is saying, if you can't get to a house party, join their virtual house party online. They're going to have a live chat room, where you can talk with other people who support Governor Bill Richardson.

And Chris Dodd's campaign, who went full force with a live war room during the last debate, is going to put a clock online, Wolf, so they can time out just how much time each candidate gets.

BLITZER: We will be watching. We will be there, actually, in fact. Thank you, Jacki.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: This stuff is getting way over the top, isn't it, compared to the old days, where they used to ride around on a bus or hang out of the back of a train going from town to town?

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: Is the United States doing enough to help Iraqi refugees?

John writes from California: "Of course not. We invaded a sovereign country that posed no immediate threat to us. We destroyed Iraq in the process, throwing it into an uncontrolled civil war. The innocent citizens of Iraq are the unfortunate victims of this."

Ken in New Hampshire: "Going into Iraq, a grotesque miscalculation. Offering placement for a few refugees is like offering New Orleans residents a sponge the morning after Katrina."

Elaine writes from Sedona, Arizona, one of the prettiest towns in all the world: "Should we be helping to bring in Iraqi refugees? Why not arrange for them to go a friendly Middle Eastern country, where they would speak Arabic and have a similar culture? What are we doing giving language lessons and job training to Iraqi refugees? Take some inner-city high school students and teach them to speak English and give them job training."

Jeff writes: "Jack, why don't we just stop creating Iraqi refugees?"

Ted writes from Florida: "Sure, we should help the refugees, and, as an inducement, start a point system, one point for every al Qaeda they turn in. Most points get to come here first."

Kristin in Michigan: "We sure seem to be doing enough for the Mexican refugees. Maybe we should just give the Iraqi refugees directions to the Mexican border."

And Carole in Toronto: "No, the U.S. is not doing enough to help the Iraqi refugees, as things don't seem to be getting any better over there, and may not for another 50 years. How does a nice big town called Iraqville sound on ranchero Bush, just outside Crawford, Texas?" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack, for that.

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

Happening now: He's making headlines around the world. Now the tuberculosis patient who may have exposed hundreds of people to his drug-resistant strain of the disease gives his side of the story. And it's very different than what federal health officials are saying.

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