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THE SITUATION ROOM
U.S. Military Wages The PR War By Releasing Battle Video Of Heavy Fighting In Iraq
Aired June 27, 2007 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That followed an e-mail earlier this week in which Coulter's remarks on ABC were highlighted, in which she said of Edwards: "I'll just wish, he, Edwards, had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot."
Coulter yesterday refused to stop speaking her mind. The video now on the John Edwards Web site, next to a donate button. And it's not the first time. In March of this year, after Ann Coulter used an anti-gay slur against Edwards, his campaign solicited what they called "Coulter Cash" to, in their words, "fight back against the right-wing machine.
This week's exchange online here right before this fundraising deadline -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Abbi, thanks very much.
And to our viewers, you're THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening right now, massive delays in the New York City subway system after a sudden power outage on one of the hottest days causing widespread confusion and discomfort. We're watching the story for you.
Also, a war of public relations -- Americans have been bombarded with images of Iraq's drumbeat of death. Now, the military hopes to influence your opinion with its own images.
And Bill Cosby is not joking about the violence in one city. He's desperately urging people not to stand by and watch one child -- and I'm quoting now -- "blow the other one's head off." Bill Cosby standing by to join us live this hour.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
It could not have come at a worse time -- rush hour in New York City on a hot, steamy day. A massive power outage delays the subway system and a lot of power plunging thousands -- tens of thousands of New Yorkers -- into darkness.
Mary Snow is in New York watching all of this unfold. Things -- power has been restored, we're told -- Mary.
But things must be slow getting back to normal.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
But Wolf, I have to tell you, a big sigh of relief, obviously, for city officials as ConEd announcing that power is being restored, as you mentioned.
Now, the power going out right before rush hour on the East Side of Manhattan for about a 60 block area of the East Side of Manhattan and the Bronx. And this affected about six subway lines.
Now, the New York City Police Department is reporting that there are no injuries and there are no reports of anybody being trapped. Obviously, that was a very big concern. As you mentioned, the temperatures hitting around 90 today. And, of course, it's a big concern if anyone had been going through tunnels and had been stuck. But, again, the New York City Police Department saying that there are no reports of anybody being trapped.
As for customers, there were about 135,000 people in both Manhattan and the Borough of Bronx that had been affected. Now, the Office of Emergency Management, a spokesperson saying that this was being blamed on a transformer explosion. Not exactly clear what caused that explosion. The Metropolitan Museum of Art on the Upper East Side did have to be evacuated. There were about 2,000 people in the museum at the time and it's going to remain shut for the afternoon.
Now, one of the big hubs that could be affected by this is Grand Central Station, because the subway lines on the East Side go to Grand Central. And this is, of course, a big commuting spot for people taking trains out to the suburbs. But we're getting reports that things are getting back to normal there.
And, Wolf, this was a big scare. If you remember 2003 was the last big power outage in New York City.
BLITZER: This, clearly, was not like that. I happened to have been in New York that day. Fortunately, it's over with. But it's going to be a while before everything gets back to normal.
Mary, thanks very much for that.
Right now the Bush administration says it's deeply troubled by another North Korean missile firing. The U.S. is calling it "a provocative act" that complicates the situation it thought was moving along rather smoothly.
Let's go to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.
He's watching this for us.
What do we know about this launch today -- Jamie?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, while U.S. officials are publicly saying they're deeply troubled by this, behind the scenes, many officials are downplaying it, saying it's not a big deal. At issue is the test firing of short-range missiles by North Korea. Technically, this was Tuesday. Three firings of CSS-4 missiles with range of less an a hundred kilometers. That's about 60 miles.
They fell harmlessly in the Sea of Japanese. But they come at a time when the U.S. is in the middle of delicate negotiations with North Korea about the shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear facility. The U.S. had just reached a breakthrough on that, agreeing to free up some $25 million of frozen North Korean funds in return for progress on that front. They just say this comes at a bad time.
But, Wolf, behind the scenes, people are putting this down to just some chest thumping by the North Koreans.
BLITZER: And it comes, though, only days after the U.S. negotiator, Chris Hill, was there in North Korea, the first time in some five years that an American official has visited North Korea.
Jamie, thanks very much.
Jamie will be coming back with another story later this hour.
Meanwhile, there are new concerns tonight about America's vulnerability regarding oil. Iran and Venezuela are expected to look at ways to wield their oil driven power against the U.S. and the West.
Let's bring back Brian Todd.
He's watching this story for us. So what do we expect these two oil producing countries to be doing -- Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, at the very least, they'll try to figure out ways to share technology and turn their strategic interests against the United States. The politics of oil has rarely been hotter, even on the street.
In Iran, the public frustration is so acute, it triggered a rare protest.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
TODD (voice-over): Gas stations in Tehran torched. Iranians angry over having to do without and pay more for the gas they do get as the government moves to ration fuel and hike up prices.
PHIL FLYNN, ALARON TRADING CORP.: Here you've got Iran sitting on some of the biggest oil reserves in the entire universe and yet they're importing gasoline.
I mean, what's wrong with this picture?
TODD: What's wrong is that Iran doesn't have the ability to refine much of its oil and is tightening its belt ahead of possible U.N. sanctions over the nuclear issue. Now, analysts warn of what one calls an axis of oil -- countries like Iran and Venezuela, which sit atop huge reserves and are hostile to the United States, banding together against American oil interests.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is on his way to Tehran again to talk about a technical and strategic alliance. Chavez himself is putting the squeeze on two large U.S. oil companies, Conoco Phillips and Exxon Mobile. He may soon force them out of his country for not willingly handing over control of some of their projects to his state- run oil company.
ROGER NORIEGA, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: He has absolute impunity, really. If American companies want to play in Venezuela, it's going to be by his rules.
TODD: The Chavez government has signed agreements with four other foreign oil companies, including U.S.-based Chevron. While Venezuela, Iran and Russia play politics with oil and move to secure more supplies, one analyst worries that U.S. oil companies, under pressure from Congress over their record profits, are losing their edge.
FLYNN: They're going to have to go to places never gone before to search out and bring on more oil supplies. Sure, it's -- you know, but instead, what we want to do is handicap the U.S. oil industry by -- by raising their taxes and putting them at a competitive disadvantage.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: And analysts say if Iran, Venezuela and others form a more organized axis of oil, they won't have any problem selling it. China and India may soon surpass the United States as the world's biggest oil consumers, and they've already been getting much of their supply from Iran and Venezuela -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And it's interesting that the way these two countries, Iran and Venezuela, have managed their respective oil industries clearly plays a role in all of this.
TODD: Absolutely. And that's one advantage the U.S. can exploit, according to a lot of analysts. They say that Iran got to this stage of importing and rationing gas by mismanaging its oil industry for decades. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez completely nationalizing his oil industry now. But analysts say he's already run it into the ground by having political cronies who know nothing about the oil industry run that industry in his country.
BLITZER: Thanks, Brian.
Brian Todd watching the story for us.
Let's check in with Jack Cafferty.
He's in New York -- but you think about it, Jack, billions -- billions of dollars pouring into Iran, pouring into Venezuela from the West from people all over the world. They're raking it in right now. JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And they're doing things that are not dissimilar from some of the stuff we do here, like putting political hacks and cronies in charge of government programs, people who have no idea what the hell they're doing. And eventually they run the thing right into the ground. So good luck to you, Mr. Chavez, with your -- with your approach to nationalizing things down there.
Fred Thompson -- back in this country -- would like us all to believe he's just a good old boy -- jeans, work shirts, a red Chevy pickup truck and a Reagan-like connection to the common man.
Well, guess what?
Fred Thompson isn't nearly the Washington outsider he'd like us to believe he is. On the contrary, Fred Thompson used to be a Washington insider, big time. The actor, former U.S. senator, earned more than a million dollars working as a lobbyist for more than 20 years. That included lobbying for a savings and loan deregulation bill that eventually helped hasten the collapse of the savings and loan industry, a failed nuclear energy project that cost the taxpayers more than $1 billion -- with a B -- dollars and lobbying for the deposed Haitian president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the man who thought executing people consisted of putting gasoline soaked tires around their necks and then lighting them on fire.
A nice man.
The likely presidential candidate, though, defends his past work. He tells the Associated Press that lobbying is an important part of life because "the government's got their hands in everything." He says he expects to hear more criticism about his time as a lobbyist as he moves closer to declaring that he's a candidate. Some say that might happen next week.
And I would bet he could probably bank on getting additional criticism of his time as a lobbyist.
Anyway, here's the question -- it might not matter that much -- how much will voters care about Fred Thompson's past as a paid lobbyist?
E-mail your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf, he did a big time makeover on his image and it seems to have worked. He's a very popular fellow these days.
BLITZER: He's a very nice guy, a very popular guy. But you know that all the other campaigns, the Republicans and the Democrats, they have what's called opposition research. And they're digging, they're looking. And, you know, every major news organization, they're digging, they're looking.
Fred Thompson's going to -- not going to have an easy ride. This is going to be a tough -- a tough road for him.
CAFFERTY: Well, nobody that runs for that office anymore -- I mean, nobody's pimple-free or wart-free. And anybody who declares and decides to make a run for that office, you better have your Kevlar on, because it's a -- it's a tough game.
BLITZER: It's a very tough game, Jack.
Thanks very much.
Up ahead, after billions of dollars and a lot of time spent training Iraqi troops, how ready are they actually to defend their country?
A new report is not -- repeat -- not encouraging.
For years a top friend of the United States, now Tony Blair's last day on the job. Not everyone had some warm words for his sendoff.
And it's no laughing matter -- children killing children in one American city. The comedian Bill Cosby says enough is enough. He's standing by to join us live this hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The U.S. has spent lots of money, manpower and time training Iraqi troops to stand up so more American troops can stand down. And yet a new Congressional report says Iraqi forces are still in bad shape.
Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
She's watching this important story for us -- and, Barbara, this report is not encouraging.
BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Not encouraging at all, Wolf.
The question still remains -- when on earth will Iraqi forces really be ready to take over security in their country?
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
STARR (voice-over): The U.S. has spent four years and $19 billion training and equipping nearly 350,000 Iraqi security forces. But according to Congress, the Pentagon doesn't even know how many are ready for combat. A House report says the Pentagon also can't say whether weapons issued to Iraqi forces by the U.S. are being used against American troops.
REP. MARTY MEEHAN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: One of the major findings is that we absolutely -- we don't have a meaningful metric to judge what our investment of $19 billion has gotten us.
STARR: Iraqi units are fighting and dying in record numbers, responding to attacks across the country. But the Pentagon can't say when they will be ready to operate without any U.S. help. And Iraqi police remain a major problem.
MEEHAN: Their ranks are rife with sectarian influences and equipment shortages. Another failing has been the complete lack of evidence of what kind of people we're training.
STARR: The U.S. commander in charge of training Iraqi forces for more than a year says there has been progress. But even he sounds a warning.
GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, U.S. ARMY: They continue to be hampered, however, by a lack of depth. Iraqi Army and police units do not have tactical staying power or sufficient capability to surge forces locally.
STARR: And if Iraqi forces don't develop that staying power, the worry is it will be the U.S. forces staying in Iraq for years to come.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
STARR: And, Wolf, General Dempsey says the biggest problem isn't time or money. The biggest challenge, he says, is getting Iraqi leaders in place in the Army and in the police force to be able to run the security services -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Barbara.
Not an encouraging report. Thank you for that.
As the effort to train Iraqi troops continues, the battle against insurgents also rages on and the U.S. military is claiming some success.
Joining us now in Baghdad, Brigadier General Kevin Bergner, chief spokesman, Multi-National Forces in Iraq.
General Bergner, what can you tell us about these two Turks that you picked up coming in from Turkey apparently into Iraq?
They're accused of being senior Al Qaeda operatives.
BRIG. GEN. KEVIN BERGNER, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ: Wolf, we picked up two men, one Khalid al-Turki (ph) and the other one Khalil al-Turki. Khalid al-Turki is a senior Al Qaeda associate who has specifically focused on the foreign fighter networks in Iraq. He was someone who helped move fighters in and then once he got them there, he helped position them in specific places or for specific actions. And so his departure, along with the others that were killed in that engagement, is an important disruption of the Al Qaeda network in Iraq.
BLITZER: And they're both Turks. But they're both alive and presumably in custody right now.
BERGNER: Actually, both of them committed a hostile act on coalition forces as coalition forces were trying to detain them and they were killed in that engagement. So both were killed. And, as I mentioned earlier, these are guys that go back to the beginning of the Al Qaeda network in 2001. They were in Afghanistan helping fight. In 2006 returned to Iraq to try to establish this foreign fighter facilitation network. So, an important disruption of the Al Qaeda network here.
BLITZER: You've come up, I take it, with some very impressive evidence in recent days of a pretty elaborate Al Qaeda operation inside Iraq, including warehouses, including some sort of so-called justice system they have, hospital equipment.
Where was all this stuff found?
BERGNER: Well, Wolf, we've been talking for some weeks now about the importance of getting into the belts around Baghdad that had been either sanctuaries or operating bases for Al Qaeda and other extremist elements. And what we found now, with the operations in the Baquba area of Diyala Province, is we've seen just how Al Qaeda was organizing themselves and taking advantage of the Iraqi people and diverting things intended for the Iraqi people for their own terrorist purposes.
What we specifically found there were foodstuffs which were part of the government of Iraq food distribution system, which had been taken over by Al Qaeda there and were now being used to support their purposes. We found medical supplies that were intended for Iraqi medical clinics and other purposes, that had been taken over to create some ad hoc medical facilities for terrorists. And we also saw, as you mentioned, a vigilante justice system, where illegal courts were established for Al Qaeda to use to impose their will on the local people, impose their own justice, outside the bounds of the rule of law.
BLITZER: You say that this was all Al Qaeda. There's been some criticism here that you're throwing around that term pretty freely, that you're lumping in Iraqi insurgents as part of an Al Qaeda network.
How do you know this is Al Qaeda, as opposed to Iraqi nationalists, Saddam loyalists or others who simply want the U.S. out of Iraq?
BERGNER: Well, Wolf, in this case, there was very clear evidence of Iraq -- of Islamic State of Iraq material. Their banners hung over this ad hoc illegal court facility. And so there were very clear signs that this was an offshoot of Al Qaeda, in this case, clear -- clear indications that it was the Islamic State of Iraq's efforts to -- to divert these -- these foodstuffs and medical supplies and conduct these illegal courts.
BLITZER: What's a bigger problem in Iraq right now, militarily speaking, Al Qaeda in Iraq or the insurgency, the Iraqi nationalists, the Saddam loyalists, others who are opposed to the U.S.?
BERGNER: Well, Wolf, you know, this is -- this is a complex environment. It's a place that's a mosaic of different threats and problems. But Al Qaeda has clearly been the main engine fueling the sectarian violence and driving this -- this -- this violence in -- in Iraq. And so they are -- and they have -- they have said themselves, in their own words, that Iraq is their central front as Al Qaeda. And so it is a very important -- Al Qaeda is a very important driver of the violence here.
BLITZER: General Bergner, be careful over there.
Thanks very much for joining us.
BERGNER: Wolf, thank you.
BLITZER: And coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, praise from the governor and the prospect of high winds. Firefighters in California hunker down to keep the devastating Lake Tahoe wildfire in check.
And later, the actor, the educator, the longtime funny man. But today he takes on a topic that is no laughing matter -- violence and its impact on children. I'll be speaking live with Bill Cosby. This is a conversation you don't want to miss. That's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Our Carol Costello is monitoring stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol, what do you have?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I want to update the power outage in New York City, because it is over. Coned says everyone has their power restored. The subway lines are running normally. And, also, Metro North is running normally.
Around 3:00 this afternoon, Eastern time, power in parts of the city went out, and that includes the Upper East Side and parts of the Bronx. But, again, power is back on everywhere in the city of New York. They're still trying to figure out how that exactly happened.
Also in the news this afternoon, worried firefighters are bracing for high winds on the south shore of Lake Tahoe. The winds could whip up a four-day-old wildfire, which has already consumed 3,100 acres and destroyed at least 176 homes. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger toured the area today and he praised the 1,900 firefighters trying to take control of that fast moving fire. He says the Angora Fire is now 44 percent contained.
Several Central Texas counties underwater after torrential rains flooded the region earlier today. Dozens of people were stranded on rooftops, in their cars, even in trees. The weather got so dicey that some helicopter rescues had to be scrubbed. The worst of the flash flooding came in the Texas hill country northwest of Austin. The good news -- no immediate reports of lives being lost. The bad news, lots more rain is expected.
Liz Claiborne has died. The company she founded confirmed today that the trend-setting fashion designer died yesterday. She was 78 years old. She's being remembered as an inspirational woman who revolutionized the fashion industry with her commitment to style. Her designs became a cornerstone of women's career wardrobes in the '70s and the '80s.
Back to you -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Carol, thanks very much.
Still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the U.S. military in fast pursuit of a better public perception of the war in Iraq. We're going to show you some images coming out of Baghdad aimed at achieving that goal.
And we're also standing by to speak live with the actor, Bill Cosby. He's known for his humor, but he's very, very serious about the state of violence in this country and how children are suffering because of it. My interview with Bill Cosby, that's coming up live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, New York City is back online after a massive power outage. ConEd has restored power to customers in the West Bronx and Manhattan's Upper East Side. The transmission disturbance brought subway trains to a stop and cut power to more than 130,000 customers.
The Bush administration has been subpoenaed in connection with its domestic surveillance program. The Senate Judiciary Committee is demanding records from the White House, Vice President Dick Cheney's office, Justice Department officials and the National Security Council.
And a new report says the rich are getting richer. The World Wealth Report says the number of people with more than a million dollars rose more than 8 percent. Their total assets rose to more than $37 trillion.
All that plus Bill Cosby standing by live this hour.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Right now, as the actual war in Iraq rages another war for hearts and minds. As enemy fighters tout pictures of their successes, coalition forces trying to influence the public opinion of this war with their own images. Our Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre is joining us once again.
The U.S. military, Jamie, has been showing us a lot more of these images than in the recent past.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. There are two wars going on, one of course the battle on the ground in Iraq, the other as you said for the hearts and minds of the American people.
MCINTYRE (voice over): One thing the so-called surge has produced is a surge of declassified cockpit videos, like this one in which a British Tornado warplane took out a group of insurgents who had just attacked Iraqi police. Time was such video releases were rare. But in recent weeks, the U.S. military has been unusually forthcoming, unleashing a fusillade of footage showing Al Qaeda fighters on the losing end of U.S. firepower.
In part, the images are an attempt to counter the growing chorus of pessimism coming from critics including think tank experts and retired commanders testifying on Capitol Hill.
MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Our Army and Marine Corps today are at a breaking point, little to show for it. It's serious. The current surge in Iraq is too little too late.
MCINTYRE: Among the images the U.S. has released this week, a massive IED factory raided in Mosul, which was subsequently destroyed by a B-1 bomber dropping 500-pound bombs. And pictures of this high- value senior Al Qaeda leader, Khalid al Turkey, killed in a targeted raid over the weekend.
Anthony Cordesman, a respected military thinker, dismisses such examples them as "limited tactical successes," that are "tenuous to meaningless," because he argues that insurgents can simply "disperse, stand down, and regroup," leaving the "U.S. to simply play 'Whack a Mole" on a steadily rising scale.
ANTHONY CORDESMAN, CTR. FOR STRATEGIC & INT'L. STUDIES: What I see today is not, so far, a working strategy. That is not a matter of how many brigades we have. We are pushing insurgents around rather than defeating them.
MCINTYRE: The U.S. military's going to continue to point to success on the battlefield, but one of the big lessons of Vietnam is that you can win every battle and still lose the war. The real measure of success is to the extent the U.S. military still enjoys the support of the American people, whose patience is wearing thin with what is appearing to be a war that is holding out the prospect of years more of fighting -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre watching the story, the war clearly continuing right now. Jamie, thanks very much.
Bill Cosby is a funny man taking on a very important issue that is anything but a laughing matter. He's an educator with a Ph.D. He spoke at Philadelphia's Temple University, his alma mater today, about violence and its impact on its smallest victims. That would be our children. Bill Cosby is joining us now from Philadelphia.
Thanks very much, Bill, for coming in. Tell our viewers what is outraging you right now.
BILL COSBY, ACTOR, EDUCATOR: It's not outrage as much as a sadness that Dr. King started us in a winning position with nonviolence, and that our youthful people are picking up guns, knives, and voices against each other, against their parents, against the school system.
And a great deal of it has to do with the fact that we need to start in the pre-K through 12th grade talking to the children, in school -- in school, because it isn't happening in the neighborhood -- about nonviolence and how to solve one's sadness issue that has grown into frustration, and then outrage.
BLITZER: I assume you mean when you say "we," I assume you mean educators, but also family members, parents have to get involved in doing something about what is clearly an epidemic out there.
COSBY: Yes. But today we address, thankfully -- Temple University opened this up. We have student teachers all over this United States, and Florida A&M is a great university, their school of Ed, Cheney State, and the University of Massachusetts, they've opened their educational doors to work with the teachers, so that these student teachers will leave the school prepared to look at, Wolf Blitzer, acting up in the classroom, and not see a kid who is a bad kid. But the teacher will see a child who may have seven to eight different problems existing in the home, in his own heart, in his own physiological condition.
And we want to prepare our teachers for this. They're not armed with that, so many of them also become emotional.
BLITZER: You've been involved in this group called Men United for a Better Philadelphia. I read somewhere that, what, there were 400 homicides in Philadelphia, more than one a day happening right now?
COSBY: Yes, sir. And these men, on a given Wednesday, in a van, ride to and around Philadelphia, stop at a corner where males are congregating, and they talk to them in a very gentle manner, and embrace them. And it's -- a great deal of it is fruitful.
But we need more help. We need more people actually believing that they've got to get up, they've got to move. We've got to stop this entropy. We've got to stop this belief for -- and I do think that many people believe that this actually should happen to them.
BLITZER: I want to play a little clip of what Senator Barack Obama said the other day. It's a famous quote. He spoke about quiet riots, that are out there in the communities. I want you to listen to what he said, and we'll speak about it after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It made me think about our cities, and our communities around this country, and how not only do we still have the scars of the riots, and the quiet riots that happen every day, but how in too many plants, in too many places all across the country, we haven't even bothered to take the bullet out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I assume you agree with him, but give us your interpretation of what that means.
COSBY: Well, it means that we know what is going on, but we sort of just look at it and -- I don't know if it's somewhere between Christ is coming, and I can't do anything about this, and well, that's the punishment people are supposed to have. But I do know that we need -- it's not to blame the leaders. We need messengers, and we need people who volunteer. We need them to talk more, to knock on doors, to get things going. And I really believe that this will happen as the people begin to believe.
BLITZER: As you take a look at the various presidential candidates out there, who do you like in terms of dealing with this crisis, that you've become so involved with?
COSBY: None of them.
COSBY: Mainly -- well, good -- "why?" Because they haven't spoken about people who need help. They haven't talked about -- and you have a gentleman on CNN who -- a Mr. Martin, who came up with the fact that the presidential candidates do not address people in Appalachia, the people who are stuck, and still doing the same thing because there is no view, no vision.
And we need honest, hardworking -- regardless of Independent, Republican, or Democrat -- to say I believe in the American people. The American people have been told what to do. And it isn't working. They have to believe that they are getting politicians who will make good sense, in their favor, not against other people, because it's proven. You can't whip black people and win the United States of America.
BLITZER: You're referring to our contributor Rowland Martin, out of Chicago.
But what I hear you saying is, you don't think that Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or John Edwards, or any of the Democratic or Republican presidential candidates are committed to this cause the way you are?
COSBY: No. That isn't what I'm saying. I'm not running for office.
The most important thing, Wolf, is as time goes by, how many of these candidates, like Mr. Martin said, will address the invisible white people who are not graduating from college, who are teenage pregnancy at the age of 13, who are broke, who are looking for subsidy, who are looking at schools that are broken down? It isn't just blacks. It's the poor. It's the lower economic people, the lower middle economic. And these people have to speak up. They've got to get themselves together. They are the most powerful. You have politicians who care about them as opposed to some of these other things --
BLITZER: All right
COSBY: I'm sorry.
BLITZER: Well, unfortunately, we've got to leave it right there.
COSBY: I didn't mean to take you over.
BLITZER: But you make excellent points, and we salute you for getting involved in this. Bill Cosby, thanks for helping us better understand this issue.
COSBY: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: We hope to have you back. Bill Cosby getting deeply involved in a crisis that's unfolding in our cities, and elsewhere around the country.
Let's check in with Carol Costello. She's watching some other stories right now. What have you got, Carol?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN NEWS ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: Hi, Wolf. Let's head out to Los Angeles, right now.
Paris Hilton is just arriving at the CNN studios in Los Angeles. You see these huge vehicles. There are actually three of them. Paris Hilton is in the third vehicle. She's arriving for an exclusive interview with our own Larry King that will take place at 9 p.m. Eastern time. Of course Larry will ask her all the pertinent questions, including whether she was faking a terrible malady to get herself out of jail prematurely.
You see Paris Hilton emerging from the car right now.
You know, she's hired a crisis management expert. She really wants to change her image. She says that people don't know her, that she is a good person. Some hints on what she'll say on Larry King tonight, she wants to help her fellow inmates. She says she's found God. I know a lot of you people don't really believe that, but that's what she is saying.
She was released from the Central Regional Detention Center on Tuesday. She was mobbed by fans and photographers at that time, but she was whisked away to her grandparents' palatial home, in Hombey (ph) Hills, that's a very rich area of Los Angeles. She has stayed inside that house until now. And you see her going up the elevator to meet with Larry King, to talk to him before the interview, and of course, that will come your way at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here, on CNN.
Back to you, wolf. BLITZER: Thanks very much, Carol.
Let's take a look at what's coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM. Tony Blair no longer the prime minister of Britain, but he's got a new job already and the stakes are very high.
Also, he's a public official who decided to become -- a she. Carol will be back in a moment with an update on the transformation. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: There's a new resident at London's No. 10 Downing Street. Tony Blair has now moved out, stepping down as Britain's prime minister. Our Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour has more now on this historic power shift -- Christiane.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INT'L. CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, after 10 years, an end of an era. Prime Minister Blair is no longer. He has left. And his successor, Gordon Brown, is now in office.
Blair left after a prime minister's question session, the last for him in the Houses of Parliament. He was asked routine questions, but he was also praised for his commitment to public service. But despite his successes, which will be remembered -- making New Labor elect-able for the first time in 18 years, being the only Labor prime minister to win three successive elections, intervention in Kosovo and Sierra Leone, the robust British economy -- what will be his legacy, many fear, is the deeply unpopular war in Iraq and the president of the United States whom he supported.
This will be a challenge for Gordon Brown. Brown, now the prime minister, intends to maintain a strong relationship with the United States, but perhaps there will be something of a change in style. Many people believe that this special relationship must be one in which the British are not just subservient, but can play a constructive role -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you, Christiane, in London on this historic day. Ten years as prime minister of Britain.
Up ahead, how much will voters care about Fred Thompson's past as a paid lobbyist? Jack Cafferty standing by with your e-mail. Also, ready for the iPhone? A lot of folks lining up right now to get the latest whiz-bang technology, Jeanne Moos says. We'll have more on this story coming up in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour. Right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Lou Dobbs getting ready for his show that begins right at the top of the hour. What are you working on?
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: Thank you, wolf. The Senate seems hell-bent on depriving 280 million Americans of their rights while giving citizenship to 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens. We'll have complete coverage for you.
Also tonight, rising outrage on Capitol Hill over a visa program that corporations are abusing. We'll have that report for you.
And among my guests here tonight, the leading Senate opponents of amnesty, I'll be joined by Senator Byron Dorgan, Democrat, and Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican. I'll also be talking with Congressman Brian Bilbray (ph) tonight. He says the Congress must oppose any bill that gives amnesty.
Please join us for all of that. All the day's news, and more, coming right up at the top of the hour.
Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: Sounds good, Lou. Thanks very much.
Many Americans' views on sexuality and morality are works in progress. All day here on CNN we've been trying to shed some light on issues that once were considered taboo to even talk about on television. Carol Costello caught up with a man whose decision to become a woman became very, very public not that long ago.
Carol, update our viewers on what has happened since that initial uproar, if you will, down in Florida.
COSTELLO: Well, Steve is now Susan, Wolf. And since, you know, he -- or I should say she -- chose to be very public about the situation, transgender issues have shown up in "Newsweek" magazine and documentaries. And Steve, who as I said is now Susan, is still fighting the fight on Capitol Hill.
COSTELLO: Steve Stanton was once considered a successful up- and-coming city manager in Largo, Florida, but the city fired him after he announced he was going to become a woman. Politics was his passion.
(on camera): You didn't expect you were going to be fired?
STEVE STANTON, FMR. CITY MANAGER, LARGO, FLORIDA: Not at all.
COSTELLO: Then his marriage fell apart. He couldn't continue his life as Steve.
STANTON: What you feel when you're growing up with this condition is you feel that the outside doesn't match the inside, in a very real way.
COSTELLO: But the new Susan Stanton has been reborn, walking tall on Capitol Hill as a lobbyist, fighting discrimination against transgender people.
SUSAN STANTON, TRANSGENDER LOBBYIST: Well, we met -- you know, Senator Ted Kennedy's staff, and both the senators from Florida. So we met with their staff, and a few other people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This 2007 Visionary Award to you, Susan Ashley Stanton.
COSTELLO: She's also receiving awards from political groups for being so visible.
STANTON: Every day transsexuals are fired. You just don't hear about it. What made my case, in particular, significant was that it happened on camera, it happened in a very visible way with somebody that had a really outstanding track record.
COSTELLO: Stanton did try to get another job as city manager in Sarasota. She came in third, and says the experience proves she still has a future in politics.
(On camera): But what was the biggest payout from all that you went through?
STANTON: Yeah, the biggest payout is being who you are, being authentic, coming out from under a very heavy shell that I've lived under throughout my life.
COSTELLO: The next big thing for Susan, she will be the grand marshal in the St. Petersburg's, Florida, Gay Pride Parade. And she is moving out of her home in Largo, her wife and son, moving apart from her. I'll tell you more about that on the "Paula Zahn Show"; that will come your way at 8:00 p.m. Eastern -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Carol. Carol Costello watching that story for us.
Still to come here, Jack Cafferty's question of the hour -- how much will voters care about Fred Thompson's past as a lobbyist? Jack with your e-mail, when we come back. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We check back with Jack Cafferty in New York with "The Cafferty File".
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: The question, Wolf, is how much will voters care about Fred Thompson's past as a paid lobbyist? Twenty years he spent as a lobbyist.
Mike in California says, " 'Law & Order' and a lobbyist. Now isn't that an oxymoron? You'd have to be a moron to get suckered into voting for this guy. It's gonna take more than a doctored-up script and being 8 feet tall for him to win this, Jack. I don't think he has a chance and I wouldn't take him seriously."
Elizabeth in St. Louis, "Yes, it will bother me that Fred Thompson spent 20 years lobbying. Lobbying is nothing less than bribery and the concept should have been outlawed years ago."
Barbara in Manhasset Hills, New York, "Just what we need...another rich good ol' boy being president. The man is as phony as the other side of the $3 bill that George Bush is on. I, for one, care greatly about the fact that he was a Washington 'insider'. There are already enough insiders in D.C. to turn me inside out."
Clint in Wisconsin, "I don't think Fred's past will have much affect on voters at all. Voters in California didn't care that Arnold Schwarzenegger took steroids by the gallon, it was legal then. All voters care about is that Thompson is a good actor, there isn't much dirt on him, yet, and he has a voice any male would kill for! He didn't break any laws and he isn't a lobbyist now. Let's worry about what he wants to do not what he did. "
Kyle in Maine writes, "I don't know if Thompson lobbying past will be an issue, because I don't see Thompson as a serious candidate. His chances of becoming president are just about as good as his chances for being in a hit movie anytime soon."
And George in Texas writes, "Asking if Thompson's past as a paid lobbyist for 20 years should be an issue is like asking if someone discovering his fiancee had been a hooker for the past 20 years would be an issue."
That's harsh. If you didn't see your e-mail here you can go to CNN.com/Caffertyfile, where we post more of them on line, along with video clips of "The Cafferty File".
BLITZER: His supporters, especially conservative Republicans, say he evokes the like-ability of Ronald Reagan, who of course, is beloved by a lot of these people.
CAFFERTY: Well, that's true. And I think it shows, also, that there's a general dissatisfaction with the field of -- what is it, 18 or 19 candidates we have now. That people who aren't even race are running second and third, in some cases first in some of these polls around the country.
BLITZER: CNN, our Jack, thanks very much. We'll be back here 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
In the meantime, let's go to Lou in New York.
DOBBS: Wolf, thank you very much.
Tonight, the U.S. Senate seems hell-bent on giving on citizenship to 12 to 20 million illegal aliens while denying the rights and ...
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