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THE SITUATION ROOM

Did Israel Strike Nuclear Facility Inside Syria?; Senator Clinton Likens Dick Cheney to Darth Vader

Aired September 20, 2007 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, a secret Israeli air strike in a remote part of Syria -- both sides are keeping an extraordinary silence.

Was the target a nuclear facility?

Is there a North Korean connection?

It's getting nasty out there on the campaign trail. Hillary Rodham Clinton likens Dick Cheney to Darth Vader. But that's relatively nice. Some politicians are really going for the jugular.

And a Republican big city mayor makes a sudden and tearful turnaround on same sex marriage.

So what's behind the switch?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A secret Israeli air strike in a far off corner of Syria -- both sides keeping strangely silent. So is the White House. But there are hints -- hints of a nuclear and a North Korean connection, as well.

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd.

He's watching the story for us.

The silence is almost deafening, coming from official sources but what are the whispers?

What are you hearing -- Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, those whispers are about what that target really was, Wolf. And if some key intelligence services know the answer to that, they're certainly not saying much.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

TODD (voice-over): The target no one is officially talking about -- Israeli war planes hit something inside Syria.

Was it a nuclear weapons facility?

Two major newspapers cite intelligence sources as saying it was. Israeli sources are tight-lipped, saying only they're pleased with the operation -- a sentiment re-enforced with the top leader who says he was in the loop.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I gave it my backing, but it is still too early to discuss the subject.

TODD: U.S. intelligence sources won't comment on the raid. President Bush dodged it three times over the course of 15 seconds.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not going to comment on the matter.

Would you like another question.

QUESTION: Did you support it?

BUSH: I'm not going to comment on the matter.

QUESTION: Can you comment about your concerns that come out of it at all, about for the region?

BUSH: No. Saying I'm not going to comment on the matter means I'm not going to comment on the matter.

TODD: But U.S. officials had previously CNN the target was a remote weapons storage site. The "New York Times" and "Washington Post" report it was a nuclear weapons facility placed there with North Korea's help. A Pentagon official said U.S. intelligence had recently tracked shipments of material from North Korea to Syria.

BRUCE RIEDEL, FORMER CIA OFFICER: The target the Israelis went after had to be worthy of the attention they devoted to it -- something so important at that Israelis would take the risk of sparking an Israeli-Syrian war. That means this was not just a run against a Hezbollah resupply mission.

TODD: A Syrian official tells CNN the allegation of a nuclear weapons program is ridiculous. The Syrians claim the Israeli warplanes hit nothing in the raid. Experts say Syria once tried to acquire nuclear weapons, but couldn't afford them. Some believe the Israeli strike may have been a smokescreen design for someone else.

JON WOLFSTAHL, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: It sends a message directly to the leadership in Iran that they haven't heard in a long time -- which is that they are vulnerable and the Israelis themselves are potentially willing to act.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: Another mysterious component to this story -- Syria's Muslim and Arab neighbors, who always take Syria's side against Israel, have said virtually nothing about the Israeli raid. Analysts say they either secretly want any Syrian nuclear program to go away or they also don't know just what was hit that day -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Syria has purchased other military equipment from North Korea in the past, isn't that right, Brian?

TODD: That's right. It's widely reported that North Korea has sold conventional missiles like Scuds

and other missile components to

Syria. A former weapons inspector told me much of that is legal, but it's also what's raising alarm here about a potential nuclear facility there.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to watch this story.

Highly unusual the silence that it's generating. You heard President Bush today, three times, no comment.

Thanks, Brian, very much.

On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, there's growing frustration among Democrats finding themselves boxed in when it comes to the war in Iraq and unable to change U.S. policy despite their majority in the House and Senate.

Let's go to our Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

She's watching all of this for us -- how frustrated, Dana, are the Democrats?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very, Wolf.

The frustration among the Democrats really is palpable. In fact, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, said that he tried so hard to find Republican votes on Iraq, he even called GOP Senator Larry Craig. And Democrats are also discouraged because their like-minded anti-war group knocked them right off message.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

BASH (voice-over): On the Senate floor, the war debate turned from Iraq policy to raw politics.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: General Petraeus or MoveOn.org -- which one are we going to believe?

BASH: Republicans forced through a measure condemning this controversial ad -- "General Betray Us" -- from the anti-war group MoveOn.org. Democrats accused Republicans of hypocrisy and trying to change the subject.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D-CA), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: We're going to be pretty busy in the United States Senate if we turn into the ad police.

BASH: But Democrats privately admit the ad hurt them and may have contributed to the quandary they still find themselves in. After nine months in power, Democrats still cannot find enough Republicans to change Iraq strategy.

SEN. GORDON SMITH (R), OREGON: The counter-productiveness of MoveOn.org had the effect of freezing all of my colleagues.

BASH: Republican Gordon Smith supports the Democrats' troop withdrawal deadline, but he is lashing out at Democratic leaders for ending negotiations with Republicans looking for common ground on Iraq.

SMITH: I knew of a lot of senators whose said are you going to give me something that I can vote for this time?

And I was working to that end. But that effort -- the plug was pulled on that by the Democratic Senate leadership.

BASH: But the Senate Democratic leader insists he could not convince Republicans to support Democrats' withdrawal time line and says he won't compromise just for compromise sake.

"Our principle is that we need to change the course the war in Iraq, not to have an amendment that we say will pass," said Senator Harry Reid.

Many Democrats agree.

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: No further compromise is needed. People want clarity. They want to see us -- our military involvement come to a close because it's not making us safe.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BASH: Democratic leaders seem to have settled on a strategy for now to stick to principle and blame Republicans for sticking with the president on an unpopular war. But many rank and file Democrats, Wolf, say that they are worried about that strategy because they think it could hurt them with voters, who sent them here into the majority to find a solution on the war.

BLITZER: All right, Dana.

Thanks very much.

Dana watching this on Capitol Hill.

Let's go back to Jack.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: It really is pretty disgusting what goes on down there sometimes, isn't it?

BLITZER: You should come visit us in Washington sometime.

CAFFERTY: No thanks. I like it right here. I'm in a little place in New Jersey. It's great.

Former President Bill Clinton has a, "bigger than life presence. He's like a force of nature. I don't even pretend to be that, that's not who I am."

Who is that speaking?

That would be Bill's wife, Hillary Clinton. And, boy, is she right about that.

Nonetheless, some people are wondering what role Bill Clinton might play in a potential Hillary Clinton administration. There's a new "USA Today"/Gallup Poll out. Twenty-two percent of those surveyed worry that Bill would have too large a role in a Hillary presidency. Ten percent worry his role would not be large enough. And 66 percent said they don't care. Compare that to a 1992 poll, though, that found 26 percent were concerned that Hillary would have too large a role in Bill's administration. The survey also found 53 percent say they would like to see Bill Clinton play an active roll in policymaking if his wife becomes president. Forty-four percent said they would not.

So the question is this -- would you want to see Bill Clinton play an active policy role in a potential Hillary Clinton administration?

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

He is a huge asset for her in this campaign. A lot of this country, I think, is, you know, wishing we could go back to those heady days of the late 1990s, when we had the stock market bubble and everything was just going along marvelously.

BLITZER: Senator Clinton, by the way, will be among my guests Sunday morning on "LATE EDITION," 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

CAFFERTY: Ah!

BLITZER: So we'll have a good opportunity to talk about this and a lot of other issues, as well, Jack.

Thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: Terrific.

BLITZER: Up ahead, U.S. officials call him a terrorist sponsor. New York officials are blocking a visit to Ground Zero. Now New Yorkers themselves are weighing in.

Thousands of protesters shut down a small town in Louisiana after a pair of racially charged incidents raised tensions.

And look at this -- Ellen DeGeneres does her own version of THE SITUATION ROOM. That's not it right there. Let's get that picture. Ellen DeGeneres in THE SITUATION ROOM. You're going to see that. That's coming up. We don't have it right now, but we promise, you'll see it, because you're in the real THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: U.S. officials call him a sponsor of terror and officials in New York have barred him from the 9/11 memorial site. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit the United Nations next week, but New Yorkers are hardly rolling out the red carpet.

Let's go straight to our senior United Nations correspondent, Richard Roth.

I guess some people, having this kind of visit, they're on edge whenever he comes to your big city.

RICHARD ROTH, SENIOR UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're also worried about traffic and how it directly affects their lives. But 9/11, obviously, fan emotional touchstone here for New Yorkers and the pending visit by the Iranian leader to New York and the hoo-ha about Ground Zero has got a lot of people talking.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

ROTH (voice-over): The Iranian president created anxiety in New York City even before arriving. Local tabloids erupted in fury over the Iranian leader's request to visit Ground Zero to pay respects while attending the U.N. General Assembly.

On the streets of New York, another destination for the Iranian president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he should go to hell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think they should let him?

QUESTION: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he had something to do with the terrorist attack.

ROTH: There's no evidence for that, but in this city, people have been known to disagree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's his choice. It's a free country, so he can come and do what he feels like, right?

That's what America is built on, right?

ROTH: At Ground Zero, reflection.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn't like to see him refuse to come. It might be better for peace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Too many complications. I don't think it's worth it. I don't think we get anything out of it, frankly.

ROTH: New York rejected the Iranian request because of security fears, adding access to the site itself is impossible because construction is taking place.

BUSH: I can hear you.

ROTH: President Bush, who famously visited Ground Zero days after 9/11, supported the New York police.

BUSH: I can understand why they would not want somebody who's running a country who is a state sponsor of terror down there at the site.

ROTH: President Ahmadinejad told the CBS "60 Minutes" program that he will not fight the city's refusal, expressing understanding of the difficulty in coordinating such a visit.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ROTH: And, Wolf, the Iranian leader is expand to visit Columbia University on Monday afternoon, with an appearance.

And meanwhile, the U.S. denying a visa for Iran's ambassador to Geneva, the U.N. there, to come to the United States, linking him with being responsible for taking American hostages in the U.S. embassy takeover in 1979 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Richard, thank you.

Richard Roth reporting.

Thousands of protesters overwhelming a small Southern town thrust into the spotlight of American race relations. The protest in Jena, Louisiana is the latest in a series of racially charged events that started in August of last year. That's when African-American students sat under a tree at the high school where white students typically gather.

The next day, nooses were found hanging from the tree and three white students deemed responsible were suspended.

On March 30th, an unknown arsonist set fire to the school and on December 4, six black students beat a white student unconscious. They were initially charged with attempted murder, but that was later reduced. One of the six, Mychal Bell, was convicted of battery in June. He's still in jail.

Let's go to CNN's Tony Harris.

He's in Jena right now.

He's watching all of this -- a pretty emotional day out there.

A huge, huge protest.

Update our viewers -- Tony, what happened?

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, boy. Wolf, we got here sort of at the crack of dawn, even hours earlier. Pitch black outside when we sort of arrived on the scene here outside of the courthouse here in LaSalle Parish, Jena, Louisiana.

And I've got to tell you, folks were arriving even at that early hour here local time. Hundreds of people here initially before the crack of dawn. And the crowd just throughout the day just continued to build.

You can imagine what it's been like for us, as part of this, to cover this, to ride this sort of crest of emotions as this town of about 3,000 people has played host -- not necessarily willingly -- to as many, at least in one report, as many as 60,000 people.

This is a small town of about 3,000 people. So just imagine the scene at one point today, when we had two groups, one group led by the Reverend Al Sharpton, another group led by Jesse Jackson converging right in front of this courthouse.

What a scene, literally a sea of humanity. And we've been following this roller coaster of emotions throughout the day. And we've also been hearing rumblings throughout the day that there might be some developments in the case of Mychal Bell, who you mentioned just a moment ago.

And last hour, I just want to update you on the news that we brought you last hour in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The 3rd District Court of Appeals here in Louisiana has ruled that there should be a habeas hearing -- and I'll break that down for you in just a second -- a habeas hearing in the next 72 hours for Mychal Bell, who -- 17 years old now and was 16 at the time of the attack, what many consider a vicious attack in December of last year.

So that hearing will take place here in the next 72 hours. And what that really means is that Mychal Bell will be brought to court and there will be a determination as to whether or not Mychal Bell will remain custody. We will see if that rolls into the weekend. But that is the development on the legal front.

In terms of the emotions of the day, I just want to show you behind me, Wolf, hard to imagine, as you take a look at this site here that, just a couple hours ago, thousands -- literally thousands of people here out in front of this courthouse building -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Given the emotions, Tony, I know law enforcement was very nervous. There could have been incidents.

Was it peaceful?

Were there any -- was there any violence?

HARRIS: Oh, you can't believe how peaceful it was. And there were all kinds of concerns. But two notes on that. The people who gathered here came here out a sense of peace, it seems to me. We heard a number of people say this wasn't about a protest, it wasn't necessarily about a demonstration. Clearly, it was. But for many folks here, it was more of a pilgrimage. And then you've got to -- hats off to the state troopers, the Louisiana state troopers here -- who did a wonderful job. Just a quick note, the permits for these rallies here timed out three hours ago, in some cases, and yet the events here were allowed to unwind and end at their own pace, at their own time. The police were magnificent here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Good. Glad it worked out.

Thanks very much.

Tony Harris on the scene.

He's been reporting from there all day.

Let's continue this story.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, has been monitoring support for the Jena 6 online.

What are you seeing -- Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we've been looking at the forums, the blogs and Web sites that have been setting up the support, getting people out to the rallies today. We've seen from them that these rallies and events are not just happening in Jena. Take a look at the I-Reports we've been getting interested.

This first one here is coming in from Alabama State University, from Melvin Bridges, Jr. A sophomore there at that school. He said more than 400 people showed up at this rally today and said it was exciting to be in Montgomery, Alabama for this event today.

And now to Atlanta, Georgia, to Lovejoy High School. This from Morgan Craven. This was Mr. Eaton's (ph) fourth period biology class, she says, today. They've been getting together, pooling their money, raising funds for the Jena 6 legal defense fund today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thanks very much.

Jena, Louisiana is a classic American small town. It has just four stop lights, but surrounding LaSalle Parish has more churches per capita than any other Louisiana parish. At the time of the 2000 census, Jena had 9,971 residents, 85 percent of them white, 12 percent African-American. Fewer than 15 percent had a college degree. Fifty- two percent were unemployed.

Kyra Phillips, by the way, hosts a Special Investigations Unit report tonight called "Judgment In Jena". It airs 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Up ahead, the Republican mayor of a major American city makes an very emotional turnaround on gay marriage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I couldn't look any of them in the face and tell them that their relationship, their very lives, were any less meaningful than the marriage I share with my wife, Verona (ph).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're going to show you the surprise revelation behind his sudden change of heart.

Plus, an Arab government trying to buy part of the American stock exchange -- the Nasdaq, specifically. Details of the controversy.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol, what's going on?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A couple of things, Wolf.

Federal prosecutors did not waste any time in going after Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu. A criminal complaint unveiled today accuses him of breaking campaign finance laws by making contributions in other people's names. He's also accused of $60,000 worth of fraud in his own business ventures. Hsu is now in jail in Colorado. Senator Clinton's presidential campaign is giving back $850,000 that Hsu raised.

A sport scandal -- I should say another one -- to tell you about. Arbitrators have ruled U.S. cyclist Floyd Landis used synthetic testosterone on his way to winning the 2006 Tour de France. Landis says he did nothing wrong. He has one appeal left before he's stripped of the title and banned from cycling for two years.

And safety regulators in South Carolina are fining both a furniture store and the Charleston Fire Department for violations exposed by June's devastating blaze that killed nine firefighters. Those violations include padlocked doors and firefighters working without protective gear. The fines total more than $42,000.

In news affecting small businesses, a survey of professional photographers reveals that when the picture really counts, they still reach for film. The survey was done for Eastman Kodak Company. Nine thousand people who make their livings taking pictures of news, weddings, nature and fashion say they use digital cameras. But when the chips are down, they still use good old-fashioned film.

Back to you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: They still sell film?

Is that what's their biggest thing?

I guess so.

COSTELLO: They do, at specialty stores now.

BLITZER: OK. I've heard of it.

COSTELLO: Yes.

BLITZER: OK, thanks very much.

It's getting nasty out there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: You can always tell when the Republicans are restless, because the vice president's motorcade pulls into the Capitol and Darth Vader emerges.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: She's not the only one. Hear what else they're saying out on the campaign trail.

And a Republican mayor fights back tears as he makes a turnaround on the issue of same sex marriage. We're going to tell you why.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, hurricane hunter planes in the Gulf of Mexico are investigating a low pressure system that could turn into a tropical storm. It's centered about 115 miles west-southwest of St. Petersburg, Florida and it's moving west.

Congress is making progress on a bill to help stranded travelers. Passed by the House today, it requires airlines and airports to make plans to provide food, water and other basic amenities to stranded passengers during long delays.

And the U.S. dollar is losing value against other world currencies. Get this -- today, U.S. and Canadian dollars traded for equal value. That hasn't happened since 1976. Five years ago, Canadian dollars were worth only 62 cents, compared U.S. dollars.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

They're going for the jugular out on the campaign trail, as presidential candidates try to mobilize supporters and distance themselves from the rest of the pack.

Let's turn to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. They're not pulling a lot of punches here, are they -- Candy?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, they're really not.

As you know, the campaign trail as its own special kind of biorhythm and September is the beginning of the season to step it up.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): Clinton nixed Cheney. Vilsack skewers Giuliani and Edwards -- Elizabeth, that is -- hits Clinton.

The presidential campaign has succumbed to a mild case of the nasties. Closing in on that third quarter fundraising deadline, Hillary Clinton was in New York raising money, chatting up the crowd about how hard it is to win over Republicans on Iraq.

CLINTON: You can always tell when the Republicans are restless, because the vice president's motorcade pulls into the Capitol and Darth Vader emerges.

CROWLEY: Kid stuff compared to the former governor of Iowa, Tom Vilsack. He emceed Clinton's New York fundraiser and took her case to TV, laughing at the idea of a Giuliani candidacy.

TOM VILSACK (D), FORMER GOVERNOR OF IOWA: I can't even get into the number of marriages and the fact that his children -- the relationship he has with his children and what kind of circumstance New York was in before September the 11th.

CROWLEY: What does she think as using an opponent's personal life as a campaign issue?

CLINTON: Well, I'm not engaging in any of that.

CROWLEY: Moving south, Elizabeth Edwards, a pointed weapon in her husband's arsenal, pummeled Clinton for a recent Washington fundraiser, where $1,000 Clinton donors got to meet with powerful committee chairmen on Capitol Hill.

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS: What this is saying is she's willing to sell special access to the government if you just have the check.

CROWLEY: The Clinton campaign had no on the record comment. Just another day in the fall campaign.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: And our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM, as well.

It looks like it's obviously going to a whole lot nastier as this thing gets going. It's pretty nasty right now. Elizabeth Edwards was the so-called hatchet man for the John Edwards campaign just a little while ago. Is that working?

Is that a good strategy?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, she's been doing that a lot lately, Wolf. And a lot of people are saying she's kind of looking like the running mate instead of the campaign spouse. I mean being the hatchet person is usually reserve for the number two person on the ticket. Some people say she's taking too much oxygen out of the Edwards campaign, drawing too much attention to herself.

BLITZER: What do you think, Candy?

CROWLEY: Well I mean that's certainly the complaint and that's certainly what some Edwards supporters not within the campaign but out say, you know look, he needs to be the guy out there pushing and really the guy that's the toughest and to leave that to his wife, they think, it does not set the picture they want.

BLITZER: What does it mean when we see the Giuliani and the Clinton campaigns really going after each other right now?

BORGER: Well, I think it helps both of them because it adds to the sense of inevitability that they'd like to portray about their nominations. And also quite frankly, it's easier for Hillary to go after somebody in the Republican Party than it is for her to take on somebody in the Democratic Party right now and that works the same way for him.

BLITZER: It works great for Rudy Giuliani as well with the republican base.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. I mean what this says, Gloria is exactly right is well I don't actually have to deal with these people, you know, in the Republican Party if you're a Republican or Rudy doesn't have to deal with Republicans and Clinton doesn't to deal with Democrats because you know it's sort of a foregone conclusion. That's the message they're putting out there and obviously Giuliani loves it to take on Hillary Clinton and vice versa frankly.

BLITZER: There is going to be a debate out in Iowa, a Democratic presidential debate. Democratic candidates will be there, except for Barack Obama. This is a debate that's co-sponsored by the AARP. So is that a smart move on his part? Is that not a smart move?

BORGER: Well, I think his campaign has been signaling this for a while that he was going to slow down the number of debates and that may be quite frankly because he hasn't been a star in the debates. I think this is a debate at which Hillary Clinton has sort of made for Hillary Clinton. She announced her health care and it might have been one that he should have been at.

BLITZER: Is that going to hurt him you think among the Democrats in Iowa?

CROWLEY: Well, they don't think so. They put out a memo last month and said, look, we're not going to do all of these. We'll do the sanctioned debates. We'll do those we've already committed to. It's not just that he hasn't been the shining star in these debates all the time. It's also that they think they get off his message. They would much rather be out there, they say, talking to the people in Iowa and talking to the people in New Hampshire where they've got control of the message.

BLITZER: Candy Crowley, Gloria Borger, thanks guys for coming in.

A dramatic change of heart on a hot button issue, San Diego's republican mayor dropping a bombshell and coming out in favor of same- sex marriage in an emotional news conference.

CNN's Kara Finnstrom is live in Los Angeles.

Kara, why the sudden change of heart?

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the mayor says this is largely to do with his daughter, Lisa Sanders. She's 21 and four years ago, she told her parents that she is gay.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FINNSTROM: The timing of this has to do with the fact that San Diego just added itself to a list of cities that is challenging the state ban on same-sex marriages and that's a resolution that was about to find its way to the mayor's desk.

Monday, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders promises to veto a proposal endorsing marriage for same-sex couples. Tuesday, San Diego City Council passes that proposal anyway. Wednesday, a dramatic reversal for Mayor Sanders, a father choking back tears.

MAYOR JERRY SANDERS (R), SAN DIEGO: I have close family members and friends who are a member of the gay and lesbian community. Those folks include my daughter Lisa, as well as members of my personal staff. I want for them the same thing that we all want for our loved ones, for each of them to find a mate whom they love deeply and who loves them back.

FINNSTROM: Sanders had previously favored civil unions but not full marriage rights for same-sex couples, now says he will not veto the resolution. He says a discussion with his daughter Lisa Sanders helped change his mind.

SANDERS: She said that whatever way I went she'd be supportive and when I thought about it, she was trying to protect me on something I should have been protecting her.

FINNSTROM: The Republican mayor is up for re-election and his reversal may have political costs. One reader commenting online to the "San Diego Union Tribune" called the mayor Jerry Judas Sanders saying he betrayed the voters. Others have applauded Sanders' honesty, including former San Diego Council member Harry Mathis who has an openly gay daughter. HARRY MATHIS, FORMER CITY COUNCILMAN: It's hard for a parent when you love your daughter to see her and folks like her characterized in some of the ways that I heard.

SANDERS: I couldn't look any of them in the face and tell them that their relationship, their very lives, were any less meaningful than the marriage that I share with my wife, Rana. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FINNSTROM: Now, Lisa Sanders was not at the press conference and has been unavailable for comment.

We also did just speak with the chairman of the Republican Party down in San Diego about how this could affect the mayor's re-election hopes. He told us it's too early to tell. And in his words, he says the mayor has a record of Republican values but on this issue, the party couldn't disagree with him more.

Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Kara, what a story. Thanks very much, Kara Finnstrom on the scene for us. Thank you.

The latest CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll on the issue, by the way, finds 40 percent of those asked say gay marriages should be recognized as valid by law. 57 percent of those asked disagree.

He's back. Osama bin Laden releases yet another ominous message. In it, he announces a new target for jihad.

Also, there's a move for the NASDAQ to be personally owned by a country said to help launder money for terrorism. It's not a done deal yet. But it's close.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A chilling new threat to a key U.S. ally, Osama bin Laden is back with another recording, the third this month.

Let's go to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena.

Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's an audio message recorded over a montage of old video showing bin Laden in various activities. It begins with him reciting prayers and citations from the Koran to justify a chilling call to arms.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARENA: A new message from al Qaeda with clear instructions for its followers, kill Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf.

OSAMA BIN LADEN (through translator): It is obligatory on the Muslims in Pakistan to carry out jihad in fighting to remove Pervez.

ARENA: Osama bin Laden reiterates an earlier call from his second in command for Musharraf's head. But this message is available in English, Arabic and Pashto.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Pakistan is a multi-lingual and multi-ethnic society and he's trying to reach the broadest audience particularly people who live alone the Pakistani Afghan border who are largely Pashtun.

ARENA: Intelligence officials say that al Qaeda is rebuilding in the tribal areas of the Pakistan and wants to continue undisturbed.

MCLAUGHLIN: In recent weeks, however, Musharraf has sent conventional forces back into the border area and stirred it up again, making it a more difficult area for al Qaeda to operate in and making it less secure for them.

ARENA: Politically, analysts say the threat could give Musharraf a tremendous advantage. If he's re-elected, they say he could use the threat to declare a state of emergency which could increase his powers and stop him from stepping down as the country's military leader.

U.S. officials have downplayed the tape saying it won't change how the U.S. and Pakistan are doing business.

TOM CASEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Well, gee, I guess it's shocking that Osama bin Laden doesn't like countries working together to confront the kind of radical extremism and perversion of Islam that he represents.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ARENA: Whatever the outcome politically, al Qaeda's threat against Musharraf is being taken seriously. Officials say that al Qaeda has tried to assassinate Musharraf twice already and believe that it's well within reason to expect followers to try it again.

Wolf.

BLITZER: Kelli, thanks very much; Kelli Arena reporting.

This is another story we're watching right now and it gives a whole new meaning to the words Wall Street sell off. A firm run by an Arab government is due to take over a big piece of the big U.S. stock exchange. But can the deal go through?

CNN's Mary Snow is watching the story for us.

Mary, what are you learning?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, if approved, and this deal was announced today, it would be the first of its kind. Some call it a new chapter in globalization, others say a deal with Dubai raises concerns.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: A bastion of capitalism in the west meets its Arab counterpart, Borse Dubai, a new stock exchange controlled by the government of the United Arab Emirates is set to buy a 20 percent stake in the NASDAQ, America's largest electronic marketplace. Interest in the deal reaches far beyond the financial world into the highest ranks of Washington.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRES., UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We're going to take a good look at it as to whether or not it has any national security implications involved in the transaction.

SNOW: It's a flashback to the uproar over the Dubai Ports world deal more than a year ago. Questions were raised about risks and whether having a Dubai-owned company controlling operations at six U.S. ports was in the best interest of national security. Opposition was so strong, the deal was scuttled.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Our ports would be safer.

SNOW: One of that deal's biggest critics is again raising concerns.

SCHUMER: Dubai has been cited as a nexus for terrorist financing, money laundering and a potential crossroads for shipping and trading for Iran in its quest for nuclear materials and technology. How will that intersect with this new acquisition?

SNOW: Not everyone agrees. New York mayor and businessman Mike Bloomberg says all deals should be scrutinized but he hopes that the discussion won't, "Devolve into the kinds of demagogic attacks that would cost jobs."

TAMARA WITTES, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: This is a situation where there's no material, tangible security risks. There's just the general risk that you have when you have a market open to investment and influence from around the world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now, in a joint statement, the government of Dubai and the NASDAQ say they'll voluntarily submit the deal for a full review by the committee on foreign investment in the U.S. Now after the Dubai Ports World deal fell through, a new law was passed to improve that review process.

Wolf.

BLITZER: So what's the sense out there, Mary? Does it look like the deal is going to go through?

SNOW: You know I just got off the phone with a NASDAQ official who says he is confident that it will go through. And you know judging by some of the reaction on Capitol Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said while this deal raises question, she says it does not raise alarm bells so some of that criticism we saw in the past deal seems to be tempered right now.

BLITZER: All right, Mary. Thanks very much. We'll watch this story with you.

Still ahead, Ellen Degeneres and a work of art.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELLEN DEGENERES, TALK SHOW HOST: All right. Look what I drew. This is Wolf Blitzer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And a look at this, she has her own SITUATION ROOM, the "SITUATION SITUATION." We're going to show you more from the real SITUATION ROOM.

And Jack Cafferty wants to know would you want to see Bill Clinton play an active policy role in the potential Hillary Clinton administration. Jack is standing by with "THE CAFFERTY FILE."

And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The new French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner caught a lot of heat for suggesting that the world should prepare for a possible war with Iran. In another controversy, he called for the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to be fired. Now he's backing away from that comment.

I sat down with Bernard Kouchner just a short while ago.

You said, "We will negotiate until the end. And at the same time, we must prepare ourselves. We have to prepare for the worst and the worst is war."

You were referring to the threat of Iran and its nuclear weapons program. And that caused a lot of commotion when you said those words. Explain to our viewers what you went whether you said, "We must prepare for the worst."

BERNARD KOUCHNER, FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER: We must be prepared for the worst. And the worst is war. But we are not preparing the war. This is completely different. We have to be prepared because is this a very difficult situation. We have to be prepared because is this a difficult area, explosive area.

BLITZER: You were just in Iraq yourself. And in an interview in "Newsweek" magazine you were quoted as saying this. And I'll read it to you. "It seems President Bush is attached to Mr. Maliki, Nouri al Maliki the prime minister, but the government is not functioning," you said, "I told Condoleezza Rice, listen, he's got to be replaced." You want Nouri al Maliki gone?

KOUCHNER: It was impossible, it was not for me to say so, so I apologize. But I receive all of that remarks and all that criticism from various people, members of the government of Mr. Maliki. So I have to say, apparently, and they're all left from -- I want -- I want I'm not an Iraqi. I'm not an American. But I think at that government must realize that stuff national unity if do, it's better. So now I apologize.

BLITZER: You apologize to whom?

KOUCHNER: To Maliki, of course.

BLITZER: Because you said he should be gone?

KOUCHNER: And I didn't say so in writing.

BLITZER: In this interview. But do you believe that this government in Baghdad is not functioning?

KOUCHNER: Don't ask me to do the same vote. It's up to you.

BLITZER: A lot of people think the government in Baghdad is not functioning. I'm trying to get your opinion?

KOUCHNER: So you're adding argument to my non-comment, very good.

BLITZER: You don't want to elaborate. You said what you said, you've apologized to the government of Iraq for saying it, now you want to move on.

KOUCHNER: I want to work with the people representing Iraqis. For the time being, this is Mr. Maliki. I'm absolutely ready to work with him if it is in the implementation of the U.N. resolution.

BLITZER: And that's only the beginning of the interview. My full interview with the French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Sunday on "LATE EDITION" 11:00 a.m. eastern, two hours of the last word on Sunday talk.

You know it's a whole new French world out there. This guy is tough. He loves the United States. I've interviewed a lot of French leaders over the engineers. Jacques Chirac, Dominique de Villepin but the new president, Sarkozy, the new foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, when you watch this full interview, you're going to hear quite a different tone, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're reading my mind. I was just watching that little clip and I'm thinking they finally got somebody in office over there who's got some snails. And maybe you know the next time the Muslims start burning up all the cars in France, the French government will react maybe faster than ten days after the fact. I like this guy.

BLITZER: You know what else I told him, Jack, I told him that, you know, we're going back to eating French fries, as opposed to freedom fries.

CAFFERTY: Did he want to take a swing at you?

BLITZER: No he liked that.

CAFFERTY: He liked that. All right.

Here's the questions, would you want to see Bill Clinton play an active policy role in a potential Hillary Clinton administration? All you have to do you is mention these two and it just lights up the computer terminals.

Ed in Kansas writes, "My goodness, yes, 1992 to 1999: the only years that we have had professional management in 27 years. And just think, other than room and board, we can get someone that knows how to handle both our foreign and domestic agenda for free."

Michael writes, "As a black man, the only reason I'd vote for Hillary is to have Bill involved in her administration. You get 2- for-1 and for all the bad that Bill did, let's remember the good. No war, no deficit, booming economy. I had a job!"

Chris writes, "Bill Clinton should not play any role in any policy making in the U.S. government; he had his day and we need change."

Susan in Nebraska writes, "Bill Clinton is our best chance of undoing, for the second time, the damage that the two Bushes have done to our financial security. I'll be more apt to vote for Hillary if I think she'll use Bill's political and financial acumen to bring us back," that's smarts, "To bring us back to national sanity. And if Bill can restore a little of our standing with the world community, well, that's only a bonus."

Vera writes, "No way do I want Clinton near the White House. We don't need another sex scandal. As in, 'I did not have sex with that woman.' As for being an asset, you can drop the last two letters any time"

Bill in Pennsylvania, "Bill Clinton is very intelligent and would be a great asset to have working in her administration. I know he is not allowed to be a cabinet member, but what I think he would be very good at being would be an adviser or a world ambassador."

Terry in Nebraska, "If Bill Clinton wasn't with the Hillary campaign, there would be no Hillary campaign! I like them both, but Bill's the star."

Rich in Texas writes, "I don't want to see Hillary in the White House again, much less her husband Slick Willie. You can bet if she does get back in the White House that he will be calling most of the shots ... along with most of the interns."

And Marty in New York writes, "Aren't you afraid Hillary might play too large and influential a role in her husband's third term? That's the real question."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. We post more of them online along with video clips of the "THE CAFFERTY FILE."

And just a quick shot out to all of the nice people who wrote letters after that special we did last night, Wolf. I got thousands of letters from all kinds of nice people who enjoyed the program and expressed it in emails and I can't answer them all but I appreciate it. Thank you very much.

BLITZER: I know you did a lot of work on that. Janelle Rodriguez, our producer, did a lot of work helping you.

Don't make that face. She's terrific, Janelle Rodriquez. You know that.

CAFFERTY: I didn't make a face.

BLITZER: You were making like you were making a little face. I was giving her a shot out.

CAFFERTY: That's good. I wasn't on the air when I did that. You ratted me out, you fink.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, good work to you, good work with Janelle, good work with your whole team.

Congratulations, by the way, on being a best-selling author now. We're very proud of you.

CAFFERTY: Well thank you. I appreciate all the help. You worked hard to promote that book and I appreciate it.

BLITZER: And Sarah Leader, we can't forget her. She's your other producer. She did an excellent job as well as she does every day for you.

CAFFERTY: Indeed. She has a heavy load, Wolf.

BLITZER: That's not easy. Jack, thanks very much.

It looks like THE SITUATION ROOM but that's not me in front of the video. Look at this, Ellen Degeneres, we're going to show you what she's up to. You're going to want to see this.

Stay with us in the real SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the Hot Shots coming in from our friends at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.

In New York, a firefighter arrives on the scene of a tax cab on fire.

In Columbia, police unpack bags of pot at their headquarters. Officers seized the three tons of marijuana from a truck on a high away. In Serbia, man fishes at sunset from a river bank in Belgrade.

In Ohio, a woman runs with beer steins in a race against her daughter. The annual beer stein race kicks offer this weekend's Oktoberfest. They're going to have fun.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots, pictures often worth a thousand words.

The talk show host Ellen Degeneres and I have been back and forth trying to get through to each other this new TV season but we're both so busy, we've only managed, at least so far, to play telephone tag. Perhaps, the only with to break the cycle is to hang up and go on television. Watch this.

DEGENERES: We were sitting around the office watching CNN and we saw this.

BLITZER: My message to Ellen, of course, I'll be on your show. I'd love you to come on my show, as well. One thing, though, just don't call when we're live here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We can't take your phone call, but happy to take it any other time.

DEGENERES: All right. So here is my message to Wolf. Of course, I'll be on your show. And I would love to come be on your show. You can come on my show as well. One thing, though, don't call me when my show is taping the day before the next day for the "Ellen Degeneres Show." It's impossible to take your call on the air but happy to take in any other time.

All right. Look what I drew. This is Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: A pretty good drawing.

All right. Let's get analysis on what we've just seen.

Tom foreman is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Give our viewers a sense of what's going on here?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've been looking into this Wolf, I think we have a basic geographic problem between the two broadcasts. Here look at this. This is where the real THE SITUATION ROOM is where we are right now in Washington. You have to go 2600 miles, three time zones. And you know you went that way, more, to get to Ellen's studio way out here in Burbank.

Adding to the problem, it may be that she thinks she's already been on THE SITUATION ROOM. Take a look at this. Looks like our show. There you are. But the ticker is a little too fast. We almost never have the M&M cost ratio analysis up throughout the show.

And look at these guests. This is unbelievable. We always get like senators and ambassadors. We'd love to have people like that.

The other thing is, maybe she thinks she's already met you. Look at this drawing. It's an excellent rendering, but maybe not of you. It's possible that the person she's thinking of is in face former Surgeon General C. Everett Coop because that's a very strong likeness there, Wolf.

BLITZER: You noticed he doesn't a mustache.

FOREMAN: Yes exactly.

BLITZER: In that drawing, I don't have a mustache but I do have a moustache.

FOREMAN: Yes. I think you work these things out though and the two will hit it off very well.

BLITZER: I did leave a message for her yesterday. I called her back. I haven't heard back from her. I'm waiting for that call. We're going to work this out.

FOREMAN: I'm sure you will. Good luck.

BLITZER: This is going to happen.

FOREMAN: We'll be watching.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with that report.

And, remember, we're here weekday afternoons from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. eastern. Back in one hour, 7:00 eastern, lots more coming up. Until then, thanks very much for joining us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now.

Kitty Pilgrim sitting in for Lou.

Kitty.

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