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THE SITUATION ROOM

Cyber Threats; Bill Clinton Unloads on Republicans

Aired September 26, 2007 - 19:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Kitty.
Happening now, a nightmare scenario tested, power knocked out to a wide area of the United States with the click of a mouse. Tonight we have an exclusive report on the threat of a cyber attack that could cause unprecedented damage to the nation's economy.

Also this hour, Bill Clinton unloads on Republicans, accusing them of a bait and switch in a faking outrage. You're going to find out what got the former president so riled up in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper.

And Al Gore warns time is running out to ease global warning, but do any of the presidential candidates have an environmental plan he would endorse -- an exclusive interview tonight with the former vice president.

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

It's a nightmarish terror plot right out of the movies, movies like "Diehard." Computer hackers force their way into the nation's power supply, and with criminal masterminds, they plunge entire areas into darkness, kill air and train communications, even sabotage the nation's financial systems. Right now there's fear, there is real fear hackers could bring the United States to its knees using nothing but their skills, their computers and the Internet.

Our homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve is joining us now with an exclusive report. Some research by the government is really, really troublesome.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right; this research has the federal government and the electric industry scrambling to plug vulnerability. This video obtained exclusively by CNN shows a generator like those used to produce power in a test at Idaho National Laboratory, the generator shudders and shakes, and eventually self-destructs.

What did this? A cyber attack -- researchers hacked into a replica of a power plant controls system and didn't just disrupt service. They seriously damaged a piece of critical infrastructure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT JAMISON, ACTING UNDER SECRETARY, DHS: What's new here is that through a cyber-attack, you can actually get in and cause physical damage to equipment. That's the new piece of this. When we got that information, we really acted quickly to validate it and get litigation measures in place.

MESERVE: It's an alarming piece of information, isn't it?

JAMISON: It is alarming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: We are not divulging some details about this research at the question of the Department of Homeland Security, which has been working with the electric industry to eliminate all possible avenues of attack. Officials say they have reduced the risk significantly, but they have not yet eliminated it. Wolf?

BLITZER: So Jeanne, what kind of actual damage could an attack like this do?

MESERVE: Well first of all, the Department of Homeland Security says there is no specific threat information that anyone is trying to launch this kind of an attack, and they believe that if someone did so successfully, that the damage would be localized, but as we will report tonight in great detail on "ANDERSON COOPER 360," outside experts believe there is a possibility that multiple simultaneous cyber attacks on control systems could knock out power to regions of the country, possibly even for months, Wolf.

BLITZER: What a nightmare scenario. All right, Jeanne. Thanks very much. And as Jeanne just said, she's going to have a lot more -- many more details on this very disturbing story, your full report will air later tonight on CNN's "ANDERSON COOPER 360". That airs tonight 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

The Bush administration is stepping up efforts to gather support at the United Nations for new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, this comes one day after the country's president was there delivering a closely watched speech in which he indicated a new willingness to cooperate on the issue. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sat down for an interview with CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour and talked about his other high profile and very controversial speech over at Columbia University.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's hard to fathom perhaps the kind of pressure that Ahmadinejad is under here in the United States. I say that because as you know, we had a promised interview that was heavily promoted on CNN, and early this morning we were informed that this interview, along with others that he had planned, would be canceled. After a lot of intercession by myself and a senior executive here at CNN, they agreed to actually perhaps come and do a shorter interview, 15 minutes, after he had some U.N. meetings this morning.

But when we actually did sit down, he said he only had time for one question. This was quite unusual, but nonetheless we did ask him about the reception he got at Columbia University, that dramatic confrontation at Columbia University when he was, as he said, subjected to a wave of insults, particularly from the Columbia University president, but he said nonetheless he didn't regret that he had been there. Listen to what he said about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRAN (through translator): I think through the meetings that I've had at the United Nations, as well as the meeting at Columbia University, we did a lot of important work in helping increase the ability of people to listen together towards peace, toward justice, towards compassion, and towards brotherhood around the world. I refuse to discuss the marginal issues, what people were saying, what analysis came before and after the event.

What really mattered was that several thousand students came to meet with a teacher, a teacher who doesn't teach there, but they sat down with me for over one hour. We debated, we talked, they heard and thought about the issues that I raised and that to me was most valuable. Most certainly there were things that had happened that I think were under the influence of political pressures from different sort of political groups here and politicians who run this country, I wish that hadn't happened, but nonetheless I think academic students and universities have the ability to make their own judgment, to keep themselves away from such pressures and expand their horizons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: It's clear that a lot of Iranian officials believe there's sort of a drumbeat towards war between the United States and Iran, but last night at a dinner of some journalists and a lot of think tank members and leaders, President Ahmadinejad when asked about that said no, why should there be? I don't believe that there will be war. Wolf?

BLITZER: Christiane Amanpour with that report in New York. Earlier I sad Ahmadinejad indicated a new willingness to cooperate on the issue of his nuclear program -- I misspoke. I meant to say he did not indicate any new willingness to cooperate on the issue, in fact he said the case was closed. Ahmadinejad was caught off-guard, though, when he was confronted by the anguished wife of a kidnap Israeli soldier.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick is joining us now with that -- Deb.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's not every day you see a young wife face down a world leader, but then again it's not every day the Iranian president is in town.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK (voice-over): The question during the Iranian president's press conference took many by surprise.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am the wife of Goldwasser that was kidnapped by Hezbollah to Lebanon more than a year, and you are responsible for this by your support. I'm asking how come you're not allowing the Red Cross to go in to visit them. How come you're not sending us a sign of life more than a year? How come you're not answering me?

FEYERICK: Thirty-one-year-old Karnit Goldwasser sitting in the first row directly in front of President Ahmadinejad said she knew she had one chance to ask him to step in and help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have nothing to lose. I lost already my husband.

FEYERICK: Ehud Goldwasser and another soldier Eldad Regev were kidnapped last summer inside Israel while patrolling the border. The abduction by what the U.S. says is an Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia triggered a two-month assault against Lebanon by Israeli forces.

(SOUNDS)

FEYERICK: Since then Karnit Goldwasser has done everything possible to talk to prime ministers, presidents, and anyone she thinks might be able to reach out to Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah so she can get some sign her husband is still alive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ahmadinejad is in charge of Hezbollah (inaudible), the head of Hezbollah, the one that kidnapped my husband, so I want him to be involved and also say to Nasrallah, give them a sign of life. Give them -- let the Red Cross go to see them.

FEYERICK: The Iranian consult to the U.N. tells CNN Iran has no official comment on the issue of the kidnapped soldier.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

FEYERICK: The distraught wife, a non-journalist who is part of the Israeli delegation, was cut off by reporters in the room who later indicated she was out of line.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know that it wasn't right what I did, but I promise him years ago -- I said if something happened to you, I will bring the moon to you, and I will do whatever it needs me to do and to go to bring you back.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: The wife of the kidnapped Israeli says she hopes when Ahmadinejad returns to Iran, if he's a humanitarian like he says, he will reach out to Hezbollah, and maybe her husband and his friend will finally come home, if they're still alive. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Deb Feyerick. Thanks very much.

Conspicuously absent from the United Nations General Assembly meetings in New York this week, the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez. This year he was at home meeting, among other things, with the Oscar winning actor Kevin Spacey. A government spokesman at Caracas says Spacey asked Chavez about his plans to rewrite the Constitution and his offer to help broker the release of hostages or guerrillas in -- hostages of guerrillas in Colombia. They also talked about the Venezuelan cinema. They spoke about the country's cocoa that's used in making chocolate. Spacey's Latin American tour takes him next to Cuba.

Jack Cafferty is joining us from New York with "The Cafferty File" -- hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Hugo Chavez and Kevin Spacey, now there's a pair to draw to.

BLITZER: Yeah, last year when Chavez came to the U.N. he referred to the president of the United States as the devil, if you remember.

CAFFERTY: I recall.

Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman says the State Department is blocking his committee's investigation of Blackwater and its operations in Iraq. Blackwater of course a private contractor that provides security for U.S. diplomats in Baghdad and this all goes back to the shooting earlier this month that involved Blackwater guards and left at least 11 Iraqis dead. Waxman sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying that Blackwater told his panel a State Department official had directed them not to provide documents without prior written approval.

The State Department says it's just a misunderstanding. They said, quote, "All information requested by the committee has been or is in the process of being provided", unquote. The American and Iraqi governments said they're working on a joint investigation to look into this matter, but a lot of Iraqis aren't too happy with that idea, since they think the American contractors are not held accountable for what they do in Iraq.

In other words it's sort of like the actions of the Bush administration here in the United States, if you get my drift. Meanwhile, here's what one senior military official told "The Washington Post" about the Blackwater situation.

Quote, "This is a nightmare. We had guys who saw the aftermath and it was very bad. This is going to hurt us badly. It may be worse than Abu Ghraib", unquote.

So here's the question -- what does it mean if the State Department is interfering in the Blackwater investigation? E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. You know we're getting to the point in this administration, Wolf, where it would be news if we could report they were cooperating in an investigation.

BLITZER: Good point, Jack. Thanks very much. Jack Cafferty will be back shortly.

The former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, on fire.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that there was something completely disingenuous about the feigned outright of the Republicans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're going to tell you why the former president sounds as angry as ever with Republicans in an interview he gave Anderson Cooper just a while ago.

Plus, does Al Gore think the Bush administration is having a change of heart when it comes to global warming -- my exclusive interview with the former vice president, that's coming up as well.

And Senator Larry Craig, he's not backing off from his resignation plans while a judge revisits his bathroom bust. We'll have the latest.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Bill Clinton is unleashing some anti-Republican anger suggesting some of the Republicans are -- his words -- hypocrites. It involves Republican reaction to that MoveOn.org ad critical of the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus. Clinton had this to say to CNN's Anderson Cooper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

B. CLINTON: I think that there was something completely disingenuous about the feigned outrage of the Republicans and the White House and in the Congress about this. This was classic bait- and-switch.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Focus on that as opposed to focusing...

(CROSSTALK)

B. CLINTON: I don't have to deal with Iraq. I don't have to tell anybody what I'm going to do. Everything we do in Iraq is obviously right, because they said this about Petraeus, as if this was the only issue in the wild world. Come on these Republicans that are all upset about Petraeus, this is one newspaper ad. These are the people that ran a television ad in Georgia with Max Cleland, who lost half his body in Vietnam, in the same ad with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

That's what the Republicans did, and the person that rode to the Senate on that ad was there voting to condemn the Democrats over the Petraeus ad. I mean, these are the people that funded the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and the president appointed one of the principal funders of the Swift Boat ads to be an ambassador, but they are really upset about Petraeus, but it was OK to question John Kerry's patriotism on a blatantly dishonest claims by people that didn't know what they were talking about.

So it was just bait-and-switch. It was just oh, thank goodness, I can take this little word here and ignore what we have done in Iraq and what we're going to do, and the outrageous way we gained political power by smearing John Kerry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk a little bit more about what the former president had to say. He's venting his anger, as you can see, at the Republicans over that ad. Joining us is our chief national correspondent John King. You and I covered him when he was president of the United States. We used to see him occasionally venting that kind of anger. It's much less common now.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He has a long memory, Wolf. As you can see him reciting those ads used against Democrats in the past and he has a very feisty temper. And this goes directly to the big debate in both parties right now. What would it be like if the presumptive frontrunner right now, Hillary Clinton, is the Democratic nominee?

Many Republicans say that would be a tough race, but they think it would be their best chance actually. The Republican Party is so demoralized right now. What better way to unite the Republican Party than to have them running against Hillary and Bill Clinton. He obviously has the best political skills still in his party. He can't be on the ballot, but to see an outburst like that reminds everybody of what it would be like if she is the Democratic nominee. Many Democrats think that's a good thing, but some do have their doubts.

BLITZER: A lot of people say you get two for the price of one. They used to say that back in '92, but in this particular case you would get Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton.

KING: You would have a former president of the United States serving in some ways as the attack dog or the rebuttal dog if you will to the Republican attacks on the campaign trail. There's no question Bill Clinton has enormous political skills. The question many Democrats ask themselves is would he so incite the Republicans and she so incite the Republicans that GOP turnout would be up no matter who the Republican nominee was and would it then bring it to whole play the baggage of Bill Clinton. He has considerable political skills, but he also does bring some personal and character baggage to the table. This is the fascinating debate that is going on right now in both parties as the nomination battle unfolds.

BLITZER: John thanks very much. John, stick around because you're going to be coming back. You can watch, by the way, Anderson's entire interview with Bill Clinton later tonight, and I think you're going to want to see it. It airs on "AC 360" at 10:00 p.m. Eastern only, only here on CNN.

Bill Clinton is continuing to play a major role in his wife's presidential campaign in other ways as well, with the next fund- raising deadline approaching. This weekend the former president is out in full force now for Senator Hillary Clinton. Let's go to our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton. Abbi, they have already invited supporters to lunch. This time though it involves some junk food. ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this is the latest fund-raising e-mail from the Hillary Clinton campaign. Watch a debate with Bill Clinton. We'll throw in a big TV and a big bowl of chips. This is a fund-raising deadline week. And the e-mails from the candidates are coming in thick and fast.

In terms of dollars, Hillary Clinton trails Barack Obama, who is continuing with his innovative Web push online to try and keep those online dollars coming in -- meal with a candidate -- been there, done that. Obama's latest push focuses on new donors making a contribution and others matching it. Who is going to be ahead this quarter? Check out this Web page from the Hillary Clinton team, HillaryHub.com. With the headline projections Obama leads again, so the Hillary Clinton campaign, they're asking on one of their Web pages for contributions while trying to lower expectations on another one. Wolf?

BLITZER: Thank you, Abbi for that.

Al Gore's global warning. He's falling on the United Nations right now to take action on climate change. I'll ask him what he wants them to do. That's coming up in my exclusive one-on-one interview with the former vice president.

Plus, violence against pro-democracy demonstrators including Buddhist monks -- is an all-out government crackdown looming in Myanmar?

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This just coming into CNN right now. The Jena 6 case down in Louisiana, let's go to Carol Costello. What's coming across the wires, Carol, right now?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Well this is sort of the news that supporters have been waiting for, Wolf. Louisiana's governor is announcing the case of Mychal Bell, one of the Jena 6. His case now will be heard in juvenile court. Now he had been charged as an adult and convicted of two counts of battery as an adult, but he was 16 years old at the time.

And that in part had caused all of the protests that brought tens of thousands of people to Jena, Louisiana to protest and it looked like a return to the civil rights movement. But again, Louisiana's governor says Mychal Bell will be tried, his case will be heard in juvenile court. Of course that does not mean he will be released from prison, at least as far as I know, but his case will be heard and of course we'll continue to follow the story -- back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Good. We'll continue to watch it and get more information. Let us know -- Carol Costello.

Meanwhile, peaceful protests are erupting into deadly violence. Security forces open fire on pro-democracy demonstrators in Myanmar, which used to be known as Burma. Witnesses say dozens of Buddhist monks were beaten and dragged away. Our State Department correspondent Zain Verjee has details -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the United Nations today calls to the military rulers of Myanmar to back down.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(SHOTS)

VERJEE (voice-over): Gunshots, tear gas, mass arrests, the military government in Myanmar has had enough of Buddhists monks leading massive protests that are getting bigger and bolder. One undercover British journalist described what he saw police doing in the capital Yangon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They dragged them away. There was some rough handling. Some tear gas was used and some shots were also fired. Some people who were near me say that they saw two young monks fall to the ground having been shot and they were taken away. People were weeping. People were casting their hands in prayer. They believe that had just seen two people die and they were absolutely distraught.

VERJEE: The government admits one person has been killed so far. It is impossible to know if the toll is even higher. For the first time in about 20 years, citizens are facing off with the repressive regime, fed up and frustrated with rising fuel prices, huge crowds of backing and protecting the monks. A flurry of diplomatic activity at the United Nations, President Bush announcing new sanctions on Myanmar and lashing out at the secretive regime.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Military hunter has imposed a 19-year reign of fear. Basic freedoms of speech, assembly, and worship are severely restricted. Ethnic minorities are persecuted, forced child labor; human trafficking and rape are common.

VERJEE: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and European allies are condemning the bloodshed, calling for the military government to stop the violence and to open a process of dialogue with pro-democracy leaders like Aung San Suu Kyi who has been under house arrest for 12 years on and off since 1989.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: We really do call on the regime to cease all violence and to lay a framework, lay a foundation for peaceful discussion so that there can be a reconciliation and a return to a more free and democratic life for the people of Burma.

(SOUNDS)

VERJEE: The last time there was an uprising was almost 20 years ago. The outcome, the military opened fire on peaceful demonstrators and killed thousands.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE: Diplomats that we've spoken to here say that the West knows it has relatively little influence in Myanmar, so it is looking to countries like China, India, Indonesia to use their influence and try and make a difference -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain Verjee reporting for us, we're going to continue to watch this developing story, a real humanitarian development story unfolding in Myanmar.

Al Gore says everyone should worry about what he calls a planetary emergency. He talks to me about what he thinks needs to happen to address climate change from the Bush administration, even the presidential candidates. This is an exclusive interview that's coming up.

And a disgraced senator busted in a men's room fighting now to stay in the U.S. Senate. You may be surprised at the strategy Larry Craig is said to be using -- much more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This just coming in to CNN here in THE SITUATION ROOM. A new ruling against the centerpiece of the Bush administration's war on terror.

According to the Associated Press, and they just moved this story, a federal judge in Oregon is now saying that some of the provisions of the USA Patriot Act are unconstitutional. The reasons those provisions allow search warrants to be issued without showing probable cause. Let me read from Judge Ann Akins' ruling. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as amended by the USA Patriotic Act, she says now permits the executive branch of government to conduct surveillance and searches of American citizens without satisfying the probable cause requirements of the fourth amendment. As a result, she is saying that these provisions of the Patriot Act, at least two of them, are unconstitutional. This could be a severe setback to the Bush administration on this sensitive issue. We'll watch this story, get more information as it becomes available.

Meanwhile, heads of state from around the world are turning their attention to global warming, that is, as they gather in New York City for the United Nations general assembly. The former vice president of the United States Al Gore, one of this country's most outspoken advocates for action on climate change was there as well with an urgent message. I spoke with him earlier this week.

And joining us now the former vice president of the United States Al Gore. Mr. Vice President thanks very much for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. We're speaking -- you're at the United Nations and there's a lot of people looking to the United Nations to do something about global change, about climate change, global warming. Do you really expect U.N. to do anything concrete right now?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE, UNITED STATES: Wolf, I do. This was the largest gathering of heads of state in history to focus on the climate crisis, and the immediate purpose was to give a mandate to the negotiators meeting in early December in Bali and Indonesia to start the negotiating process for a new and tougher treaty to take the place of the Kyoto treaty. And I called upon them today to finish that up two years ahead of what's currently planned now, 2012, instead to get it completely in place by 2010. We face a planetary emergency. Just three days ago, as you know, the scientists reported that the melting of the north polar icecap was ten times faster than expected, it's fallen off a cliff and in the words of one of these scientific experts, and it really is an emergency.

BLITZER: What about India and China, two of the world's biggest polluters. In the past they have not cooperated, participated in any of these protocols basically. Do you have any commitment, any idea whether they're going to change their mind right now?

GORE: Well, the west way to get them to is for the United States to provide leadership. Both were represented at this meeting today, and the head of China took the position at the APEC meeting ten days ago in Australia that he supports the Kyoto treaty, and both China and India have talked about the need for every nation, including their own, to be a part of this new treaty. It will be a negotiating process, but yes, they have to be a part of it.

BLITZER: What I hear you saying, Mr. Vice President, correct me if I'm wrong, is that the U.S., the Bush administration is the big stumbling block right now. Is that right?

GORE: Well, that's long been the case. The United States has the greatest capacity to provide leadership and to help organize a global response to this crisis, but you know, we do have new leadership in the congress and a little more than a year from now, we will have a new president, perhaps one that is committed to action on the climate crisis, so whatever is done in the next remaining year or so of the current president's term needs to be seen in that larger context, but I don't rule out the possibility that President Bush and Vice President Cheney might make some small changes in their positions. I would hope so.

BLITZER: With Condoleezza Rice the secretary of state was here at the United Nations this week, speaking in part about global warming. Do you think there's a change of heart on the part of this administration?

GORE: No, I don't think there's a change of heart yet at all. There's a small tweaking of the language, and it sometimes conveys the impression that there's a change, but there's been no change in policy as yet.

Nevertheless, the rest of the world is moving, and the foundation's being laid here at this meeting today for the negotiations that will begin in December, and I'm very optimistic that we will get a new and tougher global agreement, but the time is running out. We really need to approach it with a great sense of urgency and alarm. We can still solve it, but we don't have that much time.

BLITZER: All right. You're looking ahead to the next U.S. president. Who among the candidates, democrat and republican, do you think is most committed to where you stand in terms of the need to deal with global warming? GORE: Well, let's give them more time. The process still has a long way to go. Several of the candidates on the democratic side have spoken out forcefully on this issue. None has yet presented a truly comprehensive plan, but I'm optimistic that as the debate continues they will.

On the republican side, I haven't heard much about it. John McCain has in the past had a very responsible position, but competing for the votes in those primaries I guess has led him in another direction. But I rally am optimistic that both political parties will make this one of the core issues, and I'm very optimistic that the next administration will be very difficult from this one.

BLITZER: I know you're studying all the candidates and their positions on this and other issues. Four years ago, you endorsed Howard Dean. What about the prospect of Al Gore endorsing any of the candidates this time around?

GORE: I don't know if I'll make an endorsement or not. I just don't know.

BLITZER: Because the president, you heard him say this week, that he thinks Hillary Clinton is going to get the democratic nomination, but then lose to the republican a year from now November. What do you think about that prediction by President Bush?

GORE: Well, I think it's too early to make prediction, at least too early for me to make predictions about it.

BLITZER: But you're not ready to jump on the Hillary Clinton bandwagon yet?

GORE: I'm not ready to endorse a candidate or to decide whether I will, but I appreciate your interest in it.

BLITZER: All right. Mr. Vice President, it was kind of you to join us, spend a few moments with us. Let's do thus again in the not- too-distant future.

GORE: I'll look forward to it, Wolf. This climate crisis should be right at the top of the agenda for the news media and for all these world leaders gathered here today at the United Nations.

BLITZER: The former vice president speaking with me earlier in the week.

Senator Larry Craig is trying to rewrite the record of his bathroom bust. He's now trying to get his guilty plea dropped. There was a hearing in a courtroom today. He's also apparently changing his plans to resign. We're going to go out to Minnesota.

Also coming up, Bill Clinton tells a restaurant owner take down that picture of my daughter. We'll tell you what's going on that front.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: He said he was guilty. Now he hopes to show he's not. Today the senator who was busted in that sex sting in a men's bathroom used his attorneys to do an about-face regarding his admission of guilt.

Our Congressional correspondent Dana Bash is joining us now live from Edina in Minnesota.

Dana what are the, first of all, the political consequences of what's happening? Because a lot of our viewers remember, he said his intent was to resign by end of this month.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. He's also doing an about-face on that on the political future that he has, making clear today he is not going to resign four days ago from now at September 20th. The senator and sources close to the senator had made clear to us that he was heading that way but after the judge in the courtroom behind us today said that he was not going to be able to rule on Craig's political future, legal future for at least a week and a half, that's when the senator made his announcement.

Senator Larry Craig skipped his court hearing and stayed in Washington, where he raised the political stakes yet again, announcing he is staying in the senate. "For now, I will continue my work in the United States Senate for Idaho," Craig said. That, after a Minnesota judge said he's not likely to decide whether to withdraw Craig's guilty plea before the end of next week, after the September 30th deadline when Craig said he intended to resign.

Craig's short statement made no mention of that deadline and a republican source involved in Craig's discussions tells CNN, the senator is telling associates that if the judge reopens the case, he may stay in the senate through the trial. Most senate republican leaders who pushed Craig to resign in the first place still want him to go.

SCOTT REED, GOP STRATEGIST: Larry Craig is a real nightmare for the republicans right now. And all this Craig thing does is exasperate the base of the party out around the country and wonder what is going on in Washington.

BASH: On the legal front, Craig's attorney told a Minnesota judge he knows withdrawing a guilty plea is near impossible, but argued peering into a stall and tapping his foot in a Minneapolis men's room was not illegal.

BILLY MARTIN, SEN. LARRY CRAIG'S ATTORNEY: No matter what Senator Craig attempted to do to make this go away, what he did was not a crime.

BASH: The prosecution argued it was a crime, and Senator Craig knew that when he signed a guilty plea admitting to disorderly conduct. PATRICK HOGAN, PUBLIC AFFAIRS DIRECTOR, METROPOLITAN AIRPORTS: The defendant knowingly accepted responsibility and culpability for his actions in a rest room at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport.

BASH: The prosecutor told the judge the only reason Senator Craig wants to withdraw the guilty plea is political because it became public. And while most republicans in Washington still want senator Craig to resign, one Senator Trent Lott said today that he thinks it's not a big problem for Senator Craig to stay at least temporarily, but he also made a point, Wolf, of reminding reporters that the senator is still being investigated by the senate ethics committee.

Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Dana, she's on the scene for us in Minnesota.

Also tonight, dramatic new turns in the presidential race. It's now neck and neck at the top of the republican field in New Hampshire. Our brand-new CNN/WMUR poll reveals who's gaining, who's slipping and who's at a stand still in the lead off primary state. Let's bring in our chief national correspondent John King. He's watching this.

Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, they seem to be neck and neck right now.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And what a contrast between the democrats and the republicans. You look at the democratic race, our new poll yesterday, Hillary Clinton is the prohibitive front-runner. You look at the republican race in our new numbers today, who knows.

The new numbers reflect a wide-open republican race in New Hampshire and nationally. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani are in a dead heat atop the pack in the lead off primary state. Arizona Senator John McCain improved his standing and runs third at 18 percent. Former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson is fourth at 13 percent.

SCOTT REED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: This is a very jumbled race. No one has really broken out.

KING: The most stunning number in the CNN/WMUR poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire is this, only 13 percent of New Hampshire republicans report being definite about their choice. South Carolina's GOP chairman sees that wait-and-see attitude in his state, too.

KATON DAWSON, S. CAROLINA GOP CHAIRMAN: Our voters very much understand how much is at stake for the republican in this election. We need a president. We need a veto pen. We're concerned about the next two United States Supreme Court justices, and this game is all the marbles for us.

KING: The new numbers are a blow to Romney. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Romney turned it around.

KING: He has spent nearly $2 million on television ads targeting New Hampshire, yet his standing now is nine points down from two months ago. New Hampshire republicans view Giuliani as having the best chance to win the general election, an asset in a cycle where democrats are heavy early favorites.

FERGUS CULLEN, NEW HAMPSHIRE GOP CHMN.: We're running into the wind a bit and need to think about how we can win the election, and electability matters perhaps more than it would in normal primaries.

KING: McCain standing is up six points in two months. The New Hampshire republicans ranked him first when asked who has the right experience to be president. Thompson's numbers held steady despite all the attention generated by his official entry into the race.

REED: The core of the party, the economic conservatives and the social conservatives have not rallied around a single candidate. So here we are 100 days out. This looks like a wide-open race.

KING: The party strategists, Wolf, say it's no accident that the two candidates who moved up in New Hampshire, Giuliani and McCain, were the two republican hopefuls most prominent during the big Iraq debate here in Washington earlier in the month, lashing out at the democrats who attacked the credibility of General David Petraeus and defending the surge strategy.

BLITZER: All right, John. Thanks very much, John King reporting.

There's a picture of Bill and Hillary Clinton's daughter, Chelsea, that the Clintons apparently do not want you to see any more. Jeanne Moos with a most unusual story. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Wolf. A superior court judge in Los Angeles has declared a mistrial in the murder trial of music producer Phil Spector. The jury told the judge they were deadlocked 10-2. This trial came on the 12th day of deliberations. Spector is charged with second-degree murder in the death of actress Lana Clarkson more than four and a half years ago.

Classes are canceled tonight after police nabbed a man with a rifle on the Queens, New York campus of St. John's University. The school was in lockdown until early tonight. A written statement from the university says campus police disarmed a gunman, a St. John's student. They turned him over to the NYPD and followed up with a sweep of all buildings and facilities. No one was hurt. Investigators in Hollywood, Florida, are trying to figure out what happened in a very odd bank robbery. They say the device strapped to a bank employee yesterday was not a bomb. The teller told police three masked men forced him to wear it and rob the bank where he works. They made off with $25,000. Police say the teller and his girlfriend are considered either victims or possible participants.

Fallen Falcons' quarterback Michael Vick is under new stiffer restrictions after testing positive for marijuana. A federal judge now says Vick must remain confined to his home from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. and he must undergo random drug testing. Vick is to be sentenced in December for his guilty plea in federal court go bankrolling an illegal dog fighting operation. He learned yesterday that Virginia prosecutors will also be pursuing state charges against him.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: He's in big trouble. All right. Carol, thanks very much.

Let's go back to Jack in New York for the Cafferty File.

Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What a moron. You know they're saying that the sentencing guidelines, if he behaves himself could be as little as like five years in prison but the judge will look very harshly on the fact that he tested positive for marijuana and could extend his prison sentence. I mean you have to have a death wish to behave like that.

The question is this, what does it mean if the state department is interfering in the Blackwater investigation, as is alleged by the committee in congress that's investigating same?

Jean in Washington writes, "Don't know who should be involved with investigating Blackwater. Who are they? Where do those people who make up Blackwater come from? How many are there? Who gave them their "orders"? etc. etc. Just another part of this war that has a menacing title and creates its own fog to hide behind."

Robert in California, "It means the State Department is (or is trying to be) as unaccountable to the Congress and the American people as the other departments of this administration. I can't wait for Mr. Bush to claim executive privilege on this mater declaring that Blackwater is his personal advisor or something."

Jim in Oregon, "The answer is somewhere in the five million e- mails the White House cannot find."

Joe in Florida, "It doesn't take much imagination to understand why this administration would stoop again to protect a pet company. Blackwater is Halliburton with guns!"

Sandra in Texas, "Jack, way too easy. It means Blackwater is a whitewash." And Jim in North Carolina, "State Department interfering? Are you serious? Who do you think is running things over there Jacky boy? Here's a hint. It ain't the Iraqis. The State Department owns Iraq, and if any member of Blackwater ever comes close to an Iraqi court, I'll eat your tie."

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 Cafferty File.

I won't be here tomorrow, Wolf. I'll be at the Borders bookstore down by Madison Square Garden signing some copies of the new tome.

BLITZER: An excellent book that you've written and it's doing really well. Congratulations once again Jack.

CAFFERTY: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that.

Let's go right to Rick Sanchez to see what's coming up in a few moments in "OUT IN THE OPEN." What do you got?

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: I went over to Sylvia's restaurant today and we're going to be talking, Wolf, about what some of the people there are saying now after Mr. O'Reilly's visit. By the way, we're also going to be fact checking Bill O'Reilly, what he said that we had talked about the other day when he called.

Also we've been on the phone today all day with Al Sharpton trying to get reaction from him as well.

Also, this story we're going to be following. It's a close look at a new picture in the case of that little missing British girl, Madeleine McCann. Is it possible that it's really her?

And then also this story which I'm sure you've been checking on from time to time, Wolf, why republican some front-runners have decided to skip the debate at the historical black college tomorrow. We'll be talking to the moderator.

All that and a whole lot more right here "OUT IN THE OPEN."

BLITZER: All right. It sounds like a strong show as usual, Rick. Thanks very much.

Bill and Hillary Clinton trying to protect their daughter from a deli? That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Clintons are trying to keep their daughter out of a deli's limelight. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Does it make the corned beef at the Carnegie Deli taste better to know that Jack Nicholson ate there? That Halley Berry signed her photo, "You're corned beef is second to none?" Restaurant owners say you bet you, celebrity photos help business, but do they have any business posting them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the young Clinton lady.

MOOS: That would be Chelsea Clinton who ate here at this Greenwich Village Italian restaurant about five years ago and posed with the owner. Do you think it's a good picture, a bad picture?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He looks very handsome.

MOOS: He is Nino Selimaj. I mean it wasn't like you took a kitchen knife and said take this picture.

NINO SELIMAJ, OWNER OSSO BUCO: No, I would never do that.

MOOS: She wanted to take it. She posed.

SELIMAJ: Right.

MOOS: Just like we're going to pose now.

SELIMAJ: Exactly, just like this.

MOOS: But I'm not the problem. Chelsea's photo had been on display for almost five years when Nino got a letter apparently from legal counsel for Bill Clinton.

Therefore we ask you that you immediately remove that picture. You're not going to ...

SELIMAJ: Not immediately. I'm not planning immediately.

MOOS: Maybe eventually.

SELIMAJ: Eventually, yes. Maybe.

MOOS: Only if forced. Nino says Bill Clinton is his favorite president, and he's asking him to please let him keep Chelsea's photo on display. The letter threatening legal action implies that the restaurant is using Chelsea as a sort of endorsement. If so, Nino has plenty of other endorsements.

So here we have Rudy. And this is a young picture because Rudy still has hair. There's Derek Jeter and Billy Crystal. Who's your favorite picture?

SELIMAJ: Regis Philbin.

MOOS: Now Nino is no dummy when it comes to publicity. He came up with $1,000 pizza at another of his Manhattan restaurants. And he's milking the Chelsea flap for all it's worth. Bill Clinton's office, other than the, didn't return our call. As for the man on the street vote ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep it up. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep it up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. Leave it up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not Ahmadinejad. It's some owner of an Italian restaurant.

MOOS: Nino asks if he took down Chelsea's photo, could other celebs ask for similar treatment? In New York, even lowly shoe repair shops flaunt their famous customers. Billy Crystal's on display both at this shoe shop and Nino's restaurant. Woody Allen is featured at the Carnegie Deli and the shoe repair. For now, Chelsea remains in the front window next to Tony Soprano. Apparently Chelsea's face is something the Clintons can't face sharing.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Let's go to Rick Sanchez. He's got "Out in the Open" in New York -- Rick.

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