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Putin Slams U.S. Missile Defense; Arsonists Sought in California Fires; Queen Rania Interview

Aired October 26, 2007 - 1900   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you very much, Lou.
Happening now, the search for arsonists in southern California, now blamed for some of those devastating wildfires. What drives them to do it? We're going to take you inside the mind of a fire starter.

Also, new echoes from the Cold War, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, invoking the ghost of the Cuban missile crisis and the brink of nuclear war.

And new military overtones in Iran indifferent and defiant in the face of new U.S. sanctions. You're going to find out why it's a growing concern for Jordan's Queen Rania in my one-on-one exclusive interview.

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

Tonight in southern California, at least five people are now arrested in connection with those massive wildfires. None of them is linked to the major blazes, but investigators are finding important new clues as they search for the person or persons who started the 26,000-acres Santiago fire.

CNN's Kelli Arena and Brian Todd are standing by. But let's begin our coverage this hour with CNN's Jeanne Meserve. She's joining us from Irvine, California. What's the latest on the arson investigation, Jeanne?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, first the latest on the fire. On the northeast edge it's threatening Silverado Canyon, very heavy fire, suppression efforts going on there to save buildings. They are afraid a number of them could go up. At last check, none had been destroyed. But they were worried enough about this area that earlier this afternoon sheriff's deputies were going door to door knocking trying to roust out the people who had disobeyed a mandatory evacuation order that's been in place since Sunday night.

Meanwhile, on that investigation, no arrests have been made, no search wants have been served, but some people close to the investigation tell CNN they do believe they do think there's some forward movement.


MESERVE (voice-over): The road where the Santiago fire started closed to most traffic as a wider area along the road is searched. One source close to the probe says investigators theorize one or more arsonists may have set the fire at two points along the road by throwing something from a vehicle. They are examining a wider area for anything that could have been intended to start the fire, but didn't ignite, or something like a cigarette butt, which might contain DNA evidence. Thus far, the source says, little physical evidence has been found. Publicly investigators are being tight-lipped.

KARL VASILKO, ATF NATIONAL RESPONSE TEAM: I don't want to elaborate on -- on evidence, on leads, suspects or anything like that.


MESERVE: Meanwhile, the offer of a $250,000 reward has triggered more than 300 calls to a tip line.

KRIS CONCEPCION, ORANGE COUNTY FIRE AUTHORITY: With each one of those calls that have come in regardless of how wild we think it is we are chasing each and every one of them down.


MESERVE: A source tells CNN that investigators are looking further a field, that they're pulling videotapes from toll booths, also from the dash board cameras of police cars trying to figure out who they can place near the scene of this fire when it was stared -- back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much -- Jeanne Meserve in Irvine.

Arson investigators have one thing working in their favor right now in these investigations; they have profiles gathered from years of solved arson cases. Our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena, has been looking at this part of the story. What have investigators learned, Kelli, over the years about the profile of these people who actually want to go out and start these kinds of fires?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, they've learned a lot. There are two kinds of arsonists, those who do it for profit and then there are serial arsonists. Investigators working that Santiago fire are trying to find out which type started it. It's hard to imagine setting a fire and causing such devastation, Wolf, so we spoke to an ATF profiler today who helped us understand the possible motivation.


ARENA (voice-over): What could ever possess someone to add to this destruction?

RON TUNKEL, ATF PROFILER: In their day-to-day lives, these are not the most powerful individuals, and their fire setting becomes a means for them to regain power, express power, maintain their power.

ARENA: Ron Tunkel has interviewed about 100 serial arsonists in his career as an ATF profiler. He says the fire starters that he's met are mostly men who are angry thrill seekers.

TUNKEL: Family life, relationships, financial job, health, some concern, something is stressing them and causing them to act out. The fire setting is a means to relieve their stress.

ARENA: Seeing fire trucks and police responding, people running screaming from their homes excites them, sometimes sexually and it relieves stress. Tunkel says that sometimes it is firefighters themselves who set fires. While very small in number, they get a rush out of being first at the scene and grabbing attention as a hero. But research shows that most serial arsonists are underperformers who don't do well in school or at work and have trouble with relationships. In many cases, they set fires seeking revenge.

TUNKEL: Seeing the new family starter home burned to the ground, because I never had a good family life. I didn't have the warm, fuzzy home atmosphere growing up.

ARENA: By the time a guy like Tunkel is involved, the arsonist has been setting fires for a long time.

TUNKEL: And they might start out with a leaf pile when they're a kid in the -- in the yard or in the street. A trash fire, and many times these fires go unreported. A lot of times when we get involved and we're looking at a serial offender, he's well into his career.


ARENA: Now Tunkel stresses that arson is a violent crime and the men who set these fires are violent criminals motivated by the same things as serial killers or rapists, it's just that fire is their preferred weapon of choice, Wolf.

BLITZER: A chilling piece, Kelli arena, good work. Thanks very much for that.

Authorities now link 14 deaths to the California wildfires, seven of them directly linked to the inferno. The death toll shot up after a very grim discovery in a canyon east of San Diego. Let's go back to Brian Todd. He's on the fire zone for us tonight. Brian, what do we know about these four bodies that were found?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we don't know their identities yet, but authorities tell us they believe they got caught in a very desperate situation very quickly. We have to warn viewers some of these images you may find disturbing.


TODD (voice-over): The position of their bodies tells of a horrifying end, one at the bottom of a canyon, another dozens of feet higher, a third several feet above that, all severely burned. Authorities say it appears they were frantically trying to get out, but couldn't reach high ground fast enough.

DAMON FOREMAN, U.S. BORDER PATROL: The fires probably moved through here pretty rapidly. The fire burned this area around on Sunday, in the first initial wave of the fire when the winds were the strongest

TODD: Cadaver dogs found a total of four bodies in this remote canyon devastated by the Harris fire. We were there as recovery teams and medical examiners struggled in the darkness and jagged terrain to reach them. Border patrol and sheriff officials tell us they suspect these were border crossers moving through a common but treacherous route into the U.S.

FOREMAN: There's definitely a danger for any border crossers when the fires are right at the border. The Border patrol has made several rescues during this whole week. We've rescued well over 50 people who were affected by the fires.


TODD: Border patrol agents tell us that even though these fires are dying down, they are going to try to be more proactive to find people in these canyons and try to get them out, so they don't have a repeat of that tragedy, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thank you very much, Brian Todd on the scene.

Jack Cafferty is in New York. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, Barack Obama has a problem. Not only is he trailing Hillary Clinton in the national polls by about 30 points, it turns out African Americans really like Hillary. Check out these numbers. A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows 87 percent of blacks surveyed say that Clinton agrees with them on the issues.

That compares to 43 percent of whites. Eighty-four percent of African Americans call Clinton honest and trustworthy compared to 41 percent of whites. Eighty-two percent of blacks polled say that she shares their values. Only 42 percent of whites feel that way. And 81 percent of blacks say Hillary Clinton is someone they admire compared to 42 percent of whites.

Recent polls also show that Clinton's lead over Obama is especially strong among African American women voters. Of course, it's worth noting that her husband, Bill Clinton, was called the country's first black president during his time in office. For Barack Obama's part, he's kicked off a three-day gospel music tour around South Carolina as part of an effort to reach out to black church- goers.

But as one expert put it, quote, "I don't think Barack Obama can go up against Bill Clinton in a black church", unquote. Here's the question then. Why is Hillary Clinton so popular among blacks? E- mail your thoughts to or go to -- interesting stuff.

BLITZER: Very interesting. I'll be anxious to hear what our viewers think as well, Jack, thank you.

Strong words from Russia's lead leader Vladimir Putin is warning the U.S. about a plan President Bush believes will make America safer. That story's coming up.

Also, his company supplied gear to U.S. troops, but now investigators say he stole millions. Ahead, details of his lavish lifestyle, including -- get this -- a $10 million party.

And later on, some of California's rich residents were able to save their homes thanks to private firefighters and some pretty good insurance. How it works. That's coming up. A lot more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Russia's president is warning the United States not to repeat history. Vladimir Putin is recalling a frightening Cold War confrontation involving the U.S. the then Soviet Union and Cuba and he's slamming the U.S. for a plan the Bush administration says will help protect America but a plan that Russia sees as a direct threat.

Let's go to our White House correspondent Ed Henry. He is standing by with more on the story. A very controversial comparison, the Russian president made today, Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And last week after meeting with Iran's president, Mr. Putin insisted that Tehran does not have nuclear ambitions. The complete opposite of what the White House says. And now the Russian president is ratcheting up the rhetoric to a whole new level.


HENRY (voice-over): Another blast from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Now, comparing President Bush's plan for a missile defense shield to the Cuban missile crisis when the U.S. and the Soviet Union were on the brink of nuclear war.

PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): For Russia, these situations are technologically very similar.

HENRY: Hit with questions about a potential new Cold War, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino tried to downplay it by noting Putin also called Mr. Bush a friend.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's no way you could walk away without thinking that he thinks that we can work together.

HENRY: But with friends like Putin who needs enemies, a point made recently by even Republican John McCain in a mocking reference to Mr. Bush's infamous declaration that he had seen into Putin's soul.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I looked into Putin's eyes and I saw three letters, a K, a G, and a B. HENRY: But Perino insisted a missile defense system in Europe would be good for Putin because it could help prevent rogue states like Iran from attacking Russia.

PERINO: That's the purpose of it and President Putin identified two people to work with two people the president designated, Secretary Rice and Gates who were just there last week.

HENRY: Of course at that meeting Putin mocked the two cabinet secretaries declaring the missile defense plan should be built on the moon. This week Putin also slammed the White House's latest sanctions against Iran comparing that to, quote, "running around like a mad man with a razorblade".

PERINO: The problem here isn't the United States. It's not the international community. The problem is Iran. And Iran has not stepped back from trying to pursue a nuclear weapon.


HENRY: Now, in private, administration officials explain this away as Mr. Putin's bark being bigger than his bite. But his escalating rhetoric is raising questions about whether the White House misjudged this alliance -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry at the White House. Thank you.

And stories from around the world, Iran indifferent and defiant in the face of new U.S. sanctions over the Iranian nuclear program and the country's actions and words are taking on some new military overtones with Tehran threatening swift retaliation to any U.S. aggression in their words. Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has the latest. Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in the war of words, between Iran and the United States, tough positions just hardened up.

STARR (voice-over): It was an Iranian made-for-TV parade. The supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (ph), Iran's spiritual leader, inspects the troops, and then his message to the U.S. -- a formation designed as a sword pierces a Star of David, the American flag, and a swastika. Iran's leaders appeared to be hardening their position.

The day after the U.S. announced stiff sanctions, Iran's nuclear negotiator said U.S. action would have no effect on Iran. Saying, quote, "they have imposed sanctions on us for 28 years. The new sanctions are just in the same direction." The commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard was quoted by Iranian news agencies as saying Tehran would respond to any U.S. strike with quote, "an even more decisive strike". Many wonder if President Bush is still trying to send his own signal.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you're interesting in avoiding World War III it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.

STARR: But the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff made his position clear, U.S. commanders want a diplomatic solution.

ADM. MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I think that we have to be very mindful of risks associated with follow-on steps which would engage us and yet a third country in that part of the world in any kind of conflict.


STARR: But the Defense Department is getting ready, just in case. They're now spending money to build a new 30,000-pound bunker- busting bomb. The very type of thing that they might use against what they believe is Iran's deeply buried and hidden nuclear program -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr, thank you.

Let's go to Iraq now, where the latest casualty figures show a steep drop in U.S. troop deaths. So far this month 34 U.S. service members have been killed in Iraq. That's about half the number killed in September and an even greater decrease from the 84 killed back in August. At this pace, the fatality number in October would be the lowest monthly total in more than a year.

He ran a company that supplied body armor to U.S. troops. Now he's accused of stealing millions to live a lavish lifestyle, hiring rock stars for a $10 million party -- more details coming up.

And could the World Series influence the GOP race for the White House? It will if a Colorado congressman gets his way. You're going to find out that, a lot more, here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The former head of a company that makes body armor for U.S. troops is being held on federal corruption charges. The recently unsealed indictment accuses him of stealing millions of dollars and it provides some stunning details about the lavish lifestyle the money was allegedly used to fund. CNN's Jason Carroll is following this story -- Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the indictment also alleges that this former CEO spent $195,000 on a Bentley, $20,000 for party invitations, and the list goes on and on.


CARROLL (voice-over): David Brooks (ph), a multimillionaire who lived the high life is now in the hands of federal authorities. They allege he lived in luxury, by stealing money from his company, which is responsible for supplying body armor for U.S. troops overseas. Federal prosecutors say Brooks used insider information and made $185 million selling stock in DHB Industries, the company he founded. They also allege he stole $8 million from the company to buy things such as -- $1 million worth of vacations to France, Italy and the Caribbean, $106,000 worth of horse vitamins, $50,000 worth of flat-screen TVs, more than $11,000 for family acupuncture treatments, over $100,000 for a belt buckle, studded with diamonds and rubies in the shape of the American flag, and nearly $8,000 for his wife's facelift, another extravagant expense, authorities allege charging $122,000 to the company credit card to pay for IPods and digital cameras as party favors at a $10 million Bat Mitzvah (ph) for his daughter at New York's Rainbow Room.


CARROLL: Brooks paid for performers 50 Cent and Aerosmith shown here at the event on (ph), as well as Tom Petty of the Eagles and Kenny G. (ph). Brooks' attorney told a local newspaper his client will fight the charges saying it's a lot easier for the government to make allegations than to prove them. Brooks resigned from DHB Industries last year. The company now known a Point Blank Solutions said in a statement, "there is a new management team in place which has instituted various corporate governance reforms to restore shareholder value."


CARROLL: We called Brooks' attorney several times throughout the day. He did not return our calls. Brooks will spend the weekend in jail. A bail hearing is set for Monday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a story. Thanks very much for that, Jason Carroll.

Some firefighters in California will help save your home, but apparently only if your home is worth at least $1 million. You're going to hear why those firefighters work mainly for the rich.

As fires raged in California, FEMA held a news conference to let you know what was going on. Here's the problem -- it was fake! And now it's being exposed.

And Vice President Dick Cheney reportedly will be on the hunt. There will be more targets. But will there be more shotgun mishaps? He's go hunting again on Monday.

Stay tuned. We'll be right back.


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

Happening now, Iraqi officials hoping to persuade Turkey against launching a cross-border assault against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq. According to Iraqi and Turkish officials, efforts are not -- repeat not -- going well. Iraqi officials visited Ankara today to discuss the recent clashes between the rebels from the militant PKK group and Turkey's military. We're watching the story. Oil prices hitting new highs today, at the New York Mercantile Exchange, light sweet crude futures traded at more than $91 a barrel. That's a record.

And as she lay there near death, Princess Diana repeated the words, and I'm quoting now, "oh, my God". That's what a man who tried to help the princess right after her 1997 car crash tells an inquest into Diana's death in London.

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

The danger from fast-spreading wildfires tested the survival skills of many Californians, including those who pride themselves in knowing how to come out of risky situations alive. Brian Todd is standing by, but let's go to Ted Rowlands. He's out in the fire zone. Ted, you spoke with one survivor who risked it all. Tell us what happened.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Wolf, when you look at the devastation in this area, if any of these people would have tried to stay home, they obviously wouldn't have made it. We talked to a guy who lived just a couple of miles from here who did just that.


ROWLANDS (voice-over): What kind of person would stay when a fire like this is coming at you?

SCOTT GARETT, REFUSED TO EVACUATE: You could hear it coming. You could see it coming. And the roar, it was sounding like a jet.

ROWLANDS: Scott Garett is a self-described survivalist, living in the San Bernardino Mountains. He stayed behind with his next-door neighbor as others evacuated and says the fire was like nothing he'd ever experienced or even imagined.

GARETT: And all the embers then starting raining down and it was like roofing and stuffing from furniture and all this flaming debris was coming down.

ROWLANDS: Garett says he and his neighbor used simple garden hoses, buckets filled with water and shovels throwing dirt to fight the flames and they saved several homes. He says they battled for more than 12 hours.

(on camera): You could have been killed.

GARETT: No, no.

ROWLANDS (voice-over): Garett says he and his neighbor had an exit plan and could have escaped at the last second saying they'd been planning this scenario for two years. Dozens of people around him did evacuate and ended up losing their homes. Fire officials say what Garett and his neighbor did was foolish and that they absolutely could have been killed. Downed power line, a wind shift, even an ember can easily kill or injure. After going through it, even Garett acknowledges staying behind was more dangerous than he thought.

(on camera): Would you advice other people to do what you did?

GARETT: Absolutely not. No.


ROWLANDS: And those weren't the only two that did that. According to local officials, a handful of people did stay and did fight the fire on their own or at least took refuge in their homes. And as far as they know, everybody who stayed did make it. But officials are quick to point out the first deaths in all of these fires, Wolf, was a guy in Malibu trying to save his house.

BLITZER: All right, Ted. Ted Rowlands thanks very much.

Look at these pictures over here in the video wall. These are live pictures coming from our affiliate KABC out in California. These pictures clearly showing that these fires still continue in some places. You can see the smoke very dramatic, what's going on right now. We'll stay on top of this part of this story.

These southern California wildfires aren't discriminating. They're cutting through the rich as well as the poor neighborhoods alike. But do wealthier homeowners have an advantage others simply can't afford?

Let's go back to Brian Todd. He's on the front lines for us. Some people are buying some extra insurance and it seems to be paying off, Brian. Tell our viewers what's going on.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are doing that, Wolf. To the extent of hiring private firefighters, more people are doing this, but it is not for every zip code.


FRED JUDGE, RESIDENT: Virtually burned to the ground.

TODD (voice-over): Fred and Janet Judge have an idyllic view. Their backward sweeps out to a canyon in Rancho Santa Fe. The canyon is now charred. The witch fire burned right up to their property.

F. JUDGE: You can see that the fire burned right up to this point. And it stopped right here.

TODD: It's no twist of fate that the Judge's yard and house were spared.

F. JUDGE: There's no question in my mind that the foam was the difference between us being able to come back to a home that's intact, compared to having it burned to the ground.

TODD: The foam he's talking about is a chemical retardant, sprayed by private firefighters. The Judges arranged it through their insurance company. Fred Judge says his fireman for hire got to his house just in time, before the fire department. Many of these contractors are trained firefighters, like Bryce Carrier. But he says they try to be a complement than competition.

BRYCE CARRIER, AIG FIREFIGHTING CONTRACTOR: In the best scenario it's before we can get here before the fire department actually is here. We don't want to step on any toes or get in any issues where we're, you know, like kind of like a cluster.

TODD: These private contractors were very effective during the southern California fires. But critics say this service is too exclusive, only available in wealthy neighborhoods like this. They have a point. Those who get the service pay premiums of at least $10,000 a year. Most own homes worth at least $1 million, in places like Malibu and Aspen, Colorado. Fred Judge believes that equation will change.

F. JUDGE: My sense is that competition will drive the price of this stuff to -- to be affordable by everybody. I think we're going to see a revolution now.


TODD: And Fred's insurance company says it wants to help spur that revolution. An official with the American International Group told me they want to work with public fire departments and help them offer this kind of service to those who are not in the most affluent zip codes, Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much.

I want to go back to these live pictures out in Orange County, California. Take a look at this, you can still see, these fires are still continuing. These are live pictures. You see the flames on the mountainside there, the smoke continuing. These fires are by no means out yet. They still pose a danger. These are live pictures, you're seeing thanks to our affiliate KABC. You see those flames down below.

When you've lost almost everything in a fire, you're likely to cherish almost any memento that survives intact. CNN's Allan Chernoff met one family that found treasures in the ashes.


ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When screaming neighbors woke Jim Noyes at 4:00 in the morning, he ordered his wife and son out of the house moments before it caught fire.

PARIS NOYES, HOME DESTROYED: No time at all. Just get into the truck now. And I'm like, but the cat. And he's like now. And finally I got her and I was able to -- and I dropped my purse, but we were able to get out alive.

CHERNOFF: The Noyes family evacuated a home they had bought only two months ago. All that remained in the ashes was a fire-proof safe. Its lock burnt off. We asked the San Diego fire department to open it. Inside, were the family's important documents, and sentimental items that Jim feared had been burned.

JIM NOYES, HOME DESTROYED: It's all we got in there, the baby pictures.

CHERNOFF: Most important of all to Jim, a letter and a silver dollar his mother had given to his father on their wedding day.

J. NOYES: That to me would be worth more than anything.

CHERNOFF: After 20 minutes of sawing and chopping, success.

J. NOYES: There it is, right there.

CHERNOFF: Behind a shield of metal, concrete and plastic, was the item Jim desperately wanted to save.

J. NOYES: There it is! Yes! Thank you. Thank you. Right there. That's what I wanted, right there.

CHERNOFF: There you go.

J. NOYES: That was what I wanted, right there. That's the most important thing is that envelope right there. Wow. Guys, thank you very much.

CHERNOFF: It is a letter that transcends material possessions. Jim's mom Rita passed away last year. On her wedding day 49 years ago, she wrote to her husband George.

J. NOYES: May we always see happiness today. May our love grow and grow. I'll always love you, my husband. This silver dollar always keeps and we will never be completely broken. Your loving wife, Rita. August 30, 1958, their wedding day. I lost my mom recently and this meant more to me than anything.

CHERNOFF: Jim Noyes lost his home, but thanks to his safe and help from the fire department, he was able to retrieve a family treasure that could never be replaced. Allan Chernoff, CNN, San Diego, California.


BLITZER: They've already traded verbal missiles. Might the U.S. and Iran though engage in an actual war? We'll talk about that possibility with Queen Rania of Jordan.

Plus, a presidential candidate makes a sort of bet on baseball. You might not believe the wager one Republican candidate wants to make with a rival. It involves the White House and the World Series. Stay with us, you're in THTE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: On our political ticker this Friday, the vice president, Dick Cheney may be shooting himself in the foot with this one. Cheney is reportedly going hunting next week, one of the few times he's picked up a shotgun since accidentally shooting a hunting pal last year, an incident that made him the popular target for late- night comedians. The Associated Press reports Cheney will spend the day at a hunting club in New York's Hudson River Valley on Monday.

The World Series could influent the GOP race for the White House if, if one candidate gets his way. The Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo is challenging former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney to a bet. If the Boston Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies, Tancredo says he'll drop his bid for the presidency. But there's a catch. If the Rockies beat the Red Sox, Romney would have to quit the race. Romney isn't taking the bet. But the odds would have been in his favor with the Red Sox now two games ahead in the series.

Former presidential candidate Sam Brownback says he's now much more comfortable with Rudy Giuliani's position on abortion. The GOP senator and staunch abortion opponent met with the Republican presidential front-runner late yesterday. Brownback says after their talk, he's not sure the, quote, "pro-choice label fits the former New York mayor." That could be a good sign for Giuliani, who is hoping to get the endorsement of his conservative former rival.

Remember for the latest political news at any time, check out our political ticker at And remember on November 15th, I'll be in Las Vegas, Nevada to moderate a debate in the key western state among the Democratic presidential candidates. November 15th, in Vegas.

Tensions with Iraq, up another notch as the Bush administration announces new sanctions. That move is causing deep concern across the Middle East. I talked about the possibility of war with Iran and more with the queen of Jordan, Queen Rania.


BLITZER: Your majesty, how worried are you that there could be a war involving Iran sooner rather than later?

QUEEN RANIA, JORDAN: Well, obviously, a war is always something to worry about. And as you said, our region is already riddled with so much conflict that another war would definitely not be something we would welcome.

When it comes to the issue of the nuclear program, it's important for Iran to abide by international regulations and to remain open to inspection by international regulatory bodies.

I mean, clarity and transparency are what is important here. And beyond that, it's important for the issue to remain on the international negotiating table. This is not a confrontation between the United States and Iran.

I think if there are -- if there are any threats, then those are threats that will affect the international community and, therefore, we all have -- must have the unified stance with regards to this issue.

And ensure that we explore all diplomatic avenues before we make any move towards -- towards military action.

BLITZER: So, your majesty, I'll ask you a blunt question. Was the U.S. invasion of Iraq a blunder?

QUEEN RANIA: Well, that's -- I think there's no simple answer to that question. You know, what we have today is a multi-faceted problem that needs a multi-faceted solution. And we all have to work together as much -- as hard as we can to restore safety and stability, because at the end of the day, the prosperity and stability of Iraq is in the best interests of all of us.

And, again, I want to emphasize the humanitarian situation. Very, very important for us to really work together to ensure that -- that the Iraqis can go back to normality in their life. And when you talk about displaced, a lot of people that are leaving Iraq are the doctors, the scientists, the engineers. Those are Iraq's best hope of rebuilding the country. So reconciliation, reconstruction needs to happen as soon as possible.

BLITZER: How damaged is the U.S. image, the U.S. reputation, in the Arab and Muslim world?

QUEEN RANIA: Well, there are some negative perceptions of the United States in the Arab world. And as you know, since 9/11 and since the war in Iraq, tensions between east and west have become very inflamed.

But, you know, nothing is not reversible. We can work on this. We can -- we can try to bridge those differences. We can try to overcome the mutual suspicion and distrust.

And first and foremost, we can do this by trying to resolve some of the core issues in the region. Namely, the Palestinian and Israeli conflict address well as the situation in Iraq.

You know, over the past seven years, not much has been done with regards to finding a resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian issue. And today, we have a situation where we have a good chance of finding a final solution, a final just solution, to this issue.

Hopefully next month there will be the peace conference that the American administration is working very hard to back. And we have engagement from many different Arab countries that are backing this up as well. And I just hope that we can finally put this to rest.


BLITZER: Queen Rania of Jordan speaking with me earlier.

When we come back, imprisoned for sex. Now, the teenager who fought for years to gain his freedom wins. You're going to find out what happened. That's coming up.

Also, Hillary Clinton turned 60, with a special serenade. It went something like happy birthday, Mrs. President. Jeanne Moos has this most unusual story. All that, a lot more, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Carol Costello's off today, Brianna Keilar is monitoring some other important stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What's going on, Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a 21-year-old man who spent two years in a Georgia jail for having consensual sex with a teenage girl is now free. Genarlow Wilson walked out of jail a short time ago, just hours after the state supreme court ruled that his 10- year prison sentence was cruel and unusual. Wilson was a 17-year-old honor student and a football star at the time of the incident and the girl was 15. Wilson said he's now looking forward to spending time with his family and he plans to enroll in college to study sociology.

Police in New York are reporting that two improvised bombs exploded outside the Mexican consulate early this morning. These explosions damaged windows in the building and forced a temporary evacuation, but no one was injured. A similar incident occurred outside the British consulate in the city in 2005.

A senior security official in Yemen says one of the masterminds of the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 has been released from custody. Jamal al-Badawi escaped from prison last year and then about two weeks ago he turned himself in. According to this official, he was freed after pledging loyalty to the Yemenese government. You probably recall 17 American sailors died in the Cole bombing.

And the White House is scolding the Federal Emergency Management Agency for staging a phony news conference about its response to the California wildfires. White House Press Secretary Dana Perino says the White House does not condone the move, and that it will not happen again. On Tuesday, FEMA employees played the part of reporters questioning the agency's deputy director. Real reporters weren't told about the supposed news conference until 15 minutes before it began. Wolf?

BLITZER: Brianna, thank you for that. That's a shocking, shocking story.

President Bush is scolding Democrats in Congress, saying they're wasting time by passing another children's health care bill that he's promising to veto. Does the public share the president's feelings? Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is here with some brand new poll numbers.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): A year ago, voters were furious at Congress. Congress's job approval? Twenty-eight percent. So voters threw the Republican majority out.

A year later, how is Congress doing? Worse. Twenty-two percent.

Who's down on Congress? Republicans? No. Everybody.

Congress symbolizes Washington. Congress' job rating is an index of anti-Washington sentiment. When Congress' job rating goes down, say, below 30 percent, where it is now, it means anti-Washington sentiment is up.

Congress was down in the late 1970s after Watergate. Those were the years of gas lines and stagflation. Anti-Washington sentiment brought Jimmy Carter to power and threw President Carter and the Democratic Senate out of power.

RONALD REAGAN, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, that might be more fun, pulling rabbits out of a hat, than jackasses out of the way in Washington.

SCHNEIDER: Congress' job ratings dipped even lower in the early 1990s when the country faced a deficit crisis and recession and tax hikes and a congressional banking scandal. Anti-Washington sentiment brought down the first President Bush. It gave Ross Perot his day in the sun. It got Bill Clinton elected, and then nearly brought him down, too, when the Democratic Congress was thrown out in 1994.

Have voters ever felt good about Congress? Sure.

Approval of Congress was over 50 percent in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The economy was booming. The budget was in surplus. And Americans didn't think anybody threatened them.

We learned otherwise in September 2001, but that shock caused national pride and confidence in Washington to soar.

CONGRESS (SINGING): God bless America, my home sweet home

SCHNEIDER: Now voters are furious at Washington again -- the war in Iraq, congressional scandals, a soaring deficit, a broken immigration system.

SCHNEIDER: What does it mean for 2008? It means voters want change.

It could be change in the White House like 1980 or '92, or a change in control of Congress like 1994 and 2006. No one is betting the Democrats are going to lose their majorities in the House and Senate, but when anti-Washington sentiment is as high as it is now, politics becomes very unpredictable. Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.


BLITZER: Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York for "The Cafferty File." Guess what, Jack, Congress is not very popular right now.

CAFFERTY: Well, you know, Bill said he doesn't think -- nobody's betting the Democrats will lose their majority in the House and Senate. What exactly have they done that entitles them to keep those two majorities? I mean, I can't think of a whole lot that they've accomplished in the year they've been in charge. So, I guess we'll have to wait and see. The ideal solution would be to throw them all out. But that unfortunately won't happen.

The question this hour is why is Hillary Clinton so popular among blacks and she is. I mean, the black community loves this lady according to the poll numbers we were looking at earlier.

Tony writes from Mississippi writes: "The Bill Clinton president was, for this middle-class black man, what Ronald Reagan was for upper-class whites. To see Hillary take office places many blacks in a state of nostalgia that is unrivaled."

Bill writes from Michigan: "Oh, I can't wait to hear all the 'because she cares' comments you cherry pick. Would it be too much to ask for you to read a comment that thinks it's because Hillary has the black community convinced they can't make it without government help. Heck, she's practically Hillary Luther King. She's shamelessly using the black community in her quest to win the White House."

Bridgette writes: "Hillary's a strong woman. Blacks are used to strong women. There are very few black women who are housewives and haven't had to hold a man together. Hillary is a good example to women like me."

Antoinette in Indiana: "Being an African American female, I don't agree that Hillary is that popular. Polls are just that, polls. All the people I talk to like her as well as myself, but I like Barack Obama because he doesn't come with all the baggage that the Clintons do. Who wants to go through all that garbage again?"

Gordon in Oregon writes: "I think that blacks like Hillary Clinton because they like strong women. Sadly though, strength in a woman is an admirable thing, Hillary history and character have negative aspects that every American, black, white, brown, purple and green should remember."

And Chuck writes from Georgia: "I don't know, hoping you would tell me. For the last 30 years, African Americans have voted 90 percent for Democrats and still complain about the same things that the Democrats promised to fix. Democratic presidential candidates keep talking to them in that fake black preacher voice, showing up at black churches during elections, and they keep going for it. Fool me once."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to where we post more of them online along with video clips of "The Cafferty File." Wolf?

BLITZER: Have a great weekend, Jack. See you back here Monday.

Some people might not want to boast about turning 60, but if you're the former first lady of the United States who might become the next president of the United States, 60 is something to celebrate. We're going to take you inside Hillary Clinton's birthday bash. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Today is Hillary Clinton's 60th birthday, but she already celebrated in grand style. And you could say she looked like a million dollars because that's how many campaign cash she raised. CNN's Jeanne Moos on a most unusual birthday bash.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When you're turning 60 and running for president --


MOOS: Elvis Costello sings happy birthday to you. Far cry from her 53rd birthday when Hillary was running for the Senate. Reporters gave her a cupcake with a candle that blew out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you want for your birthday?

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Senate seat sounds like a really good idea.

MOOS: Yes well the White House sounds even better. This was a birthday celebration/fundraiser. As one headline writer put it, "it's my 60th birthday and I'll charge $2,300 if I want to."

At New York's Beacon Theater, Elvis Costello performed and Billy Crystal handled friendly World Series obsessed hecklers. Just jump out of the balcony. Do it now.

MOOS: And there was birthday hugging galore. Hillary hugged Chelsea.

H. CLINTON: I love you so much, honey. I love you so much, oh.

MOOS: Hillary hugged Bill. Hillary hugged Billy. Bill hugged Billy. And while they were reverentially listening to Hillary speak, Chelsea held her father's hand. Bill Clinton reminisced about all those birthdays he and Hillary spent together in 32 years of marriage.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She was just 23 when we met. Poor child didn't know any better than to talk to me. Hillary in her 60th year still looking I think very beautiful. We love you, and I'm so proud of you. Happy birthday.

MOOS: Up she came. Now if you somehow neglected to send her a gift, you could always send one of these electronic birthday cards available on Hillary's campaign Web site. Bill invites folks to sign her card.

B. CLINTON: What's your birthday wish for Hillary? Let her know.

MOOS: Bet she's wishing for Iowa and New Hampshire. But when you send this birthday greeting, you're greeted with contribute. Celebs singing to presidents and would be presidents are nothing new. Though Elvis Costello is no Marilyn Monroe.


COSTELLO: Mrs. President.

MOOS: We've come a long way to a possible Mrs. President from Ms. Monroe.

MONROE: Everybody, happy birthday.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: This Sunday on "LATE EDITION," we have an exclusive Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He'll join us live Sunday, 11 a.m. Eastern.

Till then, thanks for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. A special edition of "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.