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Attorney General Nominee Loses More Support; Iraqis 'Taking Back Their Country'; Interview With Ralph Nader

Aired November 2, 2007 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, another key Democrat says no to the president and to his choice to become the attorney general. Suspense now building toward a crucial committee vote on Michael Mukasey's nomination. And the momentum against Mukasey is building as well.
Plus, the secret to Mitt Romney's success in Iowa. How much of his own cash is he willing to spend to win the first Republican presidential contest? Romney talks about his assets and his weaknesses aboard the CNN Election Express.

And I'll ask Ralph Nader if he'll jump into the presidential race again. Whatever the former independent candidate decides to do, he wants to keep Democrats running scared. And he's suing them to boot.

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

It's gone from shoo-in to showdown. Just a short while ago, we got new evidence that Michael Mukasey's nomination to be attorney general is in peril right now. The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy announced he'll vote against Mukasey. That's an about-face from just over two weeks ago, when Leahy was upbeat about Mukasey's prospects right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT.), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I expect that Judge Mukasey will be confirmed, and I think he'll also show an entirely different chapter of the Department of Justice. I think he's prepared to do as much as he can the year he will have to rectify a number of the problems caused by the last attorney general.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Leahy's panel is set to vote on Mukasey's nomination on Tuesday. So will the nomination survive in the committee? Will it die?

Let's go to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena. She's watching this story for us.

The Democrats seem to be lining up, one by one, on that committee against Michael Mukasey, Kelli. What's the latest?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Including Senator Leahy, there are now five Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee who oppose his nomination for attorney general. So what started as a love fest quickly disintegrated, and that's because Mukasey refuses to say that waterboarding is torture.

Now, Wolf, as you know, waterboarding is an interrogation technique that simulates drowning. Mukasey says that because he hasn't been briefed on the government's classified interrogation program, he can't comment on waterboarding. The president says that's a perfectly reasonable stance and says that his candidate is being held to an impossible standard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's a good man, he's a fair man, he's an independent man, and he's plenty qualified to be the attorney general. And I strongly urge the United States Senate to confirm this man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ARENA: But Senator Leahy says let's get real, "No American should need a classified briefing to determine whether waterboarding it's torture."

So while there are five Democrats who say that they'll oppose Mukasey, the other five on the Judiciary Committee still haven't said how they'll side, and that includes senators Russ Feingold, Dianne Feinstein. Mukasey actually just needs one Democrat on his side to be confirmed by this committee, and the betting is on New York senator Chuck Schumer.

Now, it was Schumer, you remember, Wolf, who originally suggested Mukasey as a consensus nominee. And he's been uncharacteristically coy on this issue -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Arlen Specter, who's always fiercely independent on these kinds of matters, the ranking Republican on the committee, the former chairman, has he said how he's going to vote?

ARENA: No, and we do expect so far that all of the Republicans will back him, Wolf. That's at least the expectation at this point. But as you saw, you know, things turned on their head right away. So we don't know.

BLITZER: Arlen Specter will be among my guests Sunday on "LATE EDITION."

Thanks very much for that, Kelli Arena.

ARENA: You're welcome.

BLITZER: In the heat of battle with Congress over domestic issues, President Bush is claiming new progress right now in Iraq. He spoke at a graduation ceremony for new soldiers at Fort Jackson in South Carolina.

Our White House correspondent Elaine Quijano is on the scene for us.

All right. So what was the president's basic message today as far as the war in Iraq is concerned, Elaine?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's a familiar one, Wolf.

Once again, President Bush tried making the case, this time here in South Carolina, that his surge strategy is working, but the president was very careful not to go so far as to claim victory, and instead warned that parts of Iraq continue to be violent and difficult, in his words.

The president spoke to troops fresh out of basic training here at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. The president highlighted trends that he says show that the Iraqis are taking back their country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Iraqi forces have now assumed responsibility for security in eight of Iraq's 18 provinces. Across this country, brave Iraqis are increasingly taking more responsibility for their own security and safety.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUIJANO: Now, at the same time, the president acknowledged that he is still very disappointed in the lack of political progress at the very top levels in Baghdad. And, in fact, of course, Democrats have continued to argue that no amount of U.S. forces, no amount of U.S. help, can force those disparate groups in Iraq to come together -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So what does the president do now? He seems to be doing this on an almost daily basis, going out, speaking before a relatively friendly group, and making the case not only for the war in Iraq, but his overall strategy in dealing with terrorism.

QUIJANO: And that really is the strategy right now. The president, as we've seen, is going on the offensive. We saw this yesterday with the president speaking at the Heritage Foundation, outlining his war on terror policies.

And also, again, we heard a staunch defense of his attorney general nominee, Michael Mukasey, and his decision not to answer that question about waterboarding that Kelli was just talking about. This is something we will see from President Bush in the days and weeks to come.

President Bush also here in South Carolina essentially laying the groundwork for what we'll likely hear come March when General Petraeus reports back on the situation in Iraq.

BLITZER: I suppose it's also part of a strategy to underline that he remains relevant in this whole process.

Elaine Quijano on the scene for us at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's watching all of this unfold for "The Cafferty File".

Hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Do you suppose it's lost on the public that President Bush speaks mostly in front of military audiences?

BLITZER: People notice that.

CAFFERTY: They do notice that.

BLITZER: They're friendly groups. Friendly groups.

CAFFERTY: Yes. And if you don't applaud the commander in chief, then you lose your next promotion. I mean, it's not -- you know, it ain't too tough to see through some of this stuff.

Hillary Clinton may by wishing at this point she could start this week all over again. Following her showing at Tuesday night's debate, some are no longer convinced that the New York senator is a shoo-in for the Democratic presidential nomination. Newt Gingrich is out today saying Clinton may not be able to recover from the debate debacle because her performance was so bad on issues that matter so much. He reduced her chances of winning the nomination from 80 percent to now just 50 percent.

The former President Bush also weighed in on this. He said a few weeks ago he thought Clinton was a "gimme" for the Democratic nomination. Now he says he's not so sure.

So what are the issues here? Well, there was Hillary's back and forth on New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's idiotic plan to give driver's licenses to illegal aliens. Critics also say that she dodged questions on issues like Social Security.

And then there's this: Clinton's rivals accuse her of delaying the release of records from her eight years in the White House as first lady. They say she wants to be president, but she doesn't want the country to know what she did while she was first lady. Clinton says that's not up to her, rather it's up to the National Archives, when and whether this stuff ever becomes public.

So here's our question. How much damage has Hillary Clinton done to herself this week?

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

The one thing, Wolf, is when you have a week this bad, it's good that it's this early in the campaign, I suppose.

BLITZER: Yes, well, it's not that early. You know, it's two months to go before Iowa. It's coming up, exactly two months. There's a sprint under way right now.

Jack, thanks very much.

Some of Barack Obama's Senate colleagues are asking, where is he? We're going to tell you how his no-show record in the Senate is actually stacking up against other members running for president.

Plus, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney says he has a closely-kept secret. Can our Bill Schneider pry it out of him aboard the CNN Election Express?

And the consumer activist Ralph Nader taking his gripes against the Democratic Party to court. Will he also challenge the Democrats on Election Day again?

I'll ask him next, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Ralph Nader has been a sharp thorn in the side of a lot of Democrats, and the consumer advocate apparently wants to keep it that way. He hasn't ruled out another independent presidential bid next year, and he's now suing the Democratic Party and accusing it of conspiring against him to try to keep him off the presidential ballots back in 2004.

Ralph Nader is right now in THE SITUATION ROOM. I should add, he's also the author of a relatively new book, "The Seventeen Traditions," which we have up on the screen.

All right. The...

RALPH NADER, CONSUMER ADVOCATE: It's the only book I ever wrote that everybody loves.

BLITZER: Yes. There's not too much controversy in that book, but there's a lot of controversy in your political life, as you well know.

Let's talk about the lawsuit you're filing against the DNC right now. The election was in 2004. This is the end of 2007.

Why now?

NADER: This was...

BLITZER: What took so long?

NADER: This was, in reality, a vast Democratic Party conspiracy. You don't want to use the word "conspiracy" too loosely, but it was so intricate all over the country, in states like Arizona, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Ohio, to remove the Nader ticket from the ballot and deny our voters the freedom to vote for us.

It took time. It took time.

BLITZER: So what you're saying it took three years or so to get all the evidence? Is that what you're saying?

NADER: And the jurisdictional problems, and so on.

BLITZER: Because a lot of the rulings that went against you in trying to get on the ballots in some of the states like Pennsylvania, one judge said this: "I'm compelled to emphasize that this signature- gathering process was the most deceitful and fraudulent exercise ever perpetrated upon this court. In reviewing signatures, it became apparent that in addition to signing names as Mickey Mouse, Fred Flintstone, John Kerry and the ubiquitous Ralph Nader," there were thousands of names that were created at random and then randomly assigned other existent or nonexistent addresses by the circulators."

NADER: Yes. He's describing the sabotage of our campaign by signers.

BLITZER: But you're accusing others of doing that, not your supporters.

NADER: Yes. I mean, there were petitioners on the streets being harassed, and fake names being put in like Mickey Mouse and other false names and addresses.

BLITZER: But were those names on the petitions that you submitted?

NADER: We caught most of them. We were down to 1.3 percent. Only about 600 names out of 52,000.

BLITZER: So when the names Mickey Mouse or Fred Flintstones were submitted, they were gone. But some of these obviously remained as part of your petition.

NADER: Yes, 600 out of 52,000. I mean, it was like dealing with an avalanche of sabotage and mischief, and the Democrats were very much involved.

BLITZER: Who -- name names. Who do you believe among the Democrats was involved in this alleged conspiracy that you're now putting forth?

NADER: The Democratic National Committee, Terry McAuliffe, Toby...

BLITZER: Did you cite them specifically by name?

NADER: Yes. That's right.

BLITZER: As conspirators against you?

NADER: Yes, correct.

BLITZER: And so what are -- are you going to local court, state court, federal court?

NADER: We're going into local D.C. court, and we filed in federal district court in Virginia. And this involves many states.

It involves state Democratic committees, it involves Democratic operatives. There's never been a candidacy that has been so sabotaged and drained.

Toby Moffet, who was one of the ringleaders, told "The Guardian" newspaper in England right after the election, he said, "I would be less than honest if this was about the law." This was about, you know, blocking George W. Bush, but that's not the way you do it in America.

You have competition in America. You don't misuse the legal process with malicious lawsuits in order to remove a candidacy.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about the current field.

NADER: Yes.

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton right now, the last time you were here in THE SITUATION ROOM, you called her a panderer and you clearly were opposed to her. What do you say now?

NADER: Well, she's continuing the strategy and it's getting her in some difficulty. Very, very ambiguous, wants it both ways.

BLITZER: If she's the Democratic nominee, could you support her?

NADER: No, I would not, but I think she's going to be the Democratic nominee.

BLITZER: If she's the Democratic nominee, would you run?

NADER: Well, that wouldn't be the compelling factor.

BLITZER: What would be the compelling factor?

NADER: The compelling factor is not is there a need for more voices and choices on the campaign. New agendas, new directions like the small parties did in the 19th century.

BLITZER: Well, let's put behind you some of the -- there's a lot of candidates running right now. A lot of Democrats. Look behind you. Turn around.

NADER: But just to answer your question...

BLITZER: Yes. But you can see all these Democrats, all these -- these are all the Democrats right there.

Do you like any of these Democrats?

NADER: In terms of his record, Dennis Kucinich. In terms of a great Democratic strength in democracy proposal, Mike Gravel, two-time senator. But they don't have any money.

BLITZER: Both of those are very, very great long shots, as you know.

NADER: That's true.

BLITZER: So...

NADER: Underdogs need to be respected.

BLITZER: If neither Mike Gravel nor Dennis Kucinich gets the Democratic nomination, would that encourage you to run?

NADER: Well, of course, but the critical factor is getting enough volunteers, pro bono lawyers, to come up against the Democratic Party. They're never going to do this again to us or to other third- party candidates.

BLITZER: So the lawsuit, in part, is a shock, to try to deter them from doing what you allege they did the last time?

NADER: And to other parties, too.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the Republican candidates. And we'll put all those behind you. And you know all of them.

Any of them you like?

NADER: Well, there's some I dislike intensely. I mean, Mark Green (ph) called Rudy Giuliani Bush on steroids. I mean, in terms of belligerence and aggressive, and kind of a one-note Charlie, that's all he talks about.

McCain has a broader framework, of course, to him, but I don't -- you know, I think if Giuliani gets the nomination or he thinks he's going to get it, Bloomberg is going to run.

BLITZER: And then you would support Bloomberg?

NADER: Well, no, but I would like the idea of a no-nonsense mayor who doesn't have to dial for dollars, and who can go right in and turn it into a multiparty -- or multi-candidate race.

We have got two narrow choices here. In many districts there's only one.

BLITZER: Because the argument a lot of Democrats would make if, let's say, Giuliani, who you obviously don't like...

NADER: Yes.

BLITZER: ... were to get the Republican nomination. You could be a "spoiler" and guarantee him the White House if you were to jump in and take votes away from whoever the Democratic nominee is.

NADER: Now, Wolf, you've been around this too long to use the word "spoiler". If we have equal right to run for election, all of us, then we all try to get votes from one another. So we're either all spoilers of one another or none of us are spoilers. We've got to get over this idea, because the American people are not getting enough voices and choices.

BLITZER: If the decision you had to make today, would you run?

NADER: I'm not making a decision today.

BLITZER: But if it were today.

NADER: No, it's not a decision.

BLITZER: When will you make the decision?

NADER: When we get enough volunteers, pro bono lawyers and raise enough money. We need energy from around the country.

By the way, this business of candidates' rights is a major civil liberties issue on a par with voter rights, because they both nourish each other and make each other more meaningful. And the Web site for that is ballot-access.org.

People want to see what's going on in state after state, obstructing candidates from giving people in this country a broader voice and choice. That's the Web site.

BLITZER: Ralph Nader, he's still passionate after all these years.

Thanks for coming in.

NADER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Next week here in THE SITUATION ROOM, a follow-up to one of our most heated interviews. The filmmaker Michael Moore, he'll be back talking to us, talking about the health care crisis, his documentary, "Sicko," and how he's now joining with doctors and nurses next week to demand reform.

Michael Moore here in THE SITUATION ROOM on Tuesday.

By the way, you can e-mail us questions for Michael Moore. Just go to CNN.com/situationroom, and you'll learn how to do so.

Rudy Giuliani is blasting a Democratic rival for the White House, but did he say what he meant to say about Joe Biden, or is Giuliani flip-flopping?

Also ahead, a fellow Democrat accuses Hillary Clinton of "double talk." Is Clinton overplaying her hand as the only woman in the presidential race?

Donna Brazile and J.C. Watts, they're standing by for our "Strategy Session."

And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Mitt Romney is keeping some secrets. The Republican presidential candidate is keeping one page in his political playbook very close to his chest as part of his strategy to try to win in Iowa.

And Barack Obama says elect him and things will change. He says he knows how to get Iran to change its behavior of thumbing its nose at the U.S.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, an explosive claim. Saudi Arabia says 9/11 could have been prevented if only the United States had listened. That coming from the former Saudi ambassador to the United States.

We're on the story and we're providing details.

Also, your children may get a kick out of watching "SpongeBob Squarepants" and the fun and games on Nickelodeon, but should they be hearing about torture and waterboarding on a network meant for kids?

And a game show host makes a risky bet. Will the price be right for Drew Carey's wager on controversial issues like the use of medical marijuana?

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

Mitt Romney says he has a secret that's part of his strategy to win in Iowa. A recent Iowa poll shows the Republican presidential candidate beating Rudy Giuliani and all the other rivals.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is at the CNN Election Express, stopping in states with important contests. He's joining us now from Marshalltown in Iowa.

What is Romney -- why is Romney, first of all, doing so well, Bill, in Iowa?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Interesting question, Wolf. I asked some Iowans, and I asked Governor Romney in an interview on our Election Express bus right behind me here in Marshalltown.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice over): Why is Mitt Romney doing so well in Iowa? There's an obvious answer. He spent a lot of time and money here.

How much is he willing to spend?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's a close-kept secret, as you can imagine, between my wife and myself. We have a limit as to what we think is the right amount, or less.

SCHNEIDER: Is there some message or issue that's resonating with Iowa voters? He says it's his theme of strength.

ROMNEY: Well, I believe the people in Iowa have connected well with my message of strengthening this country.

SCHNEIDER: But why would Iowa voters see Romney as a candidate who offers strength? We asked this seasoned observer.

DAVID YEPSEN, "THE DES MOINES REGISTER": Mitt Romney's support in Iowa is not based on an issue. It is based on his personal qualities, his executive experience, his experience as a businessman.

SCHNEIDER: Romney talks about his background all the time.

ROMNEY: I think it makes sense to have somebody leading the country who actually knows about business.

SCHNEIDER: His background is featured in his new TV ad.

ROMNEY: I have spent my life running things. I've learned how to run a business, I've learned how to run a state. I ran the Olympics...

SCHNEIDER: He uses his background to convey a message: I am not a typical politician.

ROMNEY: I think it's helpful to have something more in the mold that I think the founders had in mind, which is people would come to Washington from normal walks of life.

SCHNEIDER: He uses his background to draw sharp contrast with the Democratic frontrunner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN AD)

ROMNEY: She hasn't run a corner store. She hasn't run a state. She hasn't run a city.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: She has never run anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Romney's success as a businessman also conveys the image of competence, which a lot of voters feel is missing from this White House, after the experiences of Iraq and Hurricane Katrina -- Wolf. BLITZER: All right, Bill, thanks very much.

The CNN Election Express is bringing all of the excitement of the presidential race and the issues you care about right to your backyard.

From Iowa right now, our campaign bus heads to the Democratic Convention city of Denver, Colorado. Then it's on to Las Vegas, for CNN's Democratic presidential debate. And, from there, the bus treks to Saint Petersburg, Florida, for the CNN/YouTube Republican presidential debate.

Please be sure to join us on November 15, by the way, in Las Vegas. That's in Nevada. I will be there to moderate the debate in that key Western state among the Democratic presidential candidates -- November 15 in Vegas for the Democratic presidential debate.

All of the candidates will surely have much to say about Iran. Right now, Barack Obama is offering his thoughts, Obama saying he would engage Tehran, telling "The New York Times" -- let me quote him -- "Iran and Syria would start changing their behavior if they started seeing that they had some incentives to do so, but, right now, the only incentive that exists is our president suggesting that, if you do what we tell you, we may not blow you up."

Let's go to our chief national correspondent, John King. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM watching all of this.

Iran seems to be becoming the new Iraq in this campaign.

What's -- what's Obama's strategy right now?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What Obama is trying to do here, Wolf, is appeal to the anti-war left in the Democratic Party that says, President Bush started the war in Iraq, and Obama is saying he would like to start another one, or at least is heading toward a path of potential war in Iraq.

But he's not just positioning himself against President Bush. He's trying to say, I'm to the left of Senator Hillary Clinton. She recently voted for a resolution in the Senate that labels the Revolutionary Guard in Iran a terrorist group. Obama says that's irresponsible, because it gives Bush, in his view, a green light to be more belligerent, again, his term, toward Iran.

He's essentially saying, she's a hawk. I'm more to the left. I would go for diplomacy. She's more on a path toward military confrontation.

He also said something else in that interview that is quite interesting. He was asked about the role of U.S. troops in Iraq when he becomes president. He says they will be coming out. And then he also says this: "We're certainly not going to be engaging in what I consider mission creep, where we are structuring forces based on preventing Iranian influence in Iraq, something that Senator Clinton has talked about as a possibility." So, in his dealings with Iran and in what he would do in Iraq, he's trying to say that he's much more, get out of Iraq, less confrontational, the -- the dove, if you will, positioning Hillary Clinton as the hawk.

BLITZER: I want -- I want you to listen to something else that Rudy Giuliani is now saying in a radio interview this morning about the Democratic presidential candidate Senator Joe Biden.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You would say that Senator Biden doesn't have foreign policy experience?

RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What -- has he ever -- has he ever been in the State Department? Has he ever been an executive?

It's one thing -- it's one thing to speak about what you want or even pass laws about it. It's another thing to actually do it. Foreign policy experience, to me, means being an ambassador, being in the State Department, being a law enforcement official, dealing with foreign countries.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. And, just a little while later, he was here in Washington at an event. He denied saying that Senator Biden had no foreign policy experience. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: I didn't mention foreign policy. I said Joe -- Joe Biden fit into the category, along with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. And they were all questioned about this at the debate, but he wasn't. And here -- here's -- here's this situation.

They have -- in a very strange way, they have never run a city, never run a state, never run a business, never run anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, this battle between Giuliani and Biden, it's getting, I guess, a little personal right now. What -- what -- what do you make of this?

KING: Well, in the long run, this is meaningless, because it appears unlikely at this point that Joe Biden will be running against Rudy Giuliani.

Those who covered the mayor in his days in New York said that there's a pattern of this, where he goes on a radio show and says something, and later has to clean it up or doesn't remember specifically what is said. He was clearly asked if Senator Biden has no foreign policy experience, and he said no. Senator Biden would say he's been on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for two decades, more than that. He's been the chairman for quite some time. He has considerable experience.

So, Mayor Giuliani is cleaning up what he said. Does it mean anything in the long run? No, but it could be a sign that Joe Biden got under his skin in that Democratic debate the other night.

BLITZER: He clearly did by making that reference that the only thing that Rudy Giuliani can say in a sentence is a now, a verb, and a reference to 9/11.

All right, John, thanks very much.

Running for president is very important business, but so is the business of running the nation. So, which candidates have been more of a no-show when it comes to key votes in Congress?

A major new development concerning President Bush's pick for the U.S. attorney general -- why the nomination could be saved, and maybe not.

And a Bush -- and we are not going to tell you yet which one, but a Bush tells what he thinks of the Republican presidential candidates.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: A very, very significant development unfolding right now in the nomination of Michael Mukasey to be the next attorney general of the United States. Two key Democrats are now revealing their support for this nomination.

Let's go to our congressional correspondent, Jessica Yellin.

This bodes very, very well, all of a sudden, for Michael Mukasey. Tell our viewers what's going on, Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It does, indeed, Wolf.

Today, just now, in fact, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer have announced they plan to vote in favor of Michael Mukasey's confirmation. That means that he is all but certain to get out of committee and get a full vote on the floor, where it's expected that he will likely get a yes-vote and will go on to become the next attorney general of the United States.

This is a very happy turn of events, no doubt, for the White House, and, as you say, a very sudden change after yesterday's uncertainty that had -- we were all waiting for this very moment, but, suddenly now, Feinstein and Schumer saying, yes, they will vote for Mukasey. BLITZER: Because you have to assume that, what, 49 Republicans, when all is said and done, in the Senate, they will vote for him, at least almost all of them, if not all of them. And now you're going to have a whole bunch of Democrats on the floor. If it gets out of the committee to the floor, it now looks that Michael Mukasey is going to be confirmed.

And, certainly, Senator Chuck Schumer, who pushed for him, who promoted him, clearly is going to play a significant role if in fact he does become the next attorney general.

Thanks very much.

Let's move on, though, to another story you're following, Jessica. And that involves these presidential candidates who are also lawmakers and the no-shows as far as votes are concerned. What's going on, on that front?

YELLIN: Well, what we have learned is that, if you take a look since recess, since congressional recess in August, we examined the voting records of the Democratic presidential candidates. And it turns out that of, all of them, Barack Obama has missed the most votes here in Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice-over): It's become one of the most consistent themes of Barack Obama's campaign: slamming Senator Clinton for her vote on an Iran amendment. He claims it empowers the president to attack Iran.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This kind of resolution does not send the right signal to the region. It doesn't send the right signals to our allies or our enemies.

YELLIN: But Barack Obama never voted on that amendment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Obama.

YELLIN: While Hillary Clinton was voicing her support for it, Senator Obama was campaigning in New Hampshire. Obama's campaign says he didn't get enough notice to make it back to the Senate in time, though Clinton, Biden and Dodd voted.

In fact, since returning from the August recess, Senator Obama has missed the most votes of any of the Democratic presidential candidates, nearly 80 percent since September. The others don't have great voting records either.

According to the Obama campaign, he has made the most important votes, including on Iraq and key domestic priorities, and he did cancel an appearance on "The View" to cast a crucial vote on the children's health insurance measure.

STUART ROTHENBERG, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": I think most Americans understand that, if you're running for president, you are going to have to be in Iowa, New Hampshire, and you're not going to make all the votes. And they give candidates slack.

YELLIN: But, facing a mounting fight with the White House over key bills, Harry Reid is putting all the contenders on notice.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm going to leave here and go call our presidentials, and let them know that they better look at their schedules, because these are not votes you can miss.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: Now, Wolf, the Obama campaign points out that, if you consider the entire year of voting, it's not Obama who has missed the most, but Senator Biden, then Dodd. And Obama comes in third.

And I have an important point to make about that Iran amendment, which Obama has made such as important part of his campaign. Now, again, his campaign contends that Obama did not get enough notice to return to D.C. to make that vote, but two Democratic Senate sources tells CNN that all senators were advised the night before that the vote would come up the next day, and Senator Obama should have known that vote was coming.

Faced with this information, the Obama campaign adamantly stands by their position: The senator simply did not have enough notice -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jessica, thanks very much.

By the way, presidential candidates in Congress usually have a heads-up that a big vote is coming, so they can plan their schedules around it, if they want. On the day of vote, members of both chambers get about a 15-minute warning. When the vote begins, lights flash on clocks inside the Capitol. Bells start to ring. Members can get electronics pages or e-mail to let them know a vote is under way as well.

The spotlight was turned on the Democratic presidential front- runner, Hillary Clinton, during Tuesday's presidential debate. Now Clinton's performance is coming under fire from both Democrats and Republicans in videos posted on YouTube.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She's watching these videos for us -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, whether it's in this Barack Obama fund-raising e-mail or at the front page of the Republican Party National Committee Web site, video of Hillary Clinton at Tuesday night's debate is being used by her opponents all over the place, and the latest from the John Edwards camp, this one rising up the ranks on YouTube today, accusing Senator Clinton of double-talk on, amongst other things, the issue of driver's license -- driver's licenses -- I'm sorry -- for illegal immigrants.

Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, no, no. You said -- you said yes...

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No.

DODD: ... you thought it made sense to do it.

CLINTON: No, I didn't, Chris.

It makes a lot of sense. What is the governor supposed to do?

Do I think this is the best thing for any governor to do? No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TATTON: That one is being e-mailed around to supporters today, the title, "The politics of Parsing."

And it came in response to an e-mail and a video that the Hillary Clinton camp put together earlier on this week, the title of theirs, their characterization, "The Politics of Pile-On."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Clinton.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Clinton.

EDWARDS: Senator Clinton.

OBAMA: Hillary.

BIDEN: Hillary. Hillary Clinton.

OBAMA: Hillary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TATTON: You get the picture there. Six against one said Hillary Clinton's fund-raising e-mail to that one. The Clinton campaign said of Edwards' video today, now that his campaign has stalled, he's launching false attacks on his fellow Democrats -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Abbi, for that -- a lot of creative videos out there.

There is breaking news on President Bush's pick to be the next attorney general, the White House picking up now support for this nomination from two key Democrats. We're watching this breaking news story.

Also, breaking through the all-boys club of presidential politics, those are Hillary Clinton's words. And, to her Democratic rivals, they are now fighting words -- that and a lot more coming up in our "Strategy Session."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In today's "Strategy Session," we're following the breaking news we just reported. It now appears the attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey's name will make it out of the Senate committee and get a full vote on the Senate floor.

Let's discuss the ramifications in our "Strategy Session."

Joining us, two CNN political analysts. Donna Brazile is a Democratic strategist. J.C. Watts is a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma.

Donna, with Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer, two key members, Democrats, on the Judiciary Committee -- there's a 10-9 split, Democrats vs. Republicans -- saying they're going to support Michael Mukasey, it looks like this is going to go to the floor; he is going to have the support to become the next attorney general of the United States.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, Senator Patrick Leahy raised an important principle. He thought he believed that Mr. Mukasey should have answered some questions on water-boarding, torture, of course, the partisanship in the Justice Department. He was not satisfied with the answers that Judge Mukasey provided.

And, therefore, he decided that he would not back the nomination. We still don't know with Russ Feingold, but he, clearly, he has the votes to get out of the committee.

BLITZER: He has the votes to get out of the committee, get to the floor. There are 49 Republicans. And there will be a bunch of Democrats who will support this nomination, so it looks really good for the Bush administration's nominee right now.

J.C. WATTS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and you -- you wouldn't have thought a month ago that this nomination would have been in question at all. And I'm a little bit...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Even two weeks ago.

WATTS: Two weeks ago.

And I guess I shouldn't be perplexed by this, but I am, considering all that was said about the nominee when he was nominated, you know, great guy, person of character, person of integrity, knows the law, good things said by him, more by the Democrats, actually, than -- than Republicans.

And, so, now, all of a sudden, it's -- there's a question. But the bottom line is, he's going to get confirmed. Senator Feinstein and Senator Schumer will vote for him. And I suspect we will pick up another couple of Democrats, and it will be over with. (CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: Well, he started off being very -- he cooperated with the Democrats. He sat down with them.

And then he became evasive. And they wanted some specific answers on this water-boarding, this torture, this form of torture. And he decided not to answer the question. And that's why some Democrats will vote against him.

(CROSSTALK)

WATTS: Well, and the bottom line is, you know, Donna, in this town, if -- if you don't buy into a certain group identity with Republicans and Democrats, in many respects, you know, you don't get confirmed, or you get beat up.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: He's talking about the environment, which is not good.

WATTS: That's right.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about gender politics right now, Hillary Clinton, the only woman running for president right now, and she's playing that gender card, to a certain degree.

Listen to what her challengers on the Democratic side are saying.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: When we had a debate back in Iowa a while back, we spent, I think, the first 15 minutes of the debate hitting me on various foreign policy issues. And I didn't come out and say, look, I'm being hit on because I look different from the rest of the folks on the -- on the stage.

EDWARDS: I think that Senator Clinton ought to be held to the same standard that every presidential candidate is held to. And that standard is to not engage in double-talk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is she asking for a double standard because she's the only woman running?

BRAZILE: Look, she has stood head and shoulders alongside her competitors throughout this entire season.

She had one bad debate performance, and now everybody is getting nervous. I think Senator Clinton should continue to perform as she has throughout the campaign, where she can give, as well as take. She's the front-runner. That -- it's normal and it's natural for everyone to go after her.

But, look, 52 percent of the caucus-goers in Iowa, they are female. She understands how to pull the women out. And she is going to rely on women to win the nomination.

WATTS: Well, when you are the front-runner, you have got a bullseye on your chest, no question.

But I still think she has to be careful that she's not saying, I'm a female running for president, rather than a presidential candidate that happens to be a female.

I think Barack Obama makes a great point. He's had shots taken at him. He's never come out, he's never said, hey, I'm different, so they're picking on me.

I think he's done a wonderful job in saying, I'm not a black candidate. I'm an African-American -- I'm not an African-American candidate. I'm a candidate running for president that happens to be an African-American.

That's been much different from what Hillary Clinton has done.

BRAZILE: The truth is, there's a lot of gratuitous attacks taking place, not just coming at her from Democrats, but Republicans as well. So, it looks like there's a gang-up here. But she is the front-runner. She's tough enough.

BLITZER: All right.

BRAZILE: She's strong. And she can defend her positions.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: We have got to leave it there, guys.

WATTS: But she has got to be tough enough to make sure that she is not playing these cards that says, I'm selective in this situation.

BLITZER: J.C. and Donna, thanks to both of you.

WATTS: Thank you.

BLITZER: And how much damage has Hillary done to herself this week? Jack Cafferty standing by with your e-mail.

Also coming up, Al Gore's political supporters just can't let go. You're going to find out what they're doing now to try to draft him.

Also, a startling claim about the 9/11 attacks by a Saudi prince and a longtime pal of the Bush family.

And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice taking a hard line right now against State Department workers who say they're scared to go to Iraq.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: He was the pilot who dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Paul Tibbets has died, the man whose mission helped to end World War II and begin the nuclear age.

We spoke to Bob Greene, author of a biography of Tibbets called "Duty."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB GREENE, AUTHOR, "DUTY": "And I looked down at the city, and there was no city. There was just scorched -- a scorched place where the city used to be. And I could taste the bomb. I could taste the bomb in my mouth. It tasted like lead."

PAUL TIBBETS, WORLD WAR II VETERAN: Enola Gay. I named the airplane after my mother.

GREENE: The United States government was not working for a poet or a philosopher or pundit. They were looking for the toughest combat aviator they could find to end World War II.

And it was the single violent act in the history of mankind. Paul never shied away from that. He felt terrible about the death. He didn't dwell on it, but, when you kill 80,000 people and up -- the estimates vary -- how do you live with that?

TIBBETS: I said, Mr. President, I think I did what I was told to do.

He slapped his hand down on the table, and he says, you're damn right you did what you were told to do, and did it well. Anything ever give you any trouble?

I said, once in a while.

He said, the next one that gives you any complaint, send them to me, because I'm the one that sent you.

That ended the interview.

GREENE: Anywhere I would travel with Paul Tibbets, people in their 70s and 80s would come up to him with tears in their eyes, and they would just be able to get the words out. And what they would say is, "Thank you," because these old American soldiers got to come home and raise families.

TIBBETS: This airplane stopped the killing. It stopped the killing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Nine days after the first nuclear attack in history, Japan surrendered, and World War II was over. The nuclear arms race began.

On our Political Ticker this Friday, she's the Democratic front- runner, but Hillary Clinton is last in New Hampshire, at least when it comes to getting on the ballot in the leadoff primary state. Clinton stopped by the statehouse in Concord today to file the necessary paperwork. She's the last of the Democratic candidates to do so.

Senator Clinton might see this on New Hampshire TV. It's a new ad urging fellow Democrat Al Gore to run for president again. The grass groups -- grassroots group DraftGore.com also is airing the 30- second spot nationally, including here on CNN. The ad asks viewers to seize the moment and encourage the former vice president and Nobel Prize winner to jump into the 2008 race. Gore repeatedly has said he has no plans to run.

And, remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can always check out our Political Ticker at CNN.com/ticker.

By the way, special thanks to ETV Radio and host Andrew Gobeil for providing us with the Rudy Giuliani radio interview clip that you heard earlier this hour in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's check back with Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File."

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the question this hour is, how much damage has Hillary Clinton done to herself this week. It hasn't been her best week so far.

Pearl writes from Pittsburgh: "Not enough. She's still the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. And it will be worthless in her hands. Say hello to President Rudy."

L. writes: "Hillary didn't damage herself. The interviewers set her up for the onslaught. And then the press took over to finish her off. The worst damage will be to the Democrats in the election if you all keep this up. And I don't even know why I would vote for her anyway, but this hasn't been fair."

Pamela in Baton Rouge, Louisiana: "Dear Jack, Hillary should be glad she doesn't need this independent. Her stand on illegals is enough for me. But her double-talk about why the record she's running on can't be released was the icing on the proverbial cake. I'm sick of Clintons and Bushes."

Adam in Massachusetts: "I think that's because of the spin that the media and her opponents have managed to put on things. She will really have to focus more coming up with more solid answers to the many key questions that she's been wishy-washy on in the past. Yet, I think it's absurd that this is being played up the way it is. The media is actively detracting from her campaign, as if it has been paid to do so."

Adam, if we have been paid, I haven't gotten my share of the money yet.

Craig in Ohio: "Not nearly enough, but all right for a start. This needed to happen sooner, rather than later. The Republican machine was going to dismember Hillary if and when she won the nomination anyway. Methinks she and Bill have too many skeletons in the closet to mount a successful campaign."

And Mimi in Nashville, Tennessee: "Enough to hopefully prompt Al Gore to jump in as an independent" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack.

And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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