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Interview With Texas Congressman Ron Paul; Obama Attacked on Patriotism; Impending Kerik Indictment
Aired November 8, 2007 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, happening now: Democrats launching a new challenge to President Bush on the war in Iraq. And they are using war funding and our new poll as fresh ammunition.
Also, Democrat Barack Obama calls it a dirty trick. Critics are pointing to this picture to question the presidential candidate's patriotism.
And Rudy Giuliani says he made a mistake involving a former top cop, an old friend, who now reportedly is under indictment. Will Bernard Kerik drag him down anyway? Jack Cafferty and our panelists are standing by for that and a lot more.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But let's begin this hour with breaking news.
Our CNN affiliate WABC in New York is reporting a federal grand jury -- quote -- "voted to indict the former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik." The charges, our affiliate is reporting, relating to Kerik's -- quote -- "allegedly accepting free rent and apartment renovations."
Kerik worked for presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani as his police commissioner when Giuliani was mayor of New York.
Let's turn to Mary Snow. She has been following this story, the political fallout, which could be significant given the relationship that existed between Bernard Kerik and Rudy Giuliani.
What's the latest, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Wolf, it was a very close relationship. Bernard Kerik is expected to turn himself over tomorrow to a court in White Plains, New York. This, of course, was mentioned on the campaign trail today while Rudy Giuliani was in Iowa.
SNOW (voice-over): When it comes to tests, political observers consider this a big one for Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani. As his onetime friend Bernard Kerik faces possible criminal indictment, Giuliani is being pressed about his choice of Kerik as New York City police commissioner and his endorsement of Kerik in 2004 to be homeland security secretary. RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that voters should look at it. And what they should say is, in that particular case, I pointed out that I made a mistake. I made a mistake in not clearing him effectively enough. I take the responsibility for that.
SNOW: Sources close to the investigation say one of the potential federal charges Kerik faces is tax evasion. In June of 2006, he pleaded guilty in a state court to two misdemeanors. The charges were linked to renovation work he had done at his apartment while serving as the city's correction commissioner.
According to court records, the company doing the work was looking to do business with the city, and gave Kerik a gift that he didn't disclose. Kerik's legal troubles in New York, says one Republican strategist, will now play out in Giuliani's presidential aspirations.
DAVID WINSTON, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Did he make a reasonable decision, or did he make a hasty, unreasonable decision? And that's what people are going to be thinking about in terms of judging him and his ability to be president and make those sort of decisions.
SNOW: And now on the campaign trail, the way Giuliani deals with this, say political strategists, will be telling.
WINSTON: For the Giuliani campaign, what we're also going to find out is how well prepared were they for something that was clearly going to happen. Questions about Kerik have been stirring ever since the sort of short nomination process for Homeland Security.
SNOW: Now, again, our affiliate WABC reporting that a grand jury, a federal grand jury, has voted to indict former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. CNN is working to confirm that.
And we have put in several calls to Bernard Kerik's attorney. We have been unable to reach him. But I did speak with him earlier this week. He said that, if charges were brought, he planned to fight them and he said he was confident that he would win -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary Snow watching this story for us.
And we are going to have a lot more coming up later in our roundtable with Jack Cafferty and much more on this and other news of the day.
Frustration, meanwhile, about the war in Iraq is coming to a new boil on Capitol Hill and among the American people. After more than four years of war and many ups and downs in public opinion, opposition to the Iraq conflict is now at an all-time high in our new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll; 68 percent now oppose the war. Just 31 percent are in favor.
Let's go to our congressional correspondent Jessica Yellin. She's watching the fallout.
Democrats, Jessica, I take it, up on the hill, are seizing these new numbers as they try to take another shot at getting the troops out of Iraq.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
They are citing those numbers and they are regrouping, saying that they are trying to push ahead yet again on the centerpiece of their agenda, trying to make change in Iraq. Now, this time, they are taking a tack with a new spending measure.
They say, Mr. President, you wanted $200 billion for the war in Iraq? Well, not so fast. We will give you $50 billion, and there will be strings attached. The strings include, he must withdraw some troops within 30 days. He would have to set a goal of full withdrawal within a year, and they would ban water-boarding by any U.S. agency anywhere in the world.
Well, Republicans say, this is just the Democrats once again trying to choke off funding for the troops. But the Democrats say they are just trying to draw a line.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This is not a blank check for the president. This is providing funding for the troops, limited to a particular purpose with a short time frame. So, this is not a supplemental that just says to the president: You asked for it, you got it, no questions asked.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I think that the proposal that we're beginning to hear about, about trying to handcuff our generals, and starve our troops in harm's way is ill- advised.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YELLIN: Now, Wolf, the White House has already promised a veto. And House Democratic aides tell CNN, even Democrats don't think they can override that veto, but they do want another vote on this important issue once again before recess.
BLITZER: They might not be able to override a veto, but they could definitely pass legislation to stop the funding, at least in the House. I don't know about the Senate. But what happens if they don't provide the funding to continue this war?
YELLIN: There is enough money in the Pentagon's appropriation for the Pentagon to fund the war, at least through about March of next year.
BLITZER: Jessica Yellin watching this story on the Hill for us, thank you.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" in New York -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, let's keep that war going.
With that in mind, here's something that our country should truly be ashamed of. Veterans make up more than 25 percent of the homeless people in this country, even though they only account for 11 percent of the general adult population; 25 percent of the homeless people in this country are veterans. They are only 11 percent of the adult population.
A new report by an organization called the National Alliance to End Homelessness found that on any given night in the United States, 196,000 veterans sleep in the street, in a shelter, or in transitional housing. The states with the highest numbers of homeless vets, Louisiana, California, Missouri. Washington, D.C., also has a high rate.
The study found homelessness isn't just a problem among middle- aged or elderly veterans either. Younger vets from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are finding their way into the shelters and the soup kitchens. Experts say it usually takes several years after leaving the military for veterans to wind up on the street. But some say that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans seem to be turning up sooner than Vietnam veterans did.
One official says they expect a tsunami of veterans from the Iraq war because the mental health toll from this war is enormous. In order to reduce the problem, the group suggests building 25,000 housing units over the next five years and increasing by 20,000 the number of housing vouchers targeted for our veterans.
Here's the question. This is just disgusting. How does the U.S. treat its veterans if they comprise more than 25 percent of our nation's homeless population? E-mail us at CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, I got to tell you, this is a national disgrace. It's a national disgrace, what's going on. I don't know what to say.
CAFFERTY: Well, you said it. It's a disgrace. And the veterans have been getting short shrift around here since Vietnam, I suppose. But it's getting worse.
And the long combat tours that these kids are putting in, in Iraq are causing this post-traumatic stress disorder to show up in more severe cases more often. There are more of them coming home. I am embarrassed to be a citizen of a place that treats people like we do.
BLITZER: It is a disgrace.
All right, Jack, you are going to be back shortly for our roundtable as well.
"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," by the way, starts at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, its new time. That's coming up at the top of the hour.
But just ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM: Show Ron Paul the money, and he will show you how it ought to be spent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I know the other campaigns have had huge staffs, but I think they waste a lot of their money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul is low in the polls, but flush with cash. Can he buy himself a win? What's he going to do with all that cash? Ron Paul is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Plus, should the U.S. do in Iran what it did in Iraq, strike with shock and awe? Guess how many of you say yes?
And Barack Obama's critics are attacking him by attacking his patriotism. But Democrats are calling it a dirty trick.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul raised a record-breaking $4 million online Monday from more than 35,000 individual donors.
Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is here.
So, how did he do this? It's an amazing, amazing story.
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this was a fund- raising drive dreamed up by Ron Paul's online supporters, the Ron Paul grassroots that populate the unofficial Web sites and forums that are dedicated to his campaign.
The man behind this Web site that really pushed that November the 5th fund-raising date told me that there was no overall organization. Everyone just started pitching in. Well, check back on these forums today and you will see that they are planning more of these drives. One date that's popular, December the 16th, that weekend. The reason? It's the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party.
Apparently, a Web site for that is coming soon -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you, Abbi, for that.
The Republican candidate and congressman, Ron Paul, joined me right here in THE SITUATION ROOM just a short time ago.
BLITZER: Congressman, I can only say congratulations. It's really an unbelievable thing that you have achieved right now. First of all, how do you attribute it? What do you attribute this amazing financial support within 24 hours?
PAUL: Well, it is amazing, and I don't claim a whole lot of credit for it.
I think we have a very good platform that's very appealing to the people who care about what's happening in the country. I think we're also tapping into the sense of frustration that people are feeling. I think it's much more intense than anybody realized, probably more intense than I had expected.
So it's coming together and people have rallied around. But I think it's a strong message, strong disaffection of what's happening here in this country. I happen to be there, and the grassroots have really put this together.
So, it's a grassroots effort, and I think that makes it even stronger.
BLITZER: In our latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll among registered Republicans nationwide you have gone up to 5 percent, but you're still way behind the top tier. How do you plan on using this new cash to try to challenge Giuliani, Thompson, McCain, Romney, some of the others?
PAUL: Well, the money was spent to us to be spent, and we will be spending it. We're started to do that. We're buying television in the early primaries. We're doing a lot of direct mail. We're on the radio. And we're hiring a few more people.
I know the other campaigns have had huge staffs, but I think they waste a lot of their money. But now we are getting more reasonable staffing positions. And we're spending the money in many ways in an ordinary way, but we will continue with this grassroots effort that has been going on, that's been ongoing here on the Internet.
BLITZER: Are you going to support Nancy Pelosi's new effort to have some partial funding for the war, $50 billion stopgap, to underscore her opposition, a lot of Democrats' opposition to the war, and trying to get a time line in there? Are you going to support that?
PAUL: No, not really, because I think that's ducking the issue. As long as you're funding the war you're supporting the war, and it's been going on for all these years. I didn't support it before the war and I haven't supported any money for the war.
I support the troops. The troops should come home. And, amazingly, I get more money from the troops than any other candidates...
BLITZER: Let me interrupt you, Congressman. If you support the troops, the administration argues, how can you not give them the funding they need for the body armor, the weapons they need to protect themselves?
PAUL: Well, we have $500 billion, $600 billion in the pipeline. We have all the money we need to bring the troops home, and that's the best way to protect the troops. They're not going to run out of money. The money is there. This is all fluff for expanding the war and playing on war, going into Iran, all these things. So, there's no shortage of funds to get the troops out.
BLITZER: On so many pieces of legislation, you are the only, only member of the House, Democrat or Republican, that's opposed some legislation, some resolutions.
For example, a bill calling on the League of Arab States to step up efforts to stop genocide in Darfur, the vote was 425-1. You were the one.
A bill calling on Vietnam to release political prisoners, 425-1. You were the one.
Condemning the Robert Mugabe violence against Zimbabwe citizens, 421-1. You were the one.
Awarding a gold medal to Rosa Parks. We could go on.
Why -- tell us, explain why you so often have been the sole voice in the U.S. House of Representatives on what everybody else supports and what, to so many people, would seem like a no-brainer?
No, I think maybe I'm the only strict constitutionalist, because I look at that from the Constitution.
It's not that what I'm against what they're proposing. But some of those resolutions are just interference, unnecessary.
Carry that to the next step of that resolution between, you know, condemning the Turks about Armenia. Just think of the chaos that created. Getting ourselves involved in some event 100 years ago, it makes no sense at all.
We should deal with our problems here, with our defense, and not pretending that we know what's best.
So it's a principle that I defend. I don't think I have the authority. It's meddling where we shouldn't, and it usually leads to trouble.
Of course, the Armenian vote was much more troublesome, and look at the chaos it's caused between Turkey and the Kurds.
BLITZER: Congressman, I can understand your principled stance on the foreign policy-related issues. But what would be unconstitutional about giving the gold medal to Rosa Parks, the civil rights activist and leader that all of us are quite familiar with?
PAUL: Well, you know, that wasn't easy for me, because I think she's a real hero. Because I believe in civil disobedience and I believe peaceful change has come about that way. But I was dealing with the money: Why should I tax you to give her a medal?
I went to my fellow members of Congress, and I said, "I will be glad to give her a medal. Let's each put in a hundred bucks, and I will put in a hundred bucks, and we could pay for it."
But to do good by taking money from the people, that is not a precise authorization in the Constitution.
So the principle is that you don't have this right to do it, but to say something good and to -- you know, to honor people like that would be fine. But we ought to do it with our own money, not with your money.
BLITZER: Congressman Ron Paul has become a phenomenon.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us. we will see you out on the campaign trail.
PAUL: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Politics is a tough business. It's rough, too. Democrats are saying someone is up to dirty tricks. An attack on Senator Barack Obama so rampant, it's prompting some people to check the facts, including us.
And how will you remember President Bush? The president knows how he wants to be remembered. You're going to hear from the president.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Senator Barack Obama's critics say a picture is worth 1,000 words. They are using images of the Democratic presidential candidate a recent event to question his patriotism. Obama is calling it all a dirty trick.
Brian Todd is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's looking into this.
It all has to do with the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem. What is going on?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Obama has said that he's frustrated with what he called misinformation. So, like sportscasters, we decided to go to the videotape.
TODD (voice-over): An anonymous attack e-mail received by an untold number of Americans and obtained by CNN accuses Senator Obama of not putting his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance.
True or false? CNN dug up the video of the national anthem from that day and found it looks like that photo was taken during the anthem, not the pledge. Hillary Clinton, hand over heart. Bill Richardson, same. Obama, hands down.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This was "The Star-Spangled Banner." It was not the Pledge of Allegiance. Any time that you pledge allegiance, you put your hand over your heart. And I always have, and I always will.
TODD: At the same event a year earlier, Obama does have his hand over his heart. Obama said that his grandfather taught him, during the Pledge of Allegiance, you put your hand over your heart. During the national anthem, you sing. There is some public confusion over the issue.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I suppose, I guess, if I am pledging, then that is probably more hand on the heart kind of a thing. But I could go either way on that either.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course you do.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: One nation, under God.
TODD: Federal law instructs hand over your heart for both the pledge and "The Star-Spangled Banner," except for military personnel, who salute.
STEVE ROBERTSON, AMERICAN LEGION: Well, obviously, as the commander in chief, we would expect him to render the proper courtesies and honors to both the flag of the United States and to the national anthem.
TODD: The issue is not at the top of every voter's mind.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think there are more important things than whether or not you put your hand over your heart.
TODD: But, for now, candidates have one more thing to remember to do on the campaign trail.
TODD: CNN could not determine the origin of the attack e-mail or how many people have received it, but the Obama campaign yesterday sent out this later to supporters, in which former military brass call it a vicious smear and they say the senator is deeply patriotic, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brian, thanks for clarifying that.
Much more on the breaking news coming up tonight -- Rudy Giuliani's former top cop in New York now indicted, according to a CNN affiliate in New York. Did Giuliani at some point drop the ball?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GIULIANI: I think that voters should look at it. And what they should say is, in that particular case, I pointed out that I made a mistake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Will Bernard Kerik's legal troubles hurt Giuliani's presidential campaign? Jack Cafferty, John King and Gloria Borger, they are standing by to assess the damage.
They will also take on Americans' fears of a U.S. strike against Iran. Is it surpassing Iraq on the nation's worry meter?
And the Republican Party orders a new punishment. And it's only adding to the big-time confusion over the primary season schedule.
Lots more coming up -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: a big test for Rudy Giuliani. Two sources familiar with the investigation of his former top cop now confirm to CNN that a federal grand jury has voted to indict the former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. How the former mayor handles all of this could affect his presidential campaign -- more on the story coming up.
Also, how do Americans feel about the prospect of their government launching airstrikes and sending ground troops into Iran? Our latest poll has the answer loud and clear.
And President Bush talks about his legacy, saying he did it his way. Jack Cafferty and our panel will have their way with all these topics. That's coming up.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Let's get some more now on our new Iraq poll and what it says about America's mood and the political climate right here in Washington.
We will turn to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's watching this for us.
It seems like there's a record, record low in terms of the approval of the war in Iraq. It's been steadily declining over these past four years.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's true.
The war does remain deeply unpopular, and also intensely partisan.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The Bush administration says the troop buildup in Iraq is working, but the American public doesn't see it. Last month, 64 percent said things were going badly for the U.S. in Iraq. And now, 65 percent say they are going badly.
Some Republicans are blaming the media.
JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You won't know it from some of the media, my friends, but we're making progress in Iraq.
SCHNEIDER: But there's another explanation: partisanship. Republicans and Democrats seem to be hearing different news.
JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My own view is that the war in Iraq has been an absolute mess.
SCHNEIDER: Seventy percent of Republicans believe things are going well in Iraq. Only 13 percent of Democrats agree. Independents tend to side with Democrats on Iraq.
As a result, support for the war in Iraq has declined to its lowest point ever, 31 percent. Iraq is an intensely partisan war. Seventy percent of Republicans favor the war. And Democrats? Seven.
Iraq looks very different than Vietnam. Go back to January 1971, when Richard Nixon was president. Thirty-one percent of Americans supported the war in Vietnam, same as support the war in Iraq now. But there was no difference by party. Republicans, Democrats and independents all opposed Vietnam.
Partisanship affects view of Iran, as well. Some Republicans are saying...
RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will not allow them, under any circumstances, to become a nuclear power. They are too irresponsible.
SCHNEIDER: While some Democrats protest the administration's statements...
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Clearly pointing in a direction that would call for military action in Iran. It is a dangerous move, in my view.
SCHNEIDER: ...more than 60 percent of the public opposes air strikes against Iran. Talk about ground troops and public opposition grows to more than 70 percent.
SCHNEIDER: Iran is as deeply partisan as Iraq. Republicans favor military action, Democrats oppose it. We live in a bitterly partisan environment -- far more partisan than the Vietnam era -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Certainly it shows up in this poll.
All right, Bill.
Let's get back to our top story now, the breaking news that federal prosecutors in New York are indicting the former New York City police commissioner, Bernard Kerik, once a very close ally of Rudy Giuliani.
Let's bring in our roundtable.
Our CNN chief national correspondent, John King.
CNN's Jack Cafferty. Jack's new book, as all of you know, is entitled "It's Getting Ugly Out There". It's a "New York Times" best- seller.
Also with us, our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger -- Jack, you're the New Yorker -- at least right now. Give us the sense -- this is not just any aide or associate of Rudy Giuliani. This was his police commissioner -- police commissioner.
So what does that say about Rudy Giuliani?
CAFFERTY: I'm not sure it says a whole lot. And it was one of his police commissioners. He had Bill Bratton as the police commissioner here prior to Bernard Kerik.
You know, Rudy Giuliani stood up and said I made a mistake.
How many politicians, especially on the national stage, have said those words -- I made a mistake?
People are human. They make mistakes. He used to be an associate of Giuliani's. He's not anymore. And unless -- if Kerik goes to trial -- some kind of dirt comes out at trial that would tie Giuliani into some of Kerik's goings on, I think it's a dead issue. He's going to have a lot tougher time becoming president because of his stands on abortion and gay rights than he's going to have over his association with Bernard Kerik.
BLITZER: What do you think, Gloria?
GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think this is tough for Giuliani because his campaign is largely based on his idea that he would be a great leader and that he has great judgment. And I think this calls into question his judgment.
I agree with Jack. Yes, this is, you know, a problem that maybe he can overcome by saying I made a mistake. But I think this still really has to play out. We have to find out whether, in fact, Giuliani was briefed about some of Kerik's problems before he appointed him police commissioner and forgot about that, and what that tells us about him is a leader.
BLITZER: Because some are suggesting already, John, as you well know, that once the indictment is unsealed and all of the details come out, there could be some further embarrassment for the former mayor.
JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But, Wolf, remember months ago when we were talking about the "Scooter" Libby trial and the embarrassment that could bring on the Bush administration, stirring up yet again the whole debate about going to war in Iraq and what did the White House know and did it shade the intelligence at all?
We saw that play out. There was no doubt some political damage to the White House. But the potential for this here -- as both Jack and Gloria have said, there's no evidence Rudy Giuliani did anything wrong.
But to Gloria's point, he's running on leadership and a key subset of leadership is judgment. Democrats are already saying that Rudy Giuliani did know or should have known about Bernie Kerik's ties to this questionable company. And so those allegations will continue. Campaigns get up every day saying we want to talk about this. Maybe it's tax policy, maybe it's national security. For the next few days, at least, Rudy Giuliani is going to be asked about something very different.
BORGER: You know, Wolf, in a general election, if, say, Rudy Giuliani is pitted against Hillary Clinton, then, you know, she can use this against him if he wants to challenge her honesty from her past business dealings. So it sort of gives the Democrats a bunch of ammunition to use against him. And he's also the one who's saying he is the most electable Republican. So we -- we have to wait and see how this plays out.
BLITZER: You know, Jack, the other argument -- the other point that has been made, he didn't only appoint him to be his police commissioner, but he recommended him to the president to be the secretary of homeland security. And then once the vetting process started, the whole thing sort of just collapsed, including some suggestions he lied on his application about some details.
That's obviously embarrassing, as well.
CAFFERTY: Of course it's embarrassing and the whole thing should have come unraveled. But I think Rudy also said that part of the mistake he made was not vetting Kerik more carefully. And I'm not defending Rudy. I don't much care whether he's the president or not. I've got no dog in the fight. But the mayor of New York has literally thousands of appointments that he makes in order to get people in position to run this city. And Giuliani would have to spend his first 100 days as president appointing foul balls and losers not cronies and nonqualified mutants to catch up with the Bush administration people, who have been running our daily lives for the last six years.
So, you know, Kerik, yes, he made a mistake.
Let's move on.
BLITZER: All right, we are going to move on, guys.
Stand by, because we have more of our roundtable coming up, including this -- Americans are weighing in on the country's next move with Iran.
Should there be a military intervention?
We're going to take a closer look at the latest poll numbers.
And shaping his legacy -- with little more than a year left on the job, President Bush ponders how history will remember him. We're going to play the sound bite for you.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Would the American public support a U.S. attack on Iran?
Let's get back to our roundtable with our chief national correspondent, John King; CNN's Jack Cafferty and our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.
The polls clearly show, Jack, the American people are not in favor of an air war or a ground war against Iran, despite its nuclear program.
CAFFERTY: Well, I'm not surprised. You know, that we -- we've got this war going on in Iraq. We've got another one going on in Afghanistan. And the public is probably not ready to tee it up and to get a third war underway.
But I think it's Israeli intelligence is suggesting that, based on their assessment of the number of centrifuges operating in Iran now -- something like 3,000 -- that they could have the bomb by 2009. And it's like that -- you know, that little guy, Ahmadinejad, is just spoiling for a fight. He said -- was it yesterday? -- our program is past the point of no return and nothing is going to deter us.
So it sounds more like they're either going to have the bomb at some point and we've got to live with it or you prevent them from getting the bomb by force -- you go in and strike their facilities -- or try to make a deal with them. And I don't know if there's any other way to approach that thing.
BLITZER: John, you've studied the Bush administration for a long time. You've covered these guys. And there are a lot of experts suggesting that if the president believes Iran is about to go nuclear -- have a nuclear bomb before he leaves office, you know what, he's not going to let that happen and he doesn't care about the political fallout.
I wonder if you want to weigh in on that.
KING: Well, I would dispute the notion that he doesn't care about the political fallout. Any president
cares about the political fallout. And I think you take this president at his word when he says his emphasis right now is on diplomacy. The problem for the president is he's having trouble getting the cooperation, especially from Russia, in seeking a new round of sanctions. That is the next stage of this debate -- can you get tougher sanctions?
And, if so, what would come from that?
But, Wolf, you're exactly right, if you talk to the so-called neo-conservative community, they say that they think the president, after the presidential election next year, should deal with this so the next president doesn't have to.
Would George W. Bush do that?
That's a decision that would be a long way away. We do know there are contingency plans and the military always looks at it. Jack raises the possibility Israel could decide it has to act in its own interests here.
But this will be a question -- a political question and a policy question for Mr. Bush and a debate throughout the campaign year, as well, because of just the possibility.
BORGER: You know, Wolf, I think this is really becoming a political fault line in this presidential campaign, because nobody wants Iran to have a nuclear weapon. But you see the Democrats saying, you know, the White House is saber rattling and the Republicans saying we're not going to rule anything out. Rudy Giuliani is -- who we were talking about earlier -- has been particularly strong on the Iran issue. And if Ahmadinejad continues to flaunt these U.N. sanctions and say, look, I'm going to do whatever I want, it doesn't matter about these sanctions, American public opinion may start shifting.
It will be interesting to see how the candidates on both sides react to that and how the White House reacts.
BLITZER: Jack, the president still has more than a year left in office. But he's already starting to reflect on how he wants to be remembered.
I want you to listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think I'll be remembered as a guy who, you know, was dealt some pretty tough issues to deal with and I dealt with them head on. And I didn't try to shy away. I didn't -- you know I didn't sacrifice -- I was firm and that I made decisions based upon principles, not based upon the latest Gallup Poll.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, what do you think -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Well, I think the latest Gallup Poll shows that 65 percent of the people in this country think he's doing a lousy job. And if they wrote his legacy, it probably wouldn't be kind of what he was looking for. He had a 90 percent approval rating among the people in this country after 9/11. He squandered it all on a meaningless war in Iraq. Al Qaeda is still alive and well in Afghanistan. The country is broke. It's the most secretive administration in my memory. I'm 64- years-old. We've got people claiming executive privilege for everything from stepping on our civil rights to, you know, letting the oil companies get away with some kind of murder. We've got $98 a barrel oil.
I mean I -- but he was asked once before, have you made any mistakes?
And he said I can't think of any.
BLITZER: I think...
BORGER: Yes, but he changed that, Jack.
BORGER: He actually then admitted -- remembered that he had actually made some mistakes.
But I think this sort of raises the question of, yes, you know, the president did it his way, as he says. But in the American public's mind now, it's become an issue of competency -- was he competent in the way he managed the war in Iraq?
And most Americans believe that he wasn't competent. And that's why that issue is going to be so important in the presidential election.
BLITZER: The mistake he said -- and I think he said it to you, John, was that he made a mistake when he said, "Bring them on." Laura Bush, his wife, criticized him for that.
Was that -- was -- am I right?
KING: He did say that that was one of his mistakes. And -- but just the fact he's talking about his legacy is he interesting. He has long resisted answering such questions. But, look, this is a president who understands the political cycle very well, whether you like him or not. We are 14 months away from the end of his term. But, Wolf, about 100 days from now, we are likely to have a Republican nominee for president -- an all but certain Republican nominee for president. That person will become the new leader of the party. It is already hard for Mr. Bush to get anything done. He knows full well by this time -- by early next year, just a few months from now, it will be much harder.
So he's beginning to reflect on this. He understands how controversial it is and, of course, he'll try to put his stamp on it.
BLITZER: John King...
CAFFERTY: You know...
BLITZER: Hold on, Jack, because we've got to take a break.
But, you know, there's plenty of opportunity -- The Cafferty File is still coming up. And you can maybe make your point in the next segment.
CAFFERTY: No. No. I'm through.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is standing by.
John King and Gloria Borger -- they can go home.
Thanks, guys, very much.
BORGER: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Lou Dobbs can't go home. He's getting ready for his show, that begins right at the top of the hour.
What are you working on -- Lou.
LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": And we can't go home and it's all your fault, Wolf.
Thank you very much.
Coming up at 7:00 Eastern here on CNN, the top of the hour, tonight, we're reporting on the outrageous efforts of socio-ethno centric special interests trying to stop the federal government from enforcing U.S. immigration laws -- special interests trying to subvert the will of the people and the rule of law.
Also, Democratic lawmakers are breaking their promises to stop pork barrel spending. Those promises made by both parties and both just as eager for pork barrel spending and just as eager to break their promises.
And tonight, a Congressional committee says as many as 40 percent of all American jobs could be at risk now from cheap overseas labor markets -- you know, offshoring and exporting American jobs -- something called outsourcing, as I recall.
And the Democratic Party group The Third Way wants to know "why I am winning the war against so-called free traders." I'll tell them why and help them with their 20-page study of the issue.
And a former Mexican foreign minister joins me now to tell us why his former boss, Vicente Fox, is a coward and won't debate me on the issue of illegal immigration. We'll be talking about a lot more, as well.
And Ways and Means Committee Congressman Chairman Charlie Rangel joins me. He'll tell us why he's under attack for his links to the Virgin Islands and a few supporters there. And we'll also be talking about taxes and free trade and other things that I'm told attract giant audiences -- those sensational issues.
Join us for all of that at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you, partner.
BLITZER: Mr. Independent.
All right, don't -- don't be shy.
BLITZER: Don't be shy. Tomorrow we're going to be talking about your new book. I don't know if it's a best-seller yet, but I'm sure it will be.
Hold your thought right now.
Lou, coming up in a few moments.
DOBBS: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: At the Ronald Reagan Library, are some things missing or -- even worse -- have they been stolen?
It appears veterans make up now -- get this -- 25 percent -- more than 25 percent of the homeless population.
What does that say about the United States?
Jack Cafferty and The Cafferty File, and your thoughts, coming up.
BLITZER: On our political ticker this Thursday, the Republican Party decided today to punish -- punish five states for scheduling early primaries in violation of party rules. New Hampshire, Florida, South Carolina, Michigan and Wyoming will lose half their party delegates to the Republican National Convention next year. But those states say they'll go ahead and hold their contests early anyhow. The Republican Party had hoped to bring order to a chaotic primary calendar. It's still uncertain less than two months before the first contest -- January 3rd, Iowa.
Confirmation today that as many as 80,000 items at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library are unaccounted for. That's according to an audit completed by the National Archives. Officials say the problems stem from haphazard recordkeeping and inventory procedures. They say the majority of the items may actually be safely housed within the library storage facilities in Simi Valley out in California.
And remember, for the latest political news at any time, check out our Political Ticker at CNN.com/ticker.
Let's go back to Jack for The Cafferty File in New York -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: They may also be on eBay.
BLITZER: They may be.
CAFFERTY: All that stuff.
BLITZER: You're right.
The question this hour -- and these e-mails will bring tears to your eyes -- how does the U.S. treat its veterans if they comprise more than 25 percent of our nation's homeless population?
Any given night, 196,000 veterans sleep in the streets in this country.
Jack writes: "I walk the streets of San Francisco and I see many homeless vets -- young, old, panhandling for money, looking for jobs, trying to get food. It's a national disgrace and we the people should rise up and take back this country. Let's bring the troops home, eliminate funds to our enemies and spend our national treasury on our national treasures -- the veterans."
Judy in California: "It sickens me. It brings me to tears. It makes me angry and afraid for our troops. It doesn't surprise me at all because we have been knowing and hearing for years upon years and yet what gets done? What do the American people have to do to wake up the government and its criminal ways?
We take care of illegal immigrants as if they have given anything to this country, but we can't take care of our own people who have given us the freedoms we have. It makes me want to scream and I feel so helpless."
Ed in Pennsylvania: "Jack, I'm a veteran. I served in Vietnam. At first, I didn't think it changed me much. But over the years, a subtle and insidious pessimism about the goodness of man and the intelligence of our government has crept into my head. Veterans deserve special care. The hell they endure in combat and the changes they undergo can never be erased by a grateful society."
Barbara in Michigan writes: "Isn't it ironic, if you're an elected official in Washington, you get all the goodies the lobbyists have to offer to buy your vote. You're insured, you're given a lifetime pension. If you're unfortunate enough to be patriotic and fight for your country by joining the military, you're entitled to substandard medical care through the V.A. and have a one in four chance of being homeless. Only in America, Jack." And Margie in Vista, California: "The government treats them like cannon fodder that's outlived their usefulness -- which is what they see them as. They don't deserve the protection the veterans gave them. And if we allow it to happen, maybe we don't, either."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. We post more of them online, along with video clips of The Cafferty File -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's a national disgrace, Jack.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
See you back here tomorrow.
As we approach the Christmas shopping season, the FBI is sharing the latest on the threat of attacks on malls in several major cities. We're watching this.
And the writers strike looks more and more like a who's who of Hollywood. CNN's Jeanne Moos shows us what happened when the stars joined the picketers.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're going to get to Jeanne Moos and tonight's most unusual story in just a moment.
First, let's go back to Carol.
She's monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What's going on -- Carol.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're going to start with a warning. You are likely to find this next picture quite disturbing. It illustrates the violence that is raging now in Somalia's capital. Crowds shouting "God is great!" dragged the body of an Ethiopian soldier through a Mogadishu neighborhood today. The incident followed gun battles between Ethiopian troops and Islamic insurgents that left 19 people dead, including nine Ethiopians.
The FBI is warning about an uncorroborated threat to shopping malls during the Christmas shopping season. Two law enforcement sources confirm to CNN there's intelligence dating back to August that Al Qaeda would like to attack malls in Los Angeles and Chicago. But the FBI says there is no information to indicate this is a credible threat. Officials stress that it came from an uncorroborated source and it is non-specific. Oil leaking from a cargo ship that hit the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is spreading throughout the Bay now and it's threatening a majestic stretch of the California coastline. At least eight beaches have now been closed. About 58,000 gallons spilled from the ship yesterday. About 8,000 gallons have been recovered. The accident happened in dense fog and did not damage the bridge.
That's the headlines right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Carol.
See you back here tomorrow.
We leave you now with the Hollywood writers strike. It may be serious business, but CNN's Jeanne Moos found some most unusual moments on the picket lines.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An inflatable pig hogged the sidewalk in front of Time Warner, as striking writers danced to their favorite chant.
(VIDEO CLIP OF STRIKING WRITERS)
MOOS: Those writing about the strike gravitated to the stars who showed up to support the writers, like Roseanne Barr, David Duchovny, Tim Robbins -- all talking earnestly about the strike -- all except this guy.
ROBIN WILLIAMS: Where's you're Pierre (ph)?
MOOS: Robin Williams carried on with Richard Belzer's dog, then reflected back on...
WILLIAMS: Famous writers throughout history. Thomas Jefferson actually went out for the constitutional writers strike.
MOOS: He then turned his stream of consciousness to the picket signs.
WILLIAMS: Where's the punctuation?
RICHARD BELZER, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: Did you see the cartoon where the writers strike, but all the signs are blank because they're on strike?
WILLIAMS: And even the W is gone.
BELZER: Why is that?
BELZER: Why are the signs -- why is there no writing? MOOS: Life is imitating art on the picket line. We're not even writing slogans. Most performers acknowledge who puts words in their mouths. For instance, Stephen Colbert presenting at the "Glamour" awards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM THE GLAMOUR AWARDS)
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": I am so honored to be here tonight to honor all these honorable honorees. I'm sorry, my writers are on strike. My stuff is usually better than this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: And in his final show before the strike, Conan O'Brien presented an instructional video bout what is and isn't scripted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN," COURTESY NBC)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am actually a really huge fan of yours.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Written!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't even have an idea for him. I just have...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not written!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: One of David Letterman's "Late Show" writers expressed mock concern about missing good comedy material during the walkout.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just don't want to be on strike when David Hasselhoff eats something off the floor again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a mess.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: This comedian took advantage of the strike to rant against the writers on YouTube.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all garbage on television these days. Writers are going on strike?
Writers are going on strike?
I thought they had been on strike for the last 20 years. You've got to be kidding me! (END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: Written or adlibbed -- you decide.
Andrew Smith is a writer on "The View".
(on camera): Why, has the show been worse without you?
ANDREW SMITH, WRITER, "THE VIEW": You know, they're tongue-tied. Tongue-tied.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE VIEW," COURTESY ABC)
BARBARA WALTERS, CO-HOST: And that piece that we did in New York...
WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST: Oh, all right. Wait. Wait. No, no, no. Let's -- let's...
GOLDBERG: Yes, no, no, no.
GOLDBERG: No, no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMITH: Blabber. They -- gibberish comes out of their mouths.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE VIEW," COURTESY ABC)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) no!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was it, frigging?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: Then for rewrite (ph).
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: And this programming note. A week from today, November 15th, I'll be in Las Vegas, Nevada to moderate a Democratic presidential debate. That's coming up in a week. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.
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