Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Pakistan Crackdown; Romney Meets Religious Right; Arthur Bremer Released

Aired November 9, 2007 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN SNCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Pakistan crackdown -- thousands of her supporters are arrested as police keep the top opposition leader barricaded for a day behind barbed wire.

Will the White House help Benazir Bhutto?

A CNN exclusive -- we've got the tape of Mitt Romney's closed door meeting with the religious right.

Can he convince Evangelical Christians that his Mormon fate is not a so-called cult?

Plus, he shot and paralyzed a presidential candidate. Now this would-be assassin is quietly freed from prison.

How do his victims feel about that?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

She's the top opposition leader of a country in chaos, seen by some as capable of leading Pakistan back to democracy. But the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, spent the day under house arrest, behind barbed wire, surrounded by police. Meantime, the unrest in Pakistan has turned deadly. At least four people were killed in a suicide bombing at the home of a government minister, who was not hurt. And a mass rally called for today never got off the ground. Police simply rounded up thousands of Bhutto supporters to keep them from attending and fired tear gas at those who managed to reach the site.

CNN's Zain Verjee is in Islamabad -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Benazir Bhutto is no longer under house arrest. But earlier in the day, the former prime minister faced down security sources.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

VERJEE: "Let me pass," she said. But there was no way Benazir Bhutto could break through the walls or rings of security thrown up around her home in Islamabad before dawn. Some of her supporters cut open the barbed wire and she tried to ram through. It was impossible to slice through the barricades. So from a bulletproof Jeep she shouted that police through a megaphone.

The day became a showdown of theatrics between Benazir Bhutto and Pakistani forces -- and she made a rallying cry.

BENAZIR BHUTTO, FORMER PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER: I'm calling upon my countrymen to join me. This is not a battle for Benazir Bhutto, this is not a battle for Pakistan Peoples Party. This is a battle to save Pakistan.

VERJEE: Some supporters, who slipped in, were quickly dragged away and arrested. Bhutto says more than 5,000 of her supporters have been arrested since the state of emergency was imposed. And she accused Musharraf of losing focus in the war on terror.

BHUTTO: We want a democratic Pakistan so that we can serve the needs of our people and that we can eliminate the extremism which is putting our nation in danger today.

VERJEE: But police lines held and Bhutto was kept under effective house arrest for much of the day -- unable to reach nearby Rawalpindi for a protest rally she had called.

(on camera): Bhutto is planning a protest march on November the 13th. What Pakistan experts here are telling me, Wolf, is that what she's doing is playing a double game -- on the one hand, calling for protests. On the other hand, she's leaving the door open to negotiate with General Musharraf -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain Verjee reporting for us from Islamabad

Zain, thanks.

Benazir Bhutto, by the way, is the daughter of a former Pakistani prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was himself overthrown by a military coup and later executed. Back in 1988, she became the first woman prime minister of an Islamic country and was re-elected as Pakistan's prime minister in 1993. Both times, she was forced to step down amid corruption charges. Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zadari, played key roles in her governments and was accused of stealing millions of dollars from the state -- charges they both deny. Bhutto fought her corruption charges during her eight years of self-imposed exile. She finally returned to Pakistan three weeks ago. Her triumphant motorcade, though, was the target of bombers, who killed dozens of people.

The Bush administration is strangely quiet about the fate of Benazir Bhutto, at least on this day.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux.

She's in Crawford, Texas, where the president is spending a long weekend.

All right, why the silence today -- Suzanne? SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Bush administration is being extremely cautious about what they say publicly because they really fear that they don't want to appear too close to Benazir Bhutto or President Pervez Musharraf. There is a political problem, potentially, for both of these leaders if they appear too cozy or two aligned with the United States. Because the ultimate goal here is for them to try to arrange some sort of power sharing agreement -- Bhutto, as well as Musharraf. And if they don't have the credibility of their own people, if they're too cozy with the Bush administration, that's just not going to happen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORDON JOHNDROE, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: We, therefore, continue to call for an early end to that state of emergency and the release of political party members and peaceful protesters who have been detained.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: So, Wolf, you'll notice in that very carefully choreographed statement from NSC Spokesman Gordon Johndroe, there is no mention of Bhutto and there is no mention of Musharraf -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, also, if you listen carefully -- as I know you do, Suzanne -- he said there was -- they were calling for an early end to the state of emergency.

Why not an immediate end of the state of emergency?

MALVEAUX: Well, you're absolutely right. I mean it was carefully crafted, those words selected. And that is because they are essentially trying to give Musharraf a bit of breathing space, some wiggle room here. The president talked to Musharraf two days ago. They managed to get some sort of commitment of elections by mid-February. But the fear is, Wolf, here, they don't want to push him too fast or too hard -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux is down in Crawford, Texas. The president is going to be spending the weekend there with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.

President Bush is taking heat for his Iran policy from key members of his own party. A Republican senator says the U.S. should talk directly with Iran's leadership, but a Republican diplomat says diplomacy won't help.

Let's go to Brian Todd.

He's following this story for us.

It looks like the president is sort of caught in the middle from both sides of the Republican Party.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He certainly is, Wolf. The criticism from one Republican known to go his own way was not a shock. But the president also got a jab from a man who was once in ideological lockstep with him.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: Taking broadsides from both sides for his approach on Iran -- both sides of his own party. Moderate Republican Senator Chuck Hagel gets sarcastic when criticizing the president for not using enough diplomacy to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: Our current strategy has been working so well, don't you think?

The fact is, the Middle East and the world is more combustible, more complicated, more dangerous today than it's ever been. And it's mainly because somehow we've gotten in our minds that great powers don't engage.

TODD: But the brash diplomat who was Mr. Bush's man at the U.N. says there's been too much talking and it's bought the Iranians time to develop a bomb.

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAN: I don't think Iran is chitchatted out of its nuclear weapons. They've been pursuing a 20- year long strategic decision to acquire this capability. They're very close to it. We've missed a lot of opportunities precisely by engaging in diplomacy.

TODD: Publicly, the White House responds, well, diplomatically. Press Secretary Dana Perino says: "While some may complain about too much diplomacy and others about too little diplomacy, we believe we have the right approach for the current situation."

Privately, the president is reportedly disappointed with John Bolton, who's always been a loyal conservative. The "New York Times" quotes one White House official saying, "When Bolton's name came up in a recent conversation, Bush tersely said, 'Interesting guy,' and changed the subject."

Analysts say this split shows just how tough the Iran nuclear program is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is hardly any issue as sensitive to, and as difficult to tackle as, Iran. Iran is a slow-moving Cuban missile crisis.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: That comparison made because now, like then, it looks like the end result may be one of two unacceptable choices -- a country hostile to the U.S. armed with nuclear weapons or a military confrontation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Some are suggesting this is all part of the inevitable criticism that he's going to be getting as he enters his last year in office.

So what are you hearing? TODD: That certainly factors into it, Wolf. One analyst says with no Republican candidate in next year's election linked to the Bush administration, most Republicans -- even those not running, like Chuck Hagel -- are going to measure themselves against this president on foreign policy. It seems to be inevitable.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Brian Todd reporting for us.

The former U.N. Ambassador, John Bolton, by the way, who has been so critical about the president's handling of policies in Iran, North Korea, elsewhere, he'll be among my guests Sunday on "LATE EDITION". "LATE EDITION" airs for two hours Sunday mornings at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. "LATE EDITION" -- the last word in Sunday talk.

A top televangelist now speaking his mind on gay rights.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOEL OSTEEN, AUTHOR, "BECOME A BETTER YOU," PASTOR, LAKEWOOD CHURCH: It's based on the truth that I found in the bible. And I only see, you know, relationships between men and women as what, you know, the way God created us to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I'll speak with pastor and author Joe Olsteen.

And our own Lou Dobbs has a brand new book that's just come out. The message -- you have the power to change the way things are going in this country.

Lou is standing by to join us right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also, a would-be assassin is freed from prison, even though he shot and paralyzed a presidential candidate.

Could others also get out of jail?

We're watching this story.

Stick around.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You have the power to influence the direction the country is going right now. That's the over arching message of a brand new book entitled "Independents Day". If you any of your doubts about that, don't waste them on Lou Dobbs.

The host of CNN's "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" is the author of this new book and he's here to talk about it.

"Independents Day" -- the subtitle, "Awakening the American Spirit."

First of all, Lou, tell us why you wrote the book.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": I wrote the book because I'm -- as you know, I've had a belly full -- and I think many Americans, if not most, have had a bully full of the partisan nonsense in this country. Both political parties are basically branding mechanisms. They're basically fundraising organizations. And there's not much of a difference between the two. Both are dominated by corporate America.

And we have seen where partisanship of this -- of the unthinking kind has led us. And I happen to be a firm believer that the issues are too critical -- that we're at a critical juncture in our nation's history and it's time for critical judgment, it's time for independent thinking, it's time to be an Independent and send a loud message that the people are going to be running this country.

BLITZER: Because this is what you write on page 43: "This country's two party political system, in my opinion, is no longer working effectively to represent the will of the people. And it could reasonably be argued that the very legitimacy of our government is now in question."

DOBBS: Right.

BLITZER: The very legitimacy of our entire government, Lou?

DOBBS: Absolutely, Wolf.

The -- our constitution -- that radical populist document -- begins with the words "We the people...". The consent of the govern is required. The basic tenant of democracy itself is, in this representative republic, the representation of the will of the majority.

This government, both political parties, both houses of government and this White House are committed to serving the interests of corporate America, special interests, socio-ethnic centrist interests.

And where do you find representation of the will of the people on a host of issues -- on everything from illegal immigration to failing public education, the failure to invest in infrastructure, the use of private security contractors to the point we have more private security contractors in Iraq than we have troops?

The list goes on. And the fact is, we have to reclaim this government and this country.

BLITZER: But you yourself acknowledge, people have the power to do that.

DOBBS: That's right.

BLITZER: They could, in the old phrase, "throw the bums out," if they wanted.

DOBBS: You could throw the bums out, but so long as you remain part of these parties -- make no -- make no mistake about it, I believe in the two party system. I just don't believe in these two parties. The Republicans and the Democrats are not representing working men and women in this country and their families. They're not representing the middle class or those who aspire to it. They're representing workers in Vietnam, factories being offshored to China. They're representing illegal immigrants in this country. They are representing nearly every interest in corporate America -- the multi- nationals, business practices that are devastating our school systems, our communities. But they're representing the people only rarely...

BLITZER: Here's...

DOBBS: ...and it has to change.

BLITZER: Here's what you write on page 81: "The quality of life for the vast majority of Americans is being assailed by a host of forces unleashed by the elite establishment in the pursuit of ruinous free trade policies, costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and against global radical Islamists and unchecked expansion of federal entitlement programs."

DOBBS: Right. Right.

BLITZER: We know these are issues that come up often on your own broadcast.

DOBBS: Right.

BLITZER: You know, it sounds so alarming.

DOBBS: Well, I assure you, it should be alarming. We reported this week, Wolf, a $9 trillion national debt. We have a $6 trillion trade debt that's rising faster than our national debt. We have a treasury secretary trying to tell Beijing how they should conduct their policies -- their economic policies -- while this country has become the world's largest debtor nation, a country that cannot clothe itself. We import 96 percent of our clothing, most of our computers, nearly all of our consumer electronics. We have a trade deficit that continues to set records.

Budget deficits -- we have a military at war and a nation that is confused, confounded and not sharing the burden of that war.

For God's sake, we have seen taxes decline while we are spending hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan and losing thousands of American lives.

It's unconscionable what these two parties -- what these elites in government and business and academia -- have done to the people -- and what the American people have allowed to be done on to us. It is time to take this country back.

BLITZER: We know you're deeply concerned about illegal immigration...

DOBBS: Right.

BLITZER: ...and you write this in the book, "Independents Day". You write: "When the president of the United States and the Democratic leadership of the U.S. Senate say that the proposed immigration legislation is all about border security and not about amnesty, it's a lie."

DOBBS: Right.

BLITZER: What they argued -- the president, certainly Senator Kennedy, Senator McCain, the leadership in the Senate and the House -- what they argued was they want border security, but they want to do something with the 11 million -- maybe more -- more illegal immigrants in the country.

DOBBS: Right.

BLITZER: Find a pathway to citizenship for them if they do the right thing.

So what was wrong with that?

DOBBS: What was wrong with that is exactly what the American people discovered was wrong with that, and that is, that, as I said, it is a lie. Comprehensive immigration reform -- the legislation put forward twice over the past two years in this Senate -- was defeated because the American people are aware now that those elites in both parties were absolutely lying to them. The Congressional Budget Office demonstrated that they were lying.

This legislation, that was defeated by a closure vote, as you recall, on June 28 of this year by the United States Senate, would have eliminated only 25 percent of the illegal immigration across our borders. The impact of it, according to The Heritage Foundation study, would have been somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 trillion in retirement costs for the number of immigrants that would have resulted in entering and staying in the United States -- unskilled for the most part; uneducated, for the most part.

And we have a Chamber of Commerce representing corporate America telling us that baby boomers -- this is the brilliant rationale, Wolf -- I mean I -- it -- that baby boomers need...

BLITZER: All right...

DOBBS: ...illegal aliens to support Social Security so they can retire. That's how stupid these elites have become. And they consider themselves brighter than all of the people in this country.

I believe the fundamental tenant of populism -- none of us is as smart as all of us and the fundamental tenet of populism requires the concomitant democracy that was built for us 200 years ago. And that is representation of the will of the majority. And that is the responsibility of our elected officials, which I completely, completely -- in which they've been derelict.

BLITZER: Lou is going to be joining us in our next hour for our roundtable discussion.

The new book is entitled "Independents Day: Awakening the American Spirit."

Lou is also -- I want to remind our viewers -- you've got a new time, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

DOBBS: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Still after THE SITUATION ROOM -- right after THE SITUATION ROOM. But you're going to be with us in the next hour, as well.

Stand by for that.

DOBBS: I'm looking forward to it, Wolf.

Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Lou Dobbs' book, "Independents Day".

Mitt Romney caught on tape inside a closed door meeting with Evangelical Christians.

Did he win them over?

A CNN exclusive, coming up.

And a judge rules on the case of a priest accused of stalking the late night TV host, Conan O'Brien.

And take a look at what a police dash camera captured on the right-hand side of the screen. We're going to tell you who was behind the wheel of the crashing SUV.

Stick around.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

What's going on -- Carol?

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

More on that breaking story we've been following. A freight train has derailed over the Anacostia River here in Washington. Six to eight cars in the water. The Coast Guard telling us the train was stationary when it was bumped from behind this afternoon. A fire department spokesman says there are no injuries, but there is a lot of coal in the water. Crews are working to remove that, since coal is considered hazardous.

A priest accused of stalking Conan O'Brien is fit to stand trial. That's the ruling of a New York judge, who has ordered the priest held on $2,500 cash bail. The Reverend David Ajemian was arrested last week trying to enter a taping of "Late Night with Conan O'Brien". He allegedly began writing to O'Brien last fall. The priest's lawyer says he was being treated for psychological problems. The Boston Archdiocese has placed him on leave.

A powerful storm in the North Sea is triggering tidal surges and violent winds. Britain and the Netherlands have been forced to activate flood defenses today. Hundreds of people in low lying areas of Eastern England have been evacuated. In the seaside town in Great Yarmouth in Eastern England, a river burst its banks and waves of up to 20 feet crashed along the coast.

And take a look at this on the wide screen. A dramatic crash in Coweta County, Georgia -- and it was caught on tape. You'll see it in a second. Two teenagers in a stolen SUV leading police on a chase at speeds of more than 90 miles per hour. The SUV crashed into the median. There you see it. Officials say it flipped five times. Both teenagers were hurt, but their injuries are not life-threatening. They are charged with carjacking and armed robbery -- back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: I guess those seat belts and air bags saved their lives.

I can only imagine it -- awful.

Thanks, Carol, very much.

A televangelist talks about what he calls the enemy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLSTEEN: I just think that there are forces that are trying to pull our families apart today and we have to -- to be strong to stay together and keep strife and division out of our homes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I'll speak with the pastor and best-selling author, Joe Osteen.

Also, he shot and wounded a presidential candidate. Now, he's quietly freed from prison.

How do his victims feel?

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, the former New York City police commissioner, Bernard Kerik, pleads not guilty to 16 federal counts of corruption. Kerik was once former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's top cop. Kerik says he will fight the charges. In our next hour, more on the case against Bernard Kerik and how it might impact Giuliani's presidential aspirations.

Also coming up in our next hour, Americans are disgusted with the current Congress. A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows a majority now thinks most members of Congress simply don't deserve re- election.

Should incumbents be shaking in their boots?

We'll talk about that in our roundtable.

And former president George H. W. Bush defending his son, the 41st president, saying criticism of the current president -- of his handling of the war in Iraq -- is grossly unfair. We'll have more about what the presidential patriarch is back doing right now.

All of that coming up in our next hour.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Is Mitt Romney's Mormon faith an obstacle when it comes to cultivating the votes of the religious right?

The candidate went behind closed doors -- no cameras present -- to make his case.

Let's go to our national correspondent, John King.

He's here with a CNN exclusive. What can you tell us about Mitt Romney's meeting behind closed doors with these Christian Evangelicals?

JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I was outside the meeting on Tuesday at a hotel in Greenville, South Carolina. But thanks to the fabulous work of our young producer in South Carolina, Peter Hanby (ph), we have an exclusive, behind the scenes listen -- we can't call it a look -- at Mitt Romney courting a very important constituency.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: It is invitation only, no media allowed. Mitt Romney's guests, students, faculty and alumni of the ultra conservative Bob Jones University, southern Baptists and other evangelicals, some of whom consider Mormonism a cult, not a religion. Romney is a Mormon who needs their votes. MITT ROMNEY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: "I get good support for evangelical Christian leadership around the country, you know, despite a difference of religion."

KING: And audio recording of the event was obtained by CNN producer Peter Hamby from an invited guest who asked to be identified. It provides a rare glimpse at Romney's determined effort to overcome skepticism in the evangelical community.

RICK BELTRAM, SPARTANBURG CO., S.C. GOP CHAIR: I would say that if we didn't have the Mormon issue, that he'd be the clear front runner and almost the race would almost be over.

KING: Asked about religion at the closed door luncheon, Romney touts his endorsement by Bob Jones III, a prominent evangelical leader in the state.

ROMNEY: "We don't talk about doctrines of churches, all right, because he says 'look your church is wrong' and I say, fine, we all have different view points."

KING: He also quotes prominent southern Baptist leader Dr. Richard Lad.

ROMNEY: "Who said we're not electing a pastor in chief, and so I appreciate that support and you just remember that when you go to vote. I am kidding."

KING: Bob Jones Dean Robert Taylor urged the group to lobby other evangelicals worried Romney is a Mormon.

ROBERT TAYLOR, DEAN, COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES, BOB JONES UNIVERSITY: "You can probably be the encouragement to that neighbor or other church member that's a little concerned."

KING: As he does in public, Romney stresses what he calls shared values, things like opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. The Tuesday luncheon in Greenville was the latest in a series of Romney private sessions with southern Baptists and other evangelical leaders worried about backing a Mormon.

JOE MACK, SOUTH CAROLINA BAPTIST CONVENTION: Theologically, they're probably not - they are not on the same page as Baptists, but in the value issues, I think very much he might be right there where we are on those issues that are important to us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: There's no doubt from polling in South Carolina and from anecdotal conversations with evangelical leaders that Romney is making in roads, but, Wolf, also some can't be persuaded. The luncheon invitee who provided us with this reporting is very upset. He said he's upset evangelical leaders are backing Romney. He says though that's because of Romney's past support of abortion rights, not because he's a Mormon.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. John, thanks very much and thanks to Peter Hamby as well, our young producer in South Carolina.

Let's get now to the world according to one of today's most prominent televangelist. He has a huge media ministry, a book on bettering your life and an interesting perspective on politics, the issues and what he believes society is greatest enemy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now from the CNN center is Pastor Joel Osteen. He's the author of an important new book entitled "Become a Better You, Seven Ways to Improving Your Life Everyday." Pastor, thanks very much for coming in.

PASTOR JOEL OSTEEN, AUTHOR: Hey, thank you, it is my pleasure it be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We know you have a huge following and your best seller, your best life now is the "New York Times" number one best seller for a long time. Let me read from your new book, this graph that sort of jumped out at me. "One of the greatest threats we face in the 21st century is not a terrorist attack or an ecological catastrophe but an attack on our homes. The enemy would love nothing more than to ruin your relationship with your husband or your wife, your parents or your children." All right, the enemy. Who is the enemy that potentially would do that to our families?

OSTEEN: Well, I think, I'm talking more in a spiritual sense there, Wolf, that the enemy being forces, I call them forces of darkness. I think it started with the devil. We call it in bible terms, but I just think there are forces that are trying to pull our families apart today and we have to be strong to stay together and keep strife and division out of our homes.

BLITZER: Well, beyond the devil, are there groups, organizations, individuals you feel are part of this group that you call the enemy?

OSTEEN: No, I really don't. I don't really, I'm not going that, I'm not taking it in that direction. It's more in the spiritual side and just, I just really believe that there's things that try to pull us apart as a family and, so, I'm seeing it more on the spiritual side.

BLITZER: All right. There are some evangelical pastors, leaders out there who get deeply involved in politics. Others like you try to stay out of politics. Is there a right or a wrong course for an evangelical leader?

OSTEEN: I don't think it's right or wrong. I think it is what god has put in your heart to do. I have good friends that are very strong that can get on there and debate and they're much more political. So, I don't know if it's right or wrong. I believe for, you know, for me, what's right is to not get on the political side. Sometimes I believe that divides the very audience I'm trying to reach. Wolf, in a church like ours, our congregation has many thousands and there are democrats, republicans, independents, people for the war, not for the war and I believe I have to take the higher road and let me say, let me help you in your spiritual walk.

BLITZER: All right. What about many evangelicals would call the moral issues whether abortion or gay rights? Do you get involved in trying to express your opinions on those sensitive issues?

OSTEEN: You know, I would say this, Wolf, I don't crusade against them or crusade to make my opinion known. Again, I feel like my calling is to bring hope and encouragement and teach people how to live their everyday lives. But I'm not for abortion and I don't think homosexuality is god's best but I just try to stay in my calling and the main thing is we're for everybody to bring them hope and encouragement and not to exclude a certain group from our following.

BLITZER: Explain why you think homosexuality is not god's best because homosexuals believe that was the way god created them. They were born this way to either love women or love men and they had no choice in the matter and this is simply the way, the way god created them.

OSTEEN: You know, Wolf I can't say that I understand it all. I don't. When I read things like that, I don't know that I understand it all. I just go back to the foundation of my faith. It's based on the truth that I found in the bible and I only see, you know, relationships between men and women is the way god created us to be. I'm not saying I condemn them. I'm not saying I understand it all, but I just, I have to say this is my core belief on the inside.

BLITZER: And what about same-sex marriage or same-sex unions. If two men love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives with each other or two women love each other, should they get the benefits, the rights that heterosexual couples have?

OSTEEN: You know, Wolf, I'm not up to speed on all that. I just - I don't believe again that it's god's best for us to say that a marriage is between a man, I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I don't know about all the technical issues. I'm certainly for everybody having a chance in life and being kind and respectful to everyone. But I just don't know if I'm up to speed on it all.

BLITZER: Have you ever considered running for office?

OSTEEN: No, sir, I haven't. I have had people ask, but I just don't feel like, you know, at this point that's what I'm called to do. I just feel like you know I am doing what I was born to do right now.

BLITZER: You don't think we should expect you endorse a candidate either a democrat or a republican or eventually when there's the nominees on either side, you're going to stay out of it.

OSTEEN: Yeah, I'll stay out of it. I don't believe that's in the best interest of what I feel like that I'm called to do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Pastor Joel Osteen joining me earlier. Coming up, he tried to kill a presidential candidate. Now he's been released from prison. We'll find out why a would-be assassin is now a free man.

And later, Senator Hillary Clinton's spending habits; she's outpacing her presidential competition. Some say it could backfire on her.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There are new developments in the mysterious death of a woman over at the Phoenix Airport. The pictures, we're going to be showing you come from airport cameras and they show only the beginning of the confrontation involving New York woman Carol Gotbaum. Airport security guards would later handcuff and shackle Gotbaum and then leave her alone in a holding cell where she died. It happened two months ago. CNN's Alina Cho has details now on what the coroner now thinks happened. Alina.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The headline from the medical examiner's report is that Carol Gotbaum's death was ruled an accident and there was both alcohol and anti-depressants in her system when she died. Now the cause of death was certified as asphyxia by hanging. That supports the argument by Phoenix police that Carol Gotbaum may have strangled herself while trying to escape from her handcuffs. Police also say the ME's report is consistent with their argument that officers acted appropriately and that there was no misconduct.

Now Carol Gotbaum, you will recall, was on her way to a rehab center in Tucson back on September 28th, six weeks ago, when she missed her connection in Phoenix, flew into a rage and was ultimately arrested for disorderly conduct. Now, officers put her into a holding cell alone. Several minutes later when police did not hear her screaming any more, they went in to check on her and found her unconscious.

Family members have suggested something different that police mishandled the situation. In fact, the Gotbaum family is conducting its own investigation, hired a pathologist who has just gotten access to Gotbaum's key organs. Ultimately there could be another version, another story of how Carol Gotbaum died and that could either strengthen or weaken the family's argument as they try to decide whether to pursue a lawsuit against the Phoenix Police Department. Alina Cho, CNN, New York.

BLITZER: Looks like it will be next week before a preliminary hearing on O.J. Simpson's armed robbery and kidnap charges wraps up. The defense attorneys today set out to undermine the prosecution's case. CNN's Dan Simon has been in Vegas. He's been following the story for us. So, what happened today, Dan?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Wolf. One of the central characters in the case is a guy named Thomas Riccio. He's a prosecution witness but in the end, he really helped out the defense. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You never heard while you were in the room O.J. Simpson mention anything about guns, correct?

THOMAS RICCIO, SPORTS MEMORABILIA DEALER: No.

SIMON: Planting the seeds of reasonable doubt. This case may be far from reaching a jury, but O.J. Simpson's defense team is trying to do just that, hammering away at prosecution witnesses.

On the stand today, Thomas Riccio, a California sports memorabilia dealer who arranged that now infamous hotel confrontation. Riccio testified it's possible that Simpson never saw anyone pull a gun in that hotel room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You believe there is a good chance that O.J. Simpson did not see any guns. Correct?

RICCIO: There's a chance. I don't know if I can say good or not. There is a chance, though. He was in front of the gun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What good was your word?

RICCIO: There was a chance. I'm not going to make odds on it.

SIMON: Simpson and five others went to the Palace Station Hotel September 13th to regain some sports and personal items that Simpson says had been stolen from him long ago. In Riccio's mind, there's no question the items truly belong to Simpson because memorabilia dealer, Alfred Beardsley, told him so.

RICCIO: He came right out and said it was stolen from O.J.'s trophy case. That was his exact words.

SIMON: Riccio testified, he called the Los angels Police Department to tell them about the stolen items, but they weren't interested. Neither was the FBI. Riccio said he truly wanted to help Simpson.

RICCIO: O.J. has been nothing but nice to me and dealings I've had with him. I know people don't want to hear that. My own family doesn't want to hear that, but he's been charming and nice.

SIMON: Also in court today, the hotel surveillance video. It shows Simpson and his buddies carting out the memorabilia in boxes immediately following the confrontation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIMON: A fourth witness has now take on the stand, still, four more to go before this preliminary hearing is wrapped and the case goes to the judge to determine if there is probable cause to send this case on to trial. Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan, thank you. Dan Simon in Vegas for us. Still ahead, is Pakistan's nuclear arsenal safe? The former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage tells me what's at stake for the U.S. if the Pakistan crisis gets out of hand.

And at stake for congressional incumbents, possibly their jobs. We're taking a closer look at the latest poll numbers of disgruntled Americans.

And the first President Bush now says layoff my son.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A deadly bomb and violent protests, mass arrests and now the Pakistani government state of emergency puts the top opposition leader behind barbed wire. Let's bring in our special correspondent Frank Sesno. He's watching this for us. Enormous amount of concern about what's happening in Pakistan right now.

FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: And rightly so. That's why this is great fodder for their what-if question this week because the what ifs about Pakistan flying apart are really scary. I mean look at the map, look on the outside, the inside. On the outside, Pakistan there, as we see, is in a very rough neighborhood. It is archenemy India, it's next to Afghanistan and that's how U.S. troops get the to Afghanistan through Pakistan and we know about al Qaeda and Iran. Iran has nuclear intentions. Pakistan has nuclear weapons and it's why we tee up the question this week as we do.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SESNO: What if Pakistan comes unglued? We got a glimpse of it when former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's homecoming turned tragic. When General Musharraf declared emergency rule, and even the lawyers took to the streets in protest. This place is an explosive mix in a volatile region at a dangerous time. There's al Qaeda and nukes, a military government and a big drug trade. There are Sunnis and Shia, Punjabis, Pushto and others, the world's second most populous Muslim majority country. What if Pakistan gets really unstable? I put the question to an expert.

PROF. HUSAIN HAQQANI, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: There will be the prospect of having not one, but four failed states.

SESNO: That's because Pakistan's rival ethnic groups and competing political and religious factions sprawl across four far- flung and in places lawless provinces. What if the center doesn't hold?

HAQQANI: What we are looking at is more smugglers, more gun runners and more terrorists having more space where there is no authority to clamp down against them.

SESNO: It's a failed state scenario that is especially chilling because of al Qaeda's foothold. HAQQANI: More ability to plan attacks all over the world, not only in that area. It would be like Taliban control Afghanistan, except on a much larger scale.

SESNO: Sure, there are billions of dollars in U.S. military and economic assistance on the line, but an unstable Pakistan would mean big trouble not just for Washington's high-priority policies but for the region and the world; everything from fighting terrorism and drugs to keeping the lid on nuclear proliferation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESNO: Wolf, here's a number to think about from the CIA world fact book. Last time they measured, four million metric tons of pure heroin coming from Pakistan alone. So that puts that into perspective. This has made its way, by the way, very quickly into the American political scene. We have some players here, the candidates. You got Biden, you got Richardson and you got McCain and they're now saying Pakistan could be like Iran in the 1970s, except as we said, Pakistan has already got nuclear weapons. Rudy Giuliani says this is a delicate thing and he says on the one hand, I'm quoting, Musharraf is sitting on top of a very difficult situation. We want him to move towards democracy but at the same time we want to keep the government together. It's very hard and in a campaign, Wolf, that's increasing dominated by foreign policy, Pakistan suddenly moves front and center.

BLITZER: As well, it should. It's a critical issue to everyone. Thanks very much. Frank Sesno doing good reporting for us.

So, should the U.S. do more to bring pressure on the Pakistani government? I spoke with the former Deputy Secretary Of State Richard Armitage and asked if sanctions would really make a difference.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD ARMITAGE, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: Let's approach this carefully and not hyperventilate. I saw a "Newsweek" story that said this is the most anxious place in the world. I don't agree with it.

BLITZER: You don't agree with it?

ARMITAGE: I do not agree with it. If anything, extremism has actually dropped in Pakistan. The recent IRI poll shows 74 percent of the people in Pakistan are opposed to this. That number is up ten points in just several months. So I think we ought to take a deep breath and make sure we don't cut our nose off despite our face. We could have more -if there's a need for sanctions, we could have more calibrated and careful sanctions.

BLITZER: Because the fear is, the nightmare scenario is that you have Muslim country, which has an element that supports the Taliban, supports al Qaeda. There is a moderate secular element over there but a lot of people now being arrested by President Musharraf. If the extremists take charge, not only would it be a horrendous situation, but you have a nuclear arsenal that's at stake right now in Pakistan as well.

ARMITAGE: You know as well as I do that that nuclear arsenal is one dispersed and second, carefully guarded by the army. We have had historically discussions with the Pakistani army about their -- the safeguarding of those nuclear weapons. I think in the short and medium term should things turn badly, we're not going it worry about nuclear weapons.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Richard Armitage will be among my guests this Sunday on "LATE EDITION." The full interview with Armitage will air Sunday, 11:00 a.m. eastern only here on CNN.

Up ahead, a would-be assassin of a presidential candidate set free. Carol Costello is about to tell us what happened today.

Rudy Giuliani's former top cop is indicted on charges. Will the ex police commissioner Bernard Kerik's legal trouble spell trouble for the former New York mayor's presidential hopes? That's coming up in our next hour.

And Lou Dobbs joins our political roundtable in the next hour, as well.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: He tried to assassinate a presidential candidate and now Arthur Bremer is free more than three decades after he shot and paralyzed the Alabama Governor, George Wallace. Carol Costello is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. So why was he released?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well apparently Wolf, he was a really good boy in prison. Arthur Bremer free after serving 35 years of a 52-year sentence.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: There are no new pictures of Arthur Bremer. He left the Maryland Corrections Institution secretly at dawn. He wanted it that way, telling parole officers, "I'm just a man in prison. I don't want to be a public figure." It is perhaps an odd statement coming from a man who, some historians say, planned an assassination simply to become famous. And for a while, he was. It was 1972 and Alabama Governor George Wallace was running for president. He stopped in Laurel, Maryland, to shake hands with supporters. Arthur Bremer, who had been stalking Wallace, was there. He shot four people, including his target, paralyzing Wallace from the waist down. Bremer's motives were so deranged he captured Hollywood's imagination. He was the inspiration for the Robert De Niro character in "Taxi Driver," a character who also stalked a politician. Today Bremer is free, released 17 years early, unlike some other attempted assassins like Squeaky Fromme, who took a shot at President Ford or John Hinckley Jr., who shot President Reagan. Wallace's family is upset. His son's saying, "My father forgave him and my family has forgiven him. That's consistent with god's law. Then there is man's law. I doubt the punishment fit the crime." But court TV's Jamie Floyd said Maryland parole officials had little choice.

JAMIE FLOYD, COURT TV: And we really are supposed to treat victims alike and you factor in the fact that Governor Wallace forgave him in his heart and publicly and I can't criticize the parole board in this case, no.

COSTELLO: Another of Bremer's victims sees things differently. Nick Zarvos, a secret service agent who was shot in the throat by Bremer that terrible day, says it's time to put it all in the past.

NICK ZARVOS, SECRET SERVICE AGENT SHOT WHILE PROTECTING WALLACE: I've always felt that anyone that has any anger in their heart only hurts themselves. So, I just don't go in that direction. I think anger would only hurt me and I just like to live for the future.

COSTELLO: And he feels that way, even though Bremer's bullet paralyzed his vocal cord, leaving him unable to speak above a loud whisper.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: Now, I did talk with George Wallace Jr. and I asked him how his father could forgive Bremer. He says his father looked him in the eye and said, oh, son, if I can't forgive him, how can my lord forgive me for my sins. Wallace, you may know, was a segregationist who later told the African-American community he was wrong. Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of us remember living through that period. Thank you very much, Carol, for that.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com