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THE SITUATION ROOM

Democratic Presidential Race Tightening?; Interview With Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton

Aired November 12, 2007 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Lou's getting ready for his show that begins right at the - not at the top of the hour, an hour from now, his new time 7:00 p.m. eastern, one from now but he's in Arizona right now. You're on the front lines really in the battle over illegal immigration. The border wars as they're called. Is the situation in Arizona based on your reporting, based on what you're seeing getting better in terms of cooperation between local and federal authorities?
LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Oh, it's not only better.

The state of Arizona, in my opinion, is exemplary in the way this state, the people of Arizona, have stepped forward. They have taken control of their state. They have referendum here, state initiatives, in which the voters can directly create law.

And they basically told most of their elected officials to go to hell. We're going to take care of things, since you didn't.

If this were, if this opportunity were available to Americans in every state in the union, we would be seeing quite a different performance in Washington, D.C. It's really remarkable and a wonderful thing to see democracy in action in Arizona in which the issues of border security, illegal immigration and the impact of that all being dealt with in public policy being created by the people. It's a populist state.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: So, Lou, you are giving Governor Janet Napolitano, the Democratic governor, a lot of credit?

DOBBS: Why am I giving her credit?

BLITZER: No, you are giving her credit.

DOBBS: Most of this has been done despite her objection, over the influence of the business establishment in this state. The people of Arizona have done this through referenda, through initiatives, through Proposition 100, Proposition 200, and have been driving the point home.

The people in this state are starting to be heard. And it's a great lesson for all -- all people across this country. I mean, Arizona and the state of Oklahoma are exemplary.

BLITZER: All right, Lou. Lou is going to have, an hour from now, a lot more on what is happening in Arizona and all the day's other news as well.

DOBBS: You bet.

BLITZER: Lou, thanks very much.

Happening now: A Democratic campaign hits a bump in the road and the race for the White House may be tightening up. Are rivals within shouting distance of Hillary Clinton? And if Senator Clinton is stumbling, are all those red hot attacks from her opponents to blame? We're keeping tabs on the mud-slinging and a charge that the Clinton camp is staging audience questions.

And the Democrats aren't the only ones going at it tooth and nail. Mitt Romney and John McCain now in the midst of a smackdown of sorts themselves over ads, cash and reform.

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

It's getting uglier and hotter out there on the campaign trail. The presidential race is heading into raucous new territory as the candidates on both sides count down to the first primary season contest.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is keeping tabs on the polls and the attacks. He's already in Las Vegas with the CNN Election Express.

All right. So, what -- give us a little preview. What are the odds? What are they saying out there and what is going on?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, we're seeing two races, both getting hotter and for very different reasons. Not such a good time to double down.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice over): Hillary Clinton's momentum has stalled. That's the message of the latest national polls of Democrats.

Clinton's lead over second-place Democrat Barack Obama had been increasing steadily since spring, but four polls taken in late October and early November show no significant change. Four others show Clinton's lead narrowing.

In the CNN poll by the Opinion Research Corporation, Clinton had a 30-point lead in October. Now her lead is down to 19 points.

Two polls just out in New Hampshire also show Clinton's lead narrowing from 23 to 14 points in the University of New Hampshire poll, from 22 to 12 in the Marist poll. The race has always been much closer in Iowa. Most polls in the leadoff caucus state show Clinton's lead in single digits, just three points in the latest Zogby poll.

Democrats sense she could be vulnerable. That's why the Democratic race is heating up.

Obama is taking aim at Clinton's honesty, a familiar charge that's been leveled at both Clintons.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You don't answer directly tough questions, you don't present tough choices directly to the American people for fear that your answers might not be popular.

SCHNEIDER: Her countercharge? Obama lacks fight.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What do we do?

SCHNEIDER: He's not tough enough to turn up the heat on the Republicans.

H. CLINTON: Let's make sure that we turn up the heat and turn America around.

SCHNEIDER: In the Republican race, national polls show Rudy Giuliani with a steady lead over his rivals, but in the crucial early states of Iowa and New Hampshire, Mitt Romney is still the solid front-runner. Two polls this month in New Hampshire by Marist and the University of New Hampshire both show Romney's lead increasing in the Granite State. The most recent poll shows Romney slightly ahead in South Carolina, the big showdown for the party's conservative base.

If Romney runs the table and wins Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Michigan, where he has family roots, Giuliani's national lead could go up in smoke. The same thing could happen to Clinton if the cards turn up against her in Iowa and New Hampshire.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Now, here in Nevada, where I am right now, another early voting state, things are very much in flux. Here's some advice from Las Vegas. Pay attention to the polls, but don't bet the farm -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Bill, stand by. We will heading there.

It's been a long and winding road to Las Vegas For bill and the CNN Election Express. They started out on Saturday in Denver, the Democrats' convention city. Then it was on to snowy Vail, the Vail Pass a scenic backdrop for reports on Western politics.

The bus traveled west out of the Rockies to Grand Junction in Colorado. After spending the night there, it was on to the desert in south central Utah for more live reports before heading to Vegas.

Our bus is now in place on the Vegas Strip, as you saw, leading up to Thursday, Thursday's big debate.

And please be sure to join us and the best political team on television Thursday for Las Vegas, a Democratic presidential debate. The debate will begin at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 5:00 Pacific, only here on CNN.

Right now, the Clinton campaign is dealing with an embarrassing situation. And some are even calling it -- quote -- "plant-gate." Clinton's opponents saying they have tried -- that she's trying to duck tough questions after it was revealed her campaign actually planted people in an audience to ask the senator what were considered to be softball questions.

Mary Snow is watching this story for us in New York.

I take it the campaign is sort of red-faced right now.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf, because it's rare to make this kind of admission. The Clinton camp admits an aide prompted a question and it's having to explain two separate Iowa events.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would love to take questions.

SNOW (voice-over): It was a campaign event in Iowa that largely went unnoticed, until a Grinnell College student told her student paper that a Clinton campaign staffer prompted her to ask Senator Clinton a question about global warming.

MURIEL GALLO-CHASANOFF, GRINNELL COLLEGE STUDENT: As a young person, I'm worried about the long-term effects of global warming. How did you plan to combat climate change?

H. CLINTON: Well, you should be worried. And I find, as I travel around Iowa, that it's usually young people who ask me about global warming.

SNOW: The Clinton campaign admits a staffer encouraged the question, but insists Senator Clinton wasn't aware of it.

The Democratic presidential hopeful told reporters -- quote -- "It was news to me, and neither, nor my campaign, approve of that, and it will certainly not be tolerated."

But a second incident at an Iowa event last spring is being disputed. Democrat Geoffrey Mitchell, a Barack Obama supporter, told us by phone that a Clinton staffer encouraged him to ask Senator Clinton a question about Iraq.

GEOFFREY MITCHELL, OBAMA SUPPORTER: He asked me if I would ask Senator Clinton about ways that she was going to confront the president on the war on Iraq, specifically war funding. And I told him that that was not a question that I felt comfortable asking.

SNOW: Turns out no questions were taken.

When asked about the event, a Clinton campaign spokesman says, a campaign staffer bumped into someone he marginally knew. They started talking, Iraq came up, and the staffer suggested he ask that question. But Mitchell says he had never met the Clinton staffer prior to that event.

One Iowa political science professor says he doesn't believe planted questions are a big deal in themselves, but says they provide ammunition to Senator Clinton's opponents.

STEFFEN SCHMIDT, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY: You know, this is just one more essentially distraction and one more piece of sort of a general raising of questions about her competence as a campaigner.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: And Democratic presidential candidates are pouncing.

Senator Barack Obama said in New Hampshire today that planting questions is not something his campaign engages in. John Edwards likened the Clinton incident to scripted events by George Bush. To that, the Clinton camp is striking back tonight, saying -- quote -- "What George Bush does is attack Democrats and divide the country. Senator Edwards' campaign resembles that more and more every day" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, to paraphrase Jack Cafferty, it's getting ugly out there.

All right. Mary, thanks very much.

Speaking of Jack Cafferty, let's go to Jack Cafferty.

He is standing by -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: That's not a paraphrase. That's the title of my new book.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: That's a direct quote of your bestselling, bestselling book, "It's Getting Ugly Out There."

CAFFERTY: There you go.

BLITZER: You're right.

CAFFERTY: That stuff is dishonest. I mean, why don't we just start there? Planting questions is dishonest. Speaking in front of groups of soldiers is dishonest. The public is up to here with dishonest.

One of our nation's top intelligent officials -- intelligent -- intelligence officials says it's time for people in the United States to change their definition of privacy.

Donald Kerr is the principal deputy director of national intelligence. He says privacy in this country can no longer mean anonymity. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguard people's private communications and financial information.

Of course, I trust the government to do that. Don't you?

This comes as members of Congress are taking a second look at that Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Remember last summer when it was threatened they might be held and not be able to go on their break in time? They hastily changed the law and gave the government powers to eavesdrop inside the United States without a warrant, as long as one of the parties was reasonably believed to be located outside the U.S. Reasonably believed -- that's a loophole you could drive a train through.

The original 1978 law required a court order for surveillance conducted on U.S. soil, to protect Americans' privacy. Kerr points out younger generations have a different idea of what privacy is. Millions of people give up anonymity to social networking Web site like MySpace and Facebook and to online commerce, where sites reveal information such as personal statistics and credit card numbers that used to be very closely guarded information.

The question then this hour is this: A top intelligence official says it's time for people in the United States to redefine privacy. Why should we? E-mail us at caffertyfile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/caffertyfile.

You know, this stuff worked for more than 200 years, and now suddenly it's not sufficient any more? I don't believe that, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, stand by, because you are going to be part of the roundtable coming up in a few moments here as well.

Lou Dobbs, his program begins, by the way, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, at the top of the hour. That's its new time, for those of you who don't know that yet.

Just ahead here this hour in THE SITUATION ROOM: the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: I don't think there is an adequate understanding that the threat we face from terrorism is really a war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And what he thinks about the presidential candidates, what he believes will be the biggest threat to the United States in the coming years, that's coming up here.

Republican candidate Mitt Romney slamming John McCain. He is going on the offense. Find out what he's saying.

And the Democrats are getting tough as well. It's getting ugly out there. We have been saying that.

That story And a lot more coming up -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Iran's nuclear threat is a hot topic for the sparring that is going on in the presidential race right now, along with fears of giving President Bush what some are calling a blank check for a new war.

I spoke just a little while ago with the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton. And I asked him what is at stake in this presidential race.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOLTON: Well, I think 2008 is a very consequential election for America on national security issues, because the challenges the next president will face will require decisions that will have an impact far beyond the four years of his or her term. So I...

BLITZER: Now I just want to point out, you're obviously a partisan Republican. You went down...

BOLTON: You guessed? You guessed?

BLITZER: You went down to Florida to work on the legal team, helping the Bush campaign at that time eventually beat Al Gore in that disputed Florida recount.

But as you look at the Democratic candidates, what do you see? I mean, do you see -- let me ask you, what do you see?

BOLTON: Well, I see a number of problems. First, I don't think there's an adequate understanding that the threat we face from terrorism is really a war and has to be treated under a wartime paradigm.

This is not a legal matter. This is not something that's going to be solved by a few more FBI agents or a more vigorous litigation strategy. And the failure to grasp that central threat I think is very, very troubling.

BLITZER: But do you see a different between Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, for example, on the situation in Iran -- as far as Iran is concerned?

BOLTON: I don't. And I find that very troubling, because I think the issue of the proliferation, especially, of nuclear weapons, in the next few years is probably the single most immediate threat we face.

And I fear that not only the Bush administration but many of the Democratic candidates are following the same failed policy.

BLITZER: All right. Here's what Chuck Hagel, a Republican senator from Nebraska, said the other day. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: Now is the time for the United States to actively pursue an offer of direct, unconditional and comprehensive talks with Iran. We cannot afford to refuse to consider this strategic choice any longer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now he sounds like a lot of the Democratic presidential candidates, who say, let's talk. The Bush administration's position is, the U.S. will talk, but only after the Iranians suspend their enrichment -- their nuclear enrichment program.

BOLTON: No, I think there's nothing to be gained by negotiations with Iran over their nuclear weapons program. They are not going to be chit-chatted out of a strategic decision they have been following for 20 years to achieve that capability.

BLITZER: But why not? Why not? Libya agreed to give up its nuclear ambitions. North Korea supposedly is doing that as a result of pressure and negotiations. Why not the Iranians?

BOLTON: Let's take it one at a time. Libya agreed to give up its nuclear weapons program because Moammar Gadhafi believed, mistakenly, that our having overthrown Saddam Hussein meant he was probably next. That was a real strategic victory as a consequence of overthrowing Saddam.

North Korea has, yet again, for probably the fourth or fifth time in the last 15 years, promised to give up their nuclear weapons. They promise a lot; they never actually do it.

BLITZER: And the Iranians, you don't think they can be talked out of this?

BOLTON: No. I think the Europeans over the last four-plus years, have offered the Iranians almost every carrot conceivable to get them to renounce their uranium enrichment program. And the consistent and clear message from Iran has been, no way.

BLITZER: Well, so what's the alternative?

BOLTON: Well, our alternatives are very few. I wish we had been able to get into the Security Council three or more years ago to try then to get tough sanctions. I think we have played out the Security Council route. I think we have played out the sanctions route.

BLITZER: I mean, basically what I hear you saying is either the U.S. is going to have to learn to live with an Iranian nuclear weapon or there's going to have to be a war to stop it.

BOLTON: No. I don't think those are the choices. But I think our options are limited. And I think they're basically two. One is regime change in Tehran, which I think we can get to by support for the domestic opposition to the mullahs, or, as the last resort, the use of targeted military force against the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

BLITZER: Well, targeted military force, that would be airstrikes, cruise missile attacks, maybe some ground operations -- special operations. Isn't that war?

BOLTON: I think it's a very different kind of operation than we have seen in Iraq. I think there's a lot of confusion in people's minds about what would be involved.

But let me stress, I think this is an undesirable alternative. And I think it's the last alternative. I wish we had been working more in the last four years on regime change. Because if we had, we might be a lot closer to that today.

BLITZER: Do you think the president -- this president -- will use that military option before he leaves office?

BOLTON: I don't know. When I was in the U.N., I used to say the president said Iran with nuclear weapons was unacceptable. The president was a man of his word. And when he said it was unacceptable, I thought that meant unacceptable.

If unacceptable really means that, then I think military force should be on the table.

BLITZER: And you're not concerned that the reaction from the Iranians would be disaster?

BOLTON: I don't think it would be disaster. I'm obviously concerned about the reaction. But life is about choices. And the choice is not between the world as it is today and the use of force. The choice is between Iran with nuclear weapons and the use of force. And given that circumstance, I think you have to look at force.

BLITZER: Ambassador John Bolton is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option."

Thanks, Mr. Ambassador, for coming in.

BOLTON: Glad to be here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Republicans trashing each other. Right now, one of John McCain's rivals essentially accusing him of hypocrisy. It involves the bad blood between McCain and fellow Republican Mitt Romney. We're watching the story.

And what's bugging Condoleezza Rice? Guess what? A very determined fly. That's what's bugging Condoleezza Rice. You are going to see what happens when insects find their way into some very important business.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Another presidential campaign grudge match is under way right now, this one pitting Republicans Mitt Romney and John McCain over a campaign ad and McCain's reputation as a reformer.

Let's go to our congressional correspondent Dana Bash. She's watching this story for us.

What is this one, Dana, all about?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, at issue here is a TV ad running now in South Carolina that promotes John McCain's stance on national security.

Now, it was produced and financed by a group run by one of McCain's supporters. McCain is very short on money now, so you may think he would welcome the help. But this is exactly the kind of independent advertising backed by undisclosed donors that McCain says corrupts the political process.

So, McCain said today he wants his longtime supporter to cease and desist, take down the ad. But Mitt Romney made clear today that he doesn't buy that. And, essentially, he accused McCain of hypocrisy.

Here's what Romney said in New Hampshire, according to a spokesman. He said: "It's an entire end run around any effort to control campaign spending and offer transparency. It is the height of irony that the author of McCain-Feingold now has his supporters raising apparently vast sums of money, well above any contribution limits that normal citizens see, to support his campaign."

Now, the campaign finance law that McCain famously co-authored is unpopular among many conservatives, who call it an affront to the First Amendment. Perhaps Romney is trying to seize on that. Perhaps he's looking at polls that show McCain slowly coming back up in New Hampshire.

But what is clear, Wolf, is, as much as McCain says he wants his donors to stop independent ads that benefit him, the man behind that ad, a man by the name of Rick Reed, he told CNN today he's not going to take down that ad in South Carolina. In fact, he plans to run it elsewhere -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, good. A little tension going on over there between these candidates. We will see what unfolds. We're watching this closely.

Dana, thanks very much.

BASH: Thank you.

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton also feeling some tension. She's feeling the heat from all sides. Now her husband is stepping in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Even though those boys have been getting kind of tough on her lately, she can handle it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: She might be able to handle it, but her rivals are hoping to turn her lead around.

Plus, Al Gore getting a brand-new job. Now he's turning his number-one passion into a paying career. We will tell you what he's doing.

And Mitt Romney, the Mormon, should he give a speech about his religion? A debate over that subject, that's coming up next in our roundtable.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now: days before their debate, Democrats getting nastier, as they turn on Hillary Clinton. Does it mark a turning point in this campaign?

Will the tightly packed schedule of early primaries help the candidates or hurt them? Which ones stand to gain from that tightly- packed schedule? A new poll may offer some answers.

And does Mitt Romney have a Mormon problem? Should the GOP candidate give a formal speech about his faith? We are putting all those questions to our roundtable. That's coming up.

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

Look for the fur to fly in Las Vegas this week when the Democratic presidential candidates face off in our debate. The Democratic race is getting uglier by the day, as Hillary Clinton's rivals are trying to drag her down.

Let's bring in our congressional correspondent, Jessica Yellin.

She's watching all of this unfold.

We got a little, a little taste of what is in store over the weekend at this big Democratic Party dinner in Iowa.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We sure did, Wolf. Iowa's annual Jefferson Jackson dinner is a make-or-break evening that can turn a lagging candidate into the front-runner. Well, this year, 9,000 Iowa Democrats turned out for the event, and what they got was a brawl.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice-over): After weeks of promising to take off the gloves, at Iowa's Jefferson Jackson dinner, Barack Obama finally did, aiming squarely at Senator Hillary Clinton.

He dismissed the senator as too calculating.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The same old Washington textbook campaigns just won't do in this election.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Not answering questions because we're afraid our answers won't be popular just won't do.

Triangulating and poll-driven positions, because we're worried about what Mitt or Rudy might say about us just won't do.

YELLIN: And John Edwards pounced on the same theme.

JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is time for us as a party to stand up with some backbone and some strength for what we actually believe in.

YELLIN: Still the national frontrunner, Senator Clinton hit back -- branding her opponents inexperienced.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Change is just a word if you don't have the strength and experience to make it happen.

YELLIN: But the Iowa race is increasingly tight. And with Iowa first in the nation to choose a candidate, what happens in the next seven weeks can make all the difference.

STUART ROTHENBERG, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: This is really the crucial time. Everything else has been polarized and, frankly, it hasn't mattered a lot. This is crunch time.

CLINTON: What do we do?

YELLIN: Senator Clinton's opponents hope she'll feel the squeeze. They're turning her campaign slogan against her.

EDWARDS: You don't turn up the heat on the Republicans by voting with Bush, Cheney and the neo-cons on the issue of going to war with Iran.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

YELLIN: That was John Edwards today.

Now, as for Obama, his campaign manager said that this may have been the most important speech for Barack Obama of his whole campaign -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica Yellin watching this story for us.

Thanks, Jessica, very much.

Hillary Clinton's top opponents are now clearly on the attack.

Is that strategy working for Barack Obama?

Is it working for John Edwards?

Joining us now, our roundtable.

Our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin. He's got a best-seller called "The Nine".

Our own Jack Cafferty. His best-seller is called "It's Getting Ugly Out There".

And Gloria Borger, our senior political analyst, is joining us, as well. We're still waiting for her book.

Let's listen, Jack, to Bill Clinton responding to the criticism that his wife is taking from her Democratic presidential rivals.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Even though those boys have been getting kind of tough on her lately, she can handle it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What do you think -- can she handle it -- Jack?

CAFFERTY: I just think that's a non-issue. She stood at Wellesley and gave this speech about how she was equipped at that school to do battle with these men. It's not about, gee, I'm just a girl and they're ganging up on me. She's running for president of the United States. And she's expected to answer questions like, do you favor driver's licenses for illegal aliens?

And she fumpered (ph) around like Arthur Murray on two wooden legs trying to answer that.

Social Security -- Hillary wants to appoint a commission to study Social Security. It's going broke. You either cut benefits or raise taxes or sit around and watch it go broke. We've had commissions.

Barack Obama said hey, maybe we need to raise the payroll tax, maybe -- but, you know, come on. The government -- I mean the government has been lying and obfuscating and misleading and just generally giving us a line of B.S. for as long as I can remember. And the public is, quite frankly, fed up. Answer the questions when you're asked.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, I want it put it on the screen -- a Democrat -- the latest Democratic poll in New Hampshire -- because it shows Hillary Clinton taking a little bit of punishment, I guess, for some of this. Right now, she's at 38 percent, down from 43 percent. Barack Obama is at 26, up from 21. Edwards is at 14, up from 12.

Is -- all the attacks against her, is that having an impact?

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it is. I think, lo and behold, Wolf, the voters actually -- in Iowa and New Hampshire -- don't think that this election is over yet. The sense of inevitably about Hillary Clinton winning in New Hampshire, winning in Iowa, getting the nomination -- they're saying, you know what?

We're taking another look at her. And, yes, I think these attacks on her as somebody who doesn't come forward with clear cut answers is really having an impact.

And, by the way, I think Bill Clinton, when he was talking about the boys roughing her up, I think Bill Clinton was actually talking to women voters out there, saying, look, these guys are getting tough on her. She can take it. She can fight back. And that's why you women have to go out there and vote for her in these early primaries.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Wolf, one of the things that that poll shows is one of the dirty little secrets of American politics, which is that negative campaigning works. Everybody talks about how wonderful it is to run positive campaigns. But the only time Barack Obama has moved in the polls in nearly a year is when he started trashing Hillary Clinton. And it works.

CAFFERTY: But why is it...

TOOBIN: And he ought to keep doing it if he wants to win.

CAFFERTY: Why is it trashing...

BORGER: That's right.

CAFFERTY: ...when he points out that she won't answer a straight up question?

Why is that trashing her?

TOOBIN: Well, I...

CAFFERTY: That's a legitimate criticism.

TOOBIN: I'm not saying it's illegitimate. In fact, I think negative campaigning is fine. But, you know, Barack started by -- Obama started by saying, look, you know, all of this is going to be all about the politics of hope. I'm not going to talk negatively about the opponents. Of course he should talk negatively. It's an election. You've got to choose one person. And one way to win is saying the other guy isn't any good.

BLITZER: You know, and, Gloria, there's no doubt that the heat that Hillary Clinton is taking now from these Democratic candidates, that's mild. That's nothing compared to what she can expect if she is the Democratic nominee. And whoever the Republican is -- if they have a chance to go directly at her on a lot of these issues. BORGER: And that was the case she was making against Barack Obama at the big dinner in Iowa over the weekend. She was saying that she has the strength not only to get the nomination, but to fight back against Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney. And by implication she was saying, you know, Barack Obama, he's kind of the soft guy in this race and I'm the tough guy in this race. And I can take those people on because I have been doing it for years, because they've been attacking me for years.

What do you think -- Jack?

CAFFERTY: I just think you need to answer the question. I think maybe this is a watershed campaign. Given what's happened in this country over the last six years, I think some accountability is going to be demanded by the voters -- at least I hope it is. And I think somebody who stands up and says, look, here's what we have to do about Social Security -- we have Choice A, Choice B, Choice C. We don't need another government commission. We don't need more obfuscation. I'm opposed to driver's license for illegal aliens or I'm in favor. I mean just answer the question.

BLITZER: That's a good piece of recommendation. We'll be asking those questions Thursday night.

And let's hope all of them answer the questions and don't dodge the questions.

All right, guys, stand by.

We have a lot more to talk about.

Our roundtable continues in just a moment.

This election season will be one for the history books. The presidential primaries coming earlier than ever.

Which candidates will it hurt, which will it help?

And look at this -- the flies have it.

We're going to tell you what the buzz -- the buzz is all about.

You're going to see it, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Republican and Democratic primary schedule -- they're packed about as tightly as they can get.

Will that help the candidates?

Will it hurt them?

Who's going to benefit?

Who's going to lose? Let's get right back to our roundtable right now.

Our senior legal analyst, Jeff Toobin, CNN's Jack Cafferty and our own senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Jack, in this latest New Hampshire poll, this Marist Poll, Mitt Romney has expanded his lead from 27 to 34 percent; Giuliani is second at 23; McCain, 14; Huckabee, 7; Ron Paul, 7; Fred Thompson down at 5 percent -- not doing very well.

CAFFERTY: No.

BLITZER: Romney is ahead in Iowa. He's ahead in New Hampshire. And he's even ahead in South Carolina.

Now, the conventional wisdom is that means he's going to walk away if it turns out that way. But given the compressed schedule -- all these primaries almost on February 5th, Super Duper Tuesday, big states like Florida, California, others -- does it really hold that whoever wins these three relatively small states early on will go on to capture the nomination?

CAFFERTY: I don't know the answer to that. But my guess is it will work against the winner, if it's not the same person who is leading in the polls in those bigger states. In some of those bigger states, Giuliani is ahead. Those are delegate rich states.

We didn't get a very good example of how this was supposed to work four years ago, when Howard Dean won Iowa and then immediately swallowed a hand grenade. But in the past, if you came out of Iowa and New Hampshire with momentum, you had some weeks to make that work to your advantage.

That time is gone now and these big delegate rich states -- Illinois, California and Florida -- are waiting in the wings. And if Giuliani holds his lead in those states, the victor in Iowa and New Hampshire and Michigan and South Carolina is going to be -- is going to disappear from the public consciousness very quickly.

BLITZER: And, Gloria, that's why this season is so much different than all previous seasons.

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it is. And if you -- if you look at Giuliani and Romney, they have basically the opposite strategies. Giuliani is running a national campaign, as Jack was just talking about, because he's going after those delegate rich states, in which there are very many like-minded Republicans. But if you look at Mitt Romney, he decided he need to introduce himself in those early states. He spent a lot of money in those early states. He's already up on television. And he's doing -- he's doing very well. And his belief is that if he does well in those early states, he'll get known in those big states and it will propel him to a victory in those states he wouldn't otherwise have had a chance in.

So we just don't know which strategy is going to work at this point. BLITZER: And two very...

BORGER: Very different.

BLITZER: Two very strategies -- Jeff.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Very hard to know how this is going to play out. John Edwards is doing a version of the Mitt Romney strategy, too -- throwing all his effort into Iowa, hoping that the momentum from a victory there will carry on.

I tend to agree with Jack. I think the presence of these enormous states right after New Hampshire and Iowa will reduce the importance of these states.

BORGER: But if Giuliani does really badly -- let's look at that scenario.

CAFFERTY: That's a good point.

BORGER: If he does really badly in Iowa and New Hampshire, then it could really hurt him in those big states.

BORGER: So he has to do...

TOOBIN: It could.

BORGER: ...he has to do moderately well, should we put it that way?

TOOBIN: Well, although, he really does seem to be almost throwing in the towel in Iowa. I mean he could finish fifth in Iowa, which certainly would be bad for him, but, you know, I think people in California, who are only paying casual attention to the race, if they like Giuliani at the middle of January, they're going to like him on February 5th, regardless of what happens in Iowa.

BLITZER: All right...

TOOBIN: So I think the frontrunners are helped by the compressed schedule.

BLITZER: Another issue, Jack -- I want you to weigh in on it -- is whether Mitt Romney, who is a Mormon, should do what John F. Kennedy did back in 1960 -- he was a Catholic -- and deliver a speech talking about his faith and politics. On Saturday he said this, Romney: "I sort of like the idea myself, but political advisers tell me no, no, no. It's not a good idea. It draws too much attention to that issue alone."

What do you think?

CAFFERTY: I think his advisers are probably right. But I also think -- I mean he's leading in the states that are going to vote first. So if it isn't broke, don't, you know, don't try to fix it. But it also depends very much if he decides to give a speech, what kind of a speech he gives. It's one thing to give a speech and try to jam your idea of religion down everybody else's throat. I think we've seen some of that in the last few years. It's another thing to give the kind of speech that Kennedy gave about his Catholicism, in which he laid out the ways that he thought his religion had enriched him and made him a more qualified and capable man, and how he thought those qualities could be translated to the presidency.

So the kind of speech -- and if he decides to give it -- is going to make a lot of difference, I think.

TOOBIN: One reason why Mitt Romney can't give that speech now is because of the difference between the Republican Party in 2008 and the Democrats in 1960. Remember what John F. Kennedy said. He said the separation of church and state should be absolute. That's what he said in his famous Houston Speech.

That's not what Republicans believe today.

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: They believe in faith-based initiatives. They believe in government being involved in religion. It's a much more difficult speech to give today because the position is not as clear.

BORGER: Well, it's also difficult to give it, as a Mormon -- when Kennedy gave his speech, he was talking to an American public that was 25 percent Catholic. If Romney were to give a speech about Mormonism -- and I agree with Jack, I don't think he should do that -- but if he were to do that, you've got, what 1 percent -- maybe 2 percent of the American public being Mormon?

So it's much more of a question mark and it's much more of a problem for him within the Republican Party because, of course, Evangelical Christians believe that Mormonism is a cult.

BLITZER: All right, guys, hold your fire, because we're out of time right now.

Gloria and Jeff can leave.

Jack, you can't leave because you've got The Cafferty File coming up.

CAFFERTY: I want to be the senior something on this. I'm not -- I'm never in the senior anything.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty...

BORGER: Well, I want to be Jack Cafferty, OK?

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is a senior...

BORGER: So we'll switch.

BLITZER: ...is the senior Cafferty File correspondent.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show. That begins in a few moments, at the top of the hour. He's out in Arizona reporting today.

Give us a little preview -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": You know, Wolf, I just noticed -- I have to comment, in all that discussion on JFK's speech on religion and Catholicism, no one mentioned at the time that he was on an inordinate number of painkillers, that he was chasing skirts all through -- throughout his term in the White House. And it puts in complete relief, I think, in stark relief his comments on his religion and what it really meant to him. So I would just consider that, as well, if I may add that.

Wolf, thank you.

Coming to you tonight from Phoenix, Arizona at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, we'll be holding some of the country's leading financial institutions to account for what they're doing -- for imposing outrageous and often illegal charges on middle class Americans now in danger of losing their homes. We'll have complete coverage. We'll name names.

Also, school districts across this country facing financial collapse because of the federal government's failure to deal with illegal immigration.

Tom Horn, Arizona's superintendent of public construction, will be among our guests here.

And I'll be talking with a man who calls himself the countries toughest sheriff -- Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona -- who is refusing to be intimidated by socio-ethnic centric special interests or corporate elites. He is enforcing the law.

How about that?

And elected officials and law enforcement agencies all across this country take note -- he's got a lot to say you might just want to listen to.

Please join us at the top of the hour for that and all the day's news -- Wolf, back it you.

BLITZER: "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" at its new time, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

All right, Lou, we'll see you in a few moments.

How do you follow up a Nobel Peace Prize?

With a new job. At least that's what Al Gore is doing. And we're going to show you what he's up to.

Jack Cafferty wants to know, is it time for people in the United States to redefine privacy?

Stay with us.

More news right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wolf, the question this hour is a top intelligence official says that it's time for people in the United States to redefine privacy.

The question is -- why should we?

Bill writes from Florida -- and he's got it. He said: "You have to be a member of this administration to have any privacy. And they're the ones who ought to be public."

Len in New York: "It's time to redefine citizenship. Our laissez- faire citizenship has permitted lawmakers to turn into law breakers. The rest of our rights after privacy will only be lost that more quickly if we don't fight back against government abuse." Matthew writes: "No, Jack, we shouldn't redefine privacy and we should vote somebody in who will protect it. By that somebody, I mean Ron Paul."

Brett in Ohio: "It's an absolute joke and it's ridiculous what's happening. They want to redefine privacy? Since when did they become the leaders of "Webster's Dictionary?" We need privacy. The U.S. government should not dictating what privacy is and is not. Instead, they should be safeguarding what privacy has meant for the last 230 years in this country."

Mike in New Jersey: "Good God, I wouldn't want my personal information to get into the hands of a bunch of unsavory characters, so I'd better do everything in my power to keep it out of the government's hands."

Kendy, Delaware, Ohio: "I suppose this top intelligence official would like us to change our definition of privacy to match the one written in crayon on the Oval Office wall by the Bush administration."

And Jeanine in Hampshire, Texas: "Redefining privacy is a little bit like redefining virginity -- once it's gone, it's gone. There's no way to get it back. Leave our privacy alone."

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: Jack, thank you.

You can now go home and we'll see you back here tomorrow.

CAFFERTY: Well, thank you. BLITZER: Jack Cafferty working hard in THE SITUATION ROOM.

In our Political Ticker, some flag poles fall near Hillary Clinton, but no one -- no one was hurt. It happened as the Democratic presidential candidate wrapped up a news conference in Waterloo, Iowa. Aides rushed to Senator Clinton's side as the flag poles came down. After a few minutes, the flags were put back up properly.

Al Gore lands another honor -- a spot at what's said to be Silicon Valley's most prestigious venture capital firm. The former vice president and Nobel laureate will help the firm invest in technologies that combat global warming. Gore says he'll give 100 percent of his salary at the firm to an environmental advocacy group.

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

The secretary of state gets bugged -- and she's not alone.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's take a look at some of the Hot Shots coming in from our friends at the Associated Press in Baghdad.

Iraqi police officers embrace after a graduation ceremony.

In India-controlled Kashmir, Muslim villagers run for cover during a gun battle between suspected Islamic rebels and government forces.

In San Diego, the Chargers' linebacker, Shaun Phillips, flips to celebrate an interception in his team's win last night over the Indianapolis Colts.

And in Germany, check it out -- a man dressed as Santa Claus rides a post office bicycle carrying Christmas wish letters from children around the world.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots.

Political buzz of a different kind.

CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a most unusual look.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Condoleezza Rice is used to speaking on the fly, but this time the fly was on her as she was speaking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THIS WEEK," COURTESY ABC)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE:

This is about the Pakistani people.

We've got a failed state in Afghanistan.

Despite the difficulties that they're going through right now...

The imposition of a state of emergency...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Host George Stephanopoulos should have imposed a state of emergency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THIS WEEK," COURTESY ABC) GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST, "THIS WEEK": I'm sorry about that fly that's in your...

RICE: Yes, me, too. Sorry about that. We seem to have a visitor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: This 14-1/2 minute interview on "This Week" must have seem like a year to Condi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THIS WEEK," COURTESY ABC)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Many Democrats out on the presidential campaign...

RICE: Sorry, George, I have to get rid of my...

STEPHANOPOULOS: You've got to tell the president to do something about those mosquitoes down in Crawford.

MOOS: The bugs don't take a vacation, even when the president does. At least the secretary of state fought off her tormentor.

Back in August, Senator Christopher Dodd seemed unaware, as a fly nestled in his snow white hair during an Iowa debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: You can never do as much to the public as you can through a public life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Who won the debate?

As one smart aleck posted, "I'd say Dodd's fly won."

A month later, another fly attack -- this time on Senator Biden. For more than eight minutes, it perched on Biden's head.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DW), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can do that now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Give that fly a hand.

Or maybe an arm -- Hillary's arm. That's where it ended up next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: That's the way to start...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: What's a fly got to do to get a little attention here?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Increase is -- I've got this fly around me.

(LAUGHTER).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: John Edwards helped swat while Hillary quipped that the fly was a Republican. Then the one pestering Condi must have been a Democrat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THIS WEEK," COURTESY ABC)

RICE: But, George,

Nobody would even think of trying to hide.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Maybe they should have done what they did at the baseball play-offs when midges attacked -- they sprayed down the pitcher. At least Condi didn't swallow the fly, like this memory expert did.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you say...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just swallowed a fly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: That's a memory the memory expert won't forget.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THIS WEEK," COURTESY ABC) STEPHANOPOULOS: Boy, that is one persistent mosquito.

RICE: Actually, it's the...

STEPHANOPOULOS: (INAUDIBLE).

RICE: Actually, George, just to be fair, it's a fly.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's a fly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Wouldn't want to alienate the fly vote.

(on camera): By the way, the fly on the secretary of state seemed to be especially attracted to her microphone. So maybe the fly had a comment -- or maybe he was just telling the press -- buzz off.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: A tough -- a tough fly out there.

That's it for us.

Thanks very much for joining us. Remember, Thursday night in Las Vegas for the Democratic presidential debate. Our debate begins 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Thanks very much for watching.

Let's go to "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.

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