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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Former 9/11 Commission Co-Chair Tom Kean; Shifting Presidential Race?
Aired November 19, 2007 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: shock and awe in New Hampshire. Our new presidential poll reveals which Republican is on the most perilous slide in the leadoff primary state. That's coming up.
Also this hour, the new Clintonomics, as it's being called. The Democratic front-runner warning voters against electing a president who needs on-the-job economic training. Who is she talking about?
And a co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission makes his presidential choice. I will ask Republican Tom Kean why he didn't go with the candidate who is perhaps the most obvious 9/11 choice.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Up first this hour, the ground shifting in Iowa. An eye-popping new Democratic presidential poll shows Barack Obama now slightly ahead of Hillary Clinton in the leadoff caucus state. Take a look at this. It's just out.
"The Washington Post"/ABC News poll shows Obama now has 30 percent support among likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa. Clinton gets 26 percent. John Edwards gets 22 percent. Statistically, it's still pretty much of a three-way race and the numbers are only slightly changed from July, but the survey does show signs of progress for Barack Obama, some concern, presumably, for Hillary Clinton.
Let's bring in our congressional correspondent Jessica Yellin.
Jessica, what do you make of these numbers?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it means the heat is on in Iowa. The latest poll numbers underscore that it is anyone's game and a win for Obama or Edwards here would be a body blow to the Clinton campaign. So Clinton is intensifying her focus on Iowa. Today she took a dig at Barack Obama and she's trying to set herself apart on an issue that was a big winner for her husband, the economy.
YELLIN (voice-over): Hillary Clinton says the economy is in trouble and no rookie can fix it.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One job we can't afford on-the-job training for, that is the job of our next president. That could be the costliest job training in history.
YELLIN: But guess who does have the know-how to hit the ground running? At least according to Clinton.
CLINTON: We need a president who understands the magnitude and complexity of the challenges we face and has the strength and experience to address them from day one.
YELLIN: She didn't name names, but it's meant as a broadside against her leading Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, who she has previously suggested needs on-the-job training on foreign policy matters.
Obama hit back fast.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My understanding was that she wasn't treasury secretary in the Clinton administration.
YELLIN: And argued that Clinton's experience isn't the kind that will bring about change.
OBAMA: The sort of general notion of experience based on longevity in Washington, I don't think is sufficient to make the case to the voters of Iowa or the American people.
YELLIN: The two were in Iowa vying for support where the first in the nation nominating contest is just over six weeks away. While Clinton leads in national polls, she's running neck and neck with Obama and Edwards in Iowa, and all sides are looking for every possible advantage. John Edwards released a statement turning Clinton's boast about Washington experience on its head saying, "I believe if you defend the system in Washington as Senator Clinton does, you're for the status quo."
YELLIN: And the Obama campaign says Clinton's critical new tone means that she's panicked the race is getting so tight. Clinton's campaign also released new television ads in Iowa and New Hampshire that are designed to reassure voters she's both trustworthy and sincere -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Jessica Yellin reporting.
There's new evidence today that the Republican presidential candidate -- presidential race, that is, in New Hampshire is not, repeat, not set in concrete. Our brand-new CNN/WMUR poll is now out and there are new shifts and new shocks in these new numbers.
Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, has got more.
Any good news, Bill, for Republicans in this new New Hampshire poll?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, there is, Wolf. But the big news in New Hampshire is the bad news.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Where does the Republican race stand in New Hampshire? Our new poll shows Mitt Romney still leads. In fact, Romney's support has increased. Only two other Republicans are in double digits in New Hampshire, John McCain, whose support has been steady, and Rudy Giuliani, who has been losing strength. New Hampshire voters demand a lot of attention and they may not feel Giuliani has given them enough.
The big shock is Fred Thompson. He's getting nowhere in New Hampshire. He has now fallen behind Ron Paul. New Hampshire Republicans are beginning to see a two-man race for the nomination, Romney vs. Giuliani. Only 8 percent believe McCain is a likely national winner. That could be holding his numbers down in New Hampshire, a state he has to win.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can win in New Hampshire as I did in 2000.
SCHNEIDER: Here's some more bad news for McCain. McCain has staked his candidacy on the success of President Bush's troop buildup in Iraq.
MCCAIN: I would much rather lose a campaign than lose a war.
SCHNEIDER: New Hampshire Republicans think McCain would be the best candidate to handle Iraq, but Iraq has declined in importance as an issue among New Hampshire Republicans. Growing in importance, illegal immigration. That's Romney's issue, along with taxes and the economy.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I think my record as someone who has fought to protect legal immigration but to stop illegal immigration stands up against anybody's in the country.
SCHNEIDER: The issue of terrorism is also important to Republicans. But it's an issue McCain has to share with Giuliani.
RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am used to having the responsibility of other people's safety and security on my shoulders, millions of other people.
SCHNEIDER: From New Hampshire, there is good news for Romney, not such good news for Thompson and McCain. And Giuliani? He looks like a big player, but not yet in New Hampshire -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider, thank you for that.
In Iowa, meanwhile, Republican Mike Huckabee is a rising star in the latest polls. But will this conservative former preacher prove to be a one-state wonder?
Our congressional correspondent Dana Bash is on the scene in Iowa for us.
Huckabee's got Christian conservatives, I take it, to thank at least for a lot of the support out there, Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He sure does.
And two polls in the last week, Wolf, show Mike Huckabee running a strong second or in one in a statistical dead heat with Mitt Romney, and, so, the question now, 44 days before Iowa's caucuses is whether Huckabee can build on that support in a way that reshapes the Republican race.
BASH (voice over): Each and every Sunday, Pastor Darran Whiting talks to his small yet devout flock about faith and family values. He thinks he's found a candidate for president who practices what he preaches.
PASTOR DARRAN WHITING, HUCKABEE SUPPORTER: Governor Huckabee stands on the issues that I stand for -- socially conservative, as far as being pro-life, as far as being pro-family, which is very much why I like to support him personally.
BASH: It's support among evangelicals like Whiting that has propelled Mike Huckabee's surge here in Iowa, where some 40 percent of GOP caucus voters are Christian conservatives and the former Baptist preacher is winning over more and more Iowa leaders with his staunch anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage views.
MATT REISETTER, PASTORS COALITION, HUCKABEE CAMPAIGN: We don't question where he's at. We don't question what he believes. He's one of us.
BASH (on camera): So this is?
ERIC WOOLSON, HUCKABEE IOWA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: This is it.
BASH (voice over): But at Huckabee's Iowa campaign headquarters, the huge challenge is turning his popularity into actual votes on Election Day.
WOOLSON: And so it really is a matter of getting the organization to catch up to where the governor is.
BASH (on camera): And are you there yet?
WOOLSON: So -- we're not there yet.
BASH (voice over): The campaign staff recently doubled from six to 14 people.
(on camera): This is what success breeds?
WOOLSON: This is what success breeds.
BASH (voice over): And added on to their tiny workspace.
Aides from Arkansas headquarters are now in Iowa.
(on camera): You're not just any staffer?
SARAH HUCKABEE, NATIONAL FIELD DIRECTOR: Not just any staffer, I guess. My dad is Mike Huckabee.
BASH (voice over): Including daughter Sarah, her father's field director.
And this week Huckabee began airing his first TV ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, HUCKABEE CAMPAIGN AD)
CHUCK NORRIS, ACTOR: Mike's a principled, authentic conservative.
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Chuck Norris doesn't endorse. He tells Americans how it's going to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Aides, including his daughter, admit they're not issue how that's going to play in Iowa, but say at least Huckabee's getting buzz, a necessity for a still underfunded, understaffed campaign.
BASH: Now, increased popularity equals increased scrutiny. And Huckabee's rivals are being a lot more aggressive in criticizing him on issues like immigration and taxes. They say his record as Arkansas governor will hurt him with the very conservatives that he's courting, courting successfully right now, Wolf.
BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much. Dana is in Des Moines tonight for us.
Let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He's in New York for us tonight -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, voters in Colorado may get a chance to weigh in on a measure that would define a fertilized egg as a person.
The Colorado Supreme Court cleared the way for an anti-abortion group to collect signatures for a ballot initiative that would do just that. If approved, it would give fertilized eggs the state constitutional protections of inalienable rights, justice and due process.
Supporters say the impact of the proposal would be in its simplicity, asking a profound philosophical and moral question about when life begins. They have six months to get the necessary 76,000 signatures. But abortion right supporters have argued that the initiative is misleading. They say proponents want to outlaw abortion and yet the word abortion doesn't appear at all in the language of this measure. They add it would hamper in vitro fertilization and stem cell research, effectively ban birth control and make abortion illegal.
Legal experts say this measure could end up giving Colorado the most sweeping language in the country about the rights of the unborn. And all of this will heat up to the boiling point just in time for the Democratic National Convention in Denver next year.
So, the question is this: If asked to decide if a fertilized egg is a person, how would you vote? E-mail caffertyfile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you for that. Stick around. We have got the roundtable coming up.
The former chairman of the 9/11 Commission has picked the candidate he believes will best for America. It's not necessarily the man you might think.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THOMAS KEAN, FORMER CO-CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION: Giuliani does have it. I have nothing, nothing against Rudy Giuliani. He's been a friend of a friend of mine for a long time. And I think he would make a fine president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He may feel that way, but he's endorsing someone else. Tom Kean explains why. That's coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Plus, thousands dead, hundreds of thousands homeless, but, tonight, the government in Bangladesh says it's not as bad as it could have been. You are going to see why.
And, later on, American special-ops forces going into Pakistan. Their mission, train troops to try to beat al Qaeda. Will their plan, though, backfire? Details of that and a lot more coming up -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The man who co-chaired the 9/11 Commission is endorsing John McCain for president. Tom Kean was governor of New Jersey from 1982 to 1990. He later was tapped by President Bush to co-chair the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, the so-called 9/11 Commission. And, today, he announced he's backing Senator John McCain because of his experience. And he's not backing Rudy Giuliani.
BLITZER: And joining us now from Boston, the former governor of New Jersey, the co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission, Governor Tom Kean.
Governor, thanks very much for coming in. KEAN: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: I know a lot of people appreciate your support for John McCain, but they're wondering. So, you're so associated with 9/11, and Mr. 9/11 is running for president, Rudy Giuliani. Why McCain over Giuliani?
KEAN: Well, first of all, I would never say anything against Rudy Giuliani, because he's been a friend of mine for a long time and he's very able.
But I just have to endorse John McCain because nobody, in my mind, has done anything more to keep the American people safer than John McCain. John McCain was the one who got the 9/11 Commission going. John McCain was the one who supported our recommendations. He took on everybody, from leaders of his own party, to the White House itself, to try and get recommendations through to make the American people safer.
And, so, I, in conscience, just feel I have to endorse John McCain.
BLITZER: He has got an ad, Rudy Giuliani, that's running. I am going to play a little clip for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, GIULIANI CAMPAIGN AD)
RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have been tested in a way in which the American people can look to me. They're not going to find perfection, but they're going to find somebody who has dealt with crisis almost on a regular basis and has had results.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You know, Governor, people will say, this is sort of a slap at Giuliani, even though you don't want to criticize him.
But I want you to elaborate a little bit, a little bit further, on why Giuliani, apparently, from your perspective, simply didn't have it.
KEAN: No, Giuliani does have it. I have nothing, nothing against Rudy Giuliani. He's been a friend of a friend of mine for a long time. And I think he would make a fine president.
I just happen to feel the best kind of president in either party would be John McCain. And, by the way, speaking of testing, nobody has been tested the way John McCain has. John McCain is the one also who knows leaders all over the world. John McCain would be president from day one and start -- and like a couple of other great presidents, he is going to inherit two wars at once. And I think nobody could...
KEAN: Yes, go ahead. BLITZER: I was going to say -- sorry for interrupting -- when I heard that you were endorsing John McCain, I remembered some of the criticism in the 9/11 Commission report that you and Lee Hamilton co- chaired of the New York City operation, basically. And Rudy Giuliani was the mayor in that report.
Among other things, it said, "The task of accounting for and coordinating the units was rendered difficult, if not impossible, by internal communications breakdowns, resulting from the limited capabilities of radios in the high-rise environment of the World Trade Center and from confusion over which personnel were assigned to which frequency."
There was plenty of other criticism of the -- of New York leading up to 9/11. Did that have any impact on your thinking?
KEAN: No, not at all because, actually, the lack of communications was not Rudy Giuliani's fault. It was because they didn't have the same frequencies they were operating on.
And one of the reasons I'm so for John McCain is, he has got the bill in the Congress to end all that and allow first-responders to communicate with one another, to have the same spectrum, which would not only be helpful in case of another terrorist attack, but things like Katrina, where lives were lost because first-responders couldn't communicate with each other. That's not anything against Rudy Giuliani. That's for John McCain.
BLITZER: Well, what about the criticism of putting that emergency response center that New York City had in the World Trade Center, which, obviously, made that useless. What about that?
KEAN: Well, look, it was very, very difficult to anticipate anything that would happen on 9/11. And we didn't have any criticism in the report of people who failed to anticipate some of the things that happened. Nobody did.
Rudy Giuliani did a very great job on that day of 9/11. But, today, I'm up here because I happen to feel the best man to be president is John McCain, not to criticize Rudy Giuliani, just to support John McCain.
BLITZER: Fair enough.
There's another Tom Kean who disagrees with you. That happens to be your son, Tom Kean Jr., who is a state senator in New Jersey.
He says this: "Rudy Giuliani is the proven leader New Jerseyans want as our next president. We have witnessed his leadership firsthand and know he will win New Jersey in both the primary and general elections."
Looks like you and your son have a little disagreement. KEAN: There is nobody I respect more than my son, but every now and then, we don't agree on everything. And I guess our choice for president this year is a little bit different.
BLITZER: And I hope you still love him very much.
KEAN: I love him very, very much.
BLITZER: Governor Kean, first of all, thanks very much for coming in. Second of all, once again, thanks for your important work on the 9/11 Commission. Appreciate it very much.
KEAN: Wolf, thank you very much.
BLITZER: Two Americans part of a private security company now arrested in Iraq. You are going to find out why. That's coming up next.
Plus, the murder mystery that's grabbing headlines in Europe. A fourth suspect is now named in the death of a student in Italy.
And they're the biggest threat against U.S. troops in Iraq. The military says the program to combat IEDs is now in jeopardy. You are going to find out why.
Lots more coming up, including our roundtable , right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What's going on, Carol?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, some sad news, Wolf. In Bangladesh, the death toll is climbing by the hour, as more victims of last week's cyclone are discovered. At last count, more than 3,100 people were known dead, with at least 1,000 more missing.
The cyclone was the worst to hit Bangladesh in more than a decade, but officials say improved warning systems and shelters have kept the number of deaths far lower than in past cyclones.
Iraqi soldiers have arrested a dozen private security guards for allegedly firing at random as their convoy drove down a Baghdad street. Two of those detained are American. The other 10 are Iraqi. An Iraqi government spokesman said one woman was hurt in the incident.
The outgoing head of the U.S. military's IED program says money for the program could run out in two weeks. That's because of the current stalemate over spending for the Iraq war. IEDs, or improvised explosive devices, are the number-one killer of U.S. troops in Iraq. Money for the program goes to help troops find IEDs and fund new armor, jammers.
Italian police have identified a fourth suspect in the stabbing death of a young British woman. A source telling CNN a bloody fingerprint on the victim's pillow is a crucial clue. An international arrest warrant is out for the man's arrest. Three other suspects are already in custody.
That's a look at the headlines right now, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks, Carol. We will check back with you in a moment.
Some are calling it the axis of oil, and it could drive the cost of crude to shocking new highs that we would all feel at the pump. We are going to tell you about disturbing new threats involving Venezuela and Iran.
Plus, a secret plan revealed. Will the U.S. train and possibly arm thousands of fighters in Pakistan? Could it be Iraq all over again?
And a startling sentence for rape. The victim gets 200 lashes -- just ahead, crime and punishment Saudi-style, and the horrified reaction around the world.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: a meeting of two of America's most outspoken opponents, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, and a disturbing warning of what could come from the nuclear standoff with Iran, oil costing $200 a barrel.
And kicking dirt up on the campaign trail, details of a growing feud between the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns all over allegations of a so-called a scandal.
Plus, the president's terror aide leaving her post, the White House homeland security adviser, Frances Townsend, resigning to work in the private sector.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Crude oil selling for $200 a barrel, a price that would devastate the U.S. economy. The Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, saying it could happen if the U.S. takes military action against his ally, Iran.
Let's turn to CNN's Brian Todd. He is joining us now with this frightening scenario.
How realistic, Brian, is it?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, some observers say this is really just these two leaders doing what they do. Others say, all it would take to make this a reality is for the nuclear standoff with Iran to escalate to some kind of confrontation.
TODD (voice-over): Standing together against their shared enemy, the presidents of Iran and Venezuela use the language of threat, the leverage of oil.
HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): If the United States attempts the madness of invading Iran or attacking Venezuela again, the price of oil is probably going to reach $200, not just $100.
TODD: That's $200 a barrel for oil, a benchmark that would send America's economy reeling. Analysts say that's not farfetched if the U.S. strikes Iran over its nuclear program.
DAVID KIRSCH, PFC ENERGY: And Iranian exports will be cut off, if not militarily damaged, then intercepted, and there will be a question mark as to whether or not Saudi Arabia will also be able to get its oil out of the region.
TODD: Analysts say, without an attack, neither Iran, nor Venezuela could likely drive the price towards $200 on their own, that to even start that trend, they would each need to take a lot of their oil off the market, at least temporarily, an enormous risk for two faltering economies.
But Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are also going after America on another front, calling for fellow members of the oil- producing cartel OPEC to stop pricing in U.S. dollars, which Ahmadinejad calls a worthless piece of paper. The OPEC leaders ignored that, but analysts say they may start to pay attention if the dollar plummets further.
ANNE KORIN, INSTITUTE FOR THE ANALYSIS OF GLOBAL SECURITY: We are likely to see in the future OPEC take advantage of the fact that oil is a strategic commodity and that it has the power to denominate oil trades in the currency of its choice.
TODD: Now, if OPEC ever stopped trading with the dollar, analysts say it would drive the price of most goods imported into the U.S. way up, affecting just about every American consumer.
Now, again, Saudi Arabia and other OPEC powers are not ready to do that, but it bears watching if Iran and Venezuela continue to prod them -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you -- Brian Todd with the story.
The so-called axis of oil is topic number one in our roundtable tonight. For more, we're joined by our chief national correspondent, John King. CNN's Jack Cafferty, he's in New York. He's -- his new book isn't called -- is called "It's Getting Ugly Out There." It's been a bestseller, as all of our viewers know by now. Suzanne Malveaux is over at the White House.
Guys, thanks very much.
You know, you hear the words $200 a barrel -- Jack. It wasn't long ago that people were freaking out at the notion of $100 a barrel.
And you know what?
It's almost there right now.
CAFFERTY: Well, when you take a look, they were -- Chavez and Ahmadinejad were talking about a military action in Iran. When President Bush was sworn in seven years plus ago, oil was $28 a barrel. It touched $98 a barrel.
Well, because of a few trillion dollars in debt and a little war we started in Iraq and the devaluation of the dollar by some 40 percent.
The same kind of thing could well happen again if there is some sort of military action taken against Iran.
The only solution to all of these problems is an energy policy that consists of something besides Dick Cheney meeting with some oil executives in secret and not bothering to tell anybody for seven years what they talked about. We've got $100 barrel oil and the price could go a lot higher.
BLITZER: I've been hearing for 30 years plus, John King, this notion of becoming -- America becoming more energy independent. It simply hasn't happened.
JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, it hasn't, Wolf.
It is more and more an issue on presidential campaign trail and you can bet -- we're 40 something days away from the Iowa caucuses -- New Hampshire comes right after that.
It's getting cold in both of those places. So home heating oil costs, gasoline costs, energy costs and the broader energy debate and global climate change -- all that is coming into play in this campaign more than it has in campaigns past.
Does that mean anything will get done?
That's a big giant question mark. On the broader issue, there's no question that Chavez and Ahmadinejad like to thumb their nose at President Bush and try to stir up trouble.
BLITZER: All right, John, hold on -- hold on one second, because we're having a little audio mix problem with you.
We're going to work that out in a second.
Suzanne Malveaux is over at the White House -- Suzanne, this is a huge political problem, the notion of $100 a barrel. And Hugo Chavez now suggesting if the U.S. were to attack Iran, it would go up to $200 a barrel.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are a couple of things the Bush administration is responding to.
First, they're saying that -- diplomacy is really what they're emphasizing, that they are not going to be striking Iran. They're not pursuing military action, not taking it off the table. But that's certainly not the focus here, so that it's not likely to happen.
And, secondly, the Bush administration, particularly the president, is trying to move forward on energy legislation -- certain initiatives -- even without Congress. We have seen him already -- through executive order -- move forward some of his own priorities. We expect that that could happen, as well, in the next 14 months without members of Congress. So that he is going to be pushing forward his own energy policy.
BLITZER: You know, Jack I want to play this little clip of Hillary Clinton today reminding a lot of us of a line from her husband's campaign back in '92 -- basically, it's the economy, stupid.
But she's saying she's going to focus in like a laser beam on the economy.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is one job we can't afford on-the job-training for. That is the job of our next president. That could be the costliest job training in history. Every day spent learning the ropes is another day of rising costs, mounting deficits and growing anxiety for our families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: She's clearly taking a swipe at her top rival. That would be Barack Obama.
CAFFERTY: Yes. But, you know, this latest poll you were talking about in Iowa shows that that may actually be working against Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama represents change. And if the poll in Iowa is indicative of anything -- he's now in front there -- it's that he represents something besides the status quo -- the same old corporate Washington campaigns orchestrated by the major political parties, tied to the lobbyists, bankrolled by the corporations, yada, yada, yada. Barack Obama represents something different.
So for her to stand there and talk about how valuable her experience is might be a turnoff for voters, at least in a place like Iowa, where Obama seems to be gaining ground on her.
BLITZER: You know, John, he's referring to this "Washington Post"/ABC News poll that has literally, within the past hour, come out. And I'll tell you what it is. Obama in Iowa at 30 percent, Clinton at 26 percent, Edwards 22, Richardson down at 11 percent. The polling was done between November 14th and November 18th -- meaning it started the day before the last presidential debate. Some of it was done before, some of it was done afterwards.
Whatever the result, it shows it's a remarkably close contest out there in Iowa.
JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is remarkably close, Wolf. And if you look closer in at those numbers, it is a snapshot of what essentially is the defining dynamic of this campaign. And Jack was just talking about it. Among the voters who want something new and different, who want change, Barack Obama is doing quite well. Hillary Clinton leads among those say experience matters most to them.
And why is she talking about experience?
Because she's trying to convince the people of Iowa that as much as they want change, don't forget about experience, because it takes experience to get things done.
The person who wins that argument -- is it about -- does experience matter more than, say, a broad dynamic of change, or does change matter more than, say, experience in elective office or in the White House -- the person who wins that argument is likely to win Iowa.
BLITZER: And, you know, we're going to talk right after this commercial break about what starts to happen when some of the other Democratic presidential candidates drop out.
Do their votes go to Obama?
Do they go to Clinton?
Stand by. We're going to continue this conversation right after this.
Also, we're going to talk about U.S. troops on the ground in Pakistan -- who would they be working with?
What's going on?
We have details of one option that the Pentagon is now considering. Plus, if asked to decide if a fertilized egg is a person, how would you vote?
Jack Cafferty with The Cafferty File and your e-mail. That's coming up later.
Stick around, lots more coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: A pretty dramatic turn of events in the leadoff presidential caucus state of Iowa. That new poll that we've talking about just released, effectively showing a three-way tie in Iowa between Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards.
We're back with our roundtable. You know, Suzanne, Barack Obama or John Edwards, they really have to win -- one of them -- in Iowa to show that Hillary Clinton is not necessarily invincible.
MALVEAUX: Absolutely. And I want to bring up another important number here. And that is in a poll over the weekend, it's likability here. You have Obama, as well as Edwards, about 15 points ahead of Senator Clinton when it comes to likability in Iowa. And in Iowa, all about relationships. It's about shaking those hands and letting those voters know that you can be trusted.
And that is something that -- Senator Clinton's campaign, at this point, just moving into some of those areas where they have been settled in for couple of months now, establishing those relationships.
Also, I talked with the spokesman of Obama's campaign, Bill Burton, who says, look, now what you're seeing in Iowa is a real caucus, not a coronation. That is what they're counting on.
BLITZER: You know, I've spoken with Obama people, too, John King. And they say one of their great hopes is that once he shows he's doing really well in Iowa, some of the other Democratic candidates drop out and he, as opposed to Hillary Clinton, picks up their votes. And they're specifically hoping if would be John Edwards, for example.
Have you looked into that notion?
Who gets these supporters once these candidates start dropping?
KING: Consistently, Wolf, if you look at the new ABC/"Washington Post" poll, if you look at our polling over several months, any other news organization, Hillary Clinton is rarely the second choice of Democrats who might be supporting someone else. She is the most known entity in the field, if you will. And because of that, she's not likely to be the immediate second choice.
She is benefiting right now from the crowded field -- just like Rudy Giuliani benefits from the crowded field on the Republican side. And as other candidates fall off -- after losing Iowa, going on to New Hampshire or running out of money -- that is the -- that has been the whole dynamic all along in the Democratic race Wolf. Somebody would still have money in the pocket when they get on a one-on-one shot at Hillary Clinton.
BLITZER: And Barack Obama still has a lot of money, Jack.
What do you -- what do you make of this?
CAFFERTY: Well, the telling number in this new "Washington Post"/ABC poll is women. He is dead even in Iowa with Hillary Clinton when it comes to women. These are likely Democratic caucus goers -- 500 of them. And the women equally support Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
He also is ahead of her on things like electability, the war in Iraq, health care -- some of the meat and potato issues that she has been banking on.
But he made a rookie mistake. He reacted the wrong way, I think, to a column by Bob Novak. Novak is a conservative who wrote this piece that Clinton has got evidence of some sort of a scandal against Barack Obama, but she's not going to release it. There were no facts, no attributions. It was all just nonsense. It was Bob Novak making mischief. The Clinton campaign denied there was a scandal, but Obama got furious about it.
The thing he has to remember is that Robert Novak is not relevant -- not only to the Democratic primary campaign, he's not relevant at all since he stormed off a CNN set after uttering some barnyard epithet. Nobody pays any attention to Bob Novak anymore.
BLITZER: You know, there is opposition research, as they like to say, John King. And if they have dirt, shall we say, they would wait for the right moment to release it. That would not be unusual in these kind of close campaigns.
KING: It would not be. But we should be very careful. I think Jack is right. I'm not going to repeat what he said about Bob Novak, who is a friend of mine and who is a very excellent reporter and a journalist.
KING: But, at the same time, I'm an old school wire guy. And my attitude is if you have something like this, show it to me. Show me the proof and then we'll talk about whether it's newsworthy. Until I see it, I'm not going to talk about it.
BLITZER: I think -- and that's a good point.
Suzanne, what do you think?
MALVEAUX: I think that's a rather smart, diplomatic response there. And, of course, I think it, you know, the Clinton campaign looked at it and they took a shot at him, saying it was a matter of inexperience that he was taking a bait on this particular issue. But I think it was something that kind of was a, you know, a 12-hour story and then goes away.
BLITZER: Three of the Emmy award winning best political team on television.
John and Suzanne, you can leave.
Jack, you can't. We've got The Cafferty File still to go, so stick around.
CAFFERTY: Very well.
BLITZER: Other important news we're following right now, Pakistan's supreme court -- hand-picked, by the way, by the embattled president, General Pervez Musharraf -- is clearing the way for him to serve another five-year term. The justices have dismissed all the legal challenges against Musharraf, who's promised to step down as head of the military before a new swearing in.
Meanwhile, we're picking up word of possible -- repeat, possible new plans for the U.S. military to play a new role in Pakistan -- even putting American forces on the ground there. That hasn't happened yet.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is joining us now live with more.
What are you picking up from your sources -- Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's all still very classified. But sources here are confirming there are discussions about the U.S. military getting much more involved in Pakistan.
STARR (voice-over): U.S. military officials confirmed to CNN that the secretive U.S. Special Operations Command is considering plans to train and possibly arm Pakistan's Frontier Corps -- a paramilitary force of more than 60,000 troops fighting in the remote northwest tribal region against Al Qaeda. It comes as the U.S. is pressuring Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to maintain his war against militants.
MAJ. GEN. WAHEED ARSHAD, PAKISTANI ARMY SPOKESMAN: The army means business. The government means business. So I think everybody now realizes that and understands that the president is going to take the situation to its logical conclusions.
STARR: The U.S. already plans to spend $150 million in the tribal region. It could involve sending U.S. Army trainers into hostile areas. This week, local villagers began fleeing, as fighting between Pakistan's armed forces and militants grew.
Pentagon officials acknowledge the strategy sounds a lot like Iraq -- where U.S. training for Sunni tribes has improved security in Al-Anbar Province. But skeptics warn that in Pakistan's frontier region, the tribes are against all outside authority. Any U.S. involvement will be deeply resented.
When asked if Musharraf still could be effective against terrorism, Defense Secretary Robert Gates declined a strong endorsement.
ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, I'm not going to make a call like that. I would say, though, that his ability to lead -- to continue to be a partner in the war on terror very much depends on how developments unfold over the next few weeks in Pakistan.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
STARR: Wolf, make no mistake, at the Pentagon, there already is planning for the post-Musharraf era, just in case -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, contingency planning.
Thanks very much.
What a nightmare scenario a lot of that brings. Barbara Starr reporting.
Coming up, the rape case sparking outrage around the world. A court in Saudi Arabia ordering the victim -- yes, the victim -- of a gang rape to be whipped and sent to jail. We're going to show you what's going on, what she's accused of doing wrong.
Also, a former Republican presidential candidate now sets its sights on the U.S. senate.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The crime -- a gang rape. The punishment -- 200 lashes with a whip -- but not for the rapists, for the victim.
Let's go to Carol Costello.
She's here with the shocking details of a Saudi case that's outraging people all over the world.
Tell us what happened.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is outraging people all over the world.
And you know what I'm learning?
Those in power don't want to talk about this case. The Saudi embassy here in D.C. saying it can't comment because the case is in the court system. But for many, that answer is a cop out.
COSTELLO (voice-over): To most Americans, it's an outrage -- a rape victim violated by seven men -- not only blamed for her own attack, but sentenced to prison and 200 lashes. The 19-year-old victim, interviewed by the Human Rights Watch organization, said: "Everyone looks at me as if I'm wrong. I wanted to die." In Saudi Arabia, woman cannot travel without permission from a male relative. And that night, the Saudi victim -- without permission -- met a male friend to retrieve some photographs. Both were abducted and raped. She says: "The first man with the knife raped me. I was destroyed. The fifth and sixth ones were the most abusive. After the seventh one, I couldn't feel my body anymore."
The woman's original trial took place last year. Her attackers got sentences ranging from 10 months to five years in jail, and the Saudi judge determined the victim was also to blame -- for illegally mingling.
CRISTOPH WILKE, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, SAUDI EXPERT: What this case boils down to -- and we can see it in what the judge has said to her -- is this lady should not have been where she was at the time. She somehow facilitated what happened to her. She was responsible for what happened to her.
COSTELLO: The woman's attorney, Abdul Rahman al-Lahem, did appeal. And for his trouble, he's been stripped of his law license. And the judge ruled because his client spoke to the media, her sentence would double -- from 90 lashes to six months in prison -- plus those 200 lashes with a bamboo reed. And if you're wondering what that looks like...
WILCKE: They use about a one, one-and-a-half yard long thin stick -- thin bamboo stick, usually, which you're supposed to whip the person with on the back, either publicly or non-publicly -- it depends on the judge's verdict -- in the marketplace, in front of the supermarket. That's what usually happens.
COSTELLO: Over here, the U.S. State Department would only say the situation was "astonishing."
QUESTION: Just to be clear, you're in no way condemning the sentence at all?
SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: I've said what I'm going to say about it.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
COSTELLO: Now, that was about it. It's not the reaction groups like Human Rights Watch were hoping for. No, they want something a tad stronger, saying something like international human rights are international, indeed, and there is no exception for Saudi Arabia -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Carol, what a shocking story.
Thank you very much for that.
Let's check back with Jack Cafferty.
He's in New York. Can you believe the woman gets ganged raped and then she's blamed because she had met with some man and she deserved the punishment, so she's going to be whipped, in effect, 200 times and spend six months in jail?
CAFFERTY: You know what's even more outrageous?
These are our friends. The Saudis are supposedly our allies in the Middle East. The Saudi royal family has been friends and business colleagues with the Bush family for decades. That's even more outrageous.
The question this hour is if asked to decide if a fertilized egg is a person, how would you vote?
Maureen in Maine: "A fertilized egg is not a person anymore than a watermelon seed is a waterman. It has potential, but not the identity."
W.T. in Woodstock, Georgia: "A fertilized egg becomes a human being in a matter of days. And as soon as a heartbeat can be detected. A beating heart represents someone alive as surely as a non-beating heart indicates someone who is not."
Jane in Florida: "A fertilized egg just that -- an Egypt. A person is a being that can feel, think and survive outside the womb."
Jess in Lawrence, Kansas: "I would vote no. A fertilized egg is not a person. This is just a sneaky attempt to take away a woman's right to have an abortion."
Chuck in Texas: "A fertilized egg is no more a separate person than your finger. The government cannot prevent you from cutting off your finger and you shouldn't tell a woman what she can or can't do with an unwanted pregnancy."
Tony in Kentucky: "Define person. Does it breathe on its own? Does it have a heartbeat, a pulse? How old an egg? One day, one week, one month? My opinion is if it has a heartbeat, then it's a person."
And Tom in California: "A fertilized egg is no more a person than a seed is a tree."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, where we post more of them online, along with video clips of The Cafferty File.
I cannot get over that Saudi Arabia story of sentencing a woman who as gang raped to 200 lashes as her punishment. And we do business with these morons. It's unbelievable.
BLITZER: Carol is going to follow up. There's more coming up, tomorrow, Jack, in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Thanks very much.
See you tomorrow.
On our Political Ticker this Monday, the singer Bonnie Raitt is singing John Edwards' praises. She put this new spin today on one of her famous lyrics, singing, "I'm ready for a thing called Edwards' love." Raitt and fellow musician Jackson Browne -- who's great, by the way -- appeared at an Edwards' event in Iowa today. Raitt is calling this the most important election cycle of her lifetime. Jackson Browne.
The dates and places are set for three fall presidential debates. On September 26th, the White House nominees will face off at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. The second presidential debate will take place on October 7th at Belmont University in Nashville. And the third and final presidential face-off set for October 15th at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.
There will also be a vice presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis.
He was briefly a GOP presidential candidate. Now, the former Virginia governor, Jim Gilmore, is officially a U.S. Senate candidate. Gilmore formally announced today he's running for the seat now held by fellow Republican John Warner, who is retiring. And this sets the stage for a possible fall match-up with another former Virginia governor, Democrat Mark Warner, who is not related to John Warner.
Remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can always check out our Political Ticker at CNN.com/ticker.
Up next, how a meeting between two world leaders became an Internet sensation.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: It's just over a week since the king of Spain told the president of Venezuela to "shut up."
Now, it appears many of you want to hear and see that over and over again.
Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton -- Abbi.
ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you remember this video. Hugo Chavez kept interrupting the Spanish prime minister at a recent summit. And the king of Spain just had enough.
TATTON: Por que no te callas, which is now a Web sensation -- "Why don't you shut up?"
It's really hit the Web. It's on ring tones, this one on a Spanish Web site. On the site YouTube, we counted more than a thousand videos dedicated to that phrase, many of them in various states of remix.
TATTON: That there the disco version. The Pathodogle (ph) is particularly popular, more than a million views. People are cashing in on eBay. There are t-shirts and even a Web domain dedicated to the phrase.
The latest bid that we saw, more than 10,000 Euros -- more than $14,000.
Chavez has said that he wants an apology for this remark that happened at a summit that was supposed to be dedicated to promoting social cohesion -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Abbi, thank you for that.
That's it for us.
"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now.
Kitty Pilgrim sitting in for Lou -- Kitty.
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