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THE SITUATION ROOM

Hillary Clinton's Final Push; Huckabee Borrows From Reagan; Funding the Wars; CIA Tapes Destroyed

Aired December 14, 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: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: Hillary Clinton getting personal. She's trying to reconnect with Iowa voters and rebound from some setbacks before time runs out.

Also, Mike Huckabee in the big leagues. Will a Reagan-era campaign strategist help him go seal up his new status as the front- runner? The best political team on television is standing by.

And Glenn Beck predicting an implosion in the GOP presidential race. He's not necessarily mincing any words about his one-on-one time with Mike Huckabee. We will explain.

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

Less than three weeks before the first presidential contest, Hillary Clinton is trying to reclaim her tattered image as the inevitable Democratic nominee. She's sending a message to voters that she's above the fray, undaunted by polls, and best positioned to win the White House.

Let's go to CNN's Jessica Yellin. She's in Iowa -- Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, after a few bad weeks of stumbles, Senator Clinton kicked off this last push to the Iowa caucuses by driving home the message that she is the Democrat who can win in November.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice over): Over and over, Senator Clinton made the case that she is the most electable Democrat.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have an opportunity here in Iowa, and then in the succeeding contest, to nominate the person we think is best able to win. I'm battle- tested, I can withstand what is going to inevitably be the Republican attacks on whoever we nominate.

YELLIN: From the same stage, a key Des Moines congressman endorsed her, echoing that message.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We endorse Hillary because we want to win. YELLIN: It's an appeal to frustrated Democrats whose desire to take back the White House might override their urge to choose the candidate they like the best, and a new ad works to soften her image, portraying her as a warm person who understands voters' problems.

CLINTON: My mom taught me to stand up for myself and to stand up for those who can't do it on their own.

YELLIN: Clinton aggressively distanced herself from a former campaign official's comments about Barack Obama's past drug use, but she also insisted if she's the nominee, there will be no surprises.

CLINTON: I'm a known quantity, I am tested and vetted.

YELLIN: She insists that's not a veiled criticism of Senator Obama.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: Senator Clinton brought with her two farmers from New York State who are going to travel Iowa on her behalf. It's part of a new effort by the campaign to bring out real people, including the senator's family members, to testify about the difference Senator Clinton has worked to make in their lives -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica Yellin in Des Moines for us, thank you.

Let's go to the first Southern battleground. That would be South Carolina. Our brand-new poll shows Hillary Clinton losing some ground there with African-American voters and Republican Mike Huckabee skyrocketing to the head of the Republican pack.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is in South Carolina. He's watching this.

Bill, what's happening as far as we can tell right now?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, things are changing here, too, at a stately Southern pace.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): South Carolina is all abut the base, African-American Democrats, conservative Republicans. Mike Huckabee has surged into the lead among South Carolina Republicans. Rudy Giuliani is slipping. Huckabee hopes the base vote in South Carolina will nail the nomination.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because, when the South Carolina primary comes, we need to be able to nail something down after coming out of Iowa and New Hampshire with great success.

SCHNEIDER: In the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton's lead over Barack Obama has been cut in half, 16 points in July, eight points now. Obama's biggest gains have been among black voters. Oprah Winfrey's Obama rally was a major cultural event for African- Americans.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I remember some quotes saying, oh, no, a black man can't win. I remember that. But, you know, when people tell me I can't do something, that's when I like to do it.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SCHNEIDER: But Hillary Clinton also has a way to reach out to Southerners.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ladies and gentlemen, I'm delighted to be here with a lot of my friends who are supporting my wife for president.

SCHNEIDER: Right now black voters in South Carolina are split. If Obama wins Iowa and New Hampshire, there could be a wave of excitement among African-Americans.

SCOTT HUFFMON, PROFESSOR, WINTHROP UNIVERSITY: So, if he can pull a surprise in Iowa, show a lot of momentum, suddenly, he's in the forefront of people's minds because of big appearances like Oprah Winfrey.

SCHNEIDER: Could Huckabee's surge have something to do with Hillary Clinton's problems?

HUFFMON: He wasn't getting a full look before because people were thinking, who's most likely to beat Hillary? But now that Hillary is seeing a challenge within her own party, they are more willing to look at a Mike Huckabee.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: We're seeing the same pattern in South Carolina that we're seeing in other states. Voters say Obama and Huckabee sound the least like typical politicians. But Clinton and Giuliani are the most likely to win the election. Their heads are with Clinton and Giuliani. Their hearts are with Obama and Huckabee -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider in Columbia, South Carolina, thank you.

Bill is going to be joining us later with the best political team on television.

The overnight sensation in the GOP presidential race now has a new campaign chief. Mike Huckabee calling the veteran strategist Ed Rollins a good fit with his team. And it doesn't hurt that Rollins invokes memories of Ronald Reagan, the president Republican candidates can't mention enough.

Our Dana Bash is out on the campaign trail in Iowa -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Mike Huckabee has been relying on a small, loyal group of aides befitting an insurgent campaign, not one that is surging here in Iowa and in South Carolina. He had constantly downplayed the challenge of getting to the next step, until today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice over): Bolting from asterisk to front-runner in key early contest states brings as much strain as it does excitement. And Mike Huckabee is turning to an old hand from the Reagan years for help.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today I would like to make an announcement that I believe will help fill in many of the gaps that we have had up until this point and will help us in that vast national infrastructure and movement.

BASH: Ed Rollins is best known as an architect of Ronald Reagan's historic 49-state landslide reelection in 1984 and sees parallels.

ED ROLLINS, NATIONAL CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN, MIKE HUCKABEE: I was with Ronald Reagan from the day he couldn't win as governor to the day he couldn't win as president. Democrats were lined up, please, please, God, give us Ronald Reagan so that we can beat him like a drum. At the end of the day, he had an ability to connect with people. Mike Huckabee has that ability to connect with people.

BASH: Tapping Rollins as his national campaign chairman is not a choice without risks. He has also overseen presidential campaigns that have not fared well, like Jack Kemp's 1988 run and Ross Perot's 1992 Independent bid.

ROLLINS: And obviously, as you know by my reputation in the past, I have sometimes been too candid.

BASH: Several GOP strategists say Rollins' strong-willed, outspoken style has been known to cause internal campaign turmoil.

SCOTT REED, FMR. DOLE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: He ran President Reagan's reelection. It was the Cadillac of all operations and quite successful. Since then he's had a different track record, where history shows he's ended up turning on most of his candidates when they don't agree with him 100 percent.

BASH: Some differences between Rollins and the former Baptist preacher were on display immediately -- stylistic ones.

ROLLINS: And this is going to be a unique campaign for me. This is the only campaign I have ever been in where there are no doughnuts and no booze. So it's going to be a real, real struggle for me to basically, you know...

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: All jokes aside, picking a hardball GOP veteran strategist like Ed Rollins tells us something new about Mike Huckabee, that beyond his nice guy, man of God image, he is also a candidate willing to engage in a good, old-fashioned campaign street fight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, thank you. Dana is out on the campaign trail.

Let's go to Jack. He's in New York with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: So, what if, once upon a time, President Bush had turned Saddam Hussein into a pen pal? It looks like his recent letter to North Korea's Kim Jong Il might have been a strike of diplomacy, of all things.

In that letter, addressed to "Mr. Chairman," the president said a critical juncture had been reached in the six-party talks aimed at denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. Mr. Bush urged Pyongyang to follow through on their agreement and declare and dismantle their nuclear weapons program.

Well, North Korea came back with a verbal response today to Mr. Bush's letter. They said they appreciated the president's message and they planned to hold up their end of the bargain and expect the U.S. to do the same.

The president told reporters -- quote -- "I got his attention with the letter and he can get my attention by fully disclosing his programs" -- unquote.

North Korea began disabling its plutonium-producing reactor last month. In exchange, the United States agreed to move toward normalizing relations with North Korea and removing that country from terrorism and trade sanctions blacklists. Maybe they will even get off the axis of evil list, too.

Here's the question. Does anything change because North Korea responded to President Bush's letter to Kim Jong Il? E-mail your thoughts to caffertyfile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, where you can post a comment on my blog. You can go and write on my blog.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Do you say, "Dear Jack," or do you have to say...

CAFFERTY: I don't even know how it works, but they tell me it's a wonderful thing.

BLITZER: It's a very popular feature, and it's only been days up. Thanks. We will see you in a few moments with the best political team on television.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: An outspoken talk show host predicting one presidential candidate will simply have a meltdown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, HOST, "GLENN BECK": And, if he doesn't implode, he gets the Republican nomination, I think the Republicans might as well just write it off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The always provocative Glenn Beck, part of our own CNN family, who does he think could sink Republican chances for the White House? Glenn Beck is here.

In a season of good tidings, is there a mood of good cheer between the White House and the Congress? There's a surprising shift in tone between them.

And look at this, Ron Paul's campaign reaching new heights in the air, though support for the Republican presidential campaign remains near the ground. We will tell you what is happening with Ron Paul.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Now an unconventional look at presidential politics from the author of "The New York Times" number-one bestselling book, "An Inconvenient Book," the radio talk show star, the CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Glenn, thanks for coming back.

BECK: You bet, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right.

What do you think of this decision to bring Ed Rollins now into this Huckabee -- the Huckaboom, as it's called right now?

BECK: I got to tell you....

BLITZER: Give us -- give us your immediate reaction.

BECK: OK.

I am so sick and tired of hearing people talk about how much they're like Ronald Reagan. I haven't seen Ronald Reagan show up yet. I wish people would be themselves, not Ronald Reagan. I'm a fan of Ronald Reagan. Now let's find the next great leader in our country. And I don't think it's Mike Huckabee.

I want to make it very clear, I am -- I like the governor. I think he's a decent human being. He has credited my program as being the catalyst for his boom. It was the first -- after it happened, his -- his career started to take off. That's what he said, not me.

But I have to tell you, I think he's made just critical errors lately. I think this guy is going to implode. And, if he doesn't implode, he gets the Republican nomination, I think the Republicans might as well just write it off. BLITZER: Really?

BECK: Yes.

BLITZER: That's pretty shocking.

All right. Give us one or two examples of the critical errors he's made.

BECK: I -- I had an opportunity to sit with the governor yesterday, because I was very upset at the governor. And we have had a decent relationship with each other. And I happened to be at the airport in Iowa. He was at the airport in Iowa, and we were both waiting to get on our planes.

And I had a conversation with him for about 25 minutes, where I told him that I was really, quite honestly, disgusted by the whisper campaign that he did against Mitt Romney. I think that, when you start to divide Christians, and you start to campaign, quite honestly, in the same way that Ronald Reagan would not, but more in the style of an extremist mullah, where you're saying who's Christian and who's Christian enough for you, I think that's a real problem.

When you look at the polls that show only one out of every 20 non-Southern Baptists or evangelical in New Hampshire and South Carolina will say they will vote for Mike Huckabee, I think this is a guy who is not going to be able appeal to the -- to the mainstream.

BLITZER: Well, what -- how do you explain the -- the surge clearly in Iowa, in our new poll, in South Carolina, how do you explain that? And then I want to ask you if -- if he did anything in that 20- to 25-minute private conversation you had that reassured you?

BECK: Let me answer that one first: No. He did apologize to me and to anyone he might have offended with that. But I -- you know, as I told him...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I want to be precise. For the viewers who don't know, you are a Mormon, and you were upset about the innuendo in that Sunday "New York Times" magazine article...

BECK: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: ... where he raised questions if Mormons believe Satan and Jesus Christ are brothers.

BECK: Yes. It's -- it's just an incredible thing, for him to actually try to say with a straight face, that I -- I was just asking the question, like "The New York Times" reporter can ask -- or answer any real question on faith, and him just, what, I didn't know that they would print that, it is as believable to me as Hillary Clinton saying, you know, this whole cocaine thing with Obama, maybe he sold drugs; maybe he didn't; I'm not saying that; it just might be the Republican machinery that might bring that up -- just by saying these things, that becomes the story.

No matter how many times you apologize, it becomes the story. And, quite honestly, on both sides, and any candidate that does this kind of thing, it is beneath the president of the United States. I -- so far -- and I haven't seen him yet -- I'm waiting for a president to show up.

BLITZER: The -- so, he didn't reassure you. But what about the -- the surge that he's -- that he's had lately? How do we -- how do you explain that?

BECK: Yes.

I can't, other than, I don't think there is anybody in there -- you know, I talk about it on my program quite a bit, that I would like to take a little piece of each of them. I would like to take a bit of Giuliani, I would like to take a bit of Fred Thompson, a little bit of Mitt Romney, I have said in the past, up until the other day, a bit of Mike Huckabee, and combined them for a conservative candidate.

Where Ronald Reagan had pretty much all of it, these guys don't. They have little pieces. So, I think the only way I can explain it at this point is that people are like, well, I don't know. Maybe not that guy, maybe not that guy.

And he's -- his numbers are not coming from anyplace else, it appears at this point, than Fred Thompson. And I think that shows Fred Thompson's support starting to erode, although I thought he looked really good in the debate, for the first time, just a few days ago.

BLITZER: Yes, he showed some spark that he...

BECK: He did.

BLITZER: ... hadn't shown earlier.

Very quickly, your book is called "An Inconvenient Book."

BECK: Yes.

BLITZER: A lot of us remember another film and book, "An Inconvenient Truth," by Al Gore.

BECK: Yes. Yes.

BLITZER: He spoke in Bali, Indonesia, this week...

BECK: Oh.

BLITZER: ... at the -- at the global warming summit.

BECK: Yes. BLITZER: And he said this. I'm going to play the clip and then we will talk about it, because I know you're no great fan of Al Gore and his -- and his thesis on global warming. But take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. When you heard that -- you're shaking your head. You're closing your eyes.

BECK: Yes.

BLITZER: You're grimacing. You're not happy?

BECK: No. Here's why, Wolf.

I mean, even if you believe in global warming -- and I do believe -- I mean, it's hard to refute that the world is getting warmer -- you have to talk about the solutions. What do you do to solve the problem?

What we're talking about is $26 trillion. I can feed, clothe and educate every man, woman and child on planet Earth for the next 100 years and still have $21 trillion dollars left. This is truly about global socialism. If you listen to what else he was talking about, he was talking about a new U.N. global tax.

I'm sorry. I don't want any more taxes from Washington. I certainly am not going to pay taxes to the United Nations.

BLITZER: Glenn Beck's bestseller is called "An Inconvenient Book." His program airs on our sister Headline News at 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Glenn, thanks for stopping by.

BECK: Thank you very much, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Barack Obama wants you to see him in a new light. It's down to the wire before Iowa's caucuses. You are going to see some strong new visuals, part of Obama's strategy to win.

And the new attorney general responding to a demand from members of Congress. His answer, no. It involves those terror interrogation tapes that the CIA destroyed.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Carol, what's going on?

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

Just a short time ago, the White House announced the confirmation of James Peake as the new secretary of veterans affairs. According to a statement, Peake was approved unanimously by the Senate. He is pledging new efforts to make sure returning soldiers have access to treatment for depression.

From the Northwest to New England, a series of storms bringing snow and sleet and ice to much of the country. A low-pressure system from the Pacific is bringing rain along the coast of Northern California, Oregon and Washington and heavy snows inland. Across the middle of the country, we're also seeing wet weather, with snow falling from Colorado to Ohio.

And, in the Northeast, residents are digging out from one storm and being told now to brace for a second storm this weekend.

Beginning next September, New Jersey will become the first state in the country to require preschoolers to get flu vaccinations. The state health commissioner says the vaccines will reduce illness, hospitalizations and death in what he calls one of the state's most vulnerable populations. Some parents groups say they're concerned about the safety of the vaccines and object to the government making medical decisions for them.

That's a look at the headlines right now, Wolf.

COSTELLO: Carol, thank you.

It's the season for candidates to go negative. Is there any hope for a truce?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With respect to anything negative, I would be happy to enter into an agreement with everyone, but it would have to be an agreement with everyone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is Hillary Clinton changing her tone? The best political team on television sizing up Senator Clinton's final campaign push and more.

And is President Bush taking a kinder, gentler approach to the Congress? Is it working?

An underdog presidential candidate is taking off, so to speak, in a very big way. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now: 'Tis the season of good cheer between the White House and Congress? So it seems. The ever-battling branches are actually trying to make a little bit nice. What's going on?

But that's certainly not in relation to some worrisome new poll numbers. We're talking about Hillary Clinton's campaign problems. I will discuss what's putting a smile on her face, though, with the best political team on television. They're standing by.

And Barack Obama wants you to see something new about himself. But how accurate is it? Frank Sesno keeping them honest.

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

It's turning out to be a much happier holiday season over at the White House than many expected only a few months ago. President Bush now is getting his way with Congress on war funding and other key issues.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Ed Henry. He's standing by live with the latest.

So, what is he telling the lawmakers, Ed?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's telling Congress they cannot go home for the holidays without funding U.S. troops fully. And it is appearing that Democrats will blink on that because Mr. Bush now has a stronger hand in these budget battles.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY (voice-over): This may be as close to a victory lap as you will see from President Bush. After weeks of bashing lawmakers, he actually had a few warm words for Congress finishing its work.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Lawmakers have made some important progress in working out such differences. I'm pleased to hear that they're close to reaching an agreement on a budget.

HENRY: The shift in tone is a sign the president feels he's getting his way on key issues, like securing tens of billions of dollars more for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

BUSH: I also understand that Congress may provide a down payment on the war funding I requested, without artificial timetables for withdrawal. These are encouraging signs.

HENRY: The down payment comment was a nod to the fact the president is not getting all $200 billion in the war money he wanted. But Democrats privately admit they're likely to give the president up to $70 billion for the wars, just weeks after Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed Mr. Bush would not get another dollar this year.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The Republicans have made it very clear that this is not just George Bush's war. This is the war of the Republicans in Congress.

HENRY: Pelosi notes Democrats have succeeded on other matters, like the sharpest increase in fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks in a generation, a point Mr. Bush acknowledged.

BUSH: I want to thank the Senate and to congratulate the Senate for passing a good energy bill. And now the House must act.

HENRY: But the year began with people writing the president's political obituary, as Democrats swept into power.

BUSH: Congratulations, Madam Speaker.

HENRY: The year ends with a the president in a stronger political position, thanks to his use of the veto pen and splits among the Democrats on the war and other issues.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

HENRY: In fact, on that energy bill, Democrats only got it passed after they pulled out some key provisions Mr. Bush said he would have vetoed it over -- things he did not want in that bill. It's showing that that veto pen can keep him relevant and can get him more in these budget battles than anyone expected -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed, thank you.

Ed Henry at the White House.

Let's bring in the best political team on television right now.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's joining us from South Carolina.

Our own Jack Cafferty is in New York. His book is entitled "It's Getting Ugly Out There". It's a best-seller.

And here in Washington, our CNN senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.

I guess he's not a lame duck -- at least not yet.

Is that your assessment, Jack?

CAFFERTY: I found it rather startling that he was able to get through that entire speech without breaking into hysterical laughter. I mean he has beat these Democrats around like a bunch of red-headed stepchildren. Pelosi and that crew are just beyond pathetic. I mean these people were elected on the promise they were going to stop the war. Then they say there will be no more blank checks. We're going to have troop withdrawal schedules attached to the funding. Then she says he'll not get another dime for the war this year.

All wrong. He's getting everything he wants -- no questions asked. And the Democrats have the majorities in both the House and Senate. It's a joke.

BLITZER: And the Democrats, Gloria, the base of the party that wanted to see the war over with thought that's what the Democratic majority would achieve. They're frustrated and they're angry.

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, they're very frustrated and angry. And, you know, the problem the Democrats have had is not so much with George Bush, it's with each other. The House and the Senate cannot agree on anything, including funding for the war. And Nancy Pelosi is feuding with Senate Democrats.

And so Bush has adopted a strategy of divide and conquer. And it's kind of smart because he's picking on the one institution that has a lower approval rating than he does. The last poll showed the Congressional approval rating at about 19 percent. So he has absolutely nothing to lose. He can claim victory when he gets a little victory and he can attack the Congress when it suits his purposes, which is almost all the time.

BLITZER: Bill, and she makes a really good point, Gloria, that the president has been adept at exploiting the differences between the Democrats in the House and the Democrats in the Senate.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's right. The president knows that he has the Republican minority -- which is a pretty substantial minority of senators -- with him and they're standing firm. And the Democrats in the Senate, they may have a nominal majority of 51 seats, but you need 60 to be able to proceed with any legislation. The Senate operates by consensus. If there is no consensus and there is no consensus, then the Senate just breaks down.

Why don't the Democrats stand up to the president?

A strong reason for that. They say they don't want to cause a train wreck.

What does a train wreck mean?

Shutting down the federal government, cutting off funds for the troops. Because they believe they have the political advantage over the unpopular president right now and they would squander it if they're seen as being responsible for that kind of train wreck.

BLITZER: You know, Jack, in the past hour or so, there's been a story developing here in Washington involving those CIA interrogation videotapes that the CIA destroyed. Congress, in its oversight responsibility, wanted access to information. The new attorney general, Michael Mukasey, now telling Congress you're not going to get anything because this is an ongoing investigation.

Listen to this response that two -- the two leaders in the House Intelligence Committee, the chairman and the ranking Republican, said in their angry response to the attorney general: "We are stunned that the Justice Department would move to block our investigation. Parallel investigations occur all of the time and there is no basis upon which the attorney general can stand in the way of our work."

But the attorney general is saying you're not going to get anything.

CAFFERTY: Well, you know, Alberto Gonzales left a note for Mukasey and it said, look, if you have any trouble with these people in Congress, here's some tapes you can look at, because they tried to do everything to me and I used to just sit there and say I don't know, I won't tell you and I can't remember. And if you do the same thing, eventually they'll go away and they won't bother you.

Once again, the Democrats will talk about parallel investigations and they'll talk about this and they'll talk about that, but they won't hold anybody in contempt. They won't throw anybody in jail. They won't do anything except allow themselves to be pushed around by, arguably, the most secretive administration in the last 100 years in this country.

We don't know anything about any investigation, whether it's Valerie Plame, whether it's the telephone company's role in the NSA spy program. We don't know much of anything.

Remember the energy meetings?

We still don't know who was in those. I mean Mukasey is not going to volunteer anything to these guys. He doesn't have to.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, this is -- I suspect we're sitting on a big battle now between the executive and legislative branches of the government.

BORGER: We are, Wolf. And it's, you know, it's something that, over the years, we tend to see over and over again, because Congress sees itself as the watchdog. Their job is to oversee the rest of the government. Except when you're in the Justice Department, you would say wait a minute, guys, you are intruding on our investigations and we need to keep these things separate and we can't talk to you because that would, in fact, affect our investigation. We can't seem to be under any kind of political pressure whatsoever.

CAFFERTY: Which is why there should be a special prosecutor named to do this.

BLITZER: Well, he today -- by the way...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: ...Mukasey today said there is not going to be a -- he sees no need for a special prosecutor. CAFFERTY: Oh, of course.

BLITZER: Let me let Bill Schneider...

BORGER: But he sees no conflict, you know?

BLITZER: ...you...

BORGER: And you've got to give the guy -- he's just been in office, what, two weeks, three weeks?

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: Senator Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, last Sunday was calling for a special counsel. But Mukasey now saying not necessary.

SCHNEIDER: Well, you know, Wolf, a Democrat recently said oversight fosters accountability. There is a reason why Congress needs to investigate this. It's publicly accountable in a way that the Justice Department and, certainly, the CIA are not. The public wants to know what's going on.

When we have events like this and the executive branches say we'll investigate ourselves, no political interference, you know what the voters hear?

They hear cover-up.

BORGER: But here's the problem. We don't trust our institutions. You know, this guy has just been attorney general for a short time. Pretty soon they'll be calling for his resignation -- before he moves in his office furniture. You know, and I think it just goes back to this issue of trust, which nobody has.

BLITZER: Stand by, guys, because we have more to talk about. We're only just beginning.

Hillary Clinton trying to highlight her softer side with a new campaign commercial.

Will it help her win over women voters?

Plus, Mike Huckabee's surge in the polls. They're calling it a Huckaboom.

Will it be enough, though, to help him nail down the nomination?

Lots more coming up with the best political team on television.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM HILLARY CLINTON FOR PRESIDENT CAMPAIGN AD)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm thrilled that I have my mother and my daughter with me tonight -- my mother, Dorothy Rodham and my daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton and a brand new ad trying to appeal to women voters who presumably could help her a lot.

Jack, the softer side of Hillary Clinton. She needs some help right now, given the surge in the poll numbers for Barack Obama.

CAFFERTY: Well, she does. And I think this ad is transparent inasmuch as it appears it be a sort of a desperation move to try to get, you know, some of that footing back.

People know about Hillary Clinton's family life. It isn't no Norman Rockwell painting and they remember all of it from the years that she was first lady in the White House.

The people in the Midwest -- specifically in Iowa and Missouri -- and I lived and worked in both of those states for a total of nine years -- are not the women of the beltway or New York City. A lot of them do stay home and bake cookies. And if they're going to have a commercial about family, all the family would be in it.

So I'm not so sure it's going to do a lot of good for her.

BLITZER: Gloria?

BORGER: Well, I'm going to play the gender card here for a minute. And, as a woman, it's kind of just interesting for me to watch this Hillary Clinton campaign, because she went out of her way at first to prove as a woman, that you have to -- that you're tough. You're tough enough to be president.

Now the pendulum is swinging. She has to go all the way back to the middle to prove that she's nice enough for us to like her and want her to be president. And the problem that Hillary Clinton has is that we've watched her evolve -- politically and every other way -- over more than the past decade very publicly. So most people think they really know who she is. They have formed opinions about her.

And so this ad comes out and it says, wait a minute. You don't really know me the way you think you know me, because I've been a good daughter and I've been a great mother. And that's been a really important part of my life. And we'll see if it works.

BLITZER: Bill, you're In South Carolina right now. We've got a new poll that just came out today showing Huckabee -- Huckabee from -- in July, 3 percent among likely Republican primary voters, to 24 percent right now. He's on top.

What's going on, as far as Mike Huckabee is concerned, in South Carolina -- which is a critical state for the Republican presidential process?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I interviewed an informant -- an analyst who said he thinks that a lot of what's going on and what Mike Huckabee -- with him -- can be traced to Hillary Clinton, namely, Republicans here in South Carolina believe Hillary Clinton may not be the Democratic nominee. So they're less worried about the evil menace of Hillary Clinton.

And instead of going to Giuliani -- who they think has the best chance of beating Hillary Clinton -- they're going to go with someone -- go with someone who is really first in their hearts, someone they agree with, someone who was a minister, someone who is not a typical politician, someone that they like.

Huckabee, they worry, might not be as much of a winner as Giuliani, but they like him better and they're willing to take that risk because they think the Hillary threat has diminished.

BLITZER: Jack, as far as Giuliani in South Carolina is concerned, in July, he was way at top at 30 percent. He's lost half of his support. He's only 16 percent in South Carolina right now.

CAFFERTY: I saw an interesting piece the other day. And the gist of it was that Rudy Giuliani needs Hillary Clinton to do well if he wants to be the nominee. If she's not the Democratic nominee, he has no chance of being the Republican nominee.

I also think that Ed Rowlands joining the Huckabee campaign gives him a big boost in what they call street cred. Rowlands is a veteran. He did it for Reagan. He ran Perot's campaign and got more votes for that goofy little screwball on a third party candidate...

BORGER: But...

CAFFERTY: ...than any third party run for the White House ever. Rowlands is the reason we got Bill Clinton, if you want to look at it that way.

BORGER: Right. But, Jack, let me...

CAFFERTY: But the credibility that comes with an Ed Rollins translates to donations for the Huckabee campaign.

BORGER: Well, but when was the -- you know, I like Ed Rowlands. I think he's a great guy.

But when was the last campaign that he won?

CAFFERTY: Well, you know, look at the campaign...

SCHNEIDER: (INAUDIBLE).

CAFFERTY: ...look at the campaign managers of any of these candidates and you can ask the same question.

BORGER: Right. They tend to recycle a lot.

SCHNEIDER: Ed Rollins -- yes. I think Ed Rollins is unique because he was the political director in the White House. And you cannot get more establishment than that. CAFFERTY: Yes.

SCHNEIDER: And he also ran the Perot campaign for a while. So he's been an insider, he's been an outsider, which is exactly what he thinks Huckabee is or can be.

CAFFERTY: Plus, I've gotten to know...

BLITZER: We'll see what he's...

CAFFERTY: I've gotten him to know him a little bit around here just because I see him coming in and out for Lou's show all the time...

BORGER: He's a nice guy.

CAFFERTY: And he's a terrific guy. I like him.

BORGER: He is a great guy. I like him, too.

BLITZER: Everybody likes Ed Rollins and...

SCHNEIDER: He made a wonderful comment...

BLITZER: Guys, stand by.

SCHNEIDER: He made a wonderful comment.

BLITZER: Hold on.

We've got to go, because Lou is standing by.

Jack is going to come back for The Cafferty File.

Gloria and Bill, thanks to both of you. I know that Lou -- I think he has Ed Rowlands coming up at the top of the hour on his show.

Give us a little preview -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Well, we're going to be talking with Ed about his new job as national chairman for the Huckabee campaign. As your colleagues and mine just said, Wolf, Ed Rollins is one of the savviest political analysts and strategists in the business. He is also one of the best and most decent human beings on the earth. So -- also, he's a five time Gold Gloves champion. So Huckabee has some real heft behind him now. It'll be interesting to watch.

We'll be reporting on new poll numbers tonight showing Mike Huckabee's support is surging and Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign is slipping. We'll have complete coverage for you from key battleground states tonight. Some of the best political analysts and strategists join us, as well.

Illegal immigration one of the top issues in this election campaign. Why in the world don't the Democratic candidates even want to talk about it?

Do they care what the voters think?

We'll have a special report on a major legal victory for a state that has refused to be intimidated by corporate America and socio- ethnic centric special interests.

All of that, all the day's news -- there's lots of it. And we'll have much more, as well, at the top of the hour. Please join us -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: We'll see you in a few moments, Lou.

Thank you.

Barack Obama's latest campaign ad -- how does it stand up to a fact check?

We're keeping him -- we're keeping all the presidential candidates honest. Frank Sesno is standing by.

Plus, one underdog campaign gets a big lift. We're going to show you Ron Paul's latest tactic.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In our Political Ticker, money for farmers -- the Senate passed a $286 billion farm bill by an overwhelming margin. Central to the bill, greater subsidies for crops like wheat, barley, oat and soybeans. President Bush threatening a veto, though, saying it's too expensive and the bill should cut subsidies when crop prices are seeing record highs.

He was once a co-owner of the Texas Rangers. Now, President Bush says he feels like many other Americans who love baseball -- disappointed. The president was reacting to that report linking dozens of current and former baseball players to performance enhancing drugs. Today he said he's troubled by the allegations and that it sullies the game. But the president also warned against jumping to conclusions regarding the names mentioned in the report.

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

In these final weeks before the first presidential contest, the candidates are spewing out ads. Barack Obama has a brand new spot running in Iowa and we're going to take a closer look at it right now in our Ad Watch.

Let's bring in our special correspondent, Frank Sesno. You're looking at this. You're going to be looking at a lot of the ads.

What are you seeing in this one?

FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in this one, Wolf, according to the sources connected with the campaign, they say they want to portray, they want to frame Barack Obama as inspirational and uplifting. And that's just what the ad tries to do. And those close to the campaign say they believe it's especially effective when other candidates are taking shots at Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SESNO (voice over): So as Iowa ticks down, the ad wars ratchet up. And with Barack Obama trying to look credible, electable and on the move, this ad...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM BARACK OBAMA FOR PRESIDENT CAMPAIGN AD)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (voice over): I'm Barack Obama and I approved this message.

We are in a defining moment in our history. Our nation is at war. The planet is in peril.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESNO: Sixty seconds of fawning visuals and cliched generalities tries to reinforce the point. There are quick shots of rapt gazes, starry-eyed voters literally looking up to Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM BARACK OBAMA FOR PRESIDENT CAMPAIGN AD)

OBAMA: America, our moment is now!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESNO: The camera work puts Obama center stage in a place that appears cavernous -- maybe like the floor of the Democratic convention. Look at that again. The ad -- the convention. The ad -- the convention. But there's not much content here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM BARACK OBAMA FOR PRESIDENT CAMPAIGN AD)

OBAMA: The same old Washington textbook campaigns just won't do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESNO: No plans, no policy, no names. The full screens go for character. "Scrupulous honesty" is one example.

Joe Klein's "Time" column did praise Obama, but it also referred to his confusing campaign and static performances.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM BARACK OBAMA FOR PRESIDENT CAMPAIGN AD) OBAMA: I want to be the president...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESNO: Glittering is what this ad is all about. They've come to elevate Obama, not explain him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESNO: Uplifting and inspirational -- that's what those connected with the campaign say they want to do. But they say it's working, Wolf. And they're looking at the numbers -- and certainly the numbers have been trending toward Obama. And they say, again, that it's especially important in a 60 second ad to kind of establish that tone, that framework and to make Obama seem -- as that apparent convention reference did -- like he can really get the job done and go all the way.

BLITZER: Those ads are critical and a critical part of these campaigns. And you'll be watching them for us.

Thanks, Frank, very much.

Let's go back to Jack.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is does anything change because North Korea responded to President Bush's letter to Kim Jong II?

Andrew in Cleveland: "A response means nothing from a leader who has a history of deceit. The words of this administration are meaningless since they are famous for going back on their word so many times."

Thom writes: "Even if there was goodwill coming from North Korea, it certainly was tossed the minute our smirky president got on the tube. I'll be so glad when we won't have to listen to him talking down to everyone in the world with his mightier than thou attitude. If Korea does the slightest thing positive, it would behoove us to encourage then, even though we know that their word is as good as Bush's -- absolutely zero."

Mike in Maryland: "Yes, a lot will change. We can now show the reclusive North Koreans how to outsource jobs, insource illegals, import low quality crap from overseas and how to hate our elected officials. When we get through normalizing relations with the North Koreans, they'll wish they'd never met us."

Sarge in Indiana writes: "I've served two tours of duty in Korea. If a simple letter is gaining cooperation from Kim Jong Il, invite him to the White House."

Pete writes: "No. North Korea is no more trustworthy than Iran or Syria -- or any of the other terrorist supporting countries, no matter how many nice letters they write." And Giny in Columbia, South Carolina writes: "Dear George, all the nice letters in the world won't erase the fact that I will still be in charge January 21st of 2009 and you will not. Sincerely, Kim Jong Il." -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I wonder if you, when you write a letter to Kim Jung Il, you address it dear -- dear leader, because he's the dear leader, right?

CAFFERTY: He is the -- he's the dear leader?

BLITZER: That's -- he's the dear leader of North Korea.

I mean do you say dear...

CAFFERTY: Did Bush...

BLITZER: ...dear leader?

CAFFERTY: Did President Bush call him a pygmy once?

BLITZER: He was quoted at that. It was in some book, I think. Something like that.

CAFFERTY: (LAUGHTER)

Maybe he just could send dear pygmy.

BLITZER: Maybe he just wrote dear Kim, you know, something like that.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: OK.

CAFFERTY: (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Have a great weekend, Jack.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: See you next week.

CAFFERTY: See you.

BLITZER: Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul may be lagging in the polls, but his supporters are flying high -- literally. We're going to show you what we mean, when we come back, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the hour's Hot Shots.

On the outskirts of Northern Darfur, women carry firewood in the early morning. In Colombia, soldiers guard a pile of weapons turned in by right- wing guerrillas.

In Macedonia, U.S. medals for military achievements in Iraq are on display.

And in Boston, a French bull dog scampers through the snow.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots.

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul may dominate on the Internet. But now they have their sights set on U.S. air space. The Ron Paul blimp in the air today.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

She's watching this blimp for all of us -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it should be touching down in South Carolina right about now. The realities of blimp planning meant that things got changed and delayed a bit this week. But it got off the ground today. The Ron Paul blimp -- a supporter-generated idea to highlight the candidacy of this Republican, who polls at around 6 percent nationally.

Of course, this follows their online fundraising drive of last month that netted more than $4 million in a day. And those same supporters will tell you there's more to come this weekend -- a second fundraising push designed to coincide with the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party.

Ron Paul has said that he would struggle to figure out what to do with this money. A campaign spokesman says that they're now staffing up and doing traditional media ahead of the primary. They've got 90 full-time staffers now. Compare that to three nine months ago -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thanks very much.

Among my guests Sunday on "LATE EDITION," the Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards.

"LATE EDITION" airs 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

Let's go to Lou.

He's in New York -- Lou.

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