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THE SITUATION ROOM
How Did Benazir Bhutto Die?; Interview With New York Senator Hillary Clinton
Aired December 28, 2007 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Well, I can tell you, Wolf, there's a lot of skepticism over what you just talked about, exactly what killed Benazir Bhutto.
As you know, the Interior Ministry came out today saying, as you just said, it was not bullet; it was not shrapnel. It was her either ducking or falling, hitting her head some part on the vehicle, perhaps a lever inside the vehicle. That's greeted with -- there's a lot of skepticism about that here.
One party official from Benazir Bhutto's party called that a pack of lies. There are some who believe that the government is saying that in order to try to diminish her stature, to make her less of a martyr.
There's a great belief that it was either a bullet, which the government had previously said. They previously had said it was a bullet. And they had also previously said it was shrapnel. So, there's a lot of confusion.
I don't think the announcement today, that it was her falling, fracturing her skull, has really settled anything here. It just made the situation here murkier. It's the middle of the night right now. So, the streets are empty. There's not a curfew, but there has been -- there has been violence. There has been tires burning on the streets, people throwing rocks at passing cars.
The police and the military are out here in force here in Karachi, and a lot of people are just choosing to stay home, inside their homes. Stores have been shuttered here, as they have throughout much of Pakistan. And, really, tomorrow, this third day of mourning, people are not sure what the day will bring.
Dawn comes here in about two or three hours from now. It's anybody's guess what is going to happen in the next several hours.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, Anderson, I just want to be precise. She was buried earlier today. I don't believe -- and correct me if I'm wrong if you have other information -- there was a formal autopsy done before the burial.
COOPER: That's correct. That's my information as well.
And I don't want to say I know that for a fact because the facts here seem to be changing by the hour. It's very hard to confirm information independently. We really have to go on what the Pakistani government is saying or what some of the other critics are saying.
But, yes, as far as I know, there was no autopsy that was done. And that's what caused a lot of the confusion. There had been a report yesterday, on Thursday, that a doctor had seen a bullet hole. Others had said it's shrapnel. The government themselves had had conflicting reports.
So, really, it's a very confusing situation. And there's different parties involved as to why they would want to say, yes, it was shrapnel or, yes, it was a bullet or, in fact, she just fell or ducked.
BLITZER: Anderson Cooper is in Karachi, Pakistan, watching all of this unfold. He will have a special "A.C. 360" live tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern.
Anderson, be careful over there. Thanks very much for joining us.
We will check back with Anderson. He's on the scene in Pakistan right now.
A day after President Bush condemned Bhutto's killing as a cowardly act, he has some tough choices to make about future U.S. ties to Pakistan. His die-hard support of President Pervez Musharraf is now a target of even more harsh criticism.
Let's go to our White House correspondent Ed Henry. He's watching all of this from the Texas ranch in Crawford.
What is next, Ed?
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the stakes, as you know, for the U.S., are enormous, from nuclear security to the war on terror. So, what's next is figuring out whether anyone can step up, fill the shoes of Bhutto and try to stabilize Pakistan.
HENRY (voice-over): Signing a condolence book at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote, Benazir Bhutto was a woman of courage and champion of democracy.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The way to honor her memory is to continue the democratic process in Pakistan, so that the democracy that she so hoped for can emerge.
HENRY: But moving forward will be easier said than done, since the U.S. find itself in a box after finding Pervez Musharraf at all costs, despite questions about whether Pakistan has misused billions of dollars in U.S. aid intended to fight terror.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He had been an absolute reliable partner in dealing with extremists and radicals.
HENRY: But, with Musharraf's grip on his government slipping, the U.S. had recently turned to plan B, a potential power-sharing pact between Bhutto and Musharraf.
In the wake of Bhutto's assassination, the Bush policy is now in disarray, the White House searching for what you might call plan C, finding someone who can unite a country teetering on the brink.
DANIEL MARKEY, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: And that's the -- the key dynamic to watch right now. And that will determine whether Musharraf and others within the country can move ahead.
HENRY: One option is former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The U.S. had kept its distance because of his connections to Islamist parties, but is now taking another look.
Another option could be for the U.S. to scrap the goal of democracy and let Musharraf focus on cracking down on extremists, though U.S. officials insist they're committed to free and fair elections as early as next month.
The least bad option may be the winner of those elections forming a partnership with Musharraf, since the U.S. has little choice but to stick with him at this point.
KARL INDERFURTH, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: So, I think that we ought to look at Musharraf as a continued presence there and hopefully he will reach out to other democratic leaders in Pakistan, and they can form some form of coalition of moderation, because that's the only way to deal with the extremists that are gaining strength in Pakistan today.
HENRY: Now, analysts say it's also critical for the U.S. to not play too public a role in the upcoming Pakistani elections, given its unpopularity in the Muslim world, one reason perhaps today why Mr. Bush did not make any public statements, choosing instead to have a private, secure videoconference with his National Security Council staff, clearly trying to show that he is on top of the situation, but not meddling in Pakistani politics -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And, as Ed said, the stakes really are enormous for the U.S. and so much of the world in what happens there.
Thanks very much, Ed Henry, reporting.
Out on the campaign trail, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee appears to be trying to change the subject after making what some consider a notable mistake regarding what's happening in Pakistan.
Let's head out to Pella, Iowa.
Dana Bash is watching all this unfold. And, Dana, you have even been told by some Huckabee insiders that they're acknowledging he made a mistake.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I had a pretty candid moment with a senior Huckabee campaign official today who said that, with their candidate, they know he has -- quote -- "no foreign policy credential" and that, unlike many other presidential candidates, he can't boast about knowing Benazir Bhutto, and that they understand that this issue about Pakistan is going to dominate the news for the next couple of days.
And this official said, until they get him briefed and up to speed, they are going to try to bring it closer to home.
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good morning.
BASH (voice-over): Mike Huckabee is responding to crisis in Pakistan in an offbeat way, tying it to a red-hot campaign issue, immigration.
HUCKABEE: There were more Pakistanis who illegally cross the border than of any nationality, except for those immediately south of our border, 660 last year. That's a lot of illegals from Pakistan.
BASH: Sounding an alarm about illegal Pakistanis in America is a surprising tactic for a candidate who preaches tolerance. He dismissed any concern he's playing to fear of foreigners.
HUCKABEE: No, not at all. I'm just saying that a lot of Americans sitting in Pella, Iowa, maybe look halfway around the world and say, how does that affect me?
BASH: When asked by CNN for the source of his statistic, 660 illegal Pakistanis, Huckabee seemed unsure.
HUCKABEE: It has come largely from CIA numbers. And I will get you the exact source. But I will -- those are numbers that I got today from a briefing. And I believe they're CIA and/or immigration numbers.
BASH: A senior Huckabee campaign official admitted to CNN, the former Arkansas governor has -- quote -- "no foreign policy credential." That's why his campaign turned to immigration, a top concern for Iowa GOP voters, especially men he's been losing ground with. The pivot followed a gaffe, not appearing to know martial law was lifted in Pakistan two weeks ago.
HUCKABEE: What impact does it have on whether or not there's going to be martial law continued in Pakistan?
BASH: Huckabee later said he meant he worried martial law would be reinstated.
Governors running for president historically have trouble proving their foreign policy chops, some more than others. Remember this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1999)
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The new Pakistani General has just been elected. He's not elected. This guy took over office.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Name him.
BUSH: General -- I can name the general.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, for the record, Mike Huckabee does know the general's name there is Pervez Musharraf, who, of course, seven years later is still the leader in Pakistan.
And on that figure that Huckabee cited, that 660 illegal Pakistanis in the U.S., his campaign tells us that they got that from a newspaper article written back in March of 2006.
And, Wolf, our own Jeanne Meserve, our homeland security correspondent, looked into this. And she is told by a government source that, if you add up the number of Pakistanis apprehended and also turned away at the border, it comes to a number close to 660, but that it's really hard to tell how many illegal immigrants have gone undetected, of course -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks very much -- Dana Bash out in Iowa for us.
It's your money, billions and billions of dollars, and Hillary Clinton is telling President Bush, don't waste it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not think we should be giving the Musharraf government a blank check. And that's exactly what the Bush administration has done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The presidential candidate is knocking the White House and saying the Musharraf government has -- quote -- "zero credibility." Senator Clinton explains in an exclusive interview. That's coming up.
Also, who's behind Benazir Bhutto's assassination? Pakistan thinks it has its man. His alleged ties are disturbing.
Mitt Romney gets a question about an issue he hoped he put to bed. We are going to tell you what it is and how Romney responded.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: The assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the political turmoil in Pakistan are certainly stirring up the presidential race right here at home, less than a week before the critical Iowa caucuses.
In my exclusive interview today with Senator Hillary Clinton, I asked the Democratic presidential front-runner if she trusts the Pakistani government to investigate Benazir Bhutto's death.
CLINTON: I don't think the Pakistani government, at this time, under President Musharraf, has any credibility at all. They have disbanded an independent judiciary. They have oppressed a free press.
Therefore, I'm calling for a full independent international investigation, perhaps along the lines of what the United Nations has been doing with respect to the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri in Lebanon.
I think it's critically important that we get answers. And, really, those answers are due, first and foremost, to the people of Pakistan, not only those who were supportive of Benazir Bhutto and her party, but every Pakistani, because we cannot expect to move towards stability without some reckoning as to who was responsible for this assassination.
And, therefore, I call on President Musharraf and the Pakistani government to realize that this is in the interests of Pakistan to understand whether or not it was al Qaeda or some other offshoot extremist group that is attempting to further destabilize and even overthrow the Pakistani government, or whether it came from within, either explicitly or implicitly the security forces or the military.
BLITZER: So, Senator, just to be precise, you want a United Nations international tribunal or commission of inquiry, whatever you want to call it, along the lines of the investigation into the assassination of Rafik Hariri?
CLINTON: Well, there are other institutions that are international that have credibility, like Interpol and others. So, it doesn't have to be the exact model of the Hariri investigation, but it needs to be international. It needs to be independent. It needs to have credibility.
And nothing that would happen inside of Pakistan would. I'm -- I'm reluctant to say it should be an American investigation, where we send our law enforcement personnel, because I'm not sure that would have credibility for a different reason. So, that's why I'm calling for an independent international investigation.
BLITZER: This is a damning indictment of President Pervez Musharraf. Some are calling on him to step down. Do you believe he should step down?
CLINTON: What I believe is that he should meet certain conditions, and quickly.
We should immediately move to free and fair elections. Obviously, it's going to take some time for Benazir Bhutto's party to choose a successor. Nawaz Sharif has said that he won't participate at this time.
I believe, again, some kind of international support for free and fair elections in a timely manner would be incredibly important. If President Musharraf wishes to stand for election, then he should abide by the same rules that every other candidate will have to follow.
We also want to see a resumption of the move toward an independent judiciary. I think that was a terrible mistake.
You know, this is an odd situation, Wolf. The people in the streets are wearing suits and ties. They are lawyers. They are professionals. They are the middle class of Pakistan, which really offers the very best hope for a stable, democratic country. And that is in America's interests.
BLITZER: All right.
CLINTON: But, more importantly, it is in the interests of the Pakistani people.
BLITZER: Over the years since 9/11, the United States has provided the Pakistani military with some $10 billion. Will you, as a United States senator, continue to vote for funding of these billions of dollars going to the Pakistani military?
And I'm very pleased that, finally, the Congress began to put some conditions on the aid. I do not think we should be giving the Musharraf government a blank check. And that's exactly what the Bush administration has done.
Even after Musharraf cracked down on the judiciary and the press and the pro-democracy movement in Pakistan, President Bush was saying he was a reliable ally.
Well, I don't think he's a reliable ally when he undermines democracy and when he has failed to rein in the al Qaeda Islamist elements in his own country.
So I think we do need to condition aid. I would do it differently.
I would say, look, we want to know very specifically what accountability you're going to offer to us for the military aid that we believe should be going in the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban.
BLITZER: But aren't you afraid, Senator, that as imperfect and as flawed as President Musharraf is, there's a possibility whoever comes to replace him in this large Muslim country with a nuclear arsenal already, heavy al Qaeda presence, a resurgent Taliban, that the alternative could be even worse from the U.S. perspective?
CLINTON: Of course. We all fear that, and that's why we need to take remedial action immediately.
You know, when I came back from my last meeting with President Musharraf in January of this year, I called the White House. I asked that they appoint an American envoy, a presidential envoy.
I suggested that, you know, a retired military leader who could relate to President Musharraf on a one-to-one basis and could shuttle back and forth between President Musharraf and President Karzai, because there were a lot of tensions. And also perhaps serve as, you know, kind of a support to President Musharraf, military man to military man, about what it takes to really move toward democracy that President Musharraf in every conversation that I have ever had with him has given lip service to. But I don't think the Bush administration has frankly asked enough of President Musharraf, has provided the right kind of assistance, has given the support needed.
BLITZER: I interviewed your rival, Barack Obama, for the Democratic presidential nomination last night, and he had some implied criticism of you, saying some of your past decisions do not necessarily warrant your stepping up and becoming the next president of the United States.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's important for the American people to look at the judgments they have made in the past, and the experienced hands in Washington have not made particularly good judgments when it comes to dealing with these problems. That's part of the reason we are now in this circumstance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I think he was referring to your vote giving the president authority to go to war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and your more recent vote to declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. In effect, he says that gave a blank check to the president to go to war against Iran.
You want to respond to Senator Obama?
CLINTON: Well, first, Wolf, I really regret that anybody would try to politicize this tragedy. I personally knew Benazir Bhutto. She was prime minister when I visited Pakistan on behalf of our government.
I stayed in touch with her over the years, and I don't think politics should be playing a role in how our country responds.
BLITZER: Well, what about the specific criticism of your foreign policy judgment that we heard from Senator Obama? We heard earlier in the day from his chief strategist, David Axelrod. What about that -- that implied criticism that some of your decisions on these national security foreign policy issue raise questions about whether or not you should be president?
CLINTON: Well, I just regret that both of them would be politicizing this tragedy, and especially at a time when we do need to figure out a way forward. And that's what I'm focused on.
I'm focused on extending my sympathy to Benazir Bhutto's family. I'm focused on doing everything I can, as a senator, as someone with a platform running for president, to try to be both positive and effective in helping to set a course.
BLITZER: Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, speaking with me earlier.
Something Hillary Clinton just said in that interview gets an immediate response from Barack Obama. You are going to find out what Senator Obama is calling silly and unwarranted. That's straight ahead.
And Mitt Romney is asked something that he thought he had already answered fully. We are going to tell you what and how Romney is now responding -- lots more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: With less than a week to go until the Iowa caucuses, and with all that is going on in the country and the rest of the world, Mitt Romney is still hearing talk about his religion.
Let's go out to the campaign trail. Mary Snow is watching the Romney campaign in Missouri Valley in Iowa.
It sounds lovely this time of year, but what's going on, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, Mitt Romney has said he has made dozens and dozens of trips here. And despite all his campaigning, the issue of religion still surfaces.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hi, how are you?
SNOW (voice-over): Mitt Romney back in Iowa for the final stretch before the caucuses. He told crowds he has had more than 200 events with voters here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN AD)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is ready to make tough decisions?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike Huckabee, soft on government spending.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SNOW: He's out with a new ad here targeting Republican rival Mike Huckabee, trying to portray himself as being tough on illegal immigration, a major issue for Republicans in Iowa.
But that's not what a Romney supporter talked about before the Republican presidential hopeful arrived at one stop. Instead, Iowa State Senator David Mulder brought up Romney's Mormon religion, trying to ease any anxiety about it.
DAVE MULDER (R), IOWA STATE SENATOR: What I said is that he's a God-fearing man and he believes in Jesus. He believes that Jesus is his savior.
SNOW: Mulder describes his part of western Iowa as heavily Christian. And although Romney has addressed his religion in a major speech and repeatedly answered questions about it, Mulder suggests it is still a concern for some voters.
(on camera): Is that a big issue for people here in this county?
MULDER: Big issue, big issue.
SNOW: Why? What are they saying?
MULDER: Well, because we don't know that much about Mormons. There aren't very many Mormons here. And, so, any time you don't know something -- or very much about something, there's fear. There's uncertainty.
SNOW (voice-over): I asked Governor Romney about that.
(on camera): Well, with just a week away from the caucus, does it concern you that that is still an issue for people?
ROMNEY: We're in a tight race here. How people make up their mind is their privilege.
And I just don't think America is ever going to be a land that -- well, it's like the lands where we're looking around the world where people choose their leader based on what church they go to. That is not the nature of America.
Will there be some people for whom religion is the compelling issue? Perhaps. But it is a small part of the American public. The great majority of people want someone who will lead the nation in a time of great change and great challenge.
SNOW: And Romney is now canvassing Iowa, trying to get out the message that he has the experience and leadership to be the next president -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary Snow, out in Iowa for us, thanks very much.
In the final days before the Iowa caucuses, the candidates are doing all they can to win.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: If you were about change, you would have changed it by now. You have been there long enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Coming up, great expectations in Iowa and beyond. Can the candidates win by coming in second or coming in third? We're watching this story -- the best political team on television standing by.
Plus, it's an all-out assault on Iowa TV viewers. Wait until you hear how many hours worth of ads are playing in the lead-off caucus state.
And new information about who may be behind Benazir Bhutto's assassination -- we're watching this developing story as well right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Happening now: As the presidential candidates head into the final weekend before the Iowa caucuses, they are all running against a common opponent. No, it isn't George W. Bush or any Republican. They need to beat expectations.
John McCain may be doing that already. His campaign was given up by many for dead months ago. We're going to take a closer look at its revival with the best political team on television.
And the political ad wars -- we will look at who is spending the most and whose ads may be working the best.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: In the presidential race, you know about the candidates we have spent so much time talking about. But some say there's a little-known rival you should also know about.
Joining us now, our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He is here watching this.
There's another candidate, I take it, out there in this race besides the one we're all -- the ones we're all talking about.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. And the other candidate's name is expected.
SCHNEIDER (voice over): Every candidate is competing against a candidate named "expected." They're trying to do better than expected.
The polls help set expectations. The latest Iowa Republican polls show Mike Huckabee on top, followed by Mitt Romney.
So Huckabee is expected to win, right?
Not if you listen to him.
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Considering the resources that we're up against, I mean, it really would be a miracle to win here.
SCHNEIDER: He's lowering expectations. They all do it -- for themselves.
Huckabee is also expected to win Iowa because it has a strong evangelical Christian vote. That's his base. If Romney beats back Huckabee in Iowa, it will be an even bigger victory, because he will also have done better than expected.
Polls show a close race between three Democrats in Iowa. A clear- cut victory by any of them means they will have done better than expected.
JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What that means in practical terms is somebody is going to come out of here with momentum.
SCHNEIDER: Edwards is trying to lower expectations that he has to win Iowa because he's invested so much time there.
EDWARDS: I don't think you can say for any of the three of us that you have to win.
SCHNEIDER: His campaign is telling reporters that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have more staff members in Iowa -- you should expect them to win. But the tight polls mean that if her competitors expect to stop Clinton, they may have to do it in Iowa. That's where she's weakest.
And other Democrats?
They just want to do better than expected.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ladies and gentlemen, if you get me out of here, one, two or three, I warn you, I'm your next president.
SCHNEIDER: Bill Clinton lost the New Hampshire primary in 1992, but because he did better than expected, he labeled himself "The Comeback Kid."
Now, Lyndon Johnson won the New Hampshire primary in 1968, but because, as an incumbent at the peak of the Vietnam War, he did worse than expected, he soon got out of the race -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider, thanks very much. The assassination of the Pakistani prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, seems to be having a potentially major political impact on the presidential campaign, with Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, among others, battling in the fallout.
Let's talk about it with our chief national correspondent, John King. He's here in New York.
Our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. She's in Washington.
And our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's out in Des Moines.
All of them part of the best political team on television.
Thanks, guys, very much.
We heard Hillary Clinton say what she had to say, John, about her lack of confidence in Pervez Musharraf, in the Pakistan government going forward.
I want you to listen to this little clip, because Jessica Yellin, our correspondent out in Iowa, had a conversation with Barack Obama.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think that's silly. You know, what happened was that the Clinton campaign started pushing this notion that somehow immediately after this happened that somehow this was going to advantage their campaign. And one of my campaign aides responded. But I think what the American people are concerned about right now is not how it impacts the vote here in Iowa. They're concerned how it's going to impact the long-term national security of the United States of America, and that's what we have to stay focused on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: John, what he said was silly was the notion that Hillary Clinton said that -- that she accused Barack Obama's campaign of politicizing the fallout from Benazir Bhutto's death.
But what do you make of this spat?
JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, one of his aides did say that because she voted to support the Iraq War. That is why the United States, in his view, and in the views of many Iraq War critics, the United States was distracted from the fight against al Qaeda to improve stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is an intellectual argument that goes back some time. That David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist, raised it on the day of Benazir Bhutto's death was quite interesting.
But you have a split. Look, Wolf, we're days away from the first votes and the candidates are seeking what the consultants would call separation. They're being much more critical of each other. Obama was harshly critical of both Senator Clinton and Senator Edwards today in one of his events in Iowa. And you have, way on the left, Bill Richardson saying Musharraf should step down and candidates on the Republican side saying the United States has to help Musharraf right now, as unseemly as that might appear.
So we have some fascinating disagreements on foreign policy and you have Obama and Clinton, and, to a degree, Edwards, getting their elbows out because they're so close.
BLITZER: And it's with only six days to go, Candy. And you're out there. This, presumably, is going to intensify.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I mean, you know, you just need to look at the polls. Any time you have a poll with a three-way tie, you're going to get this. Because the only way to sort of knock the other fellow down is to go after them. So, obviously, the situation in Pakistan has really given them an excuse to have another go around about experience. Obviously, the Obama campaign has all along talked about judgment. And to them, it always comes back to this vote in Iraq that Hillary Clinton cast -- and, by the way, that John Edwards cast, as well, saying, look, I knew the war was wrong to begin with. Now he, of course -- Obama -- is linking this to Pakistan.
So this is sort of an argument they've been having all year long, renewed by the events in Pakistan.
BLITZER: And, Gloria, I want to play this -- two little clips from Barack Obama and Chris Dodd, two other Democratic presidential rivals to Hillary Clinton -- making a point of criticism of her.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It's that experience, that understanding not just of what world leaders I went and talked to and in the ambassador's house, who I had tea with...
SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It isn't just a question of giving a great speech, giving an ennobling idea. That's valuable. It isn't enough just to be sitting on the sidelines and watching your husband, necessarily, deal with problems over the years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, that's getting sharp out there, Gloria.
GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Ouch. Yes, it's getting very sharp out there. And, obviously, going back to what Candy, said, it's all about knocking down this notion that Hillary Clinton has experience.
What Chris Dodd was saying is you don't get experience through osmosis sitting there with your husband, nor do -- and what Obama is saying, you don't get it by being the first lady and sipping tea.
Now, some people -- like former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, today came out and all but called that a little bit sexist, saying that the Hillary Clinton she knows has gone to refugee camps and she's gone to villages and places where they do not necessarily drink tea.
So they're clearly trying to attack back and saying wait a minute, guys, that's a little bit sexist to say that.
BLITZER: Candy, I know you have been doing some reporting on this, as well. And the whole remark about the tea -- it sort of reminded me a little bit about the cookies -- when she was baking cookies, remember -- or not baking cookies back in the '92 campaign.
BLITZER: Between tea and cookies, there's a lot of stuff going on.
But Madeline Albright -- it didn't take a long time for the Clinton campaign to respond directly to that accusation from the Obama campaign.
CROWLEY: Sure. And, absolutely, because this is the time when you don't want to leave a news cycle alone without having responded to your rivals. And so this is -- you're going it see a lot of this sort of rapid fire response.
I think the tea remark -- obviously, the Obama campaign says there's nothing sexist about it. The fact of the matter is they all are sort of navigating this whole idea of having a woman who has been the frontrunner for some time and how to deal with her.
But it all gets to what -- back to Pakistan, really, because this has sort of renewed the conversation about experience. So the one way to go at her is to say well, what kind of experience is it to be a first lady and to do as Barack Obama said, go around and talk to ambassadors for tea.
So, you know, again, what we're doing is taking sort of a year long argument and putting Pakistan on top of that and having it again.
BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by for a moment, because we're going to take a quick break and continue this conversation.
Some are calling it a revival. Others are calling it a resurgence.
John McCain urging -- using his experience to rise in the polls.
Our best political team on television discusses that and more.
And the Pakistani government describes their suspect in the Bhutto assassination as a bad actor. Jeanne Meserve standing by. She'll explain why the wide discrepancy over who is to blame. There's new information we're getting right now.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Mitt Romney steps up his criticism of Republican presidential rival Senator John McCain.
Plus, what's really on the minds of Iowans with the caucuses less than a week away?
Let's get back to our chief national correspondent, John King; our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; and our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.
I'm going to play a little clip, John, of Mitt Romney's latest -- I guess we can call it an attack ad on McCain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM MITT ROMNEY FOR PRESIDENT CAMPAIGN AD)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Mitt Romney and I approve this message.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John McCain -- an honorable man, but is he the right Republican for the future?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I think McCain could probably see that ad as a testament that he's making a comeback.
Why bother to go after him if he were effectively out of this contest?
Certainly, Mitt Romney doesn't see McCain as a loser.
KING: He sees McCain as a threat in the State of New Hampshire, Wolf. He sees him as a big threat. And John McCain, tonight, went up with a response ad citing some very critical comments about Mitt Romney in some newspaper editorials, including one in New Hampshire that calls Mitt Romney "a phony."
So you have an increasingly nasty back and forth between McCain and Romney. And all of the candidates on the Republican side, these two do not like each other the most. Senator McCain, behind the scenes, tells his aides that he does not like Governor Romney. Governor Romney now sees him as a threat. You'll hear McCain say nice things against Mike Huckabee, nice things against Rudy Giuliani. It's hard to get him to say anything nice against Mitt Romney.
And in the final stretch to New Hampshire, once we get past Iowa, Wolf, the tone changed a bit today. You can bet it will change even worse.
BLITZER: Here's a...
BLITZER: Gloria, here's the way John McCain specifically responded, in part: "If there's any doubt that we're doing well, it's when Mitt Romney starts attacking. He's attacking Huckabee out here in Iowa. I'm familiar with tail spins, and I think he's in one. I don't know how to respond to a lot of his charges, because tomorrow he may have a different position."
So he's -- he's giving -- he's giving back strongly, too.
BORGER: That's pretty good.
BORGER: That's pretty good. That's the old John McCain we used to know. Obviously, he wants to make this into a fight. He's doing really well in New Hampshire now. A lot of us, myself included, thought it would be really tough for John McCain to come back after he ran out of money. And Romney is the fellow standing in the way.
So McCain says nice things about Huckabee because the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
BORGER: And Huckabee is doing well in Iowa, hurting Romney there. And McCain wants to hurt him in New Hampshire.
BLITZER: Give us a little flavor, Candy, what you're hearing from, you know, as we call it, real people out there -- caucus -- likely caucus goers.
What are they saying?
CROWLEY: Well, obviously, what you see in these events, Wolf, are largely those who support the candidate that's there. So you hear a lot about, you know, it doesn't matter what the weather is, I'm going out there. You hear this particularly in the Clinton camp and in the Obama camps, at those events, because there is a sense that either one of those candidates would be a part of history.
But you also hear it in the John Edwards' campaigns, because there are a lot of loyalists there -- a lot of people who have been with him since 2004. A lot of people -- he has, in fact, the most proven caucus goers of any of the candidates.
So the fact of the matter is that right now, though those around the candidates and those who support the candidates are solidifying, there is also a very large contingent of people who are undecideds...
CROWLEY: And that's really who these candidates are talking to now. BLITZER: And they don't have a lot of time to make up their minds.
All right, guys, thanks very much.
John King, Gloria Borger, Candy Crowley -- three of the best political team on television.
Let's get back to our top story now.
We're getting new information on the assassination of the former Pakistani prime minister, Benazir Bhutto. Her political party blaming her long time rival, President Pervez Musharraf. But his government and U.S. officials have a different suspect in mind.
Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is standing by live -- Jeanne, what are you picking up?
JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, when it comes to the question of who killed Bhutto, U.S. officials are still sifting through intelligence. But Pakistani authorities have already assigned blame.
MESERVE (voice-over): Look at the right hand side of the screen and you will see it -- a gun raised and firing at Benazir Bhutto. Pakistani authorities are already saying who they believe orchestrated the killing.
BRIG. GEN. JAVED IQBAL CHEEMA, PAKISTAN INTERIOR MINISTRY SPOKESMAN: We have intelligence intercepts indicating that Al Qaeda leader Baitullah Mehsud is behind her assassination.
MESERVE: Baitullah Mehsud is a militant Islamist from Pakistan's tribal area of South Waziristan, with ties to al Qaeda. In a transcript of the intercept provided by the Pakistani government, Mehsud says to another militant: "Congratulations to you. Were they ours?"
The response: "Yes, it was us."
The former CIA station chief in Pakistan says Mehsud had threatened Bhutto even before her return to Pakistan.
ROBERT GRENIER, KROLL: She was highlighting her links with the United States and particularly her determination to rid Pakistan of Islamic extremism. And he made an announcement to the effect that if she were to return, that he and his followers would see to it that she was killed.
MESERVE: In fact, Bhutto thought Mehsud might have been behind the October attempt on her life. He certainly has the skills. According to a former intelligence official, Mehsud runs a string of training camps for suicide bombers and has carried out suicide operations in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan. His fighters are said to number in the thousands.
Earlier this year, they captured more than 200 Pakistani soldiers, releasing them only after winning concessions from the Pakistani government.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
MESERVE: One senior U.S. official describes Mehsud as a known bad actor and says there is good information that he may be responsible for the assassination. But until authorities complete a review of intelligence, the U.S.
is not ready or able to pin the blame -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jeanne, thanks very much.
Jeanne Meserve reporting for us.
We're going to have more with the best political team coming up.
Ad fatigue in Iowa -- we'll show you what's going on. Caucus goers out there are being subjected to an all out media blitz by White House hopefuls. Voters -- are they burning out?
Plus, identifying the candidates -- can voters match the name to the face?
We're going to show you, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: On our Political Ticker, ad fatigue in Iowa. As voters gear up for the all important caucuses, TV viewers may be saying enough is enough.
Suzanne Malveaux is out in Iowa.
She's keeping tabs on this so-called ad war.
What else are you seeing on television besides these commercials out there -- Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this really is an extraordinary campaign because what you're seeing is this accelerated calendar. But you're also seeing record-breaking numbers when it comes to spending. That is that candidates this time around are spending three times as they did back in 2004.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): Just days away from the Iowa caucuses, voters here are being bombarded.
(VIDEO CLIPS FROM CAMPAIGN ADS)
MALVEAUX: TNS Media Intelligence Consulting Company is tracking the traffic and found 1,093 political ads aired in a single day on broadcast TV stations in Iowa alone -- the equivalent of more than nine solid hours of commercials in a 24-hour period.
EVAN TRACEY, TNSMI/CAMPAIGN MEDIA ANALYSIS GROUP: Every time you turn on your television, get in your car or open your mailbox, you're seeing a political ad of some sort.
MALVEAUX: Analyst Evan Tracey started TNS over 10 years ago. He's studying whether campaign ads make a difference.
TRACEY: They do. You're hearing basically three themes -- change, immigration and I'm not George Bush. And it's very hard for anything unique to cut through to voters. But if your messages aren't up there, you have no chance of getting through.
MALVEAUX: Getting through is what candidates are banking on. And now, along with independent groups, they are spending nearly $1 million a day in Iowa for network TV advertising. And they've broken all records in pouring $83 million in the race for the White House so far.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM HILLARY CLINTON FOR PRESIDENT CAMPAIGN AD) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She changed the lives of six million kids.
MALVEAUX: Tracey says some of the biggest spenders are Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and Republican candidate Mitt Romney, who are each shelling out at least $400,000 a day to run ads in the early voting states. But Tracey adds, big bucks for advertising doesn't necessarily mean a big payoff in the end.
TRACEY: If you look at somebody like Mike Huckabee, who spent, you know, very little compared to everyone in the race, he's doing extremely well in the polls. If you look at somebody like Mitt Romney, however, you know, his place in the polls is probably directly attributable to his advertising. So each campaign is different. Each campaign has been using television differently in this race.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, the reason why advertising is still so important to these candidates -- just one fact here. Back in 2004, when you look at the Democrats, 20 percent of them made up their minds about who they were going to vote for within the last three days of the caucus -- before the caucus. So very last minute. So there's still an opportunity to sway a good portion of those voters -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Suzanne, thanks very much.
Suzanne Malveaux doing some good reporting.
The candidates spent months out on the campaign trail. Some have spent millions and millions of dollars on ads. You just saw some of them. But you wouldn't know it to hear what some of the voters are actually saying. See if you can do a better job telling who's who. That's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's take a look at some of the Hot Shots coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press -- pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.
In Pakistan, a police officer tries to disperse protesters during a demonstration in the capital. Bhutto supporters rampage through cities after her assassination.
In Switzerland, two skiers head for the top of a mountain peak.
In Ontario, a boy holds tight to a sled as he launches off a small snow jump.
And in Berlin, a pig wishes the camera good luck. The pig and its family were presented as a traditional symbol of good luck for the new year.
Some of this hour's Hot Shots -- pictures often worth a thousand words.
The long wait is almost over, but are the voters really ready to pick the next president?
As our Richard Roth discovered, quite a few don't even seem to know who's running.
RICHARD ROTH, SENIOR UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So is everyone now finally ready to vote?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been a while since I voted, so.
ROTH: They call it voter apathy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, it does make me upset when people don't vote. I mean that's our right.
ROTH: Some apathy analysts.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lazy, stupid.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's much too long and it's very confusing for everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, it gets to be like whose hair do you like today or something ridiculous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think people get tired of seeing these faces.
ROTH: Ah, faces.
Does the public really know who is running for president?
(on camera): Who is this man?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Huckabee.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cheney.
ROTH: No. John McCain.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes.
Cheney. I said Cheney. Yes, John McCain.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I couldn't tell you who it is.
ROTH: All right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I couldn't tell you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's his name?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's the Mormon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's Chris Dodd. If you ever want to try to...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's Chris Dodd?
ROTH: Do you recognize the name?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE).
ROTH: Mike Huckabee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "LAW AND ORDER," COURTESY NBC)
FRED THOMPSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I ever wanted a yes man...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROTH: People recognize Republican Fred Thompson's other jobs, but not his name.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the actor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the actor. Oh, yes. OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like his acting better than his...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Disappointing and he needs (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. He needed to get out there sooner. He waited too long. I think he let the opportunity go by.
ROTH: You're describing my dating life.
(voice-over): There is a Republican from Texas running.
(on camera): How about him?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's George Bush.
ROTH: No. Ron Paul.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey! He looks like George Bush.
ROTH (voice-over): But turnout grew when George Bush ran against John Kerry in 2004 -- the highest percentage of voter turnout in 40 years. And polls say interest is running higher among Democrats and Republicans this year.
In our Democratic street quiz, everyone knew two of the leading contenders.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's Barack Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack Obama. That's the king right there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's Hillary, the queen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hillary.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary baby.
ROTH: Is she your baby?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, she's not my baby.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's not my baby.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hillary Clinton.
ROTH: How come you got her, the woman?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because she's a woman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, God, do I have to say her name?
ROTH (voice-over): The frustrated blame the photo messenger.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This one I don't know.
ROTH (on camera): Mitt Romney.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh. It's your -- your pictures don't resemble them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Again, I'm drawing a blank.
ROTH: Mitt Romney.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, that's Mitt. Well, these aren't very good photos. I know who Mitt Romney is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John McCain. He's the Arizona. Giuliani.
ROTH: The photos are getting better, I see.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's you.
ROTH: Please. You're right, these pictures are bad quality.
(voice-over): And just like one of the candidates, this pollster can change his mind, too.
(on camera): John Roberts?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
ROTH: John Roberts!
ROTH: Hello, he's...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: See, you don't know them, either.
ROTH: Richard Roth, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: And this Sunday on "LATE EDITION," we'll be following the presidential candidates out on the Iowa campaign trail. "LATE EDITION" airs 11:00 a.m. Eastern.
Up next, LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT".
Kitty Pilgrim sitting in for Lou -- Kitty.
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