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Clinton's Concession Blunder; Shakeup At the Pentagon: Top Air Force Officials Fired; Senate Slams Iraq Intel; Alleged Architect of 9/11 in Military Court
Aired June 5, 2008 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Hillary Clinton poised to endorse Barack Obama, but leaving some of her supporters in the lurch. We have new details of what some are calling a serious blunder.
Also, first a scathing tell-all book by a former press secretary. Now the White House slammed anew over the lead-up to the war in Iraq. We're going to show you what's inside a blistering, brand new Senate report.
And the accused mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks tells a U.S. military tribunal he wants to be martyred. We're going to take you live to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and the first appearance of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We now know Hillary Clinton will officially concede her contest with Barack Obama and offer her endorsement on Saturday. But the timing is proving somewhat awkward for some of her fellow lawmakers, who wish she'd done things differently.
Let's go to CNN's Suzanne Malveaux. She's watching this story for us.
Suzanne, what are you hearing?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it really is amazing what a difference a day makes. Yesterday, you had some Democrats, they were openly critical of Hillary Clinton's delay in recognizing Barack Obama's win. Now, many are afraid that they've revealed a weakness to the Republicans. And now they're singing from the same page, trying to present a picture of unity.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): In the lead-up to Hillary Clinton's endorsement of Barack Obama, Clinton's most loyal supporters -- her New York delegation -- got behind her rival.
REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: Outstanding candidate and in our collective opinion, he has won the nomination. MALVEAUX: Thursday's event is part of a highly orchestrated public effort to make the best of what some saw as a serious Clinton blunder -- her decision not to concede the race Tuesday night.
RANGEL: The New York Congressional delegation are with her to the end. But we thought the end was the end.
MALVEAUX: Clinton loyalist, Congressman Charlie Rangel, helped negotiate where that end would be. Wednesday in a series of conference calls with Hillary Clinton, Rangel expressed lawmakers' private frustrations that some were ready to quickly endorse Obama and move on. Clinton aides tried to convince the delegation to wait until after Clinton herself gave Obama the nod.
The compromise -- this tortured announcement today.
RANGEL: We come here collectively to endorse the decision that's been made by our fearless leader, who comes as a member of the State of New York that makes us so proud.
MALVEAUX: Friday, New York State officials will hold a similar event in Manhattan. In the meantime, Clinton has designated two of her top advisers, Bob Barnett and Cheryl Mills, to negotiate with the Obama camp over such things as how she would campaign, what role she'd play at the convention, how to wipe out her debt and whether shed get an official campaign title.
MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, Friday night, Clinton will have her staff over for dinner at her house. But all eyes, of course, are going to be on Saturday. That is when she publicly goes before her supporters and calls for the party to unite around Barack Obama -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And we'll, of course, have live coverage of that.
Thanks very much, Suzanne, for that report.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, is in Florida. He's trying to make sure that critical swing state swings his way in November.
Democrats are using the visit to highlight a sore subject that could cost him some votes.
Let's bring in our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti. She's watching the story for us.
Susan, what's going on in Florida?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, today Florida Democrats saw an opening to attack Senator McCain on an issue that's a worry to a lot of people that live in the Gulf States -- what if this turns out to be another devastating hurricane season and insurance money runs out?
It's one of the things that came up today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good afternoon.
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): In a speech to Florida newspaper editors, Senator McCain joked about a sore point with Florida voters -- a recent cable TV movie revisiting the state's ballot mess in 2000.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just watched the recount, for those of you that like to -- those of you who like to take a trip down memory lane.
CANDIOTTI: Like in 2000 and 2004, Florida is expected to be a key battleground state -- and is still led by a popular Republican governor. The most recent Quinnipiac Poll, taken last month in Florida, when Hillary Clinton was still in the race, puts McCain up by just a few points over Senator Obama -- 45 to 41 percent.
Florida GOP sources say they're not taking anything for granted. They don't want Senator Obama's message of change, perceived momentum and charisma to take over.
McCain's three main issues?
MCCAIN: Reform, prosperity, and peace.
CANDIOTTI: But when it comes to insurance reform, in Florida, one of several states with its share of destructive hurricanes, a national catastrophe fund is something even its Republican governor supports. McCain does not. So Florida Democrats used McCain's visit to debut a YouTube ad featuring Florida's governor and Republican attorney general criticizing McCain for his opposition.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM AD)
MCCAIN: I campaigned in Florida against the National Catastrophic Insurance Fund Bill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I think on the issue of catastrophic insurance, John McCain is out of touch with even the Florida voters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CANDIOTTI: McCain's campaign quickly issued a response: "John McCain is opposed to a government run national catastrophe fund, not because he doesn't have serious concerns about the cost of insurance in Florida, but because it ignores the need for private insurance reforms."
CANDIOTTI: And Senator McCain plans to visit the Everglades tomorrow. And, Wolf, we'll be on an airboat with him -- back to you.
BLITZER: All right, thanks very much. Susan Candiotti reporting.
There's been a major shakeup over at the Pentagon. The U.S. Air Force secretary and the chief of staff effectively fired -- forced to resign by the defense secretary, Robert Gates.
Let's get the details from our Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.
What's going on -- Jamie?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, just within the hour, Secretary Gates praised the men he effectively fired, expressing regret at their departure. But at the same time issued a sting rebuke to Air Force leaders, who he said failed to act until he himself intervened.
MCINTYRE (voice-over): In the words of one top Pentagon official, the report on the mishandling of nuclear weapons is damning, showing a significant failure that prompted Defense Secretary Robert Gates to take the unprecedented step of forcing both the top Air Force general and his civilian boss to step down.
ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: And mistakes do occur. However, mistakes are not acceptable when shipping and controlling sensitive classified parts.
MCINTYRE: First, there was the embarrassing revelation that last August, a B-52 bomber too many off from North Dakota with six nuclear- tipped cruise missiles that no one knew were live weapons until after the plane landed in Louisiana. Then came word that the Air Force mistakenly shipped fuses that are used in nuclear weapons to Taiwan in 2006 -- in crates believed to be containing helicopter batteries.
GATES: Both events involved a chain of failures that led to an unacceptable incident. The investigation determined the Air Force does not have a clear, dedicated authority responsible for the nuclear enterprise.
MCINTYRE: But Gates, in declassifying just a small portion of the investigation, revealed the problems were deeper and more troubling.
GATES: Rather than an isolated occurrence, the shipment of the four forward section assemblies to Taiwan was a symptom of a degradation of the authority, standards of excellence and technical competence within the nation's ICBM force.
MCINTYRE: And, Wolf, in a final vote of no confidence, Gates has appointed an outsider, former defense secretary and CIA chief Jim Schlessinger, to head a task force to figure out how to fix the problems which Gates said are systemic -- Wolf. BLITZER: What a story.
All right, thanks very much, Jamie, for that.
Let's get back to Jack. He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Barack Obama's been a money machine this primary season -- $272 million, primarily from small donors. That's a chunk of change for a primary race.
And it's got to leave John McCain, who raised about $122 million, scratching his head as he sizes up his opponent for the general election.
The "Politico" breaks down the money story and what it could mean come November like this -- especially if Obama can tap into Hillary Clinton's fundraisers. She raised another $200 million for the primary run.
If each of Obama's donors gave him $250, he would have $375 million to play with in the two months leading up to the election following the conventions. That would mean he could spend $50 million a week running for president.
McCain's donors number a few hundred thousand. Barack Obama has a Rolodex with 1.5 million names in it. Unless John McCain can figure out a way to fatten his wallet, it could be a long slog to November.
Conservative estimates put Obama's fundraising haul for the general election at around $300 million. That's an amount that would allow the Democrat to compete in more states than McCain and it could force McCain to spend money in states that should normally be safe territory for the GOP.
However, this year, all those bets are definitely off.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party announced today it will not accept contributions from Washington lobbyists -- putting it right in line with Obama's campaign pledges. Howard Dean and the Obama campaign say the American people's priorities, not the special interest groups, will set the agenda in a potential Obama administration.
Imagine that -- a political promise kept.
So here's the question: How can John McCain compete with Barack Obama's fundraising abilities?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Jack. Thank you.
Some of Hillary Clinton's supporters are pressuring Barack Obama to make her his running mate.
Is that appropriate? Should he do it? I'll ask Hillary Clinton's Senate colleague Evan Bayh. He backed Hillary Clinton. He's standing by live.
Plus, American diplomats harassed by a dangerous mob in Washington. Officials are outraged. You're going to find out what's going on.
And we're also live at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where the accused mastermind of 9/11 tells a U.S. military tribunal he wants to be executed. Let me repeat that -- he wants to be executed so he could be made a so-called martyr.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The general campaign now underway, with John McCain trying to paint Barack Obama simply as a tax and spend liberal.
Joining us now to talk about this and more is Democratic Senator Evan Bayh. He had been among those strongly supporting Hillary Clinton.
I assume, Senator Bayh, you're now on the Barack Obama bandwagon, is that right?
SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: I think he represents the right change for America, Wolf. Yes, I support him.
BLITZER: And what about -- let's get this out of the way right now -- Hillary Clinton as his running mate, how do you feel about that?
BAYH: Well, that's up to Senator Obama. That's a decision for him to make. I think trying to pressure him is inappropriate. If that's what he wants, I'm all for it. I think she'd be outstanding. But that's -- that's up to the two of them.
BLITZER: So just to be precise, what some of her supporters, like Lanny Davis or Bob Johnson, the founder of B.E.T. what they're trying to do is circulate petitions and all of this.
That's not necessarily a good idea?
BAYH: Well, I don't recommend it, no. I think you need to defer to the judgment of the party's nominee and, you know, let the two of them meet and talk about it if that's appropriate. But, really, you know, Wolf, I was governor, as you know, in a previous incarnation, and was in the business of making these decisions. And I really do think it's appropriate to allow the principal to consult with his advisers and to determine what the right thing to do is and then to support him in that -- in that decision.
BLITZER: McCain and the Republicans, they're going to paint Barack Obama as this traditional tax and spend liberal. They're going to say he's got the most liberal voting record in the U.S. Senate, he wants a big government, he wants a government take over of the health -- of health care in the country.
How is he going to be able to deal with that?
BAYH: Well, I think by focusing on the concerns of ordinary Americans, Wolf -- middle class Americans, hardworking blue collar people. And growing this economy. It's not doing very well right now.
John McCain is a good man, but he has embraced the Bush economic policies.
We can do better than that. Focusing on getting health care costs down, making college more affordable, dealing with energy security, you know, pension security. Those kinds of bread and butter issues, I think that's the right way to go. And, you know, these attacks, I just don't think are going to work quite so well this time, Wolf. This is a high stakes election. It matters to people. People want to know what's going to make a difference in their lives. So trying to say somebody is an ultraliberal or an ultraconservative or these kind of scare tactics, I just don't think, aren't going to be that effective.
BLITZER: Let's listen to what Senator McCain said today on this very same subject.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: How can we pass a farm bill and vote for it, as Senator Obama supported it, where we're giving $93 million in tax breaks to thoroughbred racehorse owners, $15 million to asparagus growers, in all due respect to asparagus lovers. But the point is...
MCCAIN: But the point is we can't keep doing these things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: It's very good for you, asparagus.
All right, so what do you think?
What do you think about that criticism that, you know, he doesn't have the guts, basically -- this is what McCain says -- to go against his Democratic special interests the way McCain goes against his Republican special interests from time to time?
BAYH: Well, I just think that's not correct, Wolf. With regard to the farm bill, there were important things in it -- does anybody support those items that you -- that he mentioned that he picked out of the bill?
Of course not. But there was a lot more to that bill than that. And there were nutritional programs in there for children and less fortunate people across our country. That was important. We're in the process now of negotiating internationally to try and get these kind of subsidies for agriculture down across the board, in Europe and Japan, as well as here in the United States.
Should we just unilaterally disarm in that kind of environment?
And I don't think that's appropriate. There were things in there to try and promote energy sustainable crops, those sorts of things. So it's really a little more complicated than what John McCain pointed out.
And will Barack Obama do what's right for the country and does he have the backbone and the fortitude to stand against even his friends or the interest groups that are prominent in the Democratic Party when the national interest is at stake?
I believe he does.
BLITZER: In our latest poll of polls, it shows this contest, at least right now, between John McCain and Barack Obama, very competitive -- 57 percent for Obama, 45 percent for John McCain, 8 percent unsure.
Given the nature of the poor economy right now, the unpopularity of the war in Iraq, why is this race -- at least the snapshot we're getting right now in our poll of polls -- so competitive?
BAYH: Well, as you know, Wolf, we've just concluded a very difficult contest within our own party. And I think you can make the argument that John -- Senator McCain should have a substantial lead at this point, given the fact that Democrats have basically been having a family discussion amongst ourselves.
When people put this into focus and they understand that the choice here really is change versus the status quo -- more of the same -- I think that's going to argue very compellingly for Senator Obama. And so you're going to have -- you know, folks on the right will probably be for Senator McCain. Folks on the other side will probably be for Senator Obama.
That 10 percent to 15 percent in the middle who are just looking for answers, looking for practical solutions, looking for somebody who can help them make the most of their life, I think they're going to ultimately say you know what, things aren't going too well right now. I'm going to err on the side of trying something different, going for something change, going for a different kind of process in Washington and someone who maybe can bridge the divide -- bring people together. And that's been Barack Obama's great strength.
BLITZER: All right. Senator Evan Bayh, thanks very much.
By the way, we're waiting to hear from Senator Obama. He's got a major rally not far -- out here in suburban Virginia. We're going to go there live and see what's going on. Stand by for that.
Senator Evan Bayh, thanks very much. Is it just a number or can a candidate's age influence voters?
You're going to find out what people are saying about Obama and McCain, both young and old.
Plus, a hit and run caught on tape, but the disturbing video isn't the worst part. Wait until you see what happened next.
Also -- once again, we're standing by to hear from Senator Obama.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: You're looking at live pictures from the Nissan Pavilion in suburban Northern Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. . Thousands of people have gathered there to hear from Barack Obama. Virginia a state he believes he can win come November against John McCain.
They're getting excited out there. We're going to go there live shortly. Stick around for that.
Carol Costello, meanwhile, is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Carol, what's going on?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's outrageous, unacceptable and will not be forgotten -- that's how the U.S. is describing Zimbabwe's detention of U.S. and British diplomats. They're now free, but only after being held for hours. Police detained them at a roadblock north of the capital for what Zimbabwe suggests was suspicious activity. The State Department says that was unjust and that the U.S. will raise it -- raise the issue, rather, with the U.N. Security Council.
Before we show you this next video, a word of warning that it is graphic and some of you might find it quite troubling. This in Hartford, Connecticut. Police released this chilling surveillance video of a hit and run incident today. You can see the bystanders there and other passing cars doing absolutely nothing to help the 78- year-old pedestrian who was run down and paralyzed. The city's police chief says it shows that some in the city have lost their moral compass. Authorities say they're looking for help in tracking down the driver of the dark Honda.
In Beijing, visitors are lining up to see eight panda cubs brought to the city zoo after surviving last month's devastating earthquake. The pandas have been housed at a giant panda protection center located only about 20 miles from the quake's epicenter. The panda's six month stay in the capital is designed to help promote this summer's Olympic Games.
Back to you -- Wolf.
BLITZER: That's shocking video.
COSTELLO: Oh, it's awful.
BLITZER: Indeed. Oh, it's amazing. All right, terrible.
Thanks very much, Carol.
It's a key Obama tactic that some say is getting under John McCain's skin. We're going to talk about that and more with the columnist, George Will. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Also, the White House is reacting to a new Senate report that says it deliberately misled the country into the war in Iraq.
We're going to have the latest for you.
And a first glimpse of the man accused of plotting the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Kelli Arena -- she's at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba for this historic tribunal. She's going to tell us about his death wish.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, rising fuel prices cost more airline workers their jobs. Continental is the latest major airline to announce major cutbacks. It's slashing 3,000 jobs and reducing capacity by 11 percent. The company says its top executives will work without pay for the rest of the year.
Two hundred and ten miles above Earth, two American astronauts right now are wrapping up a seven hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station. The astronauts installed cameras and made other modifications to a new Japanese-built science lab.
And we're waiting for Barack Obama to come onstage for his first big rally since the night he claimed the nomination. Thousands of people are now on hand at the Nissan Pavilion in Northern Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. We're going to go there live. That's coming up. Stick around. We're going to here what he's to say on this day.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Politics isn't the only thing that set apart Barack Obama from John McCain from each other. There's also the issue of age. Obama would be among the country's youngest presidents if elected. McCain would be the oldest to take office.
Carol Costello is working this story for us.
Carol, this whole issue of age, what do voters make of this?
COSTELLO: Well, you might be surprised by this. But, you know, there is a lot of years between 46 and 71. It seems everyone is making a big deal about that. But, you know what, maybe they shouldn't. In the world of politics, age really is just a number.
COSTELLO (voice-over): John McCain is wearing the number 71 like a badge of honor.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am older than dirt, more scars than Frankenstein.
COSTELLO: And he's taken to calls Barack Obama a young man. As a person of that certain age, when did 46 become synonymous with young? Age and how voters perceive it in politics is different than say in the world of corporate America.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: The job of president of the United States is considered a culmination of a career and you don't tend to be at the end of a career until you're in your 60s. So 40s is pretty young to be president.
COSTELLO: The truth is voters are quite willing to elect an old guy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think age matters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They thought to be allowed to work as long as they're able to do so.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The older you are, the more experience you have.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Older people have a lot to offer.
COSTELLO: How else do you explain the much elected 90-year-old Senator Robert Byrd or 76-year-old Ted Kennedy? The word incumbent comes to mind but that's not always the case. At some point, age really does become just a number. It explains why a candidate of change can be 46 or 69.
MCCAIN: Get my wheelchair.
BILL NOVELLI, CEO, AARP: We have probably the oldest candidate running against probably the youngest. And the real key here is the ability to get the job done, leadership, the ability to solve the problems.
COSTELLO: The AARP would think that. Age is a big deal to them. They do say it's important to appear vigorous, though. That could be why McCain often brags about his vigor on the trail. And why in part things went downhill for one time presidential hopeful Bob Dole who, after this mishap at the age of 73, left voters with the impression he wasn't vigorous.
So when it comes right down to it, maybe in the world of politics age really is just a number. Reagan was reelected at age 73. TOOBIN: The age of success has widened on both ends. We have people running companies in their 20s and 30s. We also have people prospering and thriving in their 70s and into their 80s. So the range of what's considered acceptable, I think, has broadened on both sides.
COSTELLO: Now I know there are polls that show voters are concerned about McCain's age but analysts say when it comes down to the issues that separate the candidates like the war, like health care, like abortion, issues trump age every time.
BLITZER: Good point, Carol. Thanks very much.
And joining us now, the syndicated columnist and author George Will. He's got a brand-new book entitled one man's America. George is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Thanks very much for coming in.
GEORGE WILL, AUTHOR, "ONE MAN'S AMERICA": Glad to be here.
BLITZER: Congratulations on this new book. A long list of books, best sellers, to your record.
Let's talk a little bit about the age of Barack Obama and John McCain. Obama's 46. McCain is 71. There's a 25 year gap. What, if anything, does that mean?
WILL: It means that Barack Obama has to say that he has lived an experientially rich 46. That something he's done in his life makes his resume richer than his length.
John McCain has to say, I understand that actuarially life gets more ominous the older you get, but I'm in very good shape. My mother, lord knows, is a living example to us all. She's, what, 95. I come from sturdy stock and I'll be just fine.
I don't think Barack Obama would have been considered old at the constitutional convention.
BLITZER: Because a lot of those guys were pretty young.
WILL: Sure. Exactly and McCain, of course, wouldn't have been the oldest. That would have been Ben Franklin, I think.
BLITZER: Interesting. These are two very, very different candidates right now. It's almost become a cliche over the past 48 hours to say we're at a historic moment in our country. Do you agree with that?
WILL: I don't think this is a huge election of the sort that we've had in 1932, 1896, something where the country really had to look up and decide what kind of country it's going to be.
BLITZER: But the fact there's an African-American now leading the ticket of a major party.
WILL: Sure. That's unusual. This is the first time in American history two sitting senators have run against one another. This will be only the third time in American history, Harding in '20, Kennedy in '60 that we've elected a sitting member of the Senate. There are those differences.
But below those differences which are almost cosmetic, this is a classic American election, an identifiable liberal and identifiable conservative. The liberal says America is too unfair because it is too -- the allocation of wealth and opportunity is done by a market that is imperfect. The conservatives saying market is a lot better than government at this. The conservatives saying we stress freedom. We'll accept a certain widening in equality in the name of freedom. The liberals saying we prefer to stress equality and are willing to circumscribe freedom somewhat; classic liberal conservative election. We have two parties for a reason.
BLITZER: You also have John McCain at least seemingly running away from the eight year of George W. Bush.
WILL: Sprint, sprinting away. I mean his speech in New Orleans the night Barack Obama made his triumphal speech in St. Paul was, I'm not George Bush for the following reasons and I certainly wish Barack Obama would quit saying I'm running for a third Bush term, which indicates that Obama's got under his skin.
BLITZER: What does it mean one man's America? Because you traveled around the country preparing this book.
WILL: It means this. You can define conservatism and liberalism in terms of political agendas and government action. There's another way. It is the sensibility people have.
I write about the interstate highway system and how that really sealed the final divisions of the civil war by knitting the south into the country. I talk about what it means that Harley Davison, 100 years old a few years ago, has a higher market capitalization than General Motors and has an enormously interesting sub cultural group in our country devoted to that brand.
BLITZER: We saw them here Memorial Day weekend. Rolling thunder.
WILL: Exactly. If you travel around the country, you meet the most amazing people, the little platoons solving the big problems in our society. I'll take one example. I met a man in Chicago named Simeon Wright. 1955 he was about 12 year's old living in Mississippi, sleeping in a cabin, really, with his cousin from Chicago, a child named Emmett Till who that night was kidnapped, beaten, murdered, lynched. It talks about the astonishing lack of bitterness on the part of a man like Simeon Wright who's seen the worst of America and still believes the best of it.
BLITZER: It's inspiration to hear those kinds of stories. The most important thing you hope a reader of this book will emerge with? WILL: I would like them to say Will is a conservative, and this is what a conservative's sensibility looks like. By sensibility ...
BLITZER: Compassionate conservative, is that what you're saying?
WILL: Not exactly; just a conservative. Don't need an adjective. A conservative sensibility, what it means to look at human nature, its possibilities, the limited, real but limited competences of government, and the astonishing yeasty fermenting creativity of the American people.
BLITZER: The book is entitled "One Man's America," the subtitle "The Pleasures and Provocations of Our Singular Nation." George, thanks very much for writing this book. Thanks for coming in.
WILL: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: And you're looking right now at a live picture we're getting in from the U.S. terror detainee camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the confessed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks is on trial right now at a military tribunal. He could face the death penalty and that might be just what he actually wants. We're going to go there live shortly for an update.
Also, Barack Obama -- he's getting ready to deliver a speech in suburban Virginia outside Washington. There it is. The motorcade carrying Barack Obama to Bristol, Virginia where at the Nissan Pavilion thousands of Virginians have gathered to hear what the candidate has to say. We'll go there live shortly.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Fresh on the heels of a scathing tell-all book by a former press secretary, the White House is being slammed once again right now over the run-up to the war in Iraq, this time, a brand-new report just out by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.
Let's go to our White House correspondent, Ed Henry -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this long awaited report could have landed with a thud. But Scott McClellan's book is giving Democrats new ammunition to charge the White House misled the nation into war.
HENRY: What's troublesome for the president is the new report goes beyond just saying the intelligence in the run-up to the war in Iraq was wrong. It concludes the White House left out contradictory evidence and exaggerated intelligence to make the threat from Saddam Hussein sound more ominous.
SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: It is entirely possible that the administration had not presented these facts, that if they had not done that as facts to the American people in making the case for it, we might have avoided this catastrophe.
HENRY: The Senate report released by Democrats wrapped the president proclaiming Saddam wanted weapons of mass destruction to hand them off to terrorists when the intelligence did not back that up. Ditto for Vice President Cheney suggesting 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta may have met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda.
HENRY: Republicans mocked the report for rehashing old ground.
SEN. KIT BOND (R), INTELLIGENCE VICE CHAIRMAN: The attempt by my friends on the other side of the aisle to score election year points.
HENRY: They noted top Democrats used the same intelligence to make ominous statements, such as Rockefeller saying in 2002 --
ROCKEFELLER: There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years.
HENRY: The new report comes just a week after former White House press secretary Scott McClellan came forward to allege the administration used propaganda to sell the war.
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What happened was that the case was packaged together, overstated, and oversold to the American people.
HENRY: White House spokeswoman Dana Perino however insisted the administration did not intentionally mislead the nation.
DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No one lied. I think that's sort of the point of all this. These issues have been looked at many times.
HENRY: But Senator Rockefeller said this is not about rehashing history. It's about trying to learn a lesson so the same mistakes are not repeated -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Henry at the White House, thank you.
Nearly seven years after the 9/11 attacks five alleged terrorists are now facing a military court. Day one of the trial featured dramatic words from the alleged architect of the 9/11 plot.
Let's go to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena. She's live at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Not a whole lot of live shots we get from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba but this is an historic day.
Kelli, tell our viewers what's going on.
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Sure is, Wolf. Five men, all accused of playing a critical role in the September 11th attacks, in the same room at the same time. They sat at five separate tables but they were clearly united with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed seemingly in charge.
ARENA: The U.S. government and self-confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed both agree on one thing, he should die. Mohammed, who looks starkly different from when he was captured, thinner with a long gray beard, told the military judge here in Guantanamo Bay that he doesn't want a defense team or a trial. He wants to be a martyr.
Mohammed insisted on representing himself. He called the U.S. legal system "evil" and said he would "only recognize sharia," or Islamic law. The judge tried to talk him out of it but Mohammed mocked him, calling the trial an inquisition. "After the torture they transfer us to inquisition land in Guantanamo," he said.
The CIA has admitted to waterboarding Mohammed during interrogations and evidence from that questioning may be introduced at trial, something that would never be allowed in a civilian court.
CNN spoke to his lawyer before the proceedings.
CAPT. PRESCOTT PRINCE, MOHAMMED'S LAWYER: That's not the rule of law. That's -- that's just insanity.
ARENA: One by one the detainees followed Mohammed's lead rejecting their legal teams. Ramsey Bin al-Shibh who the government says helped with 9/11 planning told the judge that he's wanted to be a martyr for years. His civilian attorney blasted the process as preposterous.
TOM DURKIN, BIN AL-SHIBH'S ATTORNEY: There's a serious can be systemic problem here of proceeding with the representation. It's preposterous.
ARENA: This was first time the detainees had been in the same room in years. For the most part they looked healthy, only bin al- Shibh in shackles. At times, they ignored the proceedings going on around them, choosing to spend their time in court doing what they have not been able to do for years, talk to each other.
ARENA: Wolf, this was just an arraignment and it's still going on. It's been going on all day. You can only imagine how complicated any trial would be.
BLITZER: You were inside when this took place. Give us a little flavor of what he looked like. You actually saw this guy.
ARENA: I did, Wolf. After all these years and only having seen that picture of him when he was taken into custody, very heavy, very disheveled, he looked like an entirely different man. He was very thin. He had a very long salt and pepper beard, very calm, almost scholarly in his approach toward the other defendants that were all sitting at separate tables but talking to them, almost looking like he was advising them, shaking his finger and trying to, it looked like from where we were, we couldn't hear him, looked like he was trying to give them guidance or instruction of some sort.
BLITZER: Thanks. Kelli Arena's at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba where only a few journalists have been allowed there on this day.
Thank you, Kelli.
An American student jailed in Egypt after taking these photos. Check it out. How one word and a cell phone helped get him out and why he's still fighting the people who arrested him.
And we're waiting for an important event in Barack Obama's campaign. This is going to be the first really large rally of the general election since he clinched the nomination the other night. Thousands of people are gearing up. They're expected. We're monitoring it. It's about to take place in suburban Washington in northern Virginia. We're going to go there. We'll hear what Barack Obama is saying now that the general campaign against John McCain is under way.
BLITZER: An American student in Egypt detained for photographing anti-government protests but he used the web to free himself.
Let's go to our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton.
How did this happen, Abbi?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: American student, James Buck, did this with one word, arrested. This is a text message that James Buck sent as he and his Egyptian translator were arrested for photographing these demonstrations, these protests in Egypt on April 10. James Buck sent the text message from his cell phone to his Twitter web page. This is a Web site where people send short updates about what they're doing so friends can follow along. And as you can imagine, when friends saw this, they got into action alerting authorities, James's school, in order to do something and secure his release.
But as James Buck explains, his Egyptian translator, Mohammed Moray (ph), wasn't so lucky. You can see Mohammed in the background here. This is what James told CNN a couple of months ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES BUCK, STUDENT: To make an emergency call is having someone to call. I had the University of California which helped me. And he -- he doesn't have that network. We tried as much as we could while I was in the country to get him out. Now I'm rallying people from here using Twitter again actually to get information about him and to try to put pressure on the government to set him free.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TATTON: Buck has now dedicated a web page and his Twitter page to securing Mohammed Moray's release but he says it's been very difficult to get information about his whereabouts right now. CNN could not get any current information about Moray's whereabouts from the Egyptian consulate in San Francisco or the Egyptian government. Still fighting online saying Moray wanted to help me, now I've got to repay the favor --Wolf.
BLITZER: Abbi, thank you for that.
Abbi Tatton reporting.
Let's go back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: How can John McCain compete with Barack Obama's fundraising abilities?
Roger in Virginia writes: "After McCain's speech Tuesday in New Orleans, he's going to have a tough time raising money. What a disaster that was. He used a backdrop that was a take off on Obama's change theme, stumbled, stuttered, lost his place on the teleprompter," much like I'm doing trying to ready this letter, "and it was pitfall at times when he paused for applause and there wasn't any."
Sandy in Ohio: "He'll just do what Republicans always do. Take money from the big corporations. He'll have his good buddies, George Bush, Karl Rove and the rest show them how it's done. I live on social security and I'm going to find a few dollars to send Obama each month. We can't afford for McCain to win."
Sy writes: "He can't even with all the GOP big bucks. Wait till you see the money donated right after Clinton's endorsement."
Bob in Honolulu: "Thanks, you just reminded me to send Obama another $25. It's a better investment than my 401(k)."
Sandra in Phoenix: "McCain won't be able to match Obama's grass roots support donations but he'll have the Republican money making machine behind him. He might catch up with Obama in raising funds but it'll be with second or third hand lobbyists' money."
L. writes: "Easy as one, two, three. I mean, five, two, seven."
And J.W. in Georgia: "He can't compete for various reasoning including money. The patriot John McSame is going to get beat like a rented mule. He ought to have fun for a moment and move on out to pasture to enjoy the rest of his days. The GOP won't be choosing White House wallpaper for some time to come courtesy of George Bush."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/CaffertyFile and look for yours there along with hundreds of others. You won't stumble reading your own as badly as I did reading yours.
BLITZER: You did all right, Jack.
CAFFERTY: I did?
BLITZER: Yes, not bad. Thanks very much.
Teddy Roosevelt once said walk softly but carry a big stick.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I'm ready. I'll whoop em! I'll whoop em!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. He got the big stick part of it right. What was Barack Obama actually saying? Couldn't make it out. What was he doing?
Our CNN interview with him. You're going to want to see this. That's coming up.
Also, a foreign investment group trying to buy part of America's rail system. What's going on? Lou Dobbs got some details. That and a lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: In our political ticker, Barack Obama walking softly but not carrying a big stick. Look at this. A 95-year-old man presented the presumptive Democratic nominee with a walking stick at a campaign stop in southern Virginia. Obama says he may have a good use for it. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It's beautiful. I'm telling you. All right. And if -- if members of congress don't pass my health care bill, I'm ready. I'll whoop them. I'll whoop them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Remember, for the latest political news any time check out CNNPolitics.com. That's where you can download our new political screensaver or you can check out my blog as well.
Let's check out Lou. He's got a show coming up in an hour.
Lou, what's going on? There are some foreign investors who want to buy CSX or at least a piece of it, the railroad industry, up for sale right now. What's going on?
LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Well, railroads are considered, as you know Wolf, a strategic asset. This outfit, the Children's Investment Fund, can you believe that, TCI, hedge fund, the children's investment fund. Its head is British, wants to buy a good chunk of the railroad. And a few senators, to their credit, are starting to take notice. This is quite an outfit. Nobody knows who the investors are in this hedge fund. And yet we've got a treasury secretary, gallivanting around the world, but in the Middle East with his hat in hand, hoping the foreign capital will come to America and bail out the idiots who don't know how to run a business or keep a balance sheet intact.
You know it's more of the same nonsense brought to you by an administration that's indifferent to the national interest, national security and, of course, the American people.
BLITZER: Coming up on this story on an hour. Lou, thanks.
DOBBS: You better believe it, Wolf. Thank you.
BLITZER: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.