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THE SITUATION ROOM
Bombers Claim Revenge for Bin Laden; President to Address Troubles in Mideast; Death Toll Climbs in Syria Crackdown; Interview with Congressman Ron Paul; Gadhafi Releases New Audio Message; Harrowing Escape by Boat From Libya; 'Strategy Session'
Aired May 13, 2011 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Thanks very much.
Happening now, deadly suicide bombings in Pakistan. The Taliban claim revenge for Osama bin Laden's death and warn U.S. forces could be the next target.
Plus, Syrians run from tear gas in a new round of protests and clashes with security forces. At this hour, the unrest and the challenges President Obama will address in a major speech on the Middle East next week.
And the newest Republican presidential candidate says he's annoyed about the way the U.S. went after bin Laden. I'll ask Congressman Ron Paul about that and whether he really thinks that he can win the White House.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The Taliban of Pakistan warn this won't be the last attack in retaliation for the death of Osama bin Laden. The group is claiming responsibility for back-to-back suicide bombings today at a Pakistani military training facility in northwest Pakistan. At least 80 people were killed, most of them Pakistani Army recruits.
CNN's Reza Sayah is joining us now live from Islamabad with more.
Pretty horrendous crime, but what are they saying where you are, Reza?
REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, this was a coordinated attack that was designed to kill a lot of people, and indeed it did just that. Twin suicide attacks targeting hundreds of army recruits that had just finished an extended training session, about nine months.
They were celebrating the night before. They came out of this facility early this morning, ready to go home, about to board some vans and that's when police say a suicide attacker came on the scene, blew himself up.
There was commotion, there was chaos, people can to help and that's when police said another suicide attacker, this time on a motorcycle, came in and detonated himself. Now surprise that the aftermath was just an awful scene. Body parts and debris strewn everywhere, grief-stricken survivors trying to help the victims.
And as you mentioned earlier, indeed, the Pakistani Taliban has said this is payback for the death of Osama bin Laden, Wolf.
BLITZER: And I assume they are bracing for more of these kinds of attacks. Is that right?
SAYAH: Indeed, they are. I mean, even before this bin Laden episode, there was rarely a stretch in Pakistan over the last several years where they have not seen these kinds of attacks. And now you have, with the death of bin Laden, the Pakistani Taliban coming out and vowing revenge.
And it really drives home the pressure, both Pakistan and the U.S. are under. If Pakistan continues to be viewed by the militants as a U.S. lackey, as a partner of the U.S., they'll continue to be hit with these attacks.
And if the U.S. continues to be hit with the unilateral action, these types of raids, these drone strikes, again, Pakistan is going to be hit. You have to wonder how much this country can endure.
BLITZER: Shift the gears a little bit, Reza.
What are they saying about these reports which we have now confirmed here at CNN, that among the videotapes discovered in the compound, were pornographic video, pretty explicit, sexually explicit video.
What are they saying in Pakistan?
SAYAH: Yes, it is no surprise this story is already making headlines.
A source close to the investigation who knows about the items recovered by these U.S. Navy SEALs on the raid, they say U.S. soldiers found a stash of pornography in this particular compound. It's not clear who they belong to if indeed they belong to Osama bin Laden or if they belong to his son or one of the couriers.
But this is certainly fodder for water cooler talk, that a man who proclaims himself to be a devout Muslim is in possession -- may have been in possession of pornography.
There has always been a debate if pornography is forbidden in Islam, and I would say, generally speaking, Muslim scholars says it is because the Koran says you shouldn't even go near items that would lead you to sin and lewdness, and certainly pornography could fall into that category, Wolf.
BLITZER: Certainly could.
All right, thanks very much. Reza's on the scene for us in Islamabad.
Less than two weeks after President Obama revealed that Osama bin Laden dead, he's preparing a new vision for the U.S. policy in the Middle East. The White House announcing today Mr. Obama will deliver a major speech on the region over at the State Department this coming on Thursday.
Let's turn to our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry. He's working the story for us.
A lot, a lot on the agenda for the president right now. What's the point of this major address next Thursday?
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they have high hopes of resetting things in the Mideast and showing how the U.S. wants to react to all of the tumult. But a surprise with the president's Mideast envoy stepping down may overshadow all of that.
HENRY (voice-over): In next Thursday's big speech, President Obama is planning to use the killing of Osama bin Laden to make the point that the popular uprisings throughout the Mideast represent a rejection of al Qaeda, a case the president first tried to make two years ago in a more formal address to the Muslim world.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The attacks on September 11, 2001, and the continued efforts of this extremist to engage in violence against civilians, has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile, not only to America and western countries but also to human rights.
I have come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning, between the United States and Muslims around the world.
HENRY: Aides say this speech at the State Department in Washington is aimed at a broader audience than just the Muslim world, and will come two days after the president meets with the King Abdullah of Jordan and right on the eve of next Friday's White House meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a critical moment because the hopes that the president express for Mideast peace just three months ago are now fading fast.
OBAMA: I think the opportunity is that when you have the kinds of young people who are in Tahrir Square feeling that they have hope and they have opportunity, then they are less likely channel their frustrations into anti-Israeli sentiment or anti-Western sentiment because they see the prospect of building their own country and that's a positive. The challenge is that democracy is messy.
HENRY: So messy that George Mitchell has now abruptly stepped down as the president's Mideast enjoy.
GEORGE MITCHELL, MIDDLE EAST NEGOTIATOR: There is no such thing as a conflict that cannot be ended. HENRY: Mitchell's appointment was unveiled the first week of the administration to great fanfare, his exit raises questions about whether the president's speech will have much substance on the peace process after all.
AARON DAVID MILLER, FORMER MIDEAST NEGOTIATOR: Very talented guy with a lot of integrity simply included that in the wake of a non- existent peace process there was very little reason for him to continue.
HENRY: Now interesting, the president has put out a statement allotting George Mitchell to only be on the job for two years and he leaves behind a proud legacy. But Aaron David Miller basically says, look, it's being known as the Arab Spring, all of the uprising, but given the pessimism building in the region in some cases, it could be known as the Arab Winter, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, the timing of this decision by George Mitchell's step is going to raise a lot of questions, as you point out. Coming on the eve, just before the president's big speech next week and his meetings with these Middle Eastern leaders. We will continue to work the story.
Ed, thanks very much.
There's growing concern within the Obama administration about serious crackdown on anti-government protesters. We're getting disturbing new reports of clashing between demonstrators and security forces.
CNN's Hala Gorani is here in THE SITUATION ROOM just back from the region where she's been doing some excellent reporting for us.
But the situation in Syria, it seems to be getting worse and worse?
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And it's the most important story in the world nobody is able to cover pretty much because of the media blackout imposed by the government, because it's virtually impossible for journalists to travel there.
Although, one western reporter made it into today despite the crackdowns, despite the mass arrests by the government that eyewitnesses have been telling us about. Thousands of people took the streets of cities across Syria. Here's what happened today.
GORANI (voice-over): A woman lying in the street, bleeding from what appears to be a massive head wound. Video that emerged only today an online poster says was shot in Banias May 7th.
We cannot independently confirm the date or the location this was filmed, but these are rare images of women that apparently are taking part in anti-regime demonstrations that have spread throughout Syria since mid-March.
Friday, despite the risks, eyewitness tell us demonstrators came out in Daraa and Homs where several deaths were later reported. In Damascus, protesters run from tear gas and the chaos.
One of the only western journalists to sneak inside Syria, Martin Fletcher of "The Times of London," describes parts of a country under virtual military occupation.
MARTIN FLETCHER, "THE LONDON TIMES": The city was pretty much surrounded by checkpoints and on the road north leading out of Homs towards Aleppo and Hama (ph), I counted at least 100 tanks in a row, in a line, prepared for any eventuality.
GORANI: Human rights groups and the U.N. say at least 700 people have been killed in protests. The regime continues to say armed gangs are responsible for the violence, but activists worry the crackdown will only intensify.
WISSAM TARIF, ACTIVIST: What else can the regime do? Will this crackdown continue? Will the bomb cities with aircrafts?
GORANI: The government is still talking of national dialogue. It says it is considering political, economic, and social reforms that serve the interest of the people, but few on the streets of Syria say they believe anything they hear from their leaders anymore.
BLITZER: Well, I guess, Hala, the bottom line question is, what does this mean for Bashar al-Assad and his regime?
GORANI: It seemed in the beginning they were very nervous and they cracked down early on. But what's significant about what's happening in Syria is that, unlike Egypt, people aren't coming out in their millions. They are coming out in their thousands in rather isolated spots, Aleppo, for instance, where we've only seen a few thousand students. So it's easy for the regime to put out the flames where these fires erupt.
And right now they seem in control of the situation and many of the observers inside and outside the country say they believe the regime should be able to survive this, though it will be weakened.
BLITZER: It will definitely be weakened, and the international committee is outraged.
It's interesting, Bashar al-Assad is ordering his troops to kill fellow Syrians. President Mubarak of Egypt, he never ordered them to actually go out. Some of them were killed, but relatively small numbers. And also, Mubarak left the media, you were there in Cairo, as all of us remember.
GORANI: Without a visa.
BLITZER: In Syria, they are not letting you, they're not letting really anyone. This Martin Fletcher snuck in.
GORANI: That's right. He posed as a tourist, he said he was a teacher. He was very careful not to take pictures or record any video on his cell phone because he knew if detained, that would be the first thing they looked for.
And he indeed he was told not to leave and was not detained more than a few hours. So he was the lucky one.
BLITZER: For our viewers who may be confused, there are two Martin Fletchers who cover the Middle East, one for NBC and this one for "The Times of London."
All right. So there's two different Martin Fletchers. Thank you very much.
Libya's Moammar Gadhafi is trying to convince the world that he survived a NATO attack on his compound. We're taking a closer look at his message and his fight for survival.
And would Ron Paul support legalizing heroin if he becomes president? I'll ask the Republican congressman about some of his more controversial views as he kicks off his 2012 presidential campaign.
BLITZER: All right. We are getting information from a U.S. official saying that there has been discovered at bin Laden's compound in Pakistan an unreleased audiotape that bin Laden had produced in late April, only days before he was killed in support of the so-called "Arab Spring," the uprising in North Africa and the Middle East.
The message on this unreleased audiotape refers to the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. But it doesn't mention any other uprising, whether in Libya, Yemen, Syria, or elsewhere through the region. The official says this is somewhat puzzling because bin Laden was a fierce opponent of Gadhafi, for example, in Libya. He -- the assumption at all had been that Gadhafi might have mentioned, Libya he did not.
But they are not releasing this audiotape so we are not playing the audiotape or anything like that, but we are getting more information. Just wanted to alert you that there is an unreleased audiotape of bin Laden in the possession of U.S. Intelligence right now.
Moving on to other important information we're following, including a new presidential candidate. Republican Ron Paul launched his third presidential campaign today, saying the time is right for his libertarian views.
I spoke with the congressman about some of his more controversial positions as he kicked off his bid for the GOP nomination in New Hampshire.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: On the whole issue of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, do you want to see that agency ended?
REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: Well, if you want to live in a free society, if you want to pay attention to the Constitution, why not? I think it's bad economics. I think it's bad morality. And it's bad constitutional law.
Why should people like myself, who had, not too long ago, a house on the Gulf Coast and it's -- it's expensive there and it's risky and it's dangerous. Why should somebody from the central part of the United States rebuild my house? Why shouldn't I have to buy my own insurance and protect about the potential dangers?
Well, the reason we don't have market insurance is it's too expensive. Well, why is it expensive? Because it's dangerous.
Well, so why should -- why should we take money from somebody else who don't get the chance to live on the Gulf and make them pay to rebuild my house?
I mean, it's -- it's a moral hazard to say that government is always going to take care of us when we do dumb things. I'm trying to get people to not to dumb things. Besides, it's not authorized in the Constitution.
BLITZER: But if there's a disaster, like flooding or -- or an earthquake or Hurricane Katrina, what's wrong with asking fellow Americans to help their fellow citizens?
PAUL: Nothing. And I think Americans are very, very generous, and they have traditionally. The big problem is Americans are getting poor and they're not able to voluntarily come to the rescue. But to coerce people, to ask them to help, that is fine and dandy. But when you bankrupt our country and nobody has a job and then they say -- well, FEMA needs to bail out everybody, then, all we're doing is compounding our problems.
BLITZER: I think on the whole issue of -- I've been getting a lot of tweets and e-mails from viewers out there. They want to know, is it true that Ron Paul wants to legalize heroin in the United States?
PAUL: Well, you know, it's amazing. I spent about 20 minutes on this sort of mocking this type of attitude. You know, I've never mentioned heroin. But if you live in a truly free society, that's what it would lead to. People would make personal choices.
But the reason I want to legalize freedom of choice is so that you have a freedom of choice on picking any type of treatment you want for your cancer treatment, to smoke marijuana if it helps you, to be able to drink raw milk if you want to, to go and get nutritional substitutes, you know, if you want to, without government regulation. So, it's the legalization of freedom that I'm talking about and people's personal choices and personal responsibility. That is what is so important.
So to summarize my position, that -- oh, he wants to legalize heroin, that -- that is the greatest distortion. I want to legalize freedom. People make up their own decisions. The states write their own regulations. It's like what we do with the alcohol. That's a much better way.
Kids can get marijuana easier than they can get alcohol. So, the war on drugs, we need to assess -- reassess and we have to make a decision --
BLITZER: All right.
PAUL: -- just as we need to make it on foreign policy and monetary policy and economic policy. But it is all based on the principle of personal liberty and obeying the rule of law, which is our Constitution.
BLITZER: So, I guess the problem out there is on the issue of abortion -- do you support a woman's right, freedom, to have an abortion?
PAUL: I support the protection of all human life. And it's -- the big question is: who speaks for that individual which is a live human being that has a heartbeat and brain waves and has legal rights? It isn't so much there's one right over another. It's how do you protect all rights?
And the fetus does have human rights and deserves rights. But the problem is, is who speaks for them?
I'm for repealing Roe versus Wade. And it's not an attack on women's rights. Women have rights, but they also have responsibility if they're responsible for life.
It, to me, if there's something wrong with the baby and they don't like it and the baby is in the crib, nobody accepts the notion -- well, there's justification, it's in my house and -- and we don't want to violate a person's privileges in the house, so, therefore, we can just throw that baby away.
If we don't have respect for life, there's not much left to have respect for liberty.
BLITZER: Let's wrap it up with a couple of political questions and I'll let you go. Last time around, 2008, you raised a lot of money, but in Iowa you came in fifth -- fifth in New Hampshire, fourth in Michigan, second in Nevada, fifth in South Carolina, fifth in Florida.
What makes you think you'll do better this time?
PAUL: Well, I think there's a lot of changes. The country has changed. Before, I was trying to get people's attention about the seriousness of our economic crisis and the financial bubble and the housing bubble. But that became very clear, you know, in -- in 2008. People are starting to realize that that was the case.
BLITZER: And -- and you're 75 -- almost 76. I guess that must have been a considerable issue for you. At this stage in your life, do you want to put in all this work, and then if you're elected, you're obviously going to be late '70s, early '80s.
Is that -- was that an issue for you?
PAUL: Well, I mean, it's -- now if I felt old, it would. But, you know, where do I get my energy and where do I get my support, and the enthusiasm? It comes from the young people. That really excites me because this issue is so important. It's important to my kids. It's an important point to all the kids of America.
BLITZER: We'll much more on the interview with Ron Paul in the next hour, including why he disagrees with the president of the United States on the decision to go after bin Laden the way the U.S. did. Much more of the interview is coming up. Stand by.
Meanwhile, new concerns the United States may have released too many details about that elite military raid on the bin Laden's compound. Was releasing all that information a mistake?
And there new concerns for the safety of the U.S. Navy SEALs who conducted mission. Could all the leaked information put them in serious danger?
BLITZER: All right. The wife of the former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has now been hospitalized.
Mary Snow is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What's the latest with her?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Sharm-el Sheik Hospital is saying that Suzanne Mubarak has suffered a heart attack and is in intensive care. It happened after she was ordered to attend today and questioned in the corruption investigation. Hosni Mubarak and former members of his regime are currently being investigated for the deaths of hundreds of protesters in the February uprising that ousted him from power.
The trust funds of the country's two biggest entitlement programs are set to run dry earlier than expected. According to a new report, Social Security will now have sufficient resources through 2036. Medicare's hospital insurance program is likely through 2024. After that, the programs will only be able to pay a portion of the benefits promised retirees.
And luckily, a 38-foot sailboat only suffered cosmetic damage after a chance encounter with a whale off Oregon. The Coast Guard says the whale breached the surface of the water and then crushed the vessels rigging and mass as it fell back into the water. The boat, ironically named Lorca (ph) was participating in a race at the time of the strike.
No one was injured, Wolf. The crew was in the cockpit at the time. It was a 30-foot long whale.
BLITZER: Wow, at least no one was injured. Thanks very much, Mary, for that.
We have new information coming on evidence from the bin Laden compound raid and how the Navy SEALs captured their mission on camera.
And hundreds of Libyans risked their lives to flee the country by boat. Now, some of them are talking about the dangers they face.
BLITZER: Moammar Gadhafi is intent on proving he's alive despite new questions about his whereabouts and his condition. The Libyan dictator just releasing a new audio message on state television.
Let's bring in CNN's Sara Sidner. She's in Benghazi with the latest.
It's been a while I guess since we've actually seen him live, although there have been some video appearances, some audio.
What's the latest? What do we know?
SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We did see him just a day ago. Now, that was after not seeing him for almost two weeks.
There were pictures of him meeting. But as you said, it wasn't live. And then, today, there was very short -- about a minute long -- audio clip that he made.
It sounded like it was in response to NATO airstrikes. There was a NATO airstrike on Brega today. NATO has confirmed that that airstrike did happen. They said they hit a command center, although Libyan TV has been reporting that 16 people were killed, saying that they are civilians. That being disputed by the rebels.
But let's listen to what Moammar Gadhafi said, directly pointed at NATO. He calls NATO the crusaders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER (through translator): Tell the crusader cowards that I live in a place that you cannot reach and cannot kill me. I live in the hearts of millions. And even if you kill my body, you cannot kill my soul.
Glory is for us. Immortality is for the martyrs. And death and shame is for the cowardly trader spies and their cowardly masters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: So calling NATO cowards, saying that he cannot really be killed. You can kill his body, but you cannot kill his soul because he lives in the heart of millions. Defiant there from Moammar Gadhafi.
But it also says, "You cannot find me." So there is an element there to show that all of this action from NATO has forced him into hiding, which is probably why we haven't seen him in a live situation for the last couple of weeks -- Wolf.
BLITZER: He's obviously very, very worried, understandably so, given what's going on.
We'll continue to monitor this.
Sara Sidner, reporting for us from Benghazi.
Meanwhile, thousands of Libyans have risked their lives to escape their homeland and Moammar Gadhafi's bloody crackdown. Some have made the harrowing journey by boat.
CNN's Ivan Watson went to an Italian island where refugees have been arriving in big numbers.
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They come by sea, leaky wooden fishing boats jammed full. Some women and children, all desperate to escape North Africa, all willing to risk their lives to get to this tiny island on the edge of Europe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sea is very difficult. Some people, they're in comas. As for me, I don't so much because I can go now. I'm happy I'm now here.
WATSON: For years, most of the boat people coming to Lampedusa were sub-Saharan African migrants fleeing poverty and unemployment. But now there is a new driver, the grinding war in Libya.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very dangerous. That would be like not to -- oh, let me see. The government and (INAUDIBLE), I don't know. I can't say. So I have to -- I have to escape.
WATSON (on camera): It's only noon, and this is already the third fishing boat crammed with migrants and refugees to land here in Lampedusa just one morning.
(voice-over): On Friday, more than 1,200 refugees from Libya landed in a single day. LAURA BOLDRINI, UNICEF SPOKESWOMAN: We have experienced this reality everywhere in the world. Every time you have a war, you have civilians who try to escape.
WATSON: The United Nations says more than 30,000 migrants and refugees have landed here in just the last three months.
BOLDRINI: This is a Russian roulette. You know? You really don't know at this point if you can read the other side of the Mediterranean. It's terribly risky.
WATSON: Look what happened last Sunday. One of the overloaded boats hit the rocks off the coast. Italian rescue workers struggled to save hundreds of people, but not all made it.
Italian villagers held a funeral service for three passengers from that doomed boat. No one even knows their names.
In the past few months, the U.N. estimates hundreds of boat people died attempting this journey across the Mediterranean, faceless victims of a dangerous voyage who never got a funeral.
Ivan Watson, CNN, Lampedusa, Italy.
BLITZER: The Pentagon chief is raising a red flag about the information that's been leaked about the U.S. Navy SEALs. Will the heroes of the bin Laden raid be protected?
And we're going to show you more of the damage from the Mississippi River flooding. Dozens of homes now under water.
BLITZER: Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal now says authorities could open a critical spillway as early as tomorrow in the latest attempt to protect residents bracing for mass flooding in the disaster-prone state. But what if that isn't enough?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: We've got to be ready for the worst-case scenario just in case. And so this is an historic amount of water. When you look at the volume of the water, the duration of the water, this is going to be a marathon.
Even if they decide to open the spillway, let's say the general gives official public notice today or tomorrow they're going to open the spillway, this isn't going to be over this weekend. We're going to be facing weeks of elevated water. Some parts of our state, the water is going to be higher than normal through July and even August.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Meanwhile, President Obama will travel to part of the flood-stricken area on Monday to meet with families, first responders, and volunteers.
CNN's Martin Savidge is joining us now from Greenville, Mississippi, with the latest.
How bad is it there, Martin?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know, we moved from Memphis, Tennessee, down here to Greenville, Mississippi, and that means we've jumped ahead of the crest of the flood here. So the water is still rising.
Take a look behind us here. You see the levee. That levee stands at 75 feet. The water, currently here at 64 feet. It's expected on Monday to crest at around 65 feet, and there is a devastating impact.
This is on the waterfront here. You can take a look at some of the commercial activity -- casinos, the water. As you can see it, the lighthouse point there is up to the center of the doorway.
We went with the Washington County Sheriff's Department, because we heard of a community called Lake Ferguson, and this is Lake Ferguson, actually. It's an offshoot of the Mississippi, but the water still rising here as well. And we went into that community, and we want to show you the video we got, because it's really some of the most devastated, what we would say residential, areas that we have seen so far in our trek down the river and watching the flooding. And this was a ride that extended for, oh, about three or four miles along the banks of this Lake Ferguson.
It's actually following what's called Lower Lake Ferguson Road, although the road is totally obliterated. Only occasionally do you see the tops of power lines and the odd street lamp, which is the indication that there was a road at some point.
We were basically driving along the lakefront. What was striking is the homes.
These are not sort of lakefront homes. These are not vacation homes or cottages. These are solid structures, and these are residents in which people live year-round. The water, in many cases, was up to the roof or beyond. And those houses where you saw the exposed areas -- in other words, that appear to be above water -- those are actually an illusion.
They're built on very tall stilts. That was all decided to try to protected them from the typical flooding that happens in this part.
Unfortunately, it was nowhere near enough. And as we say, the water continues to rise. So that is not as bad as it's going to get. It is in fact going to get worse.
Everybody is out of those homes, and the water has been in those homes for nearly two weeks now. It is going to be a very, very slow process. Governor Haley Barbour was talking about all of this today, Wolf. One of the things we should point out, we were the only vessel that was allowed to be out on the river. The governor has actually said that he has closed the river down for commercial traffic, and certainly not for any pedestrian boaters to be out there. It's just too dangerous. There's too much debris.
There's also high tension wires now that are in the water that you may not see or even know that are there. So that's why the governor says only the experts need to be on the water now, and that's why we were with them -- Wolf.
BLITZER: That's good advice from Governor Barbour.
All right, Martin. Thanks very much. We'll stay in close touch with you.
Good luck to all the folks over there.
Did the United States make a mistake in releasing critical information about the military raid on bin Laden's compound? We'll talk about it in our "Strategy Session."
Plus, we'll have much more of my interview with Ron Paul. Could he be a game-changer in the Republican race for the White House?
BLITZER: All right. Let's get right to our "Strategy Session."
Joining us, our CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist, James Carville, and the Republican strategists, the former Newt Gingrich press secretary, Tony Blankley. He's the executive vice president for Global Public Affairs at Edelman PR here in Washington.
James, Ron Paul, he says -- you know, he's been consistent. His party, though, the conservatives, they've moved closer towards him as opposed to 2008. He thinks he has a pretty good chance of getting the nomination.
JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Ron Paul's history is this -- he can do many things that a candidate needs to do well. He can get press attention, he can stay on message as good as any candidate I've ever seen. He can raise money hand over foot.
The one thing that he has not been able to do is get votes. And that's the kind of --
BLITZER: But he says the voters have moved, with the Tea Party movement, closer to him now as opposed to 2008.
CARVILLE: Look, he's a guy who's principled. He's a gentleman every time that you see him. He's an extremely courteous man. Certainly, he's a very principled guy. He doesn't take positions from anybody, anything. Maybe so.
Until now, his history has been that he's been able to get a lot of attention, a lot of money, but no votes.
TONY BLANKLEY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I mean, yes, it's true, the country is moving towards him on domestic restraining government issues. But he's for (INAUDIBLE). He's against the bin Laden raid. If you look at his votes, he pays for the price for consistency. He's ideologically consistent, and that gives him a high floor and a low ceiling.
BLITZER: But how does that affect the Republican contest, the fact that he is in there, he's 75, almost 76 years old, and as James says, he's going to raise a lot of money?
BLANKLEY: I don't think he's going to be a strategic factor in the race. I think he will be there. He'll come in third, fourth, fifth, which is what he did last time. And he will have to drop out at some point.
BLITZER: What about Mike Huckabee, your fellow southerner, the former governor of Arkansas? In our latest poll, he was atop the Republican field.
CARVILLE: You know, for what you hear, it's that, well, he's not going to run because he's making a lot of money giving speeches and doing things like that. And he's sort of enjoying his life. You know, he's run before, he did pretty well when he ran. He is kind of leading in the polls, doing well in the polls. He has a path to the nomination.
If I had to, I'd go up to the --
BLITZER: He says he's going to announce tomorrow night --
BLANKLEY: I know.
BLITZER: -- whether or not he's running.
BLANKLEY: James has got my exact instincts. I mean, my feeling is, when you've run before, so you've got the bug, and you've got the best chance of anybody, based on all the polls, it's amazing to walk away from it. Now, maybe he will, but, boy, to get that close --
CARVILLE: I'll lean (ph) and don't know anything. I'm leaning that he might -- he's a pretty skilled politician.
BLITZER: It's the first time in his life he's really making money now. That's the issue that some people are saying. Like Sarah Palin, who's making millions of dollars, she, they say, is not going to run because she doesn't want to give up all that money.
CARVILLE: But Sarah Palin is smart enough to know that she's not smart enough to be -- BLANKLEY: Well, it's not bad. She knows that she's got 60 percent negative, so she, I think, knows she can't win.
BLANKLEY: Huckabee has every reason to think he could get the nomination and be very competitive in a general election. To turn that down -- now, maybe he's going to do it tomorrow night, but to turn that down is something we don't see too often.
BLITZER: So, is Mitt Romney, right now, in your opinion, the leading Republican candidate?
CARVILLE: Of all of the people that are in the race, he seems to me to be -- and I don't know how strong -- if he's a very strong candidate, or whatever. You know, he seems to me to be the person in kind of the best position, but, heck, why couldn't Huckabee be better than him?
I don't know. Maybe so.
BLANKLEY: I don't think there is a front-runner. I think Romney risks having the instincts of a front-runner, which is to be cautious, but without having the position in the race.
I mean, he's barely at 18, 20 percent. If you have even less than a fifth of a percent of the vote, you can't be --
BLITZER: It's interesting. He's at war now with the editorial page of the "Wall Street Journal," which is a conservative paper. They did a very tough piece on him, and yesterday he responded today, an open letter to the "Wall Street Journal."
"I was not surprised to read yet another editorial in the Journal yesterday criticizing the health care reforms we enacted in Massachusetts. I was, however, not expecting the distortions of what we accomplished."
CARVILLE: You know, I kind of -- maybe the guy's kind of fighting back a little bit. His kind of reputation is he's effective. Look, he was twice governor of Massachusetts. OK?
BLANKLEY: His weakness -- he had two weaknesses. One is his position on health care with the Republican primary. And two, the reputation that he flip-flopped.
I think he kind of played it as about as well as he could when he decided to say look, this is what I believe and I'm standing by it. So he strengthens his reputation for forthrightness even as he can't completely fix -- health care is a problem for him. As every candidate, he has some kind of a problem.
BLITZER: Quickly on this, did the administration release too many details about this raid on bin Laden's compound? I ask you because you were a corporal in the United States Army.
CARVILLE: In the Marine Corps, yes.
BLITZER: Marine Corps.
CARVILLE: Well, the secretary of defense, who was slightly above me in the chain of command, seems to think so. And let's see.
But apparently, according to Secretary Gates, who I think is a top (ph) man, said there was an agreement not to -- now, what we know is that, generally, this stuff gets out and it gets out pretty soon. But, you know, I think they are going to get a lot of questions about this.
BLANKLEY: Yes. I mean, the question is where -- where did it -- where was the excess of information from? Was it official leaks, or was it people in the Pentagon putting it out? I don't know the answer to that, but certainly the NSC started off in public giving out a pretty surprising amount of information on -- was it Monday, I think?
CARVILLE: But this is not a one-day story.
BLITZER: No. This is one of the big stories of our life. So, from a journalist's point of view, you want all that information. The American public wants it. But at the same time, they want to make sure Navy SEALs aren't in danger.
CARVILLE: I'm not sure that this is -- I don't know how -- I'll see, but the fact -- look, they know that the place was attacked. Bin Laden's wives, the Pakistanis know what happened.
BLANKLEY: "The Washington Post" on Sunday had an article where it was quoting Axelrod and different people just chafing at the bit to play that -- play this issue to-their advantage. I think that was a wrong strategy. I think they should have done less and it would have played better for them.
BLITZER: Guys, we will continue this conversation, as we always do. And we didn't even get to your former boss, Newt Gingrich. He announced this week. But we'll see.
BLANKLEY: We'll be able to talk about that.
BLITZER: We'll have some time next week as well.
Guys, thanks very much.
CNN went to the scene of those twin suicide bombings in Pakistan today. Stand by for a full report. We're going there live on the damage, the Taliban's claim of revenge for bin Laden's death.
Also, the sordid details from an ethics report on former Republican Senator John Ensign, his affair and the criminal allegations.
BLITZER: It's now up to the Justice Department to pore over the sordid details of the case against the former U.S. senator John Ensign and to decide whether the Nevada Republican should be prosecuted. The Senate Ethics Committee has turned over the findings of its investigation stemming from Ensign's affair with the wife of a top aide.
Our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash first reported the news of the committee's findings yesterday. She has been going through a lot of the details.
All of this, Dana, it's sort of like a soap opera out there.
DANA BASH, CNN SR. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is. But in this case it's the real-life story of a self-described Christian conservative senator who had an affair that snowballed into allegations of abuse of power and criminal activity.
BASH (voice-over): Here's what John Ensign told CNN in October, 2009 --
SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R), NEVADA: We absolutely did nothing except for comply exactly with what the ethics laws and ethics rules of the Senate state.
BASH: Now, not only does the Senate Ethics Committee conclude Ensign broke the law and Senate rules, its report is a stunning narrative detailing exactly how.
The backdrop, an extramarital affair with Cynthia Hampton, a longtime friend and employee and wife of Doug Hampton, friend, golfing partner, and eventually aide in his Senate office. The ethics report tells of Ensign buying cell phones and using alias e-mails to hide the relationship, telling Cynthia Hampton he wanted to marry her during this national prayer breakfast.
And after they got caught and the affair continued, the man Ensign called his spiritual adviser tracked him down, saying, "I know exactly where you are. I know exactly what you're doing. Put your pants on and go home."
Torrid details are embarrassing. Allegations of criminal behavior that followed are damning. Allegedly breaking lobbying laws that helped the grieved (ph) husband get lobbying jobs.
Again, Ensign in 2009 --
ENSIGN: We complied with all of the ethics rules. Remember, just like -- you know, we -- senators who leave, they have a two year. It doesn't mean you don't (INAUDIBLE). BASH: But the report details evidence events in illegally aiding and abetting Hampton with legislation for his lobbying clients, saying he "used his office and staff to intimidate and cajole constituents into hiring Mr. Hampton." When one constituent wouldn't hire Hampton, Ensign instructed an aide to "jack him up to high heaven and tell him that he is cut off from the office."
Then there's the allegation of obstruction of justice. The report says Ensign may have deleted up to 174 e-mails and a highly- relevant document after the Ethics Committee told him to preserve everything.
And caught up in this, another senator, Tom Coburn, Ensign's good friend who served as an intermediary to Doug Hampton. At first, pushing Ensign to stop the affair with Hampton's wife. Later, meeting with Hampton's lawyer three times to discuss a possible financial deal to help him "start over." Then balking when Hampton asked for $8 million.
Ensign abruptly resigned last week rather than face what the Ethics chairwoman now says would likely have been expulsion. His farewell speech, now even more revealing.
ENSIGN: I even tried not to become caught up in my own self- importance. Unfortunately, the urge to believe in it was stronger than the cower to fight it. This is how dangerous the feeling of power and adulation can be.
BASH: Now, Ensign's former colleagues also said he violated campaign finance laws and made false statements to the Federal Election Commission about a $96,000 payment his parents made to the Hamptons. The Justice Department is now reviewing all of these charges, which could amount to jail time.
And, Wolf, as for the Senate Ethics Committee, issuing this kind of damning report about one of their own is never easy. The fact that they were so determined to make it public so fast after Ensign resigned just last week shows how deeply they think he breached his power -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It does indeed.
All right, Dana. Thanks very much.