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John Boehner Is New House Majority Leader; Bush Asks For More Iraq War Money; Negroponte Defends Spying Program; Controversial Cartoon Provokes Reaction; Supreme Court Surprise; Bush In Minnesota Today Trying To Promote Education Initiatives; Hearing Loss From IPods?; President Bush Singing The Praises Of Bono

Aired February 2, 2006 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Ali. And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information from around the world are arriving all the time.
Happening now, a major upset on Capitol Hill. The former Majority Leader Tom DeLay's deputy is out. Congressman John Boehner is in as the new Republican leader. It's 4:00 p.m. here in Washington. We'll tell you why this vote matters and why Democrats aren't letting up in their attacks.

Also this hour, a new defense of wiretaps without warrants. The national intelligence director weighs in publicly for the first time. Can he take some of the sting out of the spying controversy?

And does this friendship have a prayer? President Bush and the rock star Bono? Today, they're sharing their political and spiritual passions.

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

House Republicans are proving today just how anxious they are about a lobbying scandal in this Congressional election year. Just a short while ago, they introduced John Boehner of Ohio as their new majority leader, replacing indicted Congressman Tom DeLay.

He was elected earlier today in what is seen as an upset victory over the acting majority leader, Roy Blunt, who had billed himself as the front runner. But is Boehner the right choice to distance his party from scandal and spearhead ethics reforms?

Democrats today are hammering away at the Republicans over their ties to the disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and calling, again, for the appointment of a special prosecutor.

We have reporters watching this story. Candy Crowley is standing by, Andrea Koppel is in the news room. Let's go to Capitol Hill first. Ed Henry has got all the latest -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a critical development because John Boehner now becomes the president's legislative point man here on Capitol Hill. We all know Tom DeLay delivered so many legislative victories to the president and things, quite frankly, got off track. Republicans realized that in 2005, in part, because DeLay was under such an ethical cloud. John Boehner now needs to come up big. He came up big today in dramatic fashion, beating Roy Blunt against the odds. Blunt though was seen as too close to Tom DeLay, a DeLay protegee. This is a clear sign Republicans are nervous about these mid-term elections, about the lobbying scandals.

They wanted to try and find a clean break. Blunt loses. He went into this room just around the corner from me. It was a secret ballot. He thought he had the 116 votes he needed to win on the first ballot, but we're told it got quite intense in there behind closed doors. It got pretty dramatic after the first ballot, and the ballots was cast.

Unfortunately, they found out that more ballots were cast than actual lawmakers in the room. They were afraid about voting irregularities, so they ended up having to do a revote.

After that, Blunt was first, Boehner was second. John Shadegg of Arizona was third. But Blunt only had 110 votes. He didn't clear that critical hurdle. So instead, they went to a second ballot. Shadegg dropped out. Boehner versus Blunt, Boehner came up big. He won. Take a listen to what he had to say.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MAJORITY LEADER: I came here to help solve the problems that the American people face every day. And I think what you're going to see us do is rededicate ourselves to dealing with issues, big issues, that the American people expect us to deal with in terms of trying to improve their incomes, their prospects for jobs and to provide better security for Americans all over this country.


HENRY: But Democrats and even some Republicans quietly are starting to raise the question, is this really change? John Boehner, as you know, was a leader in the Republican party after the 1994 Republican revolution. He got bounced out after the 1998 elections, in a previous Republican bloodbath there.

Because of those election results, he plotted a quiet comeback, came back as the education chairman, delivered some victories for the president on No Child Left Behind, but he has already been in the leadership. Roy Blunt also is not going anywhere. He's sticking around. He's going to be in the number three post, the Republican whip. Here's what he had to say after the voting.


REP. ROY BLUNT (R-MO), MAJORITY WHIP: Politics is competitive. Politics -- you have people who win, people who don't win. I've been on both sides of that. Believe me, the world goes on. We're going to have a great leadership team.


HENRY: Everyone also wondering now what about Tom DeLay? I can tell you, he was in that room, he voted, but he told his own staff it's a secret ballot. He didn't tell anyone where he went, Wolf.

BLITZER: And it's all done in secret. The balloting is secret, the meeting is secret. There's no transparency. Is that right?

HENRY: That's right. Absolutely. And we just get the vote count. We don't know where people were. There's a lot of double dealing. People told Roy Blunt they were going to be with him and they weren't.

BLITZER: Talk a little bit about John Boehner. What do we know about this congressman? Those of us in Washington, we know him. But what about his ties to the lobbyists?

HENRY: Well, the Democratic National Committee immediately pounced with a press release, calling him a, quote, "lobbyist lap dog." And I got off the phone with the Congressman Rahm Emanuel. He's the chairman of the House Democratic Campaign Committee. He is planning to fire away as well.

He called Boehner -- this Boehner election, quote, "stay the course, status quo, business as usual at a time when the country needs change." John Shadegg was the sort of conservative darling in this race. He lost. He was the one calling for more radical change, shaking things up. He didn't win. Boehner really was the consensus middle of the road candidate, and the question is, is he enough of a change for Republicans, Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry, on the Hill. Thanks, Ed, very much.

While Republicans try to distance themselves from Jack Abramoff, Democrats are stepping up their efforts to link GOP members to the lobbying scandal. In a letter today, they're renewing their call for a special counsel investigation. Let's go live to CNN's Andrea Koppel. She's in the news room with more -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the letter is addressed to 35 -- to Attorney General Gonzales, and it's signed by 35 Democrats and one Independent. It urges Alberto Gonzales, the attorney general, to clear the air and to appoint a special counsel to lead the investigation into disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

After the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's name to the media, Senate Democrats made a similar appeal, you'll remember, and then in 2003, Patrick Fitzgerald was finally appointed.

Now, another concern, say Democrats, is that until recently, Gonzales was the president's White House counsel. And during that same period of time, Abramoff was flying high, courting Congress and ties to the White House. But Republicans disagree and say the investigation should remain in the hands of Congress.

For its part, the Justice Department hasn't responded to this latest letter from Democrats, but just last week, Democrats Chuck Schumer and Ken Salazar made a similar appeal to Alberto Gonzales. The Justice Department has long rejected a call for a special prosecutor, Wolf, saying one is not needed.

PHILLIPS: Andrea Koppel reporting. Andrea, thank you very much.

Let's get a little bit more information now about this Republican leadership shake-up and the politics up on Capitol Hill. Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

Candy, what's the first order of business that this new leader has to bring to the table?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I actually think he already did it in that little clip you showed beforehand. You know, when you step outside the beltway, there were a lot of people that didn't know who Tom DeLay was, much less John Boehner.

And first thing he said out of the box was we have to get back to the business of talking about what the American people need, about addressing their needs. So, A, change the subject. I mean, clearly, they're going to have to do something about ethics.

But the most important job that Boehner has is to pass some legislation. You know, he needs to do what Tom DeLay was so good at, and that is getting things through Congress. All of these Republicans, as all the Democrats in the House side, have to go out and campaign this September. They need something to campaign on.

So I think Boehner was pretty pitch perfect when he came out. And it wasn't about ethics and it wasn't about scandals. It was, hey, we are here to see what we can do for the American people, and we need to do that.

So he's -- you know, other than that, he also has to shape or at least help shape, what the themes will be for the mid-term elections. So he has to produce. It's not enough to change faces. People outside Washington don't watch this quite as closely as we do. What they really want is some kind of action. And that's at least what he spoke to today.

BLITZER: How does this affect the mid-term elections?

CROWLEY: Well, we'll see. You know, they've obviously -- and, again, we sort of saw the mid-terms beginning to play out even in the reaction of the Democrats. This is just another Republican with ties to big lobbyists. They haven't really changed their tune, they've just changed deck chairs on the Titanic -- that sort of thing.

So it is the Democrats pushing, pushing, pushing that whole corruption -- scandal corruption and Republicans saying we have to get back to work. So while they will do things about ethics, they're pretty aware that what the American people want and what they really need to do is address something that might be of major importance to the voters out there.

BLITZER: Candy Crowley reporting for us. Thanks, Candy, very much.

Moving on now, a new price tag today for the war. The Bush White House is making plans to ask the U.S. Congress for billions more in dollars for the overall mission in Iraq, as well as in Afghanistan. Let's go to the White House. Our correspondent Elaine Quijano has the details -- Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon to you, Wolf. That's right. Today we learned that, in fact, the cost of the U.S. missions in Iraq and Afghanistan are prompting the Bush administration to ask Congress for more money.

Now, CNN has confirmed that the White House plans to ask for approximately $70 billion. That's on top of the $350 billion previously approved for those operations.

But this news coming ahead of the president's '07 budget, said to be submitted to Congress next week. Administration officials say that part of the money from the supplemental will go toward repairing and replacing equipment, which, of course, has been very actively used because of these ongoing military operations -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Do we have a bottom-line number now? How much money the U.S. taxpayers so far have either spent or are committed to spending in Afghanistan and Iraq?

QUIJANO: Well our total, and just looking at the math here, over $400 billion. That is the -- looks to be the figure that we're looking at. And we should also mention there was, of course, another -- news of another request as well.

And that is for the recovery on the Gulf Coast. And we learned from congressional sources the White House will ask for some $18 billion for that effort. And that is on top of the $85 billion already requested. So that would bring the total federal commitment to more than $100 billion.

BLITZER: All right, Elaine. Thank you very much. Elaine Quijano reporting for us.

Moving on now to Iran and the nuclear threat. The United Nations Nuclear Watchdog Agency today is weighing whether to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council or wait. At the meeting in Vienna the agency's chief Mohammed ElBaradei said Iran's nuclear defiance is not a crisis but it certainly, he says, "is critical."

Here in the United States, the national intelligence director John Negroponte tells lawmakers Iran probably does not have nuclear weapons yet.

But he says the danger that they will produce them is reason for what he calls "immediate concern." Negroponte also is speaking out today in defense of the president's secret spying program, as that controversy continues to heat up on Capitol Hill. Our national security correspondent David Ensor is watching all of this for us. He's joining us live. David? DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as you say, Negroponte and the other spy chiefs were up there to talk about Iran, to talk about al Qaeda, but they ran into a barrage of very pointed questions from Senate Democrats, angered by the president's NSA domestic surveillance program and angered by the fact that they have not been briefed by it, most of them. Mr. Negroponte defended the program and said that the NSA, when it does run into information under surveillance about Americans, it's very careful with that information to minimize it to protect the identifies.


JOHN NEGROPONTE, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: As far as American persons or American individuals are concerned, protections are taken, should their names come up in various kinds of intelligence that is collected, to minimize and protect their identities. This has been a standard procedure of the NSA for the many, many years that its been in existence. General Hayden may want to amplify.

MICHAEL HAYDEN, GENERAL: Mr. Director, that answer isn't good enough for me. That answer is, essentially, trust us. The Congress and the public just have to trust us. And Ronald Reagan put it very well. He said trust but verify. And we have no way to verify that citizens are being protected the way you have outlined today.


ENSOR: Democrats don't trust the administration and Republicans are angry about leaks. Republican senators raising questions about articles in the newspaper in the last couple of months about CIA secret prisons in Europe and about, of course, this NSA program and saying that they think national security has been damaged by that. Witnesses agreed. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, David, thanks very much. We're going to have much more of this coming up at the top of the hour -- David Ensor reporting.

Let's go up to New York. Jack Cafferty standing by with what we call "The Cafferty File." Hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Why do we call it that, do you suppose?

BLITZER: That's your last name.

CAFFERTY: That's it, thank you. Some White House e-mails that may be pertinent to the CIA leak investigation are missing. Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald says that some White House e-mails from 2003 were not saved as required. Standard procedure dictates all e- mails be archived on the White House computer system. These weren't. Nobody knows how many there are, who wrote them, or where they went.

The documents were discovered missing when Scooter Libby's lawyers asked them for in preparation for his defense. Libby was Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, he's facing criminal charges in the CIA leak case. Fitzgerald also told the lawyers, quote, "We are aware of no evidence pertinent to the charges against defendant Libby, which has been destroyed," unquote.

Both Fitzgerald's office and Vice President Cheney's office has refused to comment on this. Here's the question. What does it mean if some White House documents in the CIA leak case are missing? E- mail us at or go to Remember those 18 minutes of tape that was missing from the Nixon White House, Wolf?

BLITZER: Was that Rosemary Woods? Was that her name?

CAFFERTY: Yes, Rosemary Woods.

BLITZER: Those were critical minutes, but they were forever lost somehow. She was working that machine and something happened.

CAFFERTY: Just disappeared, they were deleted.

BLITZER: Old enough to remember that.


BLITZER: But we have no reason to believe that's the case this time.

CAFFERTY: No, no. Not yet.

BLITZER: Let's hear what our viewers think. Jack, thanks very much.

Coming up, the defense secretary is not amused at all. Hear what Donald Rumsfeld is saying about a political cartoon that mocks his treatment of U.S. troops and we'll see how the story is playing online as well.

Also ahead, Justice Samuel Alito's first decision on the United States Supreme Court, and guess what? It may surprise you. Is he not the kind of justice many people expected him to be?

And later, Bono's strange political bedfellows. Why were the rocker and the president praying together earlier today? You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM. Fredricka Whitfield is filling in for Zain Verjee this week from the CNN global headquarters in Atlanta. And Fred's got some of the stories making news. Hi, Fred.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. In New Orleans residents are asking what else can happen? Two tornadoes apparently hit the city this morning, striking many of the same areas hard hit by Hurricane Katrina last year. Strong winds damaged some of the repairs made after Katrina. The tornadoes ripped off the roof of one house, blew over a radio tower, and battered the Louis Armstrong International Airport. No injuries reported.

Empty chairs yet plenty of activity in the Saddam Hussein trial. Hussein, his seven co-defendants and their entire defense team did not show up in court. The group says they won't attend until the chief judge is removed, charging he's biased. The newly appointed judge has recently refused to tolerate Hussein's outbursts. The court continued with two witnesses testifying. The trial is now adjourned until February 13th.

Elsewhere in Baghdad, more bloodshed. At least 16 people are dead from car bombings. Police tell CNN two parked cars blew up within minutes of each other. Meanwhile officials say five U.S. troops died yesterday. Four soldiers were killed in Baghdad and a Marine died in Fallujah. The number of troop deaths in the Iraq war now stands at 2,247.

And it was drawn to get a laugh and make a satirical point. But Pentagon brass are not amused. This cartoon, published in "The Washington Post" Sunday shows a very badly wounded soldier with no arms, no legs and so-called Dr. Rumsfeld at his bedside says quote, "I'm listing your condition as battle-hardened." The drawing drew fire from all six members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the defense secretary had this to say.


DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: You know, no one questions the right of a cartoonist to do what they want to do. People do it all the time. They've been doing it for decades.


WHITFIELD: The "Post's" editorial page editor says of the cartoon, quote, "While I certainly can understand the strong feelings, I took it to be a cartoon about the state of the army and not one intended to demean wounded soldiers," end quote.

While the man who actually drew the cartoon, Pulitzer Prize winner Tom Toles says quote, "I certainly never intended it to be in any way a personal attack on or a derogatory comment on the service or sacrifice of American soldiers," end quote. Lots of controversy on that. Wolf?

BLITZER: I suspect it's going to stick around for awhile. Thanks, very much, Fred, for that.

The controversial cartoon isn't just making military leaders angry. It's also causing an uproar online. Let's bring in our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton. She has more -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, debate on both sides of the aisle about this cartoon here for "The Washington Post." Starting yesterday,, the liberal blog, had a copy of that letter from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, complaining to "The Washington Post." Under the heading, Pentagon trying to censor top U.S. political cartoonist. That post has been updated ever since and has provoked a lot of discussion at that site.

On the right, Michelle Malkin has also been following along this story. She had been waiting for that response from "The Washington Post." We saw when it came, that the post said it not intend to demean wounded soldiers. That may not be enough for everyone on the right. This site is actually running a contest to rewrite the cartoon. One early entry here suggests that it's the credibility of "The Washington Post" that has been injured.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you very much -- Abbi Tatton with that.

Samuel Alito hasn't been on the job at the Supreme Court for a full two days yet, but he's already raising some eyebrows and making some people wonder if he'll be kind of justice they actually thought he'd be. Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's got word of a little bit of a surprise to start off with. Bill?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. Justice Alito cast his first Supreme Court vote yesterday. So why are some people in Washington saying, uh-oh.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): No sooner did Samuel Alito get sworn in that he cast his first Supreme Court vote with the liberals, to block the execution of a Missouri man. Could Alito become the latest supreme surprise? Don't read too much into Alito's vote, court watchers caution. It was purely procedural. But still, when Alito votes one way and Justices Scalia, Thomas and Roberts vote the other way, it's eyebrow raising. After all, supreme surprises are not uncommon.

CHARLES LANE, WASHINGTON POST: The biggest one has to be David Souter, who is now one of the more liberal members of the court, who was appointed by the first President Bush at the recommendation of some of his Republican friends from New Hampshire, who assured the president that David Souter would be a conservative.

SCHNEIDER: President Eisenhower once said the worst mistake he made as president was naming Earl Warren (ph) chief justice. Nixon nominee Harry Blackman wrote the Roe v. Wade on abortion. President Reagan nominated Sandra Day O'Connor, who voted to uphold abortion rights and affirmative action.

Has a Democratic president ever nominated a supreme surprise? President Kennedy picked Byron White, who ended up voting with conservatives on abortion and the death penalty. These days, presidents no longer name politicians to the court. That makes it harder to figure out what you're going to get.

LANE: Nominating and appointing Alito, they've done everything they could to eliminate the prospect of a surprise.

SCHNEIDER: But you never know.

LANE: If he stays on a court 20, 30 years, the world will be a very different place. And he could be a very different man 20 years from now.


SCHNEIDER: But 20 minutes from now? No one can imagine that, Wolf?

BLITZER: Bill Schneider with that. Thank you very much, Bill -- Bill Schneider, our senior political analyst.

Still ahead, the new House majority leader, John Boehner. Can he lead Republicans to victory this year and limit the taint of a lobbying scandal?

And is the conflict in Iraq busting the U.S. budget?

And will the president pay a price for it. Tough questions. All of that coming up in our "Strategy Session."


BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Today in our "Strategy Session," a surprise in the election of a new Republican majority leader. What will it mean for the party and the way business is done here in Washington?

And the president gets ready to ask for a lot more money to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Is the White House being held accountable for this huge price tag?

Joining us now to discuss these issues, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe and Republican strategist Rich Galen. Rich, is this the best strategy for the GOP, going into these midterm elections, to bring John Boehner in as the majority leader, succeeding indicted Congressman Tom DeLay?

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, DeLay and Boehner were not the best of friends. So I think if you're a member of Congress and a Republican member of Congress, you can't go completely to somebody that just has no leadership experience. So you go to a guy like Boehner who had been conference chair and done a pretty good job. He had a lot of experience, especially on the messaging side and bring him back.

He is separated from DeLay because DeLay was part of the push that got Boehner beaten after the '98 elections. So I think this is something that can work. It's something that the Republicans need to have. They need to have one guy being the majority leader and one guy being the whip, having one person with both jobs, clearly was not working.

BLITZER: He clearly was the underdog. Roy Blunt, the acting majority leader, seemed to have the upper hand. What does this mean, if anything from the Democratic perspective?

TERRY MCAULIFFE, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: I think this doesn't help them politically. This is more of the same. Contrary to what Rich is saying, he is very close to DeLay, he's one of the biggest contributors to his legal defense fund. John Boehner very close to the K Street lobbyists, has his own group of K Street lobbyists whom he meets with on a continued basis to tell him how to run the House.

Very tied to the special interests, so I don't think it's good for the Republicans and this is the guy, if you remember, was walking around the United States House of Representatives floor, handing out checks from his pocket from the tobacco companies. And that's not what the Republicans need right now in this culture of corruption. They should have changed. They didn't change.


BLITZER: Hold on, Rich. I'll let you respond, but let me read from the "Wall Street Journal" editorial page today, which is not necessarily a hotbed of Democratic or liberal activity. "Republicans are acting as if they are the party of incumbency and big government. They still have eight months to try for redemption with the voters who put them in charge, but the clock is ticking.

GALEN: I suspect they don't think that the House is being conservative enough. I'm not sure that my friend would agree with that. But going back to the business of being connected to lobbyists, the only way to get a member of the leadership on either side of the aisle who's not connected to lobbyists is to get somebody who's elected tomorrow because everybody is in on this game. And I think that somewhere along the line changes...

BLITZER: Terry, do Republicans...

MCAULIFFE: The point is they pushed it so far with the lobbyists. This whole K Street Project, they had to get rid of Democrats. This is really backfiring on them.

BLITZER: The Republicans have problems going into this election. The Democrats, though, have plenty of problems as well. If you look at this latest "L.A. Times"-Bloomberg poll, favorable opinions of members of Congress, among Democrats in Congress, only 35 percent of the American public, according to this poll, has a favorable attitude towards Democrats. Democrats, 41 percent. A little better, have a favorable attitude towards Republicans in Congress. So you guys have your work cut out for you.

MCAULIFFE: Yes. I mean, I will be the first to say that the Democrats have got to put out their positive agenda. As we learn in 2004, you're not just going to vote against. You've got to layout what your plans are. And that's what the Democrats have to do.

BLITZER: Do the Democrats need to do a Contract for America, a la what the Republicans and Newt Gingrich did in '94 in recapturing the House? MCAULIFFE: Yes. I think they need a message out there, very simple message. "You give us control of the United States Congress and here's what we're going to do for American families." And that's what we have to lay out. That's what we've got to do.

GALEN: They need Terry McAuliffe as the head of the DNC. Happily, they won't do that.


BLITZER: Let's talk about the new price tag for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. President asking for another $70 billion now. That brings the number way over 350, close to $400 billion. Taxpayers, I don't believe when the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, thought it was going to cost this much.

And certainly top Bush administration officials never imagined it would cost this much. Listen to what the then-deputy defense secretary, now the president of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz said on March 27, 2003, as the war was under way.


PAUL WOLFOWITZ, FORMER DEPUTY DEFENSE SECRETARY: The oil revenues of that country could bring between 50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years. We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.


BLITZER: All right, that was about as wrong as possible an assessment.

GALEN: I will tell you that when I got there in November of '03, and I absolutely believe that before I left -- I was there for six months -- that I would be having tea on the main boulevard of Baghdad. I was as shocked as anybody.

Here's the good news. And there's not much good news, but there is some good news. And that is that the neighbors of Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, they believe that this is working and it's going to continue to work because they're building up their infrastructures so when the Iraq economy really does take off, as they believe it will, then they'll be ready. So the neighbors believe this is...

BLITZER: But a lot of Americans, and you have to admit, probably are saying, "You know, 300, $400 billion. Just think of what the U.S. government could do for education, healthcare, Medicare, Social Security, with those kinds of numbers."

GALEN: Well, what's your alternative? I think everybody's open to an alternative. The fact is we're down this path. It is the path we're on. I think a remarkably bipartisan basis.

BLITZER: Let's let Terry respond. Go ahead, Terry. MCAULIFFE: Well, 70 billion more dollars that George Bush wants to spend over in Iraq. I think we need to ask the president, "How are you going to spend it?"

BLITZER: By the way, Democrats probably are going to vote for this one.

MCAULIFFE: Well, we'll see what happens. But before they do, I hope they will ask the question, "Specifically, Mr. President, how are you going to spend this money?" We had a budget bill that the Republicans put through Congress. They cut Medicare, Medicaid, and education. Billions of dollars cut, while at the same time, George Bush is asking for $70 billion more.

A report from the government last week says we have wasted billions of dollars in Iraq due to our mismanagement. Before we waste another penny, let's make sure George Bush is accountable.

We know exactly how his money is going to be spent before we're hurting seniors with this ridiculous prescription drug bill, which seniors are now going to pharmacies and their prescriptions aren't covered anymore. They want results, they want action, and George Bush hasn't given it to them. For once, let's hold this man accountable.

BLITZER: We've got to leave it there, guys. Terry and Rich, thanks very much. We'll continue this down the road.

Up next, President Bush back on the road, selling his State of the Union message. How does today's pitch compare with what we've heard before?

And later, he's got one name and many unusual political friends. The rock star Bono. He's back in Washington, this time on a spiritual mission. We'll tell you what's going on.


BLITZER: This is day two of the president's post-State of the Union campaign. He went to Minnesota today to try to promote his education initiatives. Our White House correspondent Dana Bash traveled with him -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Across the board, Republican strategists say one of their biggest challenges this year is that Americans simply do not feel confident about the economy. That anxiety is one of the key reasons the president launched in his State of the Union what he calls his competitiveness agenda, a series of modest proposals designed to keep America the economic leader. And it's aimed at the psyche of worried Americans.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Instead of saying, "We fear the competition, the global economy frightens us," the United States of America ought to say, "We want more people to be able to buy our products." And so what I'm telling you is, I think the role of government is to shape the future, not fear the future.


BASH: The president came to talk up American know-how and innovation at the Minnesota headquarters of 3M, the company that invented Elmer's (ph) glue, masking tape, and Post-It notes. And in a decidedly unscripted moment, the president tried to stick a post-it note on the front of the podium and it promptly fell off.


BUSH: My fault. My fault.


BASH: Now, the specifics of this so-called competitiveness agenda included restoring an expired tax break for businesses for research and develop, as well as hiring 70,000 new teachers for math and science. The White House hopes these initiatives are non- controversial enough that they'll actually pass through Congress.

And, politically, they hope that could send a message that Republicans and Democrats aren't just bickering in Washington, that the Republican leadership can actually get something done.

And there was a sign that that could actually happen, an unusual moment. The House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi put out a statement on this initiative saying that she is happy to work with the president on it.

Dana Bash, CNN, Maplewood, Minnesota.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Dana.

Coming up, some solicited advice from Al Gore. He recently accused the president of breaking the law. What does the former vice president do for an encore?

And is your iPod hurting your hearing? Congress is on your case. Now so are the courts. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: On our political radar, more evidence Al Gore's stock is rising within the Democratic Party. The 2000 presidential nominee recently got raves in some circles for blasting the president's secret spying program. Now, Gore has been invited to speak to House Democrats at their annual issues conference this Saturday. He'll address the subject close to his heart, global warming.

Former President Jimmy Carter is heading back to the campaign trail, not on his behalf, but to stump for his son. Jack Carter is challenging Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada. The former president and his family will campaign for him in Las Vegas and Carson City on Monday. In Georgia, there's yet another push to change the state flag. The state Senate yesterday approved a new flag resembling the banner of the Confederacy. Georgians have had three different state flags since 2001. It reflects more than a decade of wrangling over Confederate symbols and whether they're offensive, particularly to African-Americans.

The Apple iPod is under attack. One congressman wants to know if the popular music device causes hearing loss. And now, a Louisiana man is suing the company, claiming it does. Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton has more -- Abbi.

TATTON: Wolf, the lawsuit suggests that millions of peoples' hearing is at risk from sale of the iPod, and also the earphones that come with it.

Filed on behalf of a man who own an iPod, it doesn't mention that he himself has had any kind of hearing loss. Instead, it says that the iPod is inherently defective, and it doesn't warn against the likelihood of hearing loss, also saying that iPod pushes people to crank up the volume of its devices.

Now, this lawsuit comes a week after Congressman Ed Markey asked for further research to be done, looking into portable music players and hearing loss. We talked to Apple today, who says that they will not comment on any pending lawsuits. They don't release their maximum decibel levels in the iPod in the United States. However, in 2002, they modified the iPod in France to comply with local laws on decibel levels -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you very much.

Up next, Bush and Bono. The president and the rock star. They may seem like an odd couple, but they have a lot in common. We'll find out what that is when we come back.

Also, in Massachusetts, a hatchet man attacks patrons of a gay bar, bashing some in the head, even shooting some in the face. Now a massive manhunt is under way for the attacker. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back. We're back in THE SITUATION ROOM. We want to show you this life picture from Albuquerque, New Mexico. This is Air Force One. It's just landed in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The president continuing his tour, his sales pitch of the State of the Union message.

The president coming in from Maplewood, Minnesota, where he spoke about education, among other subjects, earlier today. We'll watch Air Force One taxi a little bit to see the president get off, and then we'll move on. We'll keep this picture up for the time being.

Let's also check back with Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN global headquarters in Atlanta for a closer look at some other stories making news -- Fred? WHITFIELD: Hello again, Wolf. In Texas, a woman who pleads not guilty by reason of insanity in the drowning of her children walked out of jail today and was transferred to a state mental hospital. The lawyer for Andrea Yates raised the $20,000 needed to bail her out as she awaits her retrial. Yates' conviction for the 2001 killings was overturned last year on appeal.

West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin has asked all mines in the state to shut down for inspections. The leading industry group says it will comply. Manchin made the request after two more miners died yesterday in separate accidents. That makes 16 mine-related deaths in the state in one month.

And they're the furry creatures with the funny names, Punxsutawney Phil and General Beauregard Lee both have provided their weather predictions this Groundhog Day. If you're a Phil fan, bundle up. He says winter will linger for at least six more weeks. As for General Lee, well, he says spring should be right around the corner. Both rodents are much more optimistic than the calendar, which dictates that spring begins March 20.

And Wolf, I know it already feels like spring in so many places already.

BLITZER: That would be nice. Thanks very much, Fred, for that.

In our culture wars, prayer, politics, and rock and roll. President Bush was singing the praises today of Bono. The musician- activist was a featured speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast here in Washington. Some political figures seem more eager to rub shoulders with a rock star than with the president.


BONO, LEAD SINGER, U2: Please join me in praying that I don't say something we all regret.

BLITZER: Bono joked that a prayer breakfast is an odd place for a rock star to perform. But the U2 front man may spend more time in the political arena than he does on stage.

SEN. NORM COLEMAN (R), MINNESOTA: Our speaker this morning is known around the world as a person of conscience, a person of influence. Most of all, a person of faith.

BONO: I'm certainly not here as a man of the cloth, unless that cloth is leather.

BLITZER: The rocker went on to warn against invoking the name of God for political or financial gain.

BONO: Seeing God's secondhand car salesman on their TV cable channels, offering indulgences for cash.

BLITZER: Bono doesn't shy away from criticizing world leaders either, including the president. He says he had a good old raw with Mr. Bush over global AIDS funding during lunch at the White House a few years ago. Still, Mr. Bush has nothing but praise for Bono, calling him an amazing guy.

BUSH: The thing about this good citizen of the world is he's used his position to get things done.

BLITZER: Bono has other unlikely fans, including former treasury secretary Paul O'Neill, and former senator Jesse Helms, their friendships forged over Bono's favorite causes, financial aid to Africa and the battle against HIV.

BONO: It was weird enough to have Jesse Helms come to a rock show. This is really weird.


BLITZER: Something else happened at the prayer breakfast earlier today. Republican Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota, co-chair at the event, this is the first time in memory, though, that a Jew has led the annual spiritual gathering here in Washington. Norm Coleman also a rock and roll advocate himself.

Coming up, the NSA domestic spying controversy. Congress is getting ready to hold a major hearing. Well, what does the attorney general have to say? Alberto Gonzalez speaks with CNN.

And some are calling it the case of the missing documents. In the CIA leak investigation, what does it mean that some White House documents are now missing? Jack Cafferty has your email.


BLITZER: Those are some of the hot shots, pictures coming in from our friends at the AP. And let's go out to Albuquerque, New Mexico. The president's plane, Air Force One, has landed. You see various members of the president's staff walking down. The president coming in from Minnesota, where he spoke earlier today.

He's going to be speaking in Albuquerque. You see him standing there, right behind the limo that's going to be taking him to his next stop on this several city cross-country tour to sell his State of the Union message. The president's there in New Mexico right now. He'll get into his limo and drive on to his next stop. We'll watch and make sure everything is smooth.

Let's go up to New York, though, in the meantime. Jack Cafferty is standing by with what we call "The Cafferty File."

CAFFERTY: That's right, Wolf. And the reason we call it that -- I hope this trip turns out better than that Social Security junket he went on last year. Do you remember that?

BLITZER: Remember that sales pitch?

CAFFERTY: Hundred days flying around the country about overhauling Social Security. We got bupkis (ph) out of that deal. Some White House emails that may be pertinent to the CIA leak investigation are missing. I love coming to work. I mean, this just gets better and better every day. The special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, says some White House emails from 2003 were not saved, as required. The question is this, what does it mean if White House documents in the CIA leak case are missing?

Maren in Salem, Oregon: "I'm shocked, shocked. Are you actually saying agents in the White House might have monkeyed around with email to avoid the revelation of wrongdoing? Are you kidding? Isn't that treason? I mean, to suggest the Bush administration has done anything wrong. Aren't you on your way to Gitmo already? It was nice knowing you, Jack."

Stan in Champagne, Illinois: "The obvious answer for missing documents in the CIA leak case would be cover up. However, as with most instances of inappropriate White House behavior, you guys in the press will probably accept whatever feeble or convoluted excuse they give. Why are you so quick to accept the implausible and so quick to dismiss the obvious?"

Joseph writes, "What does it mean? It means that idiots like you will try and make political hay out of it. Again, old Cafferty is jumping the gun." What do you own old?

Bernie in Lowell, Massachusetts: "I'll bet the NSA still has copies."

Bill in Dallas writes, "These are missing because they contain something who wrote them or read them didn't ever want others to know. Someone made the decision that the flack over them being missing would be less painful than if the contents of the emails were exposed."

And finally, J.W. weighs in with this. "It means that for the next 8 to 12 years, I'll have to listen to newscasters try to guess what the content of the missing emails might have been. Please delete this after reading." Done.

BLITZER: All right, Jack. A quick question before I let you go. John Boehner, the new House majority leader replacing Tom DeLay. He's in. Roy Blunt doesn't get the job. How's it playing outside the beltway?

CAFFERTY: I have no idea. It just happened this afternoon. Is it true that Mr. Boehner was one of those who took some financial consideration from Abramoff, do you know?

BLITZER: He said some from some Indian tribes who were working with Jack Abramoff.

CAFFERTY: Interesting.

BLITZER: All right. We'll talk about it later. Jack, thanks very much.


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