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Interview with John Mercurio; Dennis Hastert Asks Justice Department To Investigate Rep. Foley's Conduct

Aired October 1, 2006 - 19:00   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR We also want to show you this shocking video of two 9/11 hijackers including ring leader Mohammed Atta. The tape dated January, 2000 shows the men laughing, discussing the attacks and apparently going over their wills. A full report is straight ahead.
In Iraq a Sunday filled with bloodshed. Police found 50 bodies across Baghdad. Many had been tortured and the deadly bombing continued. Details coming up.

In the Palestinian Territories at least nine people killed today in clashes between Fatah and Hamas security factions. The fighting broke out after protests by government workers and police, angry they haven't been paid in months.

And crews are combing through the wreckage of a Brazilian airliner that crashed Friday in the Amazon. They're hacking a path through the rough terrain so they can begin recovering the bodies of the 155 victims.

Our top story now, breaking news within the past hour. In a rare move, the speaker of the House has asked the Justice Department to investigate his own party. It's just more fallout from the allegations about Mark Foley's illicit messages to House pages. Our Gary Nurenberg is in Washington. Gary?

GARY NURENBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good evening, Carol. As you know, this call by speaker of the House Dennis Hastert follows a weekend of complaints followed by Democrats that the House ethics investigation authorized on Friday night is simply not enough when the actions of leaders of the House are in question.


NURENBERG: Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert is asking the Justice Department to investigate whether any federal laws have been broken. In a letter Sunday afternoon, Hastert says members of the House Ethics Committee, authorized to investigate Foley Friday night, quote, "Do not have jurisdiction over federal law or over him upon his resignation from office.

"As speaker of the House, I hereby request that the Department of Justice conduct an investigation of Mr. Foley's conduct with current and former House pages to determine what extent any of his actions violated federal law." (on camera): At issue are two sets of electronic messages Foley sent to boys who served as congressional pages, one series to a 16- year-old last summer, suggestive but not sexually explicit, the other a series of instant messages that are sexually explicit.

(voice-over): Some members of the House Republican leadership learned of the first set of suggestive e-mails last fall. Representative John Shimkus who oversees the page program says he confronted Foley and ordered him to cease contact with the 16-year- old. Others members of the leadership learned of that this spring.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: I think that they thought they had solved the problem. No one knew about the second set of e- mails.

NURENBERG: Democrats argue the leadership should have done far more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it's proven that leaders in Congress did nothing, nothing to protect those children, those 15 and 16 year olds, those leaders in congress should resign their leadership positions.

NURENBERG: House minority leader Nancy Pelosi Sunday said Republican leaders quote, "chose to cover it up rather than to protect those children." And wants the leadership questioned under oath.

Hastert disclosed Sunday evening that some of the more graphic messages are three years old. In his letter to the attorney general he said "there should be an investigation in to the extent there are persons who knew or had possession of these messages but did not report them to the appropriate authorities."

A congressional watchdog group says it advised the FBI of some of the e-mails this summer, and asked for an investigation.

MELANIE SLOAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CREW: We know that the FBI obviously didn't really look at this matter. They didn't start talking to a lot of pages because if they had these instant messages would have come up much sooner.

NURENBERG: Foley's staff left his office for the last time Friday. Over the weekend, Foley's name was ripped from the wall and police have been ordered to protect evidence for a possible criminal investigation.

Foley talking about President Clinton in 1998 said of the liaison with Monica Lewinsky, quote, "It's vile, it's more sad than anything else to see someone with such potential throw it all down the drain because of a sexual addiction."


NURENBERG (on camera): In his letter to the attorney general, Speaker Hastert made it clear he wants the investigation to include anyone who had knowledge of the electronic messages inside Congress or out. By moving quickly, Speaker Hastert clearly hopes to dampen weekend criticism by Democrats that there has been a cover-up but with five weeks before the election, Carol, it seems unlikely Democrats willo let the story die.

LIN: Certainly not. All right. Gary Nurenberg, thank you.

Susan Candiotti is examining another angle of the story, looking into Foley's past in Florida. Susan, you've managed to talk with people who know the man very well.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You got it, Carol and to the person -- those people that we talked with today who go way back with Congressman Foley say that he's the kind of guy that loved the political spotlight, but when it came to his private life, they say he kept that very private.


CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Mark Foley's friends call him warm and giving.

ESTER DINERSTEIN, FRIEND OF FOLEY: Mark is funny. He is generally happy about having a Polish background, which I identify with, that's where I was born, and he was always quick with a hug.

CANDIOTTI: A congressman they say, who worked tirelessly for his constituents, but how was that seed planted? Right here at age six, in 1960, at a Lantana, Florida shopping center.

Foley told a Washington DC paper called "The Hill" he had a chance encounter with Congressman Paul Rogers.

(on camera): This is where Foley said he saw his Florida Congressman Paul Rogers in congressman in action, working the crowd, the center of attention. That's when Foley reportedly said, he was hooked. Not to mention the congressman paid him $5 to hand out campaign brochures.

(voice-over): In junior high, he told a newspaper, he felt like moving to Manhattan to manage some apartments. And briefly owning a restaurant and serving in local office, Foley was elected a Florida congressman. From there, he won six terms as a U.S. congressman.

SID DINERSTEIN, PALM BEACH GOP CHAIRMAN: He was everybody's fair-haired boy. For all the right reasons. He was so easy to watch.

CANDIOTTI: Sid Dinerstein is the Palm Beach, Florida, GOP chairman. Goes back more than a decade with Foley. He describes a funny side of Foley, known for his dead-on impersonations for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and coincidentally someone else who faced a sex scandal, President Bill Clinton.

S. DINERSTEIN: I mean, good enough to be on the air, and he would do the whole thing of "I did not have sex with that woman" and just some of the best stuff and of course, particularly for a partisan crowd, it was just, you would just would fall over laughing. CANDIOTTI: When Foley dropped out of a run for the U.S. Senate in 2003, there were rumors he was gay. He told reporters his sexual orientation was private. He said he dropped out of the race because of his father's cancer. Foley is Catholic, and told friends meeting the late Pope John Paul II was something he'll never forget.

E. DINERSTEIN: I'm extremely saddened that the political arena is backing away from him at a time where I truly believe that we, as friends of his, should be gathering around him.

CANDIOTTI: The scandal now facing Foley is hard for any of his friends to understand.

S. DINERSTEIN: They are just the people who are out front of a very large army, and of a philosophy and of values, and so something like this is a betrayal of all of that.


CANDIOTTI (on camera): Friends who called Foley a fighter say they now hope that side will come through for him. Carol?

LIN: Susan, do any of his friends anticipate that he's going to come out and speak directly to the public any time soon?

CANDIOTTI: The people we talk with hope so but they have no indication of that. They've tried to reach him, have been unsuccessful. Some even said they were worried about him but all of them said they hoped to hear his side of the story.

LIN: You got it. Susan Candiotti in West Palm Beach, thank you. We're going to continue to follow the story throughout this hour because we've already had new developments just in the last hour, and through the night.

And now we want to bring you more on that 9/11 terror tape you might have heard about, more than a year and a half before attacks, the lead hijacker Mohammed Atta apparently delivers a martyrdom message, released out of London today. CNN's Paula Newton reports.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The entire video is silent and yet the images unnerving. The 9/11 mastermind and his accomplice laughing it up and going through their lines for a performance of martyrdom wills. According to the "Sunday Times" of London the tape was apparently shot in Afghanistan a full 21 months before 9/11.

It is startling in the human portrait it paints of Mohammed Atta, AK-47 at his side, stage managing his look just before he stares deadpan at the camera and gives what the paper claims is a death will, justifying himself for flying a plane straight into the World Trade Center.

With his easy style and comical posture, Ziad Jarrah is no less bizarre. And then he recites his will. He was the hijacker authorities believe was destined for Capitol Hill but who then crashed a United Airlines flight in Pennsylvania.

U.S. intelligence sources tell CNN, they have aware of the tape for years, even unsuccessfully tried to have it lip-read. It's assumed U.S. authorities found it in Afghanistan in late 2001, but never released it.

YOSRI FOUDA, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: And I wonder why, because it would have been benefited everyone.

NEWTON: Author of "The Sunday Times" article Yosri Fouda won't reveal his sources but says the hour-long tape reveals much about how and why Atta, the so-called ringleader, was so carefully coached by Osama bin Laden.

FOUDA: If it wasn't for Atta, 9/11 may have never happened. The rest were described by some people as dumb and dumber, wherever they went. What you needed to the end of this plot is someone of the caliber of Mohammed Atta, someone to pull the plot together.

NEWTON (on camera): Osama bin Laden himself makes an appearance on the tape, again the whole thing is silent, but it's clear that bin Laden is holding court in Afghanistan, where he carefully plotted the 9/11 attack.

(voice-over): What is so striking about the incidents depicted in the video is al Qaeda broke its own rules by bringing two key plotters together.

ROBERT GRENIER, FORMER DIRECTOR, CIA COUNTERTERRORISM CENTER: It must have been very important to the al Qaeda leadership at the time that they get a firsthand look at these fellows, because they were residing a great deal of responsibility in them. And perhaps it was thought that it would be important to bring these fellows to meet the al Qaeda leadership in Kandahar, so that they could motivate them properly.

NEWTON: No one can know if bin Laden has since refined his strategy, finding it too risky to be directly involved in future terror plots but the play by play of this footage reveals a long and methodical path to terror. Paula Newton, CNN, London.


LIN: Earlier today we spoke about the tape and how it might have surfaced with CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen.


PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: The way these tapes came, came into "The Sunday Times" was via Yosri Fouda, who is an al Jazeera correspondent, who say good reporter, who has excellent contacts, in fact, interviewed Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and Ramzi bin al Sheeb, the main plotters of the 9/11 attacks and "The Sunday Times" says that they got these through a trusted channel. I imagine the contacts Yosri Fouda's contacts within al Qaeda reached out to him and somehow made this tape available.

It's of interesting historical value. Certainly it puts, you know, these two important pilots in the 9/11 plot in Afghanistan, in a tape made by al Qaeda's video production arm.

What's interesting, Fredricka, about these two guys is that two more different people could you hardly think of, Mohammed Atta, who you see here, a very serious Egyptian student, and Ziad Jarrah, the other guy who we see here, sort of a Lebanese playboy who had a girlfriend, who even may have been his wife, who even drank on occasion and it sort of raises an interesting question about terrorists in general, because it's very hard to, you couldn't predict Ziad Jarrah would be a guy who would fly a plane into what, turned out to be a Pennsylvania field.


LIN: That was CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen.

Now in Iraq, two people killed, five more wounded in this car bombing in front of a Baghdad television station, just one of many examples today of the extreme level of violence in Iraq. There were four other bombings in Baghdad besides this one and another 50 bodies, many apparently tortured, were found dumped around the capital.

Other violence reported as well. The kidnapping of 26 people from a meat processing plant by gunmen who posed as police and south of Baghdad, gunmen killed a sheikh aligned with Iraq's leading Shiite party.

Obviously the Iraq War is going to be part of the politics coming up in the election campaign but also does politics really come down to money? John Roberts takes a look at who has the most this year.

Then we'll talk to John Mercurio about the Foley scandal and how it might affect the elections coming up.

And later, worried about your house? Is it time to buy or sell? Gerri Willis joins us with her take. You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


LIN: Here are some of the most popular stories on Police in North Charleston, South Carolina, are investigating a multiple homicide at a mobile home park. Michael Simmons is charged with killing five people. Four of the victims were children.

And Canadian rescue crews say they found a fifth victim in the rubble of a collapsed overpass near Montreal, all were killed when their cars were hit by falling concrete yesterday. The vehicles were crushed so badly the wreckage barely reached the knees of one firefighter.

Search crews in the Amazon Rainforest are combing through the wreckage of a Brazilian airliner. So far there are no signs that any of the 155 people on board survived. You can read more about the story at Just click the "Most Popular" tab.

All right. Five weeks until the midterm elections and both parties are counting down the calendar and counting up cash. CNN's John Roberts follows the money.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The vice president hit a milestone this week. His 100th fundraiser of the midterm election cycle. Not far behind President Bush with just under 70 now. In total Republican candidates and campaign committees have so far raised more than $870 million.

UNIDENTIIED MALE: I think it's an indication first of all of the commitment that this party and this president have to keeping their majorities in Congress.

ROBERTS: But it's also a sign, admits party chairman Ken Mehlman, of the challenge Republicans face. Just look at this recent fund-raising appeal from Senate campaign chairwoman Elizabeth Dole. "Republicans are more at risk of losing our critical Senate majority than ever before," she writes.

THOMAS MANN, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: I think it's a position of weakness. They would not be spending this money if they thought they were in good shape.

ROBERTS: And what's bad for republicans appears to be paying off for the democrats.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, (D) NY, DEMOCRATIC SENATE CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE CHAIR: We've set records already in what we've raised. We've raise more as of now than we raised in all of the last cycle and we're going to significantly outspend what we spent last time.

ROBERTS: While Democrats are getting better, particularly under new fund-raising rules that outlaw so-called soft money, they still lag more than $100 million behind the Republicans. Some analysts believe a rising Democratic tide might compensate for the deficit but Senate Campaign Committee chairman Chuck Schumer would rather have the cash.

SCHUMER: It's not true that money isn't important. It always is, and in this job, even though I've been in politics for 30 years, it is amazing how you put a couple million bucks on TV, and it changes the election.

ROBERTS: But even the money they have raised isn't all going into the campaign. Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean is using much of his committee's cash to rebuild the party apparatus, and plans to spend just a fifth of what his Republican counterpart will on congressional races.

HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN: Look, I don't pretend for a minute that we have the kind of election machine that the Republicans have. We need rebuild that, and that's why I'm chair of the party. ROBERTS: As Democrats bicker over Dean's tight pockets. Republicans will turn theirs inside out.

KEN MEHLMAN, RNC CHAIRMAN: It's the most the RNC has ever spent.

ROBERTS: In politics there's an old saying, whoever spends the most wins. Even the most optimistic Democrats believe despite all of the political troubles the Republicans' cash advantage will make a difference.

SCHUMER: How big a difference? We'll have to wait and see on Election Day. We hope not enough of a difference.


LIN: And it's five weeks until election day and well, the Republicans are now finding themselves asking for a judicial investigation, a Department of Justice investigation into the conduct of Congressman Mark Foley, who resigned last Friday because of these e-mails and instant messages that, well apparently he has been doing more than just flirting with congressional pages.

So let's talk more about this and how this is going to impact the upcoming elections. John Mercurio is with "The National Journal's" Hotline. John, good to have you. We booked you actually for a different segment but great to have your expertise on this one. First of all your reaction when you saw Mark Foley resign and you found out why.

JOHN MERCURIO, "THE NATIOANL JOURNAL": Shock, to some extent, although there have been rumors all over Washington for the past decade about Congressman Foley's behavior, I've heard these for several years. Certainly nothing to the extent we're hearing about this weekend and nothing involving underage pages but still shock, shock because of how quickly it happened and then shock the very next day when we sort of learned more about the Republican involvement, the knowledge of a lot of what had gone on in the reports and these e- mails, dating back to the fall of 2005. I think you're going to see, despite the fact that Speaker Hastert is putting out this request for an investigation from the Justice Department I think you are going to see a big demand on the part of the Democrats for further detailed explanation on the part of the Republican leadership.

LIN: How do you think that is going to manifest itself? Obviously the speaker of the House wants the Justice Department, the DOJ take over the investigation, kind of you know, trying to get it off Capitol Hill, you might say. So how do the Democrats play this? Is this a fine line or do they just go for it and this is their ace in the hole in five weeks?

MERCURIO: You've only got five weeks until the election. So I think at this point Democrats are trying to use whatever they possibly can. Republicans, I think, did the best thing they possibly could, to call for an independent investigation and I think what is really going to come down to for Speaker Hastert for the head of the House Republican Campaign Committee, Tom Reynolds, and for some of the other members who were involved in this, is the distinction between what they view is overly friendly e-mails that Congressman Foley was sending and these sexually explicit IMs that really I think forced his resignation.

But I think what they are going to need to do at the end of the day is sit down and give a detailed explanation because this is a visceral issue that the media and the American public I think are paying attention to.

LIN: The obvious questions, why didn't anybody call the police? Why didn't somebody call him for censure, why was this not made public in some for or do you think that was a courtesy to the page's parents, they didn't want to pursue any sort of charges or investigation?

MERCURIO: Well, something keeps sticking in my mind. When you look back at what was going on in Washington, DC, and the House Republican Conference in the fall of 2005, you had Scooter Libby being indicted in the Valerie Plame leak investigation. You had the Jack Abramoff investigation on the front page of the newspapers every day. You had the house majority leader at the time, Tom DeLay, forced to step down from his leadership position. You had a lot of turmoil and angst I think on the part of the Republican Party in Washington and the House. I think this added or this could have added you know, to a headache that at this point the speaker and other members of the leadership really didn't want to deal with.

LIN: All right. Does that suggest a cover-up, then, the last thing we need are allegations of a child predator in Congress?

MERCURIO: Unfortunately if that ends up being the case and if that's the perception voters have going into the election, that could be a huge problem for Republicans.

LIN: So you're saying the perception is that there's an appearance of motive for a cover-up at least.

MERCURIO: Absolutely, I think at this point, sure.

LIN: All right, so what's your predictions then? How do you think the Democrats are going to do in five weeks?

MERCURIO: I am smart - and I am not very smart but I'm smart enough to know not to make predictions about what's going to happen.

LIN: Hey, the "Washington Post" has a crystal ball award for good reason, John.

MERCURIO: There's a reason I've never won it. But no, I think look, a week ago who knew any of these things were going to happen, who knew we'd have a national intelligence estimate leak, who knew what Bob Woodward's book was going to say? Who knew about this Mark Foley bombshell?

So things can happen so quickly in Washington. Anything can happen between here and election day. Republicans have a huge fund- raising advantage but with stories like this coming out a regular basis, I think Republicans are in trouble.

LIN: John Mercurio, "National Journal's" Hotline, thank you so much.

MERCURIO: Thank you, Carol.

LIN: We're going to get all of your political news. Go to CNN's new political ticker. Just go to CNN is your campaign 2006 headquarters with the best political team on television.

And just ahead, baseball star Roger Clemens reacts to charges he used performance-enhancing drugs.


LIN: All right, we've got a hurricane out there so meteorologist Jacqui Jeras is going to tell us a little bit more about what Isaac is doing right now.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Isaac is pretty much holding steady, Carol, but moving quickly up to the north, at about 21 miles per hour. It's a Category 1 hurricane, winds 80 miles per hour. The good news is we think it's going to weaken. The bad news is we think it will make landfall probably up toward Newfoundland by late tomorrow.

There you can see the circulation from the storm and there you can see the winds basically is what you're looking at that will help to knock this thing down just a little bit. Forecast track does have it moving northerly for the next couple of hours and then starting to turn on up toward the north and east and late in the day on Monday looks like the Avalon Peninsula could be taking a direct hit. We think it will be a tropical storm by that time. Winds maybe 60, 70 miles per hour.

But even if it does take the outward path here we still think you're going to see the sustained tropical storm force winds, between 35 to 55 miles per hour, possibly some gusts approaching hurricane strength, depending how much this thing is going to be weakening. We think it will become extra tropical because it loses its energy source, the big heat from the ocean as those temperatures continue to knock down a little bit, but either way, certainly going to be a problem, unfortunately, for those folks.

Back here at home today, we've got a lot of action going on, in the corners of the country. In the Southwest here much need and welcome rain and even just the humidity is good across the Southwest, and into the Northeast we've got some occasional showers here. Of course, causing major problems at some of the airports how we've got volume issues in Atlanta, 30-minute departure delays but Boston more than an hour you're waiting to arrive there. Runway issues in Las Vegas, New York City, 30-minute departure delays. We'll have forecast, Carol for what you can expect for tomorrow coming up tonight at 10:00 Eastern.

LIN: All right. Thanks very much, Jacqui. And we look forward to your flight tracker report because a lot of people will be traveling tomorrow so they're going to want to know whether their flights will be delayed or not.

In the meantime a published report today links big names in baseball with allegations of using performance-enhancing drugs. The "Los Angeles Times" report is based on statements former pitcher Jason Grimsley allegedly made to federal agents in late May and early June. Grimsley admitted using human growth hormone, steroids and amphetamines.

Well, "The Times" says its report is based on the affidavit investigators used to search Grimsley's house. Players' names were blacked out when the document was originally made public on May 31st. Now the report relies on information from two anonymous sources. CNN's Larry Smith has more.


LARRY SMITH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a report that's sending shock waves through baseball. According to the "L.A. Times", former pitcher Jason Grimsley implicates Houston Astros pitchers Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte as having taken performance- enhancing drugs. Clemens denied the accusations, saying, quote, "I've been tested plenty of times, my physicals I've taken, they've taken my blood work, I've passed every test. Again, I find it amazing you can throw anybody out there." End quote.

Pettitte also denied the report saying quote, "I've never used any drugs to enhance my performance in baseball. I don't know what else to say except to say it's embarrassing my name would be out there." End quote.

The Astros were in Atlanta to play the Braves in the final game of the season and defended their teammates.

BRAD AUSMUS, HOUSTON ASTROS: I read the report. I really don't put any stock in it. I've played with these guys for three years and at no point has it even crossed my mind they might be taking something.

LANCE BERKMAN, HOUSTON ASTROS: I just feel bad for Andy and Roger, because you know, it's one of those situations where I mean I could say well so and so, I know for a fact took steroids. And even if I was lying or didn't know what I was talking about, well, his reputation would always have a cloud of suspicion around it because I threw that accusation out there.

PHIL GARNER, ASTROS MANAGER: My guys have been tested through the Major League Baseball program, the Rocket was test in the World Baseball Classic program and both guys have been clean. There's no reason for us or anybody else to think they've been doing anything.

SMITH: According to "The Times" report, Grimsley allegedly told investigators that Baltimore Orioles player Miguel Tejada used anabolic steroids. Tejada denied the allegations in comments to the Baltimore Sun, saying quote, "I know I've never used that and know I am clean. I'll get checked out for anybody any time, any moment, whenever they want." End quote.

The timing of this report couldn't be worse. With the playoffs said to begin on Tuesday it becomes the latest in a series of major league distractions for baseball as it continues to try to get a grip on the problem of performance-enhancing drugs. Larry Smith, CNN, Atlanta.


LIN: The talk of the air waves today, Representative Foley's behavior. In case you missed it, we have the highlights from the talk shows.

And we also have the talk on Bob Woodward's new book, "State of Denial."

And listen carefully. You hear that sound? It could finally be the air coming out of that housing bubble. New signs the boom's gone bust, ahead on CNN NEWSROOM.


LIN: Here's a quick look at what's happening right now in the news. There is more fallout from the Mark Foley scandal. About an hour ago House speaker Dennis Hastert called for a Justice Department investigation. He wants to know who, what and when about allegations the Florida congressman sent sexually explicitly messages to a 16- year-old former congressional page.

And there's new video of alleged 9/11 terrorists Mohammed Atta and Ziad Jarrah laughing, joking and reciting their wills. It was taped a year and a half before their attacks and posted today on the British "Sunday Times" Web site.

In Iraq, police have found 50 bullet-riddled bodies scatter across Baghdad. Some showed signs of torture. Meantime there was no letup in the attacks. At least six bombings killed four Iraqis and injured 25 others.

The U.S. military reported today two U.S. soldiers had been killed by small arms fire in Iraq. It happened Saturday in Anbar province, west of Baghdad. The soldiers were assigned to the 13th Sustainment Command based at Ft. Hood, Texas.

And Brazil is observing three days of mourning for victims of Friday's plane crash in the Amazon. A hundred fifty-five people were on board. Officials say they don't expect to find any survivors making this Brazil's worst air tragedy ever.

And today a contrast, a day of contrast in the Middle East, in Gaza, for example, fresh violence, a demonstration by workers erupted into open fire fights between rival Palestinian security forces.

Up north, though, Israel quietly withdrew from Lebanon. It has been six weeks since the conflict ended but among Israelis, a nagging question remains. Was the 34-day Israeli offensive in Lebanon worth it? Here's CNN's Ben Wedeman.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They went in, with a roar. And they left Lebanon Saturday night, with a wave, a low-key and controversial military operation, bringing the troops home for Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.

The goal of Israel's offensive was to win the freedom of two Israeli soldiers, captured by Hezbollah on the border and defend the militant organization. More than 150 Israelis and as many as 1,2000 Lebanese were killed in the 34-day war.

When it was all over, the two soldiers were still missing, and while Hezbollah took a beating, it still had its fangs.

Last weekend, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah told supporters in Beirut's southern suburbs the group has 20,000 rockets for use against Israel. Many Israelis across the political spectrum accuse the government and the army command of incompetence, but despite the political uproar, other Israelis look on the bright side. Israel has destroyed many of Hezbollah's bunkers, and almost 6,000 United Nations troops are now deployed in southern Lebanon. The force is expected to reach 15,000.

HIRSH GOODMAN, ANALYST, TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY: It's an international community with a real mandate this time, for the trouble.

WEDEMAN: But as one front goes quiet to the south trouble.

In Gaza, running gun battles between Hamas security and Palestinian police demanding their salaries. Largely unpaid, since donors led by the United States and European Union suspended aid to the Palestinian Authority, following Hamas' election victory earlier this year. While in Ramallah in the West Bank, other protesting Palestinian policeman occupied and set fire to a government building. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has appealed for calm and told the policemen to stop their protests.

Lebanon cooling off perhaps. Gaza's internal problems definitely heating up. This as Israel's army command is reportedly considering broadening ground operations in Gaza to stop Palestinian militants from firing home-made rockets into Israel.

(on camera): And into all of this, in just a few days, U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to come to the middle east and make sense of it all. Ben Wedeman, CNN, Jerusalem.


LIN: Now in case you missed it, let's check some of the highlights from the Sunday morning talk shows. On all of them, discussions centered on the Bush admission's (ph) handling of the war in Iraq, and what's ahead for the U.S. mission there.


GINGRICH: I think there's a genuine intellectual fight under way inside the government, among professionals, over the way ahead, and I think one group is saying, stay the course, hold things steady, this will all work and the other group of equally serious professionals is saying this is much harder than you think it is. You had better rethink your entire strategy. This is a genuine fight of the intelligence community and a genuine fight at the State and Defense Departments, and I think the president in that sense has two different camps in the government today, over how to do this.

REP. JOHN MURTHA, (D) PA: Who do I believe, this administration who said there's an al Qaeda connection, who said there's weapons of mass destruction, said it's going better every day, do I believe them or believe the people I've been talking to, the troops in the field, the troops in the hospitals and the generals who said we can't win it militarily? What's the point? We've got 130,000 people on the ground for two years, it's getting worse every day.

SEN. MIKE DEWINE, (R) OH: We cannot leave Iraq with the job undone. And we cannot set an artificial timetable. It would bring disaster, just to set the date that we will be out it embolden the insurgents, it will tell them when we would be gone. They just sit back and wait, that would be a mistake.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D) DE: Within the administration, Bob, all of your sources asked them, they are completely at odds with one another. They have no idea what to do next. As I said, there's 600,000 plus trained forces by us, counting our forces. Things are getting worse and worse. It's spiraling out of hand. There's a political solution needed and the president is doing nothing, nothing, nothing about it. He is the one who should cut the old program and run on a new program.


LIN: And from CNN's LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER, White House counselor Dan Bartlett challenges the central thesis of Bob Woodward's new book "State of Denial."


DAN BARLTETT, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: There's evidence that contradicts his very thesis of denial throughout the book, throughout many of president's public speeches, he's been very blunt with the American people about the difficulty of this war. He's he been very blunt about the challenges we faced. He's gone great lengths explain how we're adapting our strategy to the enemy's tactics. As you've covered before late last year, earlier this year, the president gave a series of speeches, where he was talking about how me made some mistakes, how he changed the way we're training Iraqi security forces for example.

In this book I must say, I was really -- I'm puzzled by the fact he's come to the conclusion of this title, this central thesis because I don't even think the evidence in his own book backs it up.


LIN: In the meantime, housing prices are falling. Could the bubble be bursting? Well, we're going to have the answer for you straight ahead.

And making waves within the Catholic Church, you are going to meet one woman who has her work cut out for here, she is trying to reverse history. You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


LIN: Home sales are slowing and prices are falling but that's good for buyers, but maybe not so good for millions of people trying to sell their homes at a premium. Now some say all the talk about a housing bubble was for real and the economy will now pay the price for an overheated market. So has the boom gone bust? Well, I spoke with our personal finance editor, Gerri Willis.


GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Hey, Carol, I'm going to tell you, this is something of a turning point I think in the market. We have a new report out this week, you'll definitely want to see these results and we even talked to one family that is really struggling with the boom that seems to be going bust.

(voice-over): Kate and Hans Koning have been trying to sell their Eastern Connecticut house for a year. So far there are no takers even though they cut their house price once but twice.

KATE KONING, HOMEOWNER: I started at 875, at the time I thought that was really a reasonable price for the house given the size.

WILLIS: The Konings are not alone. Sellers across the country struggling with a weakening housing market. Just how weak became apparent Monday when the National Association of Realtors released its monthly housing report showing that median prices for homes fell for the first time in 11 years. Although the tumble was small, just two percent, it represents a turning point for a market that has been on fire for the past decade.

DAVID LEREAH, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS: The housing markets just went through a big boom. We need a correction. Prices got too high. And now we need prices to come down to bring people back into the buying marketplace.

WILLIS: Back into the buying market, so prices can go up again, but some say a rebound won't be that easy this time. Economist Robert Shiller corrected predicted the dot-com bust of the late '90s. Now he says it's housing turn.

ROBERT SHILLER, AUTHOR, "IRRATIONAL EXUBERANCE": If the U.S. housing market starts to decline it, will harm confidence and cause a possibility of downward momentum in the U.S.

WILLIS: And that means paying for some home owners. SHILLER: The people who bought at the top and sell at the bottom can get really hurt so there will be bankruptcies, foreclosures, and people out of jobs, but we'll recover from it, and this is not the nuclear war.

WILLIS: Even Lereah who had previously been optimistic say prices are headed down for awhile. Most at risk are places with big backlogs of homes and already high prices, like Southern Florida, Southern California, Nevada and Washington, DC. Some say recovery will be months in the future. Others say it could be years. For the Konings, it can't come soon enough.

KONING: I don't know how long this is going to go. I may have to just decide not to go anywhere.

WILLIS (on camera): Carol, as you can see, people are struggling with this market right now. And you know what? It's all local, that's the big headline here. Some people see the news the median price has actually gone down for the first time in 11 years, they say "not in my neighborhood." That can be true, but I got to tell you Carol, it pays to watch the prices.

LIN: Yeah, because you take a look at that map, Gerri, I'm thinking the big markets like New York, Florida, California, Arizona, we've heard of the triple digit gains but what about places like right here in Atlanta or Nashville, Tennessee, the smaller or mid-markets, I mean, there are houses that are selling so how do you explain that?

WILLIS: Absolutely correct, Carol. It's all local. Every market is different, and what's interesting here is the pundits really got it wrong. That's right. They said that the declines would happen first in those big markets but what actually happened is we've seen prices already go down and some Midwestern markets like Detroit where the auto industry is really suffering, they're laying off lots of employees. The economy is down and as a result, you see the housing market is really suffering.

LIN: So for people who want to sell right now, what are they realistically looking at? Is it better for them to rent their house out and wait for the market to turn or is it really a matter of seeing people starting to dump properties?

WILLIS: Well, it really depends on where you are and what situation that market is in but one thing to really think about here is, how long have I been in my house? Look, for a lot of people across the country, prices have been going up for years. If you've held your home in this country for five years, prices on average have gone up 60 percent. A three percent decline simply doesn't matter and that's the forecast from the NAR. Carol?

LIN: All right, Gerri Willis, we'll see what happens. Thank you.

WILLIS: You're welcome.

(END VIDEOTAPE) LIN: Meanwhile it's a huge undertaking but this woman is trying to change hundreds of years of tradition in the Catholic Church. Her grassroots efforts in three minutes.

And then, "Rumsfeld, Man of War," CNN PRESENTS goes beyond Donald Rumsfeld's tough exterior, that's at the top of the hour. You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


LIN: For centuries, the Roman Catholic Church has told women they cannot be ordained as priests. Now a small group of women is defying that ban and they face excommunication. But they say it's a matter of faith. Here's CNN's Kareen Wynter.


KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jane Via knows the odds are stacked squarely against her.

JANE VIA, ORDAINED BY CATHOLIC REFORMERS: What do you ask of God's church for Emma Grace?

WYNTER: This female priest is going head to head with the Roman Catholic Church to reverse history. Via makes no apologies for defying Catholic tradition which bars women from becoming priests or deacons.

VIA: We acknowledge we're breaking a law, but we believe it's an unjust law. And like Rosa Parks and the many people who have gone before us, sometimes the only way to bring an unjust law to the attention of the world is to break it.

WYNTER: Via leads a congregation of Catholics inside this San Diego Methodist church. A role she took on after her ordination by an independent Catholic reform movement in Switzerland in June, where an aggressive Roman Catholic women's priest movement is under way to change the church's hierarchy.

VIA: It got to the point that I was so angry in church at the men, who will not change hardly a single word of the patriarchal language of the liturgy so that women can feel more included and so, when I heard about the Roman Catholic Woman Priest Movement, I said, I can do this.

WYNTER: A San Diego bishop has no comment on her case, but has referred it to the Vatican for review. She faces possible excommunication.

FR. THOMAS RAUSCH, PROFESSOR OF THEOLOGICAL STUDIES: I think it's difficult to see these ordinations which are really done from outside the communion of the church as really being helpful in moving the church forward because they will be perceived by many Catholics as an act of disobedience, as an act of rebellion, as an act of defiance.

WYNTER: Via's parishioners disagree. DAN DINAN, PARISHIONER: This is a revolution. For years we thought we had to wait for the hierarchy of the church to change things but now we're finding we can change this from the bottom.

EUGENIE NEWTON, PARISHIONER: I never thought I'd see that in my lifetime.

WYNTER: Via says she knows change won't happen overnight but says someone, someday will benefit from her fight.

VIA: The realist in me, the part of me that knows lots of history says I just better be happy with some change 100 years from now.

WYNTER: Kareen Wynter, CNN, reporting.


LIN: There's much more ahead on CNN. Up next, CNN PRESENTS, defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been under fire for his handing of the Iraq War. Now he's responding to critics in an interview with our Frank Sesno.

CNN PRESENTS, "Rumsfeld, Man of War." This new documentary uncovers a true leader and reveals a startling miscalculation. The day's top stories when I come back and then CNN PRESENTS.



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