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THE SITUATION ROOM

Another Botched Execution in Iraq; President Bush Continues Fight to Send More Troops to Iraq; Republicans Race to 2008; Remembering Martin Luther King

Aired January 15, 2007 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.
Happening now, another botched execution in Iraq on the heels of Saddam Hussein's hanging and it may stir even more sectarian hatred.

Here in the United States, President Bush is digging in for a fight over sending more troops to Iraq.

But can Democrats agree on a way to try to stop him?

Also this hour, Republicans and the race to 2008 -- a powerful Christian conservative delivers a blow to John McCain's White House hopes and a major newspaper tries to open the door to an Arnold Schwarzenegger presidential bid.

On the Democratic side, it's the traditional Martin Luther King Day scramble. '08 contenders are reaching out to African-American voters and trying to one up each other along the way.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin this hour with new partisan maneuvers in the unfolding battle over the president's latest Iraq strategy. On Capitol Hill right now, Mr. Bush's refusal to budge on building up troop levels is ringing in many Democrats' ears. But they remain divided over how hard they should push back against the president and his plan.

Meantime, the Bush White House is trying to turn the tables on its critics, saying Democrats don't have a credible or unified alternative for Iraq.

We're tracking the fallout after a weekend of high profile interviews on both sides.

And throw this into the already volatile mix. The execution of Saddam Hussein's co-defendants in Iraq went awry earlier today. Saddam Hussein's half-brother was decapitated by the hangman's noose.

CNN's Arwa Damon is standing by in Baghdad.

Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, is also standing by.

Let's go to our Congressional correspondent, Andrea Koppel, first -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, almost a week after President Bush spelled out his vision to send more troops to Iraq, Democrats are united in their opposition, but they're divided as to just how aggressively to respond.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

KOPPEL (voice-over): In the Senate, Democratic leaders are putting the finishing touches on a symbolic resolution, to be introduced this week, expressing opposition to Mr. Bush's plan.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: I think that will send a message that, in fact, there is great skepticism within Congress and certainly among the American people for this plan.

KOPPEL: But a handful of Democrats in the House and Senate believe that won't be enough and are pushing their party to go further and vote to restrict money for the war.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE: No one wants to undercut the troops, but there's ways to put conditions on the funds and we do have control over the purse strings.

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: What -- I think we build a case, and we'll build a case which shows we cannot continue down this road. We're spending $8 billion a month.

KOPPEL: Even Democrats no longer in Congress, like former Senator John Edwards, a presidential hopeful in 2008, are weighing in.

FORMER SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Silence is betrayal. Speak out and stop this escalation now. You have the power, members of Congress, to prohibit this president from spending any money to escalate this war. Use that power. Use it now.

KOPPEL: Still other Democrats, including the new chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, say cutting off money would be unwise.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I don't support using the power of the purse because I think that sends the wrong message to our troops. We're going to continue to support our troops, although we disagree with the policy.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

KOPPEL: Now, Republicans accuse Democrats of having no alternative plan to offer, while Senator John McCain, Republican from Arizona, who's a likely presidential hopeful in 2008, is trying to call the Democrats' bluff. And he's saying if they really oppose the Democrats' plan then they should vote to cut off funds. Simply to support a symbolic resolution, Wolf, he says, is nothing more than a political ploy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The fighting on Capitol Hill continuing.

Andrea, thank you for that.

Senator Hillary Clinton's camp, by the way, is firing back at John Edwards for his not so veiled suggestion that she has failed to speak out against the war in Iraq. Edwards didn't mention Senator Clinton by name, but Clinton's senior adviser, Howard Wolfson, is going directly after Edwards.

Wolfson quoted today as saying, let me read it to you: "In 2004, John Edwards used to constantly brag about running a positive campaign. Today, he has unfortunately chosen to open his campaign with political attacks on Democrats who are fighting the Bush administration's Iraq policy."

Let's go over to the White House now and the president's own tough talk about his Iraq strategy and those who might try to get in his way.

We'll turn to our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know, the president continues to sell his unpopular new Iraq strategy, including bringing more U.S. troops to Baghdad. And part of the strategy really is to go around members of Congress, take his message directly to the American people.

Now, part of that we saw over the weekend, President Bush giving an interview to CBS News' "60 Minutes." That is where he made the case that Iraq's prime minister, Nouri Al-Maliki, had, indeed, been put on notice that it will no longer acceptable for him to restrict the movements of either Iraqi or U.S. troops to go after the insurgents and the militia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What they do is they say we're going after this killer and they say well he's, you know, for political reasons, don't. A killer is a killer and we expect them to go after both Shia and Sunni murderers in order to provide the security for Baghdad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Now, faced with fierce opposition about his Iraq strategy from many different quarters, the president really using familiar language here, direct language, if you will. He was saying that, of course, if we do not succeed in Iraq, we will leave behind a Middle East which will endanger America in the future.

But President Bush, also, Wolf, is beginning to use language that really takes more responsibility of the administration's failures and this is something that aides believe perhaps will give him more credibility.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The temptation is going to find scapegoats. Well, if the people want a scapegoat, they've got one right here in me, because it's my decisions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, you'll hear familiar language throughout the week as he continues his outreach. "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," another interview tomorrow. And he's also going to be meeting with the new secretary-general of the United Nations here at the White House to make his case for the Iraq strategy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Suzanne, thanks very much for that.

Suzanne is at the White House.

In Iraq today, possible new fuel for sectarian anger. Iraqi authorities today showed journalists a video of the execution of Saddam Hussein's co-defendants.

Iraq's goal?

To prove that the decapitated of Saddam Hussein's half-brother during his hanging was simply an accident.

CNN's Arwa Damon is in Baghdad -- Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, 16 days after Saddam Hussein was executed, his two co-defendants met a similar fate. Barzan Ibrahim, Saddam's half-brother and former chief of intelligence, greatly feared throughout Iraq; and Awad al-Bandar, the former chief judge of the Revolutionary Court were executed by the Iraqi government at 3:00 a.m.

This time, though, the government was quick to hold a press conference in both Arabic and in English, making the statement that this time the defendants were treated with dignity and respect.

The execution, though, not flawless. Barzan's head was severed from its body. The Iraqi government then showed the video to a select group of individuals. Their aim, to prove that the head was severed from the body on its own, that this was not something -- a mutilation that happened to Barzan's body after he was killed.

Mixed reactions on the streets of Baghdad. Predictably, in the Shia stronghold of Sadr City, there were many celebrations. But other Iraqis, mainly its Sunni population, expressing sorrow and disgust.

The Iraqi president had urged the government not to rush to these executions, fearing that they would only increase sectarian tensions, especially after they peaked following the spectacle that was the execution of Saddam Hussein -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Arwa, thank you very much.

And one of the people, by the way, who saw finished the video of the latest botched execution, is John Burns of the "New York Times."

He's going to be joining us live from Baghdad right here in THE SITUATION ROOM in the next hour. We'll get his eyewitness account.

The top U.S. commander in Iraq is suggesting that a troop build- up in Baghdad will not significantly ease violence there until this summer, at the earliest.

General George Casey and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, held a news conference in Baghdad earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. GEORGE CASEY, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ: Together, we and the Iraqis have committed sufficient reliable security forces here to ensure that we succeed. And, finally, as with any plan, there are no guarantees of success and it's not going to happen overnight. But with sustained political support and the concentrated efforts on all sides, I believe that this plan can work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Defense Secretary Robert Gates today accused Iran of doing nothing constructive to ease sectarian violence in Iraq. He says Washington will only engage with Tehran if that changes.

Gates spoke in Belgium before heading off to Afghanistan.

The secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, today is also addressing the broader Middle East conflict. In Egypt, Rice said she and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed to meet soon with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. The three-way talks would be a new attempt to try to generate some momentum for the stalled peace process.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty in New York for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Wolf.

It wasn't exactly the headline in President Bush's address last week. That went to the 21,500 troops that are on their way to Iraq. But the White House also announced a plan to stop the flow of insurgent support into Iraq from Iran and Syria.

That strategy appears to be moving forward and creating tension in the process. The U.S. has accused the five Iranians that it arrested in Iraq last week of running arms and cash to the militants there.

The governments of both Iran and Iraq are calling for the release of those people. Iranian officials have said the detainment is illegal. But the U.S. says the men are linked to an organization that is known for giving cash, weapons technology and training to extremist groups inside Iraq.

Making the rounds of the Sunday talk shows, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said the U.S. is not planning any military action against Iran, but he did not rule out that possibility in the future.

So the question this hour is this -- how much of a threat is Iran to Iraqi stability?

E-mail your thoughts on that to caffertyfile@cnn.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you.

And coming up, Senator John McCain likes straight talk. But you can bet he won't like what a leading Christian conservative is saying about him.

Also ahead, where do the Democratic White House hopefuls stand with African-American voters on this Martin Luther King holiday?

And new details on those two missing boys and the man accused of abducting them.

How did one of the boys manage to hold on for more than four years?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

In the early race for the White House, a major new obstacle today for Republican Senator John McCain in his attempts to reach out to Christian conservatives. One leader is now adamantly refusing to back McCain's expected presidential bid.

Our national correspondent, Bob Franken, is standing by with the story -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it is so early, but already the apparent presidential campaigns are trying to forge alliances and overcome antagonisms.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

FRANKEN (voice-over): One of the nation's most influential Christian conservatives is lashing out at Senator John McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM, "JERRY JOHNSON LIVE," COURTESY KCBI)

JAMES DOBSON, FOUNDER, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: And he's not in favor of traditional marriage. And I pray that we won't get stuck with him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: James Dobson, founder of the Evangelical powerhouse Focus on the Family, was speaking on a Christian radio program last week. Dobson said "there's no way he'll get behind McCain's bid for the White House."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM, "JERRY JOHNSON LIVE," COURTESY KCBI)

DOBSON: I would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: Those comments highlight a major political problem for the Arizona Senator. He remains estranged from his party's core voters, conservative Evangelicals, major players in Republican primaries.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: I don't think that they think that John McCain is a true believer, that John McCain is with them on all the issues, that John McCain, if he were to become president, would push a social agenda as hard and as fast as they would like.

FRANKEN: McCain does oppose abortion and same-sex marriage, but he refuses to get behind a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. And he's generally had an arm's length relationship with Evangelical leaders.

Back in the 2000 presidential campaign, McCain called his then opponent George W. Bush "a Pat Robertson Republican who panders to Christian leaders like Reverend Falwell. That was then.

Now, of course, McCain is struggling to win over those same religious leaders. He recently spent some political quickly time with Falwell, delivering the commencement address at the reverend's fundamentalist Liberty University.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MAY 13, 2006)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We have our disagreements, we Americans. We contend regularly and enthusiastically over many questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: But Dobson's comments show that McCain's still got some fences to mend. The senator's spokesman says the record speaks for itself.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

FRANKEN: And the record, Wolf, shows a prickly relationship between McCain and the religious conservatives who might be the key to his presidential ambitions -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Bob, thank you for that.

Bob Franken, by the way, and earlier Suzanne Malveaux and Andrea Koppel, they are all part of the best political team on television.

And remember, for the latest political news at any time, check out our Political Ticker, cnn.com/ticker.

Carol Costello is joining us from New York with a closer look at some other important stories making news, including that dramatic discovery in recent days of those two missing boys out in Missouri -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, some new information about the case of the missing boys.

The attorney for the Missouri man who allegedly kidnapped them says he will not enter a not guilty plea. He's going to enter not guilty. The teenage boys were found in 41-year-old Michael Devlin's apartment last week.

Currently, he faces felony kidnapping charges and prosecutors say more charges are likely. The two boys now back with their families after police found them in Devlin's home in a St. Louis suburb.

This case is garnering a whole lot of attention. The attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez, had this to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALBERTO GONZALEZ, ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's great. I mean, you know, I think we need to do a lot more to protect our kids. And that's -- that's great. I'm sure the families are delighted.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

GONZALEZ: Listen, let's work with the local authorities and we'll see what happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Yes.

So right now authorities are trying to piece together the puzzling details of this case. Thirteen-year-old William Ben Ownby was reported missing a week ago. Fifteen year-old Shawn Hornbeck was missing for more than four years. And according to reports, he may have had ample opportunity to contact authorities or his family or to just simply walk away from his abductor.

Neighbors say they'd seen Hornbeck bicycling or hanging out in the neighborhood apparently unsupervised. And now various crime tracking Web sites are reporting that he may have posted messages on a Web site set up by his parents to help locate him. In one of the meetings, the poster asks: "How long are you going to look for your son?"

Experts say that kidnappers are sometimes able to gain psychological control over their victims, particularly children.

Stay with CNN as we shine the spotlight on America's missing children, including all the latest details of this case and in-depth reporting tonight on CNN prime time tonight -- back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Carol, thanks very much.

And we'll have more on this story in the next hour, as well.

Still ahead this hour, we're hearing a lot of very different opinions from Democrats on Iraq.

Does the party have a clear position on the war?

We're going to take a closer look.

And a setback for GOP Senate hopes for 2008. We're going to tell you what has now happened today.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: On our Political Radar this Monday, Senator John McCain already is lining up a national co-chairman for his presidential campaign if, as most expect, he decides to run for president. That job is going to fellow Republican and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty also is slated to become chairman of the National Governors Association this summer.

Still another milestone ahead for Congressman Duncan Hunter and his presidential plans. The California Republican says he'll officially announce his White House campaign on January 25th in South Carolina. Hunter recently filed papers to explore a presidential bid.

And as we head deeper into the 2008 presidential race, remember, CNN is a partner in the very first presidential debate of the campaign season. CNN, WMUR Television and the "New Hampshire Union-Leader" will sponsor back to back debates among the Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns on April 4th and April 5th of this year. It's an unprecedented early kickoff to a wide open race for the White House. The first debates in the leadoff presidential primary state.

An announcement today isn't likely to bolster Republican hopes of reclaiming control of the Senate in 2008. Colorado Republican Wayne Allard said today he will not run for reelection next year. Allard says he's honoring a pledge he made back in 1996 to serve only two terms. His retirement sets up a wide open race to replace him, presumably good news for the Democrats.

And remember, for the latest political news at any time, check out our Political Ticker at cnn.com/ticker.

Up next in our Strategy Session, Senator John McCain appears to be getting nowhere in his attempts to court the religious right.

Why?

We'll talk about it with Donna Brazile and Terry Jeffrey.

And without mentioning names, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards had some pointed criticism for those Democrats who are not vocally opposing a troop build-up in Iraq.

Is Edwards sniping at Hillary Clinton?

Our Strategy Session is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Happening now, fallout from a new execution embarrassment in Iraq. Just weeks after Saddam Hussein's hanging, his two co-defendants also were put to death today and one of them was decapitated by the hangman's noose. Iraqi authorities insist it was an accident.

A winter ice storm now is putting the Northeast into a deep freeze after causing havoc in the middle part of the country. At least 70,000 homes and businesses are without power in New York State and New Hampshire.

And on this Martin Luther King Day, Democrats are out in force trying to appeal to African-American voters. The politics surrounding the holiday, that's coming up ahead.

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

In today's Strategy Session, President Bush is drawing his line in the sand regarding Iraq.

But how might Democrats respond?

The president refuses to budge on the issue, sending in more American troops.

Joining us now, our political analyst and Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile. And Terry Jeffrey, editor-at-large at "Human Events."

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

Let's talk a little bit about what the president said on "60 Minutes" last night.

I want to play this little clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Some of my buddies in Texas say, you know, let them fight it out.

What business is it of ours?

You got rid of Saddam. How come, you know -- just let them slug it out. And that's a temptation that I know a lot of people feel. But if we do not succeed in Iraq, we will leave behind a Middle East which will endanger America in the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Terry, how much credibility does the president have right now?

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, "HUMAN EVENTS": Well, I think people aren't -- his plan, Wolf, is not popular and the war is not popular. But I think the president has -- is sincere in what he's saying. I think he's doing the right thing, basically trying to go around the media by directly going to major media and delivering his message directly through his own words to the American people.

It's the right thing to do. I don't think he'll get traction until there's real change on the ground in Iraq. When his plan starts to work, I think he will start to turn popular opinion around.

BLITZER: Democrats seem to be themselves split on how far to go in trying to stop this new approach by the president. Some want to withhold funds. Others say no, that's not a good idea.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think the bipartisan consensus right now, Wolf, is to try to come up with a symbolic resolution to say no to more escalation -- to the escalation of our troops. Democrats are united on that. They're united on a phased redeployment and they're united on some withdrawal of American forces starting this year.

BLITZER: There will be Republicans who will support that Democratic initiative, as well.

JEFFREY: Well, I think, if it's symbolic, Senator McCain has a point. The president is going to be accountable for his policy. He has put his prestige and his views behind it.

But, if the Democrats really believe this policy is the wrong way to go, and they think it will fail, they ought to vote to cut off the troop surge. They ought to put their own policy forward, using the constitutional power of the legislative branch, and, then, they ought to be accountable for it. They shouldn't try and have it both ways by carping about the president's policy, but not having a real alternative of their own.

BLITZER: That -- that is what is Senator John Edwards is suggesting as well. You heard his words yesterday in New York. And a lot of people are -- are suggesting that was at least an indirect attack on Hillary Clinton.

BRAZILE: Well, that day may come, when the Democrats will have an opportunity, when the president has submitted his supplemental bill, to either cut off funding or to redirect the funding that the president will request.

Look, John Edwards has a good deal of credibility when it comes to speaking up about the war. He's been outspoken now for over a year. And he's urging Hillary Clinton and all the other so-called top-tier candidates to also come out force -- forcefully against a war.

I do believe that Mrs. Clinton made a strong statement last week, but we're awaiting for her to return from Iraq and Afghanistan to tell us exactly what she would do next.

BLITZER: She's going to be speaking out tomorrow, we take it, about her trip.

Does she have a problem right now, given her track record on Iraq?

JEFFREY: Yes. I think there's no doubt about it.

Hillary Clinton voted for the war in Iraq, Wolf. And she went down to the Senate floor -- that anybody can look up in the congressional record, and I'm sure some of her Democratic opponents will be looking up during the primary campaign -- where she forcefully made the case for removing Saddam Hussein. She forcefully made the case for military intervention in that country.

So, Hillary is trying to recreate herself now, anticipating that the anti-war movement is going to be very strong in the Democratic primaries. And she positioned herself wrongly from the beginning...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: A lot of susp -- anticipation -- that's the word -- that..

JEFFREY: Right.

BLITZER: ... Senator Clinton is going to announce very soon that she is running for president. What are you hearing?

BRAZILE: I'm hearing right now that she's picking up a -- a great deal of staff people, also support. She's raising money.

Look, I think I'm imminent that both Mrs. Clinton, as well as Senator Obama and others, will be announcing in the coming weeks. Why? Because they want to get an early start, not just in Iowa and New Hampshire. Clearly, they have got to -- they must get prepared for CNN's debate, scheduled for April 4.

BLITZER: April 4 and April 5, the first -- we mentioned that was the first -- the first two debates...

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

BLITZER: ... of the season. We did.

There is pressure on all these Democrats and Republicans not to waste any time, to throw their hats into the ring, and get going.

JEFFREY: Yes.

Well, listen, one year from now, we are going to be voting on this. By the time we get to February of next year, this is going to be decided. There's going to be a Republican and Democratic candidate by the time we get to March 1. There's no time to waste for these campaigns.

BLITZER: What do you make of this James Dobson statement the other day, saying he doesn't like Senator McCain?

JEFFREY: Well, Wolf, you know, you talk to conservative activists all around the country, and what they see in the Republican field right now are leading candidates, in McCain, Giuliani and Romney, who do not necessarily represent the Reagan conservative vision.

Each of them has their own problems. There is a vacuum in the Republican field right now for someone who has the Reagan vision and is a viable candidate. Right now, that other candidate isn't there. I'm not sure...

BLITZER: You don't think Mitt Romney can fill that vacuum?

JEFFREY: Well, Mitt Romney ran for Senate in 1994 against Ted Kennedy as a social liberal. He basically ran for governor of Massachusetts as a social liberal. Now he's trying to recreate himself as a social conservative.

People in the primaries and caucuses, the Republican voters, are going to look at him and say, can I trust this guy to follow through on what he is saying now? He has got to convince them.

McCain actually has positioned himself apart from the conservative base of the Republican Party on some of these issues. So, it's not about credibility. It's whether they are going to say, all right, we know we don't agree with McCain on these certain issues, but we're going to support him anyway, because we think he can beat Hillary.

BLITZER: There are some traditional conservatives, what Terry called classical conservatives. Sam Brownback is seriously thinking of running. Mike Huckabee, the governor of Arkansas, is thinking of running.

This is a wide-open race on both sides.

BRAZILE: Absolutely. Newt Gingrich is another -- you know, I would call him a Reagan conservative.

But, look, when it comes to conservatism, I am way out of school.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Yes. (LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: But, on the other hand, I think Mr. Dobson should say who he is for, and not necessarily attack John McCain because of his values or his so-called beliefs.

I mean, that is the great thing about America, especially when a -- what -- what -- in a wide-open field, is that these -- these religious leaders can pick among many.

BLITZER: And -- and on the Democratic side, as well, and the Republican side.

All right, guys, we are going to leave it right there. Thanks to both of you for coming in.

BRAZILE: Yes.

BLITZER: And, coming up, our Mary Snow will take a closer look at how leading Democratic White House contenders are remembering Dr. Martin Luther King.

Plus, from Tinseltown to the White House -- some say it's time to change the law of the land so that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger can run for president. Our Bill Schneider has a special report on that.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: On this Martin Luther King day, Democratic presidential hopefuls are not taking a holiday break. Instead, many of them are scrambling to appeal to African-American voters.

And it turns out where they're spending this day says a lot about where they stand.

Let's turn to CNN's Mary Snow. She is following this race to 2008 -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, since South Carolina holds the second Democratic primary in the nation, it might come as no surprise that two Democrats marked Martin Luther King Day there. One has said he is running for president. The other says he intends to.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): At a rally in South Carolina capital honoring Dr. Martin Luther King came words from a visitor.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: This is a fine way to welcome a stranger to South Carolina.

SNOW: But Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd doesn't want to be a stranger in South Carolina. And neither does potential presidential hopeful Senator Joe Biden of Delaware. SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: It seems to me that we should reinvest in Dr. King's notion of hope.

SNOW: Political observers say, these visits, especially on Martin Luther King Day, are crucial for potential candidates who face a key presidential primary in South Carolina, where African-Americans represent roughly half the turnout.

And the lower-tier candidates will have a challenge, facing Illinois Senator Barack Obama, possibly the only African-American potential presidential candidate. He marked the day in Chicago, where he said, Martin Luther King paved the way for people like him.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: All I do is stand on the shoulders of others.

SNOW: Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards paid homage to Dr. King Sunday at the Harlem church, where the civil rights leader once denounced the war in Vietnam.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is a betrayal not to speak out against an escalation of the war in Iraq.

SNOW: Edwards' visit to New York was also noted, since he ventured into Hillary Clinton territory. The senator was out of town, as she had gone to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last year at this time, she made headlines, after saying the Bush administration will go down in history as one of the worst ever.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: When you look at the way the House of Representatives has been run, it has been run like a plantation. And you know what I'm talking about.

SNOW: Winning over the black vote will be a challenge for Democratic presidential hopefuls. But one political observer says, it's not a given that Barack Obama would automatically win the South Carolina primary.

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: You do have that home-vote factor for John Edwards. And Hillary Clinton, through her husband, Bill Clinton, and his strong connection with black voters, also has a connection to the African- American population. So, I really think it's a horse race in South Carolina among blacks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: And, Wolf, over the weekend, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson also visited South Carolina, saying he will make a decision soon about whether he will seek the Democratic nomination -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we are going to be speaking to Governor Richardson in the next hour, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Mary, thank you for that. President Bush marked this Martin Luther King Day by making an unannounced stop at a high school near the White House, said, people should honor Dr. King by finding ways to give back to their communities.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I encourage people all around the country to seize any opportunity they can to help somebody in need.

And, by helping somebody in need, you're honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.

BUSH: And, by helping somebody in need, you're really helping yourself, because you're -- you're lifting your soul.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And, today, the American public is getting a first look at thousands of Dr. King's personal writings. But you don't necessarily have to travel to the Atlanta History Center to see the display.

CNN has some exclusive access to this rare collection. And you can get a peak online.

Let's turn to CNN's Abbi Tatton for details -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, some 7,000 pages of documents that had been in Dr. King's possession were purchased by the city of Atlanta last year for a reported $32 million.

And we have put some of them online at CNN.com -- what you can find there amongst them, a draft of the 1963 "I have a dream" speech, but not just the draft, the typed pages, but the handwritten notes by Dr. King on the back of some of those pages -- also from that same year, dated November 23, a Western Union telegram inviting Dr. King to the funeral of President John F. Kennedy -- from the date of the assassination, a scrap of paper, a torn piece of paper that was found in Dr. King's briefcase, that -- a number of quotes from Gandhi that Dr. King had been carried around -- carrying around with him.

All of these online in a special selection -- a special section right now at CNN.com -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thank you, Abbi, for that.

And this note: Martin Luther King Jr. certainly helped change America's course. And, next month, CNN will chronic some -- chronicle some of those ways. It's a special documentary on Dr. King's writings, "MLK: Words That Changed a Nation," airs February 17 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN. Arnold Schwarzenegger is riding high these days, at the start of his second term as California's governor. But is the stage now being set for the Republican to try his hand at an even higher office?

Let's turn to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, President Schwarzenegger, how does that sound? Some people think it sounds pretty good.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Don't we have enough people running for president? Four Democrats are already running. One is exploring. Seven others are thinking about it. Eight Republicans are exploring. Six are thinking. That makes 26 potential candidates.

The editors of "The Los Angeles Times" think there's room for one more.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: California, if a nation, would be the sixth largest economy in the world.

SCHNEIDER: "Why should Californians have their governor sidelined from the race"? "The L.A. Times" asks. The reason is, the United States Constitution: "No person, except a natural-born citizen, shall be eligible to the office of president."

Can't we amend the Constitution, like in the 1993 movie "Demolition Man," about a cop who was cryogenically frozen and thawed out in 2032?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "DEMOLITION MAN")

SYLVESTER STALLONE, ACTOR: The Schwarzenegger Library?

SANDRA BULLOCK, ACTOR: Yes, the Schwarzenegger Presidential Library. Wasn't he an actor when you...

STALLONE: Stop. He was president?

BULLOCK: Yes. Even though he was not born in this country, his popularity at the time caused the 61st Amendment, which states that...

(CROSSTALK)

STALLONE: I don't want to know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: Schwarzenegger has an ambitious agenda to deal with problems that tie the federal government up in knots, like the environment.

SCHWARZENEGGER: One area where we definitely need the climate to change is the national government's attitude about global warming. It would not act. So California did.

(APPLAUSE)

SCHNEIDER: And health care.

SCHWARZENEGGER: California is going to lead the nation in breaking new grounds to meet the health care needs of its people.

SCHNEIDER: Fifty-seven percent of Californians approve of the way Governor Schwarzenegger is handling his job. President Bush's job rating in California, 26.

Everybody likes Arnold. Even Democrats think he is doing a good job. If the Constitution says Schwarzenegger can't be president of the United States, he will just have to pretend he is president of California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Tonight, Governor Schwarzenegger will be presenting the Golden Globe award for best dramatic picture. He actually won a Golden Globe in 1977. Now, if he can just get somebody to rewrite his own script, the part about where he was born -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you for that, Bill Schneider, reporting.

Up next: Wicked weather takes a whack at the Northeast. Meanwhile, tens of thousands are still without power from the latest arctic blast.

And "The Cafferty File": How much of a threat is Iran to the stability of Iraq? Jack Cafferty with your e-mail -- all that coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow.

In Baghdad, Iraqi men donate blood for victims of sectarian violence.

In Ecuador, the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, laughs it up with Bolivia's new president, Evo Morales. They are both in the Ecuadorian capital today for the inauguration of that country's new president, Rafael Correa.

Icicles hang from dark traffic lights in downtown Springfield, Missouri. Thousands of residents still don't have power, after the weekend's ice storm.

And Indian army soldiers perform acrobatic skills on motorcycles during Army Day celebrations earlier today in New Delhi -- some of today's "Hot Shots," pictures often worth 1,000 words.

Carol Costello is joining us from New York with a closer look at some other important stories making news.

Hi, Carol.

COSTELLO: Hello, Wolf.

You know those icicles you just showed in Missouri? Well, hundreds of thousands of people still without electricity, after a winter storm knocked down trees and power lines and disrupted travel from Maine, all the way to Texas -- the storm being blamed for at least 36 deaths.

In Missouri alone, 330,000 households are without power. And authorities say they may not be back online until Wednesday night. Now forecasters are warning residents of the Southeast to brace for cold, wet weather.

A 52-year-old South Carolina woman is in a New Mexico hospital after being lost in a remote wilderness for five weeks. Carolyn Dorn was found by two hikers on Friday, and a rescue helicopter reached her yesterday. She had headed into the Gila wilderness in southern New Mexico for a two-week camping trip in early December. When she never made it out, a search was mounted. But that was given up weeks ago. But her story has a happy ending.

In east central Kentucky, a train derailment and chemical spill has authorities telling residents to stay indoors and seal off windows and doors. Four runaway railcars reportedly hit two parked locomotives in the town of Irvine, spilling a flammable chemical, which then caught fire. Residents in the immediate area have been told to evacuate -- no injuries reported so far.

And rescuers are trying to drive a group of about 30 dolphins stranded in shallow waters off of Long Island back to the open ocean. Five of the dolphins have died in the past week. Scientists say the animals are becoming increasingly stressed, and are worried they will all die, if they don't make it to open water soon. And they are still trying -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Those are sad pictures, Carol...

COSTELLO: Yes.

BLITZER: ... those sweet dolphins.

Thanks very much, Carol, reporting for us.

Let's check in with Jack once again for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour, Wolf, is the following: How much of a threat is Iran to the stability of Iraq?

Barry writes in Saint Petersburg, Florida: "Iran is, has been, and, until we take action, will always be a threat to the United States. Unlike the manufactured war against Iraq by this reckless president, a confrontation with Iran, North Korea and others with nuclear threats would indeed make us safer. Iran is simply taking advantage of the bumbled misuse of the U.S. armed forces in Iraq."

Paul writes in Dacula, Georgia: "Iran's threat to Iraq's stability is minuscule compared to what the U.S. invasion did for stability in Iraq. However, if Iran or anybody else wants to stick their nose in our war, we should bloody it for them."

Melissa, Aurora, Illinois: "I think Iran is no threat at all to Iraq's stability. The Iranians will be more than happy to stabilize Iraq by moving in and taking over, imposing their version of democracy."

Jeff writes from Indianapolis: "Bush opened a Pandora's box in Iraq. Iran and Saudi Arabia will close it by supporting the Sunni and Shiite there. We should get out of the way and let the inevitable happen, without any more American casualties."

Richard writes from Seattle: "Al-Sadr militias are protecting fellow Iraqi Shiites against their Sunni adversaries and may be accepting arms and cash from Iran, similar to Israel accepting arms and cash from the United States."

William in Arlington, Texas: "Iran poses no significant threat to the people of the U.S. The real threat is the paranoia of President Bush, as he seeks to bait Iran. His detention of the five Iranians involved a clear violation of international law."

And, finally, John writes from Red, California: "Iran is like a vulture sitting on the desert perch, waiting for the U.S. to pull out, so it can eat the entire Middle East, led by a narcissistic nutcase who can wait forever for his chance to pounce" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you. See you in a few minutes.

It's almost impossible to imagine what it must be like. Right now, in Missouri, a boy is getting to know his family all over again, after being held captive several years.

We're learning fresh details in the bizarre kidnapping involving the now 15-year-old boy who was found with another young kidnapping victim.

Our Sean Callebs reports from Missouri with more on this unfolding story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For more than four years, authorities say young Shawn Hornbeck lived here, held captive by 41-year-old Michael Devlin, a hulking 300-pound pizza parlor manager. The living arrangement apparently raised no red flags among neighbors. Many thought perhaps a single father raising an active 15- year-old.

HARRY RICHARD, NEIGHBOR: He just seemed to me just like an average euphoric child, you know, as, you know, young kids are, just going back and forth with, you know, their, you know, guardian or -- or parent, or relative, or whoever. And he didn't seem to display any type of social dysfunctions.

CALLEBS: Experts on abducted children say, the same coping mechanism that fooled neighbors could have kept Shawn alive all these years: the ability to adapt.

JEFFREY LIEBERMAN, DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHIATRY CHAIRMAN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: The initial dynamic, which really defines the response, is one of fear. I have to figure out a way to get through this and survive. But, after that, the captive begins to interact with the captor, and see their human qualities.

CALLEBS: And it is that peek through a warped lens that may hold part of the answer to the most pressing question. Shawn wasn't going to school. Neighbors say it appeared he came and went freely. So, why didn't he just walk away?

CRAIG AKERS, STEPFATHER OF SHAWN HORNBECK: It's been like a dream.

CALLEBS: Shawn stood silently at his only public appearance since his ordeal ended. There will be plenty of time to fill in all the blanks, as he begins to put his life back together -- his family thrilled to be reunited with the shaggy-haired boy, and seemingly heartsick he was being held so close to home for so long.

AKERS: It just boggles my mind that someone thinks that they can get away with it. And, obviously, they do. I mean, this -- this has been going on for four years. And he's -- he has been right here under our nose the whole time.

CALLEBS (on camera): We had a chance to speak with investigators, who say the fact that both Ben and Shawn are now home and safe is like a dark cloud has been removed from over this community. Investigators did have a chance to hold brief discussions with Ben and Shawn over the weekend. They say more thorough questioning will take place down the road.

Sean Callebs, CNN, Kirkwood, Missouri.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And stay with CNN throughout the night, as we focus on America's missing children. Tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, "PAULA ZAHN NOW" will take a closer look at the role race plays in the news media coverage of missing-children cases.

At 9:00 p.m. Eastern, Larry King sits down with the officers who found Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby, as well as the attorney for the alleged kidnapper, Michael Devlin.

Then, at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, our Anderson Cooper takes an in- depth look at the kids, the suspect, and the investigation -- all coming up, prime time, later tonight right on CNN.

Still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM: bloggers in the courtroom. Our I-team tells us how the high-profile trial of Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis Scooter Libby, here in Washington -- it starts tomorrow -- may mark a watershed moment for the blogs.

Stay with us. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jury selection in the trial of White House staffer -- former White House staffer Lewis Scooter Libby begins tomorrow right here in Washington. Libby is charged with perjury and obstruction of justice. Bloggers are set to cover the story.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, has some details -- Abbi.

TATTON: Wolf, from the very beginning of this story, there has been no shortage of coverage online, from investigative reporting to rumors and speculation. Well, from tomorrow, there will be something else, dispatches from the trial.

Bob Cox heads up the Media Bloggers Association. He -- there's more than 1,000 bloggers, left, right, large and small, that he represents. And Cox has secured two seats, two credentials, for his bloggers to rotate in and out and cover what's going on.

Blogger and defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt is one who hopes to be there. She blogs at TalkLeft. She says that you should expect fresh perspectives and gut reactions from these bloggers. And she also says that these are people that can cover the trial in-depth, as many of them have written at length about it. She herself has done many hundreds of posts about this case.

Now, blogs do have an opinion. They have a political point of view. And Bob Cox says, that's just fine. And you will see it coming out as they are covering this.

He says that there are some restrictions, though, to what's been -- what is going to be going on. There is a judge's court order, for example, saying no cameras. Cox says that he has had the talk with every blogger that's going to be going there, making sure that they understand that the judge's orders are just that. And he hopes that this sets a precedent that bloggers will be able to get credentials and cover trials again in the future -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Abbi, for that.

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