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Violence Erupts Again in Baghdad; Obama Announces Forming Exploratory Committee

Aired January 16, 2007 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou. 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 tonight's top stories.
Happening now, just as thousands of additional U.S. troops head in that direction, Baghdad is bleeding. A new round of sectarian slaughter today leaves hundreds of casualties in the capital. Can a new crackdown quell the violence?

And President Bush lashes out at the Iraqi government over the botched execution of Saddam Hussein. Senator Barack Obama takes a major step toward the White House. Will he turn that into an all-out run for the presidency? He's got star power, but does he have staying power?

Also, TV's "24" tackles terrorism. The hit TV drama has been called a neo con sex fantasy, but how close is it to reality?

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

We begin tonight with a new explosion of violence in Iraq, even as President Bush tries to push ahead with his plan for easing the chaos and carnage by dispatching thousands of additional U.S. troops. More than 100 people were killed in a series of attacks across Baghdad today. Most died in a pair of bombings at a major university in the Iraqi capital. This on a day that the United Nations says more than 34,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in sectarian violence in 2006, which President Bush is now calling -- and I'm quoting now -- "a lousy year."

Our White House correspondent Ed Henry is standing by, but first, CNN's Arwa Damon reports from Baghdad -- Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, attacks just in Baghdad killed over 100 Iraqis and wounded nearly double that number, the deadliest attack coming at Mustansiriya University, targeting students and employees just as they were leaving to go home in the evening. A car bomb was parked underneath a pedestrian walkway at one entrance, and at the other entrance, a suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest was waiting.

The explosions happened near simultaneously. This follows a number of attacks in Baghdad. In two cases, double bombings claiming the lives of dozens and wounding scores more. All of this is really a harsh reminder of the many challenges that face both U.S. and Iraqi forces as they try to secure the capital. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Arwa, thank you. What a horrible day in Baghdad today.

Let's go over to the White House where President Bush is desperately grappling with his Iraq problems while trying to sell his plan for a major troop build-up. He's also venting his frustrations. Let's turn to our White House correspondent Ed Henry -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the president clearly frustrated in this interview with PBS' Jim Lehrer, frustrated with the Iraqi government, the mishandling of Saddam Hussein's execution. The president also saying because of the violence in 2006 was a lousy year. Also amid this new wave of violence a day that you have been reporting on, the president met today with the new U.N. Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, this coming also on the same day the U.N. releases this report saying over 34,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in sectarian strife last year In Iraq, almost 100 Iraqi civilians a day.

The president today in this PBS interview though said this violence today shows all the more why the U.S. government now needs to get behind the Maliki government in Iraq. But at the same time, the president had some very tough talk for Prime Minister Maliki and the hanging of Saddam Hussein.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It basically says to people look, you conducted a trial and gave Saddam justice that he didn't give to others, but then when it came time to execute him, it looked like it was kind of a revenge killing and it sent a mixed signal to the American people and the people around the world. And it just goes to show that this is a government that still has got some maturation to do.


HENRY: This is a reminder of the delicate dance the president is doing as he tries to sell his new Iraq plan. He's putting a lot of faith in Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister that he can help pull this off, even as the president himself and top White House aides privately say they're still not sure whether or not Maliki can get the job done -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much -- Ed Henry at the White House. And we're going to hear a lot more about this latest deadly violence in Baghdad. What it means for the stepped up security effort there. I'll be speaking with "The New York Times" Baghdad chief, John Burns, about that and the latest fall-out from that botched execution of Saddam Hussein's half brother. That's coming up this hour.

Also tonight, a first step for Senator Barack Obama is leaving a huge imprint on the presidential trail. The Illinois Democrat today formed a committee to explore officially a White House bid. And in just a few weeks, Senator Obama says he'll announce whether he'll run to be the nation's first African American commander in chief.

Let's turn to our congressional correspondent Dana Bash. She's watching all of this unfold. Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Barack Obama arrived at the Capitol this evening for Senate votes to a crush of cameras. It was a familiar scene for the celebrity senator, the kind that if you look at, is a reminder of why he already has changed the 2008 Democratic race, even before he announced. And on that, he certainly has been looking at this issue methodically over the past several months. Yet, when he formally said he would take the first steps to run for president, he sounded as surprised as anyone.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: I certainly didn't expect to find myself in this position a year ago. As I've spoken to many of you in my travels across the states these past months, as I've read your e-mails and read your letters, I have been struck by how hungry we all are for a different kind of politics.

BASH (voice-over): With that, the 45-year-old senator formally enters a field that includes several Democrats with strong grass roots support. Not to mention presumptive front-runner Hillary Clinton.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Thank you, thank you.

BASH: Obama has only served in the U.S. Senate for two years. He's trying to turn his lack of government experience into an asset, running as an outsider.

OBAMA: Politics has become so bitter and partisan, so gummed up by money and influence that we can't tackle the big problems than demand solutions.

BASH: But Democratic strategists say Obama's biggest challenge is convincing Democratic primary voters in a post 9/11 world they should pick a presidential candidate who was in the Illinois legislature some two years ago.

ANNA GREENBERG, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: I think that they're going to have to take a look at Barack Obama and say to themselves is this somebody who can run in a general election on issues of war and the war on terrorism and taking on some of our world's most challenging problems.

BASH: The senator has been trying to focus more on the political issue of the day, Iraq, using his perch on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to challenge the administration.

OBAMA: Are there any circumstances that you can articulate in which we would say to the Maliki government that enough is enough and we are no longer committing our troops?

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm not going to speculate.

BASH: Obama would be the first black president, something a former black candidate applauded just yesterday.

REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW PUSH COALITION: There's a nonstop line between the march in Selma in 1965 and the inauguration in Washington in 2009.

BASH: And Obama has a star status that is rare in politics. Made in visits to first contest states of Iowa and New Hampshire this fall drew crushing carouse. He was even chased to Hawaii by paparazzi who sold this bare-chested photo to "People" magazine.

OBAMA: Running for the presidency is a profound decision. It's a decision that no one should make on the basis of media hype or personal ambition alone.


BASH: And just a short while ago, Senator Obama went to the Senate floor to push one of the few issues he's taken a lead on since being here in the Senate and that's lobbying and ethics reform. And Wolf, one final note on Senator Obama's announcement today, it was -- he did announce an exploratory committee. That essentially allows him to raise some money. He said he will make a formal speech in his home state of Illinois February 10 and we do expect that to be a formal announcement for president.

BLITZER: A lot of people do, indeed. Thanks very much, Dana, for that. So where does Senator Obama stand on some of the other crucial issues? He supports abortion rights. Senator Obama opposes same sex marriage, but also opposes a constitutional ban on them. He's in favor of civil unions.

Senator Obama supports the president, Senate backed immigration bill, which would increase border and enforcement of existing laws, but would also give some illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship. Senator Obama opposes Social Security privatization. On taxes, the senator from Illinois supports eliminating the marriage penalty and extending child tax credits. He supports scaling back capital gains and dividends tax cuts.

Obama also wants to re-exam tax benefits for the top one percent of earners. Let's check in with Jack Cafferty in New York. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, more American women are living without a husband than with one, according to a "New York Times" analysis of the census results. And it's probably the first time in our country's history that's ever happened.

Fifty-one percent of women said they were living without a husband in 2005. That's up from 49 percent in 2000 and way up from 35 percent way back in 1950. Some of the reasons for the change include women marrying later in life, living with unmarried partners for longer, women living longer as widows. Women are more likely than men to delay remarriage after a divorce, and low marriage rates among black women.

Another first in 2005, married couples became a minority of all U.S. households. And both these trends could change the ways that government and employers give out benefits. So here's the question.

Why are there more single women in the United States than married ones? E-mail your thoughts to or go to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you for that.

And coming up, a run for the White House -- candidate John Edwards is in THE SITUATION ROOM. Does he have a major disagreement with Senator Hillary Clinton about the funding for the war in Iraq? I'll ask him.

Also, more than 100 people killed in Iraq today. A look at why the violence is now spinning out of control with civilians in the crosshairs. John Burns of "The New York Times" standing by, he'll join us on that and the fallout -- there's more fallout from the botched execution that ended in the decapitation of Saddam Hussein's half brother.

And the politics of "24" -- "Newsweek" magazine calls the hit TV show the ultimate neo con fantasy. Carol Costello will be along with the story.

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


BLITZER: Welcome back. On the road to the White House tonight, one former Democratic senator is running full steam ahead. He's angling for your support. How does he size up against some others in his own party?

And joining us now former Democratic Senator John Edwards of North Carolina -- he's a candidate for the presidency. Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: Barack Obama announced today he's creating an exploratory committee after what, two years, in the U.S Senate. Do you believe he's qualified; he has the necessary experience to be the president of the United States?

EDWARDS: Well it won't be my decision to make. I think that it's a good thing to have good people in this race. If you're running for president for the right reason, it's because you want to serve your country and you decided it's the best way to serve your country. I have thought long and hard about that and made that decision for myself, and I guess it will be for Senator Obama to decide in the next few weeks whether that's something he believes he should do.

BLITZER: Well it sounds like you're not convinced that he's necessarily ready for -- to run for the presidency.

EDWARDS: Oh, I wouldn't pass judgment on any of the other candidates. I think the campaign is just beginning. Speaking for myself, I'm not exploring. I have made the decision that this is the best way to serve my country and we'll just see what happens as the campaign goes on. I think we want good people in the race because we desperately need new leadership in 2009.

BLITZER: Here is what you said Sunday in New York City. I want to play this little clip. Listen to this.



EDWARDS: 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.


BLITZER: As you know, that was the widely seen as a slap at Senator Hillary Clinton, who has refused to say she's ready to use the power of the purse, congressional authority to go ahead and stop funding and increase an escalation or a surge in the war. Did you see that as a direct attack against her?

EDWARDS: I wasn't, Wolf, thinking about anybody in particular. It was directed at members of Congress who I believe as a matter of conscience should stop this president from escalating this war and from continuing in a long series of really tragic mistakes that he's made in Iraq. And as I said in the clip you just ran, Congress has the power to stop this escalation.

It's been done before in Lebanon and Colombia and toward the end of the Vietnam War. I mean there's a historical precedent for it and there's clearly constitutional authority for it. It's time for members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, by the way, not just Democrats, but those who know in good conscience and principle that this war should not be escalated, to speak out and to take action.

BLITZER: Here is what Howard Wolfson, a senior adviser to Senator Clinton said, reacting to what you said at the church on Sunday. 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. Strong words from a senior adviser to Senator Clinton.

EDWARDS: Yes, it sounds a little oversensitive to me. My -- what I was doing, I didn't speak about anybody by name. I talked about members of Congress. By the way, I also spoke to the American people, who I think also need to step up and be heard on this escalation of the war. And I was specifically referencing Dr. Martin Luther King's speech 40 years ago, a year to the day before he died in Riverside -- at Riverside Church, where he spoke out against the war in Vietnam and talked about silence being a betrayal.

And that was the theme of what I was talking about. I believe I was right. I stand behind it. We should not be escalating this war. And I hope that members of Congress will have the good conscience and the good sense to show some strength about this and stand up to the president and stop him.

BLITZER: Some of you critics will say you know what; John Edwards is no longer in the United States Senate. He really doesn't have to vote on this issue. It's easy for him to say and it's much more difficult for Senator Clinton or Senator Barack Obama or Senator Kerry who actually have the responsibility of providing funds, if you will, for U.S. troops to vote on these kinds of life and death matters. What do you say to those critics?

EDWARDS: I say first of all when I had the chance to vote years ago on the funding of the war in Iraq, $87 billion at the time and I thought the president was headed on the wrong course. It turns out, unfortunately, for the country, that I was right. I voted no. I am now a candidate for president of the United States, Wolf, and I'm going to be held accountable for the positions I take.

And I think it's important for those who want to have a leadership position, whether it's in the Congress or whether they end up running for president of the United States, not being careful and cautious and weighing their options. Now is the time for leadership. America needs leadership. The world needs leadership from us. And we need to have the strength of our convictions. Now is the time to stand up and speak up.

BLITZER: Senator John Edwards speaking with me a little bit earlier today.

Still ahead tonight in THE SITUATION ROOM, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the witness list. Find out why they may have to testify under oath.

And the family of a boy held hostage speaking out about the young man's ordeal as his accused kidnapper faces justice.

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


BLITZER: Top members of the Bush administration could find themselves on the stand. And they're already the focus of court proceedings in a trial of a former top aide to the vice president, Dick Cheney. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is accused of lying to investigators, probing the leak of a CIA officer's identity. Jury selection of the trial began today with candidates grilled about their attitude toward the Bush administration.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us now live form outside the U.S. District Court here in Washington -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this case has a little bit of everything -- Washington intrigue, potential star witnesses. On day one, we got an early glimpse of the kind of political theater this town thrives on.


TODD (voice-over): As he walked stoically into court, questions surround the trial of Vice President Dick Cheney's confidant, questions that start on day one with jurors being asked about Lewis "Scooter" Libby's former bosses. A written question asks about positive or negative opinions of Vice President Cheney and whether that might affect your ability to fairly judge Vice President Cheney's believability.

Another question asks whether a juror's opinions on the Bush administration's policies or actions would affect their judgment. With those kinds of concerns about politics in the jury box, can Libby get a fair trial in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans nine to one?

SCOTT FREDERICKSEN, FORMER SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: It will be easy to rid the panel of jurors who are blatantly political in their views of things.

TODD: Libby is charged with deliberately misleading investigators when he told them what he said to reporters about the covert identity of former CIA officer Valerie Plame. Potential star witnesses in this trial, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, her predecessor, Colin Powell, and Cheney, who could become the first sitting vice president in modern times to testify in a criminal trial -- the defense counting on Cheney to bolster Libby's claim that because he was absorbed in his job, he simply didn't remember what he told reporters about Plame. Observers look forward to the day Cheney squares off with prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.

FREDERICKSEN: This is a heavy weight match between the prosecutor and Vice President Cheney. For the vice president this will be different than anything he's ever done. He doesn't control the questions.


TODD: Potential jurors can't control the questions they face either. And already in this contiguous process, prosecutors and the defense team have sparred over how far to take questions about jurors' political beliefs and about their personal opinions about the Bush administration -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you. And this note to our viewers, our Internet team has posted the complete potential witness list along with questions for perspective jurors. You can find them; simply go to

Still ahead, they would be scenes of unimaginable horror in most places. But in Baghdad, they're not only believable, but unfortunately, they're typical. Scenes of violence so vicious that the Iraqi prime minister himself is calling one attack today an attack that would make humanity cringe -- his words. I'll speak about all of that and more with Pulitzer Prize winning reporter John Burns of "The New York Times".

And one magazine is calling it a neo con sex fantasy. The TV show "24", does the fictional show pander to real life politics?

Stay with us. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Happening now, Democratic Senator Barack Obama takes a major step toward a White House run. Today he formed a presidential exploratory committee. Now he can raise money and form a staff for a potential campaign. It positions him possibly to become the nation's first African American president.

In California, the governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, tours damage to citrus crops. A cold snap has destroyed the crops close to $1 billion worth. One official says California's entire $1.3 billion- citrus fruit industry is at risk, and forecasters say the cold spell is not over yet.

Near Louisville, Kentucky, a train jumps the tracks. That sparks a huge explosion and fire and that burns toxic chemicals the train was carrying. All of it prompted fear and evacuations among residents. Officials say the fire will be allowed to burn overnight to try to destroy all the chemicals.

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

As we told you at the top of this hour, it was an especially bloody day in Baghdad. A series of attacks killed more than 100 people, 300 wounded. This on a day that the United Nations says more than 34,000 Iraqi civilians died in sectarian violence in 2006 -- President Bush now calling that year, last year, his words, a lousy year -- all that coming amid fresh efforts to crack down on the sectarian violence.

And joining us now from Baghdad "The New York Times" correspondent John Burns, a Pulitzer Prize winner -- John, thanks very much for coming in. Let's talk about the surge of attacks, scores of Iraqis killed today, including outside a university in Baghdad, various locations. What is going on?

JOHN BURNS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": A very interesting day, a very sad day, Wolf, and a day that puts -- that in effect, gives us the counterpoints to much that we have been discussing in the last couple of weeks. What we saw today was Sunni insurgent terror at its worst. And it reminds us where this all began. When Saddam Hussein was overthrown, a regime of terror for 24 years, what happened? He went underground, his associates went underground, and it was terror by another means.

Today, we saw over 100 people killed, including a double bombing, a suicide bombing and a car bombing, at of all places, one of the principal universities in the city on the Shiite side of the city, Mustansiriya University.

And by all accounts, what they did was, they had a car bomb at one entrance. When the students attempted to flee out of the building the other way, primarily women students, they ran into a suicide bomber and at least 60 were killed.

Now, the significance of this in the present political situation is that it empowers Prime Minister Maliki, much criticized for his Shiite sectarian leanings, who has been saying, if you want to break the cycle of violence here, go after the Sunnis. The Shiite attacks are retaliatory, stop the Sunnis. Get the Sunni politicians to step up and do something about this.

BLITZER: So what can we anticipate now is a major Shiite retaliatory strike or strikes against Sunnis? Is that likely?

BURNS: What we have seen now for many months is a kind of grim calibration in which the Shiite death squads go out and round up Sunnis, usually innocents, usually civilians, and kill on an almost death-for-death basis. That would usually happen within 48 hours.

BLITZER: It sounds like a classic civil war to me, but it also sounds like the whole place is falling apart right now.

BURNS: Well, it's certainly points up the grim situation that American -- the new American troops who are already arriving, the additional troops deployed by President Bush, several thousands of them are already on the ground here from the 82nd Airborne Division in Kuwait, and the officers who are going to command this operation, the American officers, have absolutely no illusions about how tough it's going to be.

The emphasis is on going after Shiite and Sunni groups. But you can bet that if this kind of thing happens, you're going to see American commanders leaning somewhat, I would say, to the notion that the place you start to break this cycle is going after the Sunni insurgent groups.

And it has to be said, Wolf, that there's very little sign that the Sunni minority community is stepping up to answer appeals from the Iraqi government and from the American command to cooperate, to trace -- track these -- help in tracking these people down. They act with complete immunity.

It's not easy to track down people who build car bombs and strap explosive vests onto themselves. But the Sunni community, I think, if it wants to protect itself -- and they have become victims of this as much as anybody else -- is going to have step up and start helping those who have come here to help them.

BLITZER: Where does the botched excuse of Saddam Hussein's half- brother fit into all of this and I guess a couple of weeks ago the execution of Saddam Hussein himself? BURNS: Well, you know, Wolf, I'm a prime, if you will, protagonist in this. We write about what happened in those hangings, Saddam taunted and mocked as the noose was around his neck. His half- brother hanged yesterday and his head ripped off, as far as we can tell -- in fact, I think there's no doubt about it -- because of a miscalculation in the length of rope from the so-called drop chart that is used in these hangings. Very unfortunate. Botched again.

And yet, let's remember, as the Iraqi government appeals to us to know (ph) who these men were, Mr. Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti hanged yesterday, decapitated, and the man who stood beside him in one of those Guantanamo orange suits, Awad Hamid al-Bandar, the chief of Hussein's Revolutionary Court, were right at the heart of the terror that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the same terror that these Sunni suicide bombers are carrying into the streets.

Now, of course many of those bombers are al Qaeda. There's absolutely no doubt that they are empowered and helped by Ba'athists, Saddam's underground, if you will, which outlives him and outlives those two -- those two fellows who were hanged yesterday.

BLITZER: John Burns in Baghdad from the "New York Times."

John, thanks very much.

BURNS: A pleasure, Wolf.


BLITZER: And still ahead tonight, Carol Costello answers this provocative question: Is the hit TV show "24" the ultimate neocon sex fantasy? Fictional drama meets real life politics tonight here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And anti-illegal immigration stalwart and Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo announces his plan for a White House run. He explains why he thinks Miami is a third world country. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Even as Democrat Barack Obama tests the presidential waters, Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado is doing the exact same thing. Launching a presidential exploratory committee today, Tancredo says his Republican Party has abandoned some of the core principles. He's known for hardcore stands on issues such as illegal immigration. I asked Congressman Tancredo about that.


BLITZER: You caused a stir in Miami recently when you said this. You said, "You just pick it up and you take it and move it someplace. You would never know you're in the United States of America. You would certainly say you're in a third world country."

REP. TOM TANCREDO (R), COLORADO: That's right. BLITZER: And they got very mad. The governor, the Republican governor, Jeb Bush, of Florida saying, "What a nut. I'm just disappointed. He's from my own party. He's a Republican. He doesn't represent my views."

TANCREDO: Well, I don't represent his views, evidently, and I don't intend to. The fact is that he wrote me a letter saying to me that, you know, the idea of -- they celebrate the idea of diversity. Well, celebrating the idea of diversity is a great thing. Nobody is opposed to it, certainly not I.

But when you make it, as I said to him, almost a state religion, things change. When you have massive immigration into a particular area of people, many of whom -- many of whom, not all -- do not want to be integrated, do not want to assimilate -- and on the other hand, you have a society there, and a civil government -- the government in Miami, the government of the state of Florida saying you shouldn't. Never mind, don't assimilate.

That's when you have the separation I'm talking about. That's when you have half of the population speaking a language other than English. We need to think about things that pull us together in this country, not things that keep separating us. We need a common language. We need the government to try to encourage that. We need to communicate with each other, Wolf.


BLITZER: Congressman Tancredo also tells me he's convinced that grassroots Republicans are looking for someone who can articulate the issues they care about deeply. He says that if he gets the nomination, he thinks he can win the race for the White House.

It's a hit TV show, and it turns out some of its biggest fans of the action thriller series "24" are actually so-called neo- conservatives.

CNN's Carol Costello is joining us live from New York with more on why this program apparently is so appealing to so many people -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, is it ever, Wolf.

You want to hear some descriptions of "24"? Well, according to "Newsweek" magazine, it has a watchful, paranoid visual action. It feels real. If you watched it last night, it was scary and ridiculous at the same time. It is incredibly popular with conservative men. Dick Cheney is a fan. Justice Clarence Thomas is a fan.


Some say validation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SCREAMING) COSTELLO (voice-over): Monday on the Fox television series "24": terror in California. A mushroom cloud spreads over a suburb of Los Angeles, triggered by a mini-nuclear bomb set off by an Islamic terrorist, action-packed entertainment for sure. But is it more?

Is it, as "Newsweek Magazine" call it, a "neocon sex fantasy"?

DEVIN GORDON, "NEWSWEEK" TELEVISION CRITIC: "24" is just your worst nightmares realized. If "24" is true, then everything the neoconservatives have been saying all along is true.

COSTELLO: As in, a terrorist network working inside the United States, sending suicide bombers to subways and shopping malls, ordering up dirty bombs assembled right in California, and a hero, Jack Bauer, who is decent like John Wayne, yet often ignores international law, torturing terrorists to get vital information.

JAMES RAY CARAFANO, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Jack Bauer is kind of a metaphor for all of the great people that we have out there every day, really are, you know, working hard to make us safe.

COSTELLO: Carafano of the conservative Heritage Foundation so admires "24's" plots, his group sponsored a forum in June called "24 and America's Image in Fighting Terrorism: Fact, Fiction or Does It Matter?"

On the panel: terrorism experts, including Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: And I think people are attracted to that because, frankly, it reflects real life. That is what we do everyday. That is what we do in the government. That's what we do in private life when we evaluate risks.

COSTELLO: Also invited, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who so loves "24" he's posted a review of this season on his website.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, TALK SHOW HOST: I am literally in awe of the creativity of the brains behind the program.

COSTELLO: Feeling the neocon love of the program, possible presidential candidate John McCain made a guest appearance on "24" last season.

The buzz is so loud this season, Gordon says he's starting to get nervous.

GORDON: Nothing that happens on the show would even happen like that in real life. So for neoconservatives to claim it as sort of a badge that they're right is kind of like admitting that something that you watch in a fantasy world is reality.

COSTELLO: Fantasy or something more?

"24" remains as popular as ever. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (on camera): The Heritage Foundation wants to make it clear it believes "24" is in the end just a TV show. But its hero Jack Bauer does for the 9/11 generation what James Bond did for the Cold War Generation. Something to think about, Wolf.

BLITZER: I can't tell you, Carol, how many friends of mine are simply obsessed by this show. I'm sure you know a lot of these people.

COSTELLO: Well, I love it. I'm one of them.

BLITZER: A lot of people are.

Thanks, Carol, for that.

Still ahead, new developments in the case of those two Missouri boys who were kidnapped but are now safe. We're learning fresh details of their ordeal. We're going to have the latest. That's coming up.

And it's a story starring Donald Trump. He's already a virtual household name, but now he becomes star in a literal sense.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: New information but still lots of questions tonight about the case of those two Missouri boys found late last week, one after being held for four days, the other for four years.

CNN's Jonathan Freed is joining us now live from Kirkwood, Missouri with details.

JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are hearing from people close to the case that when the sheriff in Washington County holds a news conference scheduled for tomorrow that there could be still more charges against Michael Devlin.


FREED (voice-over): Michael Devlin is scheduled to make his first court appearance since being arrested and charged with kidnapping in this Missouri courtroom on Thursday. But he won't be there in person. They're setting up so Devlin can appear by closed circuit television from a detention center two miles away.

While the practice is common, the sheriff says he's thinking about security and wants to avoid transporting a suspect in such a high-profile case. The sheriff says Devlin has been quiet and not a problem prisoner.

SHERIFF GARY TOELKE, FRANKLIN COUNTY MISSOURI: He's in a holding cell where we can keep a closer eye on him and, you know, until we find out what his frame of mind is.

FREED: Devlin has been charged with kidnapping 13 year-old Ben Ownby last Monday. Shawn Hornbeck, now 15, who disappeared more than four years ago, was found with the younger boy in Devlin's apartment on Friday.

Ownby's family came before the cameras without their son to appeal for privacy.

DORIS OWNBY, BEN OWNBY'S MOTHER: Ben's doing fine. We decided not to bring him here today. We think that he needs to get back to normal. We're going to try and get him ready to go back to school.

FREED: And at a local high school, it was a day to honor a young hero.

ROLAND CORVINGTON, FBI: I would hope, Mitchell, that as you grow older, that you would consider law enforcement as a career option.

FREED: Mitchell Hults is the teenager who gave police a description of a white truck he saw speeding away from the area where Ownby was last seen. Investigators say that clue was the key that led investigators to Devlin, and the return of both boys to their families.


FREED (on camera): So again, Wolf, the arraignment in Franklin County is scheduled for Thursday morning. A news conference now in neighboring Washington County with the Sheriff's Department, where some people close to the case say we could be hearing still more charges against Michael Devlin -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jonathan Freed reporting for us.

Thank you, Jonathan, for that.

Let's go to New York and check in with Jack Cafferty for the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, more American women are living without a husband than with one, according to a "New York Times" analysis of census results. And the experts say it might be the first time in our nation's history that's ever happened. We wanted to know why you think that's the case.

Carole in New Baltimore, Michigan: "Because women feel the freedom of expression and know that they can accomplish so much more than previous generations felt they ever could. We're not afraid to be intelligent and careers are very rewarding. We don't feel there's a void in our life without a man."

Ted in Medway, Massachusetts: "Too many gold diggers, Jack. It started with the TV show "Dallas", now it's "Desperate Housewives". As us men slave the 60-hour commuter workweek, our debutante others want to stay home, drink Starbucks, go to the doggy park and talk on their cell phones all day, probably to my trusted landscapers."


Connie in Albuquerque, New Mexico: "Men are big babies. Taking care of a man is way too much trouble. Besides that, men aren't satisfied unless their partner is a sex goddess in spite of being worn to a frazzle doing all of our womanly duties in addition to working full-time. Men want all the power. Women should quit being so meek."

John in California: "I'll tell you why. Take it from me. I'm 37 years old and never even had a girlfriend before. It's because women have become so superficial and materialistic that they're all looking to marry Brad Pitt or a millionaire and so they don't think that anyone's good enough for them."

Angel, Louisiana: "Many women would rather be single than marry a guy who expects her to work full-time, raise the kids, do all the cleaning, cooking, laundry, grocery shopping and pay at least half the bills. And there's also this problem of finding a man who prefers the opposite sex."

And finally, Diane in Casper, Wyoming: "Women now know that it's smarter to hire someone to fix the sink, mow the yard, or just do it themselves. If a woman needs a man to amuse them, then they could watch you, Jack."

Thank you, Diane. If you didn't see your email here, you can go to and read more of them online -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much. Let's find out what is coming up right at the top of the hour. Paula Zahn is standing by. She has a very special hour coming up. Hi, Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. Thanks. Tonight, I join you from Durham, North Carolina, the home of Duke University, for a very special report, "Out in the Open: The Duke Assault Case, a Question of Race." We'll be taking a very close look at how a black stripper's rape allegations against three white lacrosse players and the media firestorm that followed brought this community's racial divisions right out into the open.

And in a rare interview, we'll hear from one of the accuser's close relatives, her cousin. Please join me at the top of the hour.

And why are we outside tonight, Wolf? Because we are. And I want to warn you that we have 20, 30 mile an hour winds. And we have to tether ourselves to our chair. Winter has really struck here tonight.

BLITZER: Love the hat. You look great, Paula. Thanks very much. We'll be watching. A good hour coming up with Paula. You're going to want to see this.

Now, a mystery off the waters of New York. Many dolphins are stranding themselves, and scientists want to know why. CNN's Allan Chernoff is in New York with the story -- Allan. ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, four dolphins remain stuck in a creek on Long Island. Rescuers are hoping these dolphins can avoid the fate that a large number of dolphins have suffered this winter.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): Dolphins washed up along the shore in exclusive East Hampton, Long Island. A rare spot for dolphins to appear this time of year. One more found this morning, bringing the total dead to five.

CHUCK BOEMAN, RIVERHEAD FOUNDATION: They have gotten themselves up in a very small creek area with a very narrow inlet that they'd not be able to get back out into the open water.

CHERNOFF: In Boston harbor Sunday, six dolphins were found dead on the beach in Quincy.

TONY LACASSE, NEW ENGLAND AQUARIUM: We haven't ever had a mass stranding of dolphins inside Boston harbor within any of our staff's memory.

CHERNOFF: Even along Cape Cod, where some dolphins get stuck every winter, there has been an unusually high number of deaths -- 46 so far, according to the Cape Cod stranding network. That's double last year's count at this date, and four times the year before.

What's going on? The tides along Cape Cod were extremely high earlier this month, and in the past week, winds have been strong. Both can cause dolphins to get stuck on the cape's sand flats.

LACASSE: So flat that if you lose 10 feet of water to a falling tide, he might have to swim three-quarters of a mile, a mile, even more, to get to safe water. And what happens is that you're a hungry dolphin and you're engaged in a little bit of a risky behavior, and that's a kind of thing that -- there's a consequence to pay.

CHERNOFF: Could warm weather also be having an impact? Experts say there's a possible connection. The weather may be changing distribution of the dolphin's prey. Fish like herring may be swimming closer to shore than usual, possibly causing the dolphins to get into trouble.


CHERNOFF: Experts caution, however, there is no definitive evidence that our warm weather is the direct cause of what is happening to the dolphins -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Allan Chernoff reporting. Allan, thank you for that.

And we're just learning from Reuters that rescuers near East Hampton on New York's Long Island have managed to guide eight stranded dolphins back to sea. Good news for them. Up ahead, just what Donald Trump needs, another showcase for his name. Tonight, is his new star tarnished by his war of words with Rosie O'Donnell? Jeanne Moos on Donald Trump, when we come back.


BLITZER: Here is a look at some hot shots, coming in from our friends at the Associated Press. In Iraq, a lone mourner grieves over the graves of Barzan Ibrahim and Awad Hamed al-Bandar. The two were executed for crimes during the Saddam Hussein era.

Look at this frozen water fountain in Las Vegas. Temperatures should stay below freezing for the next couple of days.

A woman gave birth to this healthy baby boy earlier today in Covington, Louisiana. The baby was conceived using a rescued embryo from a flooded hospital in the aftermath of Katrina.

And over at Buenos Aires zoo in Argentina, this three-month-old speckled bear watches his mother eat an ear of corn. Some of today's hot shots, pictures often worth a thousand words.

He's virtually a household name around the world. He has a new wife, a child, and a hit TV show. So what do you get a billionaire businessman who seems to have it all? Here is CNN's Jeanne Moos with the answer.



JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the unveiling of his Hollywood star, Donald Trump got some advice we thought he would never have to be told.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't cover up your name.

JAY LENO, TALK SHOW HOST: There's now no place in America that does not have the Trump name on it.

MOOS: But it was Trump's young son Barron who stole the show. Seemed to be Barron's first encounter with a velvet rope. His first encounter with a mike.

DONALD TRUMP, HOST, "THE APPRENTICE": That's Barron. He's strong, he's smart, he's tough, he's vicious, he's violent. All of the ingredients you need to be an entrepreneur. Uh-oh, he won't give up the mike.

MOOS: Like father, like son. And when dad got the mike back to do interviews, there was one subject he steered clear of. As "Saturday Night Live" has made clear...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It seems like you're obsessed with this Rosie thing. Are you still mad at her? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gabby, I don't know how I could be any clearer. I'm taking the high road. Absolutely no questions about Jabba the Rosie.

MOOS: Rosie, by the way, doesn't have her own star yet on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.

While the Donald wasn't dissing Rosie, he rose to the bait when asked about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

TRUMP: We need a negotiator. We don't need sound bites. We don't need people walking off planes, waving, sitting with the dictator, waving, getting back on the plane, waving, and nothing happens. We need negotiators.

MOOS: Could he do the job?

TRUMP: The answer is yes, I could do a very good job. But I know 20 people who would be fantastic at it.

MOOS: One thing Trump never turns is the other cheek.

TRUMP: Rosie O'Donnell is disgusting. She's a slob. Rosie is a loser.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Rosie, I think we should act like grown- ups. And here's how it's going to go: I'm made of rubber, you're made of glue. Whatever you say bounces off me because I'm classy, and sticks to you because you're ugly.

MOOS: Those who accuse the Donald of acting like a child can also say he looks like one -- his own.

TRUMP: Melania did Barron's little comb-over. She loves that. She goes like this, a little flick of her wrist, and Barron has a comb-over.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: That's it for us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. A special edition of "PAULA ZAHN NOW" starts right now.


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