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THE SITUATION ROOM

Is Tehran Arming Iraqi Insurgents?; San Francisco Mayor Apologizes for Affair

Aired February 1, 2007 - 19:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou. And it's happening right now, secret evidence against Iran. Is it proof that Tehran is arming Iraqi insurgents? Tonight a rift within the Bush administration over what to tell the public as far as Iran is concerned.
Plus, an exclusive look inside Iran and its tensions with the U.S.

Also, this hour -- sex and scandal in San Francisco -- the mayor, Gavin Newsom, goes before reporters, to say he's sorry, not just that he had an affair. It's whom he had an affair with.

Plus, Mary Cheney talks about the subject her father refused to talk about with me. That would be the baby she's having with her lesbian partner. The vice president's daughter opens up about her pregnancy and the criticism she's getting from the conservative right.

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

Should the United States takes the wraps off secret evidence to make its case that Iran is arming Shiite militias in Iraq. That's the dilemma they're facing in the White House at this hour. Even as new violence rages across Iraq, a rift is opening up within the Bush administration over how much to tell the American public about Iran.

Let's go straight to our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I've spoken with the national security official and really this is the scenario here. There's quite a bit of pressure by those friendly with the Bush administration, Iraqis and Iranians inside of Iraq that are demanding that the Bush administration provide evidence here that Iran is in fact meddling with Iraq's affairs. And that it is in fact aiding the Iraq militia.

Now those inside of Iraq feel like perhaps that would be a good idea. A National Security Council looking at this as a very delicate situation, of course, that if they declassify that evidence, secret evidence that they say further builds this case that the Iranians are providing weapons and explosives to the Iraqi militia, that they're going to get pushed back, pushed back here in Washington, that they're also going to be accused of war mongering. So this is the debate that is taking place. A national security official, however, says that he does believe that eventually and quite possibly soon that some of that information, super secret information will be declassified and provided. I'm told that it will be what is called scrubbed. And that there will be no kind of daylight between different agencies in what it details -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne, how much of a credibility problem do they think they have at the White House, given the way Iraq has turned out?

MALVEAUX: Well, they actually acknowledge that they do have a credibility problem. President Bush in his NPR interview, I wanted to note this here, Wolf, he said that he like a lot of Americans says well if it wasn't right in Iraq, how do you know it's right in Iran.

He says we're constantly evaluating and answering this legitimate question by always working to as good intelligence as we can, so the Bush administration very much aware that they've got a credibility problem here.

BLITZER: Suzanne at the White House. Thanks.

So just what evidence does the Bush administration have that Iranians right now are actually involved in the killing of American troops in Iraq? Earlier I put that question directly to Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICHOLAS BURNS, UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE: The Iranians have been giving very sophisticated explosive technology to Shia insurgent groups for the better part of the last year and a half. Those groups have used that technology, some of which is armor piercing to attack American soldiers and British soldiers and to kill them. It's a very, very serious development.

Now we have warned the Iranian government in the past about this. We have not received an adequate response from them and you've seen now President Bush over the last several weeks having decided that we will detain those Iranian military and intelligence officials in Iraq who are responsible for this.

Obviously, we wish Iran to cease and desist. Iran is not playing the type of role that most other countries are in Iraq. Most countries like the United States want to see Iraq stay together as a unitary state. They want to see the problems between the Shia and the Sunni be resolved.

But Iran seems to be stoking those problems, igniting them. And so that's the basic allegation that we're making against the Iranians. And we hope they're going to have a change of mind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Iran's leaders today began celebrating the anniversary of the Islamic revolution, which brought hard-line clerics to power back in 1979. But is Iran right now exporting that revolution to neighboring Iraq by aiding Shiite militants?

And joining us now from Tehran is our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, a rare opportunity for us to get inside. What are they saying to you Iranians about these very serious U.S. allegations, Christiane, that the Iranians are helping foment this insurgency inside Iraq?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well officially they're not saying anything except for veiled comments today on the 28th anniversary of the Islamic revolution to remain united against quote, "U.S. conspiracies." Unofficially sources with very intimate knowledge of the government and government policy have told me that they are really surprised to hear these allegations.

That they would not be overtly attacking or urging attacks against American soldiers there. That they want to stable Iraq because it's in their interests. And while they admit they have a struggle with the United States over issues such as the nuclear issue and regional influence that they wish they could work with the United States, as they did in Afghanistan to revolve the situation inside Iraq.

BLITZER: The Americans insist that the Iranians are providing sophisticated equipment, including improvised explosive devices of a new generation capable of penetrating the best U.S. armor. Have you had a chance to ask them if they're providing this kind of equipment to Iraqis?

AMANPOUR: Yes, I have, I've asked them. And I've asked them, this is not new, these allegations. And I've asked over the many times that I've been here and when I've met government officials and they always deny it and their answer is always the same.

That our interest is in a stable Iraq, that we want a democratic and free Iraqi government, which there is right now, the Shiite dominated Iraqi government. And that yes, we would like quote, "occupying forces out of Iraq", but wants the conditions set for them to leave Iraq. Because if not, they say, these sources, then Iraq will be in even a bigger mess than it is right now.

BLITZER: What about the Iranian nuclear program that the U.S. and others, the Europeans, suspect is designed to build a bomb? How does this tension, the current tension between the U.S. and Iran play into that bigger issue of Iran and a potential nuclear bomb?

AMANPOUR: Well it certainly does and of course while the West and many in the media talk about a nuclear bomb, here they are insistent as they always have been that that is not what they're pursuing and they always point to the IAEA, which said it does not have evidence to anything other than a nuclear program. They said that they are going to be announcing some kind of new development in their nuclear program over the next 10 days.

We don't know what that is or whether it will happen. But we do know that they're taking journalists to one of the facilities this weekend. Among those journalist will be me and a cameraman from CNN, Mark Phillips (ph), so maybe we'll know a little bit more over the weekend.

BLITZER: Our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour inside Iran. Christiane, we're going to stay in close touch with you.

And the French government was in furious back pedaling mode today after the president, Jacques Chirac, told reporters he did not think it would be a problem for Iran to have a nuclear weapon or two and that Tehran would be raised to the ground if it used them on Israel. Mr. Chirac's office today retracted the comments saying France can't accept the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran.

Jack Cafferty is joining us from New York with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Al Gore is a contender. The former vice president has been nominated for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to draw attention to global warming. As vice president, Gore pushed for climate measures including the Kyoto treaty and since leaving office in 2001, he's campaigned worldwide on the issue.

One of those nominating him says, quote, "A prerequisite for winning the Nobel Peace Prize is making a difference. And Al Gore has made a difference. In the past year, Gore came out with his documentary on climate change "An Inconvenient Truth." And last week, that film which brought in more than $24 million received two Oscar nominations.

Gore's expected to walk the red carpet on Oscar night later this month. I wonder what he'll wear. Gore insists he's not planning to run for president again. But it might be interesting to see where these other nominations might take him.

So here's the question -- is Al Gore Nobel Peace Prize and Oscar material? E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You're going to get a ton of e-mail on this question, Jack. Stand by for that.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I suspect.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, political sex scandal, San Francisco's mayor says, guess what, it's all true.

Also mudslinging here on Capitol Hill, the Hispanic caucus now torn apart by name calling and accusations of sexism.

And Mary Cheney talks publicly for the first time about having a baby with her girl friend. She deals with the questions her father thought were out of line.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is apologizing for a sex scandal that is rocking City Hall. It's raising serious questions about his reelection campaign. Let's go out to San Francisco. CNN's Dan Simon is standing by with details. What a story this is, Dan.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this has turned into a major City Hall scandal. There are really two stories at play here. There's the political story. But at its very core, this is a story about betrayal. Betrayal really of the very worst kind and Mayor Newsom did not attempt to discredit any of it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAYOR GAVIN NEWSOM, SAN FRANCISCO: I want to make it clear that everything you've heard and read is true. And I am deeply sorry about that.

SIMON (voice-over): Mayor Gavin Newsom confirming the stunning report that he had an affair with the wife of his reelection campaign manager.

NEWSOM: I've hurt someone I care deeply about; Alex Tourk, his friends and family, and that is something that I have to live with, and something that I am deeply sorry for.

SIMON: "The San Francisco Chronicle" quotes sources as saying Newsom had a short-lived relationship with Ruby Rippey-Tourk, his appointment secretary until last spring. The affair reportedly happening around a time Newsom was going through a divorce with his ex-wife, television host Kimberly Guilfoyle.

Alex Tourk was Newsom's deputy chief of staff until last September when he took over the mayor's reelection campaign. After his wife told him about the affair, he reportedly confronted Newsom who is also his long-time friend and resigned. The mayor didn't take questions, but did apologize to the city, his staff and his family for what he called a personal lapse of judgment.

NEWSOM: I am deeply sorry and am accountable for what has occurred and have now begun the process of reconciling it. And now will be working aggressively to advance our agenda in the city. And to work hard to build again the trust, restore the trust that the people of San Francisco have afforded me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIMON: Now in terms of how this might affect Mayor Gavin Newsom politically, this is a mayor that is enjoying a 70 percent approval rating, a very popular mayor. The question, Wolf, is whether any potential challengers might be able to capitalize on the story. And that's a challenge, he is up for reelection in November -- Wolf back to you.

BLITZER: We'll watch this race and everything else. Thank you, Dan for that. A bitter feud, meanwhile, rocking the congressional Hispanic Caucus and pitting two California Democrats against each other in an increasingly public and nasty battle.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us with the story and the accusations -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, until recently Congressman Joe Baca was not well-known, even in this town. Now he is under extreme pressure and may not be able to hold his fractious group of legislators together.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): The leader of the congressional Hispanic Caucus, now under heavy fire, accused of not treating the six women in that group fairly. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, who just resigned from the caucus, goes further, telling the online publication Politico.com that some months ago Caucus Congressman Joe Baca told a California politician she was a whore. Sanchez would not speak to CNN. Her office issuing a statement, saying she resigned because of her strong opposition to Mr. Baca's chairmanship. The political reporter who interviewed Sanchez says Sanchez confronted Baca late last year about the remark.

JOSEPHINE HEARN, POLITICO.COM: This was a closed-door meeting. There was no staff there. It was just members of Congress and in that meeting he denied ever having made the remark. But quite an argument ensued, as I understand it.

TODD: We couldn't reach Joe Baca directly for comment. But a statement from his office calls Sanchez' accusations baseless and categorically untrue. CNN has so far been unable to confirm the account of Baca's remark. Congressional observers and Hill staffers tell CNN there have long been tensions in the caucus over the perception that Baca gives more favorable treatment to men in the group.

Today Congresswoman Hilda Solis from California gave a statement to CNN, saying she shares Loretta Sanchez's sentiment about the lack of respect afforded to women members of the Hispanic Caucus. CNN asked the Democratic Party leader about this upheaval.

HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC NATL. CMTE.: This is something that we have made some calls back and forth into the caucus on. They will resolve it. They have good leadership.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: We've repeatedly called and e-mailed Joe Baca's office for response to the broader accusations that women are not accorded equal treatment in his caucus. As of now, we have not heard back -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll watch the story with you, Brian. Thank you.

And still ahead tonight right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, take a look at this. These guys are charged with a felony. Can you tell? Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we really want to talk about today, it's kind of important to some people. It's -- yes, it's kind of important to some people -- it's haircuts in the '70s.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: They were arrested at yesterday's Boston bomb scare. They hold a surreal news conference outside the courthouse.

Plus, minimum wage, a breakthrough in the U.S. Senate. We'll find out why millions potentially of American workers could soon see a boost to their paychecks.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: New developments in the bomb scare that paralyzed parts of Boston yesterday. Two men have now been charged in what turned out to be a promotion for a TV show on a network owned by CNN's parent company Turner Broadcasting. But the story took another strange twist in front of TV cameras earlier today -- CNN's Dan Lothian joining us with the latest -- Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the two men accused of placing these advertising devices across the Boston area and causing a security scare are dealing with some serious charges. But today, after their arraignment, they didn't appear to be taking all of this very seriously.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN (voice-over): Just released on $2,500 bail each, Sean Stevens and Peter Berdovsky hugged supporters, then launched into an odd rant about haircuts and hair styles.

PETER BERDOVSKY, DEFENDANT: For example, Afro I think comes kind of from the '70s. But then again, there are other styles like the greased up hair when they actually used grease.

LOTHIAN: Despite repeated attempts by reporters to get serious comments, the two men did not stray from their unusual performance.

SEAN STEVENS, DEFENDANT: I'm getting sort of more do to get...

(CROSSTALK)

STEVENS: ... getting my bangs now.

LOTHIAN: Earlier, not guilty pleas were entered on charges of placing a hoax device and disorderly conduct. The two were conducting a marketing campaign for an ad agency hired by the Cartoon Network, which is owned by CNN's parent company Turner Broadcasting. It led to a massive bomb scare across the Boston area. Blinking electronic signs were found under bridges, highways and other locations. JOHN GROSSMAN, MASS. ASST. ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's clear that by placing a bomb-like device where they did, the intent was to get that attention, at least initially, by causing fear, unrest that there was a bomb located in this location.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think that anybody had any intent to -- to raise fear, concern or alarm.

LOTHIAN: Outside the courthouse, supports said authorities overreacted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were just doing their jobs, really. This is part of an advertising campaign. They were getting paid to do this.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN: I asked the defense attorney about the odd behavior of his clients. He said they were, quote, performing. He went on to say that they are still getting over the shock over what has happened to them over the past 24 hours -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan Lothian in Boston for us. The Internet, by the way, played a very important role in helping uncover some of the details of those promotional signs installed around Boston.

Here with more on that promotion gone very wrong is our Internet reporter Jacki Schechner -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, those promotional ads weren't just all over Boston and 10 other cities across the U.S., but there were photos of them available online. It's something that bloggers picked up yesterday as the news was breaking. We asked the Boston Police Department if they had gotten any tips from blogs and they said that their investigative unit was monitoring blog activity.

But I want to give you an idea of what was available online more than two weeks ago. Todd Vanderlin put these photos up of the promotional ads. It says under a bridge in south Boston. You can see the light there. You can get a closer up look. He then went on to take you down. And he'll show you the underbelly of what that looks like.

Again, this is more than two weeks ago these were put on the photo sharing site Flickr.com. Now these ad displays are available on e-Bay. People are putting them up hoping to make some money off of the breaking news yesterday. One guy named Jack has an opening bid of $2,000. He said he found this outside a bar in Philadelphia. He was a fan of the show. And now he thinks he can make some money off of it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jacki. Thank you.

Just ahead, the fallout from that sex scandal in San Francisco. We're going to have more on this story. Is Mayor Gavin Newsom's political career over? J.C. Watts and James Carville, they'll give us their predictions.

And it's the talk of the fashion industry right now, but should a New York City official be taking up the fight against super skinny models?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM and it's happening right now. America's lowest paid workers are a step closer to getting their first pay hike in a decade. The Senate voted overwhelmingly today to raise the minimum wage from $2.10 -- actually a lot more than that -- but it's actually going to go up to $7.25 an hour. They wanted to raise it by $2.10. President Bush is urging the House to approve the Senate version of the wage hike because it includes tax credits for small businesses.

In Washington State, police reportedly are searching for a suspect who fired shots near Governor Christine Gregoire. There's no evidence the shots were related to her visit to a public housing development in Tacoma. Gregoire's spokesman says the governor never was in any danger.

The starkest warning yet on global warming and its cause -- the world's leading climate scientists reportedly are set to declare that it's very likely that climate change is manmade.

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

Bus passengers and shopper blown up by bombs -- students and teachers shot down by gunmen. Fresh violence ripped through Iraq today, even as the outgoing U.S. military commander was in the hot seat on Capitol Hill. It's for a debate on whether or not he should get the top job in the U.S. Army.

Here's our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, General George Casey admitted things in Iraq did not go as well as he had predicted. But while he took responsibility he made no apologies, despite some very sharp criticism from Senator John McCain of Arizona.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I question seriously the judgment that was employed and your execution of your responsibilities in Iraq. And we have paid a very, very heavy price in American blood and treasure because of what is now agreed to by literally everyone as a failed policy.

MCINTYRE (voice-over): Casey's critics fault him for failing to adapt as the war took a turn for the worse. Only asking for troops in December after President Bush ordered an overhaul of Iraq strategy. GEN. GEORGE CASEY, U.S. ARMY: I did not want to bring one more American soldier into Iraq that was necessary to accomplish the mission.

MCINTYRE: Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin pressed Casey on President Bush's comment that Iraq was headed to a slow failure, until the president himself stepped in.

CASEY: I actually don't see it as slow failure. I actually see it as slow progress.

MCINTYRE: In fact, Casey says he still feels only two brigades of additional U.S. troops are needed in Iraq. Not the five the president ultimately ordered and he stubbornly defended his strategy.

CASEY: It may not have produced the results on the timelines that people expected or wanted, but I do believe that it has laid the foundation for our ultimate success in Iraq.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

MCINTYRE: It appears General Casey will not get the unanimous approval the Senate gave his replacement, General Davis Petraeus. But while some Senators are wavering, at least one influential senator says he will vote for Casey. Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin told the SITUATION ROOM earlier today that he will vote for Casey because, while he feels he made some mistakes, he doesn't feel he should be held responsible for major policy blunders -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre, thank you.

Meanwhile, a potentially dramatic turn today in the trial of Vice President Dick Cheney's former aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby. An FBI agent named Deborah Bond (ph) testified that Libby acknowledged he may have discussed with Cheney whether to tell reporters that the wife of an administration critic actually worked over at the CIA.

Bond said Libby told the FBI of a discussion he had with Cheney aboard Air Force Two on July 12th, 2003. In testimony, Bond said, and I'm quoting now, "Mr. Libby told us he believed they may have talked about it, but he wasn't sure."

No one is charged with actually leaking Valerie Plame-Wilson's name to reporters, but Bond's testimony about what Libby said to investigators could place Cheney in discussions of whether to talk to reporters about her.

Now in our "Strategy Session" even the best political handlers might have a tough time helping clients get out of these kind of messes. In San Francisco the mayor apologizes for having an affair with his former campaign manager's wife.

And here in Washington, Senator Joe Biden apologizes for controversial remarks about fellow presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

Joining us now in our "Strategy Session", Democratic strategist James Carville and Republican strategist J.C. Watts.

Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco went before the press in San Francisco just a little while ago and, among other things, acknowledged he had an fair with the wife of his campaign manager. And he said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GAVIN NEWSOM, (D) MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO: Everything you've heard and read is true. And I am deeply sorry about that. I've hurt someone I care deeply about, Alex Tourk, his friends and family. And that is something that I have to live with and something that I am deeply sorry for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That's a political problem. What do you think?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes. I mean, I think it's a political problem. I don't -- you know...

BLITZER: It is a career-ender?

CARVILLE: Probably not. I mean, I've seen bigger problems than that not to be career-enders. I think to the extent that he can handle it. That was probably as good an answer as he could have given under the circumstances. But he's probably not going to rise very far in national politics for some time now.

BLITZER: What do you think?

J.C. WATTS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: In San Francisco, Wolf, I don't know. I don't have a good pulse of how things work out there. Interesting things go on. But national politics, it's over. Probably didn't have any national ambitions. I would even say state politics, it probably hurts him. But, you know, I admire the fact that he came clean. And there's an old saying, "Confession is good for the soul but bad for the reputation." And so we'll see how it plays out.

BLITZER: If you were advising him right now -- he's single, he's divorced, but he obviously admits to having had an affair with this other married woman -- what advice would you give him as a Democratic strategist?

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, I would say, "Based on what I've seen so far, you're doing fine. And the big thing is talk what about you've accomplished for the city. We all have our failings. I'll do better. And you know, get married and 20 years later, run for anything that you want to. But you're going to have to spend a little time in the cooler here."

BLITZER: Yes, J.C.

WATTS: And, Wolf, the thing is voters, regardless of -- you know, San Francisco voters may see it differently than I would or maybe James would or you, but the fact is voters will always have a way of dealing with these things. And I think he's gone and he's faced the voters, and now they'll have to deal with it whatever way they do.

CARVILLE: But they like the kind of mayor he's -- because, you know, he's very popular out there. He may very well win re-election. But I say it's going to be hard. He's going to say -- some time, you know, some distance between this before he can, you know -- and I don't know how much of a future he had in natural politics, anyway. He's a nice-looking, articulate guy, but he's the mayor of San Francisco. It's -- you know, Diane Feinstein was mayor of San Francisco. She got to be a United States senator.

BLITZER: Yes.

CARVILLE: So, you know, who knows?

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about another Democrat who's got political problems right now. That would be Senator Joe Biden. What do you make of the controversial comments he made in that interview in the "New York Observer" and the way he's dealt with it?

CARVILLE: You know, it -- when I read it and saw what he said, it was -- I said, "Oh, this is a problem."

And if I didn't know Senator Biden -- and people know him, they like him and they're smart. But am I surprised that he got into trouble for something he said? No, because he says so much. And we have to remember there are so many candidates running for president over such a long period of time, this is going to be the first of many. It's not going to stop. It's not going to stop. But, I mean, it was something that required him to address. I think he could have addressed it a little more forcefully.

BLITZER: What did you think?

WATTS: Well, there's another old saying that says, "Because you had the right to say it doesn't mean it's the right thing to say."

And I'm a little offended that he didn't think that I'm a, you know, mainstream African-American, an articulate...

CARVILLE: You're clean.

WATTS: Took a shower this morning.

BLITZER: But you're not running for president.

WATTS: I'm not running for president. That's right. No, I like Jim. I like James. I like Joe Biden, but, you know, Joe likes to talk. And you know, we had the same problem with Newt. I mean, we would always say, you know, some of us would say, we hope -- we would wise that Newt would understand that there's sometimes wisdom in silence. You know, you don't have to address every single issue. And of course, 18 months to go before the election, as I said before, I want the popcorn and Coke concessions because it's going to be very entertaining over the next 18 months. CARVILLE: The glory of the unspoken thought.

BLITZER: He went on the "Daily Show with Jon Stewart" on Comedy Central last night. Let's play a little clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) DELAWARE: I spoke to Barack today...

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": I bet did you.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: I also spoke to Jesse and Al Sharpton. And I also...

STEWART: And Michael Jordan and anybody you could get your hands on.

The Jackson Five. Who else?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Jackson Five.

WATTS: Didn't call me, Joe.

BLITZER: I guess he's got to have a sense of humor to try to deal with that. That could be one strategy.

CARVILLE: You know, he's a good guy. He's a very smart man. And when you see that -- and people -- and everybody likes Senator Biden. I think most of the other senators like him. I think the press likes him. And people like him and they just wince because they know that he's smarter than he shows. And that was Announcement Day he steps in it.

BLITZER: James Carville and J.C. Watts joining us in our "Strategy Session".

Up ahead today she's being applauded by gay rights groups and criticized by some in the Christian right. Now the vice president's daughter, Mary Cheney, is speaking publicly about her pregnancy.

And love and politics Italian style. We're going to show you how a marital spat wound up making headlines and captivating a country. We're going to go to Rome for this. You're going to want to see it.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There's a firefight going on, a significant firefight at the Islamic University in Gaza. Listen to this. It's been deadly for days and it's getting worse. These are live pictures you're seeing from Gaza City right now, where smoke to the right side of your screen over there is clearly billowing. It's been a situation that's been developing now for some time. Hamas and Fatah forces clearly at battle right now, and it's continuing right now in Gaza. We're going to stay on top of the story, go back there, Ben Wedeman is on the scene there for us. We're told already five people are dead, some 40 or so wounded in Gaza, and it's happening right now there. Presumably, it's going to continue. We'll watch it, we'll check in with Ben Wedeman and go back there as we get more information.

Let's move on to some other news we're following right now. The Vice President Dick Cheney told me the other day questions about his daughter's pregnancy were out of line. But now Mary Cheney herself is speaking very publicly about the baby she's having with her lesbian partner. Our Mary Snow standing by in New York to tell us what she's saying -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is the first time that we've heard Mary Cheney speak publicly about her pregnancy. She talked about it during a forum held here in New York yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY CHENEY, DAUGHTER OF VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: I knew, when Heather and I decided to have a baby, that it was going to be not the most popular decision ever.

SNOW (voice-over): It was a panel hosted and videotaped by "Glamour" magazine. The topic? Success at 20, 30, and 40.

But for Mary Cheney, the questions turned to her pregnancy with longtime partner Heather Poe.

M. CHENEY: This is a baby. This is a blessing from God. It is not a political statement. It is not a prop to be used in a debate by people on either side of any issue.

SNOW: But her pregnancy has generated debate. Some say she put herself into the political spotlight when she worked on her father Dick Cheney's reelection campaign in 2004 -- this as President Bush supported a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Gay family advocates say they want to hear more from her.

JENNIFER CHRISLER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FAMILY PRIDE: You can't have one foot in and one foot out when you're talking about this issue. And she sort of dipped her toe in the water on this topic.

SNOW: On the other side of the spectrum came criticism from James Dobson, founder of the conservative group Focus on the Family. The group said Cheney's pregnancy raised questions about what's best for the child.

That's something Vice President Dick Cheney did not want to address when the question was asked during an interview with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm delighted -- I'm delighted I'm about to have a sixth grandchild, Wolf, and obviously think the world of both of my daughters and all of my grandchildren.

And I think, frankly, you're out of line with that question.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: When asked about her father's response, Mary Cheney told a "New York Times" reporter she felt the question crossed the line. But some gay family advocates disagree, saying she's a public figure, so the question is not off limits -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow, thank you for that.

In Italy, meanwhile, there's a riveting story under way. Italy is actually being riveted by this very public spat between the former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his wife. CNN's Alessio Vinci is joining us now with details -- Alessio.

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Italian politics is perhaps best known for how crazy it is, or at times for being plain boring. But Italians witnessed something they've never seen before, an open letter on the front page of a national daily, written by Silvio Berlusconi's wife, fed up with her husband's flirting.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VINCI (voice over): The letter demanded a public apology by the former prime minister for sexist comments he allegedly made to a group of women during a dinner party, telling one of them he would marry her and another he would go with her anywhere.

"These are comments I consider damaging to my dignity," she wrote. "The can be reduced to jokes." Such a bold and unexpected move by a woman known for staying out of the limelight had the nation spellbound for a day.

Newscasts, newspapers, blogs all devoted a huge amount of space to the saga. And by late afternoon, Berlusconi was ready to apologize, saying, "Forgive me. Accept this public display of a private pride as an act of love, one of many."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VINCI: Had all this played out in the U.S., the outcome may well have been the end of a political career. But here in Italy, it all ended with a nice family dinner at Berlusconi's estate near Milan -- children included -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Alessio, thanks. Alessio in Rome.

And we're also watching that firefight that's under way in Gaza City right now. People have died. I want you to listen to this tape that has just come in.

That's the Islamic University in Gaza City. We're going to get you the latest on what's going on in the battles among Palestinians themselves, between Hamas and Fatah fighters. Up ahead, though, there's also been a lot of talk about a new minimum wage law. But have you ever heard of a minimum weight law? In the fashion capital of America, it may soon be illegal for models to be too thin. Carol Costello is standing by with that. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It is nonstop, what's happening in Gaza City right now. Just listen to this. These are live pictures and sounds that you're hearing and seeing.

This is Gaza City right now. The Islamic University there in Gaza. A battle under way between Fatah forces loyal to the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas forces loyal to the prime minister. The fighting has been going on for some time. And certainly, today, already we're told at least five people have been killed, 45 wounded. That's before, before this firefight that has been going on. We're watching these live pictures. We'll get you more as it comes in.

Jack Cafferty is joining us in New York. I'll tell you, Jack, we don't pay a lot of attention to what's going on there. We pay a lot of attention to what's happening in Iraq. But this battle, these fights that have been going on within the Palestinian community itself, very, very serious stuff.

CAFFERTY: Well, and it's like everywhere you look in the Middle East now, there's another fire either burning or about to get started. I mean, the place is a tinderbox in terms of military conflict and violence.

On to something lighter, Wolf, former Vice President Al Gore has been nominated for both the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts on global warming and for an Oscar on his documentary on the same subject called "An Inconvenient Truth".

The question we asked is, "Is Al Gore peace prize and Oscar material?"

David in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia: "Of course he is. Can you imagine if it becomes trendy that America's top politician jumped on saving the world rather than destroying it? Good for Al Gore, we can only hope he wins and that other leaders would follow suit."

Rick in Golden, Colorado: "Al Gore, peace prize... you've got to be kidding me. This is just his way of staying on the world stage until he can run for president again. Duh."

Doug in Pikeville, Kentucky: "Al Gore comes across like a stuffed shirt. But once I got past that, I find a very intelligent, capable leader who has had it right on global warming for a long time. President Bush is a lost ball in tall weeds. Yes, I think Al Gore is Nobel Peace Prize material."

I haven't heard that expression before, a lost ball in tall weeds. I like that.

Brendan in Granville, Ohio: "Henry Kissinger won a Nobel Peace Prize and Ben Affleck won an Oscar. Is Kissinger a great champion of peace and justice? Is Affleck a gifted actor and writer? It's not like these awards have the highest standards to being with, so why?"

Alphonse, Mount Sinai, New York: "Nobel Peace Prize and an Academy Award? The fix is in by the liberal left; the man is a buffoon."

Don in Nashville, Tennessee: "As long as the votes aren't counted in Florida, I can't imagine Gore losing either the Oscar or Nobel. He is a great American."

And John in Dallas writes: "Of course he is. He invented both of them, didn't he?"

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and read more of them online.

I feel like a lost ball in tall weeds some days. I love that expression.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack, for that.

Let's check in with Paula to see what's coming up at the top of the hour -- Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf.

I'll be joining just about eight minutes from now, when we shine a light on America's hidden secrets, bringing intolerance out in the open. A new reports maybe betray a shocking amount of racial profiling being done by police in one of the nation's biggest cities.

Also, another police department facing a scandal over racist and sexist e-mails. Dozens of officers sending and receiving it for months while everyone looked the other way. How could that have happened?

All that and more coming up at the top of the hour. Hope you join us then, Wolf.

BLITZER: We always do, Paula. Thank you very much. We'll be watching.

And still ahead here in the SITUATION ROOM, banning skinny models. We're going to find out why one lawmaker wants to make them illegal. Carol Costello with that story when we come back.

(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 Atlanta, Georgia state lawmaker Ben Harvin (ph) plays wheelchair basketball at a charity event.

In Paris Microsoft chairman Bill Gates addresses French businessmen during a meeting as part of the Paris Entrepreneurs Show.

In Bogota, Columbia a man rides his bicycle during the city's eighth annual Day Without Cars.

And in Florida Super Bowl half time act Prince performs during a press conference at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Some of this hour's "Hot Shots", pictures often worth a thousand words.

In the culture wars, tonight efforts in New York City to ban models who are simply too thin.

CNN's Carol Costello is in New York, shall we say with the skinny on this controversy, Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I do have the skinny. But, you know, it really begs a bigger question: can government legislate health?

Look, New York City has banned transfats, banned smoking in restaurants. It's handing out free condoms and now it wants to control your BMI.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): Call it the war on skinny, those minuscule models who seem to make an extra million every time they lose a pound. Now their lack of body fat is under fire.

New York City Councilwoman Gayle Brewer wants to require them to be fleshier.

GAIL BREWER, (D) NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL: We really want people to be at a certain body weight, 18.5. We want them to be educated on nutrition. We want the designers to offer some clothes that are a little bit more robust. And we certainly want people less than 16 not to be modeling.

COSTELLO: Brewer wants New York's fashion industry to voluntarily ban models with a Body Mass Index, or BMI, below 18.5, similar to what Milan and Madrid did after models died of anorexia. BMI is an indicator of body fat. A normal person would be between 18.5 and 24.9.

Nigel Barker is a fashion photographer and a judge on the TV show "America's Top Model".

(on camera): Is there a successful fashion model like Giselle or Kate Moss? I mean...

NIGER BARKER, FASHION PHOTOGRAPHER: Sure, Kate Moss is below 18.5. Not above. But she's below. And I think she's very successful and she's healthy that way.

COSTELLO (voice-over): So if Brewer's idea becomes a fashion industry requirement, say good-bye to the New York catwalk, Kate Moss. And Giselle, too.

Although under New York City's proposed idea, how would you banish them from the stage?

NEIL HAMIL, ELITE MODEL MANAGEMENT: Would you put scales and calipers backstage at fashion shows? I don't see that happening.

COSTELLO: But although some in the fashion industry are balking, there are signs some are bending.

Victoria Beckham, the wife of soccer star David Beckham, is banning size 0 models from modelling her new fashion label. Never mind she herself looks less than 0.

Still, Brewer might see that as a sign that even the industry itself understands the danger.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (on camera): The New York City Council wants to work with the Council of Fashion Designers on this. No comment from them today. But consider this from designer Diane Furstenburg (ph). She told "New York Magazine" that the industry will ban skinny models over her dead body -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So any chance legislatively this is going to pass?

COSTELLO: Well, the City Council only wants to pass a resolution. And that probably will pass. But will they you know, pass something stronger where the industry is fined for allowing models to model with a BMI of less than 18.5?

But consider this. You know, Twiggy in the 60s was really skinny. Kate Moss in the 90s was really skinny. And now it's happening again. This is a cyclical thing. And it comes and goes, says the fashion industry. And it's just waiting for it to go again this time.

BLITZER: All right, Carol. Good work. Thanks very much for that.

At the same, a new study, by that way, says binge eating is the biggest eating disorder in the United States right now, more so than anorexia or bulemia. Researchers at the Harvard Medical School say more than three percent of American women and two percent of men are afflicted by binge eating at some point in their lives. And they the problem is under-reported and under-diagnosed.

That's it for us. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

Let's go to New York and Paula Zahn -- Paula.

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