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THE SITUATION ROOM
Audio Recording Takes Center Stage at Libby Perjury Trial; Interview With John Murtha
Aired February 12, 2007 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And happening now, expletive-laden audio of a leak in progress in the trial again Lewis "Scooter" Libby. For the first time, we're hearing former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage actually leaking information regarding Valerie Plame. We'll play you the audio.
Also, a boiling kettle of death -- the blood of more than 90 people spills in the streets of Baghdad. This hour, I'll speak live with Congressman John Murtha about the violence and how some Democrats are hoping the House will respond to the plan to send more U.S. troops to Iraq.
And fighting for political turf -- two Democratic senators scrimmage across the same streets, trying for the same support. But as Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama compete for votes, who might have an edge right now?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're going to hear that audio of that CIA leak involving the Lewis "Scooter" Libby trial. That's coming up in a few moments.
But first today in Baghdad, it appears to be a terrorist killed field in the Iraqi capital. Insurgents launching a string of bombings across Baghdad, leaving more than 90 people dead and another 190 wounded. All of it happened on the anniversary, according to the Islamic calendar, of an act many feel instigated the unyielding sectarian violence. That would be last year's bombing of the revered Shiite shrine, the Golden Mosque in Samarra.
And in a strange twist of irony, today's bombings happened just as the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri Al-Maliki, gave a speech about the Samarra bombing. As Al-Maliki called for unity, hostility erupted within earshot. The Iraqi prime minister was actually able to hear the blast.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is lodging explosive allegations regarding an Iranian link in Iraq's violence.
Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, is standing by with more on that -- Suzanne, what's the latest?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, certainly the rhetoric in the case against Iran is heating up. This after a weekend when a senior Defense Department official, as well as an analyst and an explosives expert, all briefed and reporters inside of Iraq presenting what they call is evidence, detailed evidence, that there's some Iranian agents that are manufacturing and transporting explosives to some of these Iraqi militias.
Now, you may recall, this is really at the heart of the debate of the administration. On the one hand, administration officials inside of Iraq under great pressure from friends, Iranian as well as Iraqi friends, to come up with the goods here, to prove that Iran is meddling in Iraq's affairs.
On the other hand, you have the NSC officials here, very concerned, worried about the release and the timing of that information that would contribute and even concern some of our own allies, Middle Eastern allies and Americans, that the administration is engaged in warmongering.
This is a very delicate diplomatic balancing act that the president is engaged in. Just take a listen at his interview today on C-SPAN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY C-SPAN)
GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But I do think it makes sense to -- to make it clear to the Iranians, through the international community, as -- that -- that they're -- they're isolating themselves. And we'll continue to press hard to do so.
This, you know, it's just -- I guess my reaction to all the noise about, you know, "he wants to go to war," is -- first of all, I don't understand the tactics. And I guess I would say it's political. And, on the other hand, I hope that the members of Congress, particularly in the opposition party, understand the great danger of Iran having a nuclear weapon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: So, Wolf, what is this all about?
It really is all about intimidation here -- sending a very strong message to the Iranian government here. They are hoping to put the economic squeeze on them. Internationally, they're hoping to put the political squeeze on them, a public relations squeeze, if you will. And the hope is here is that there's no need for the U.S. administration to invade or go after Iran. But rather, the hope is that the Iranian elite, as well as the young people inside of that country, will ultimately turn against the leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, pick a new leader, because it is not worth it -- that the isolation with the rest of the international community just isn't worth it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I know, Suzanne, this C-SPAN interview was close to a half an hour.
Any other nuggets jump out at you as you watched it? MALVEAUX: Well, there weren't a lot of news nuggets. Obviously, the president making it very clear that, look, there is no case to go to war against Iran. That is something that he reiterated.
He was asked about hard and tough decisions, anything beyond the decision to go the war in Iraq. He was not able to come up with anything. He said the bottom line here, the toughest decision he has made and ultimately the decision that is going to be his legacy of this president, is the decision to go to war -- Wolf.
BLITZER: That certainly will be the case.
Suzanne, thank you.
House Democratic leaders are pushing forward on their plan to put the Iraq War front and center on Capitol Hill. Their non-binding resolution expressly disapproves of President Bush's decision to send more than 20,000 American troops to Iraq.
Our Congressional correspondent, Andrea Koppel, is watching all of this unfold on Capitol Hill -- when is this debate on a resolution actually expected to begin -- Andrea.
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's supposed to begin midday tomorrow, Wolf, and it'll run for about three days, maybe four days. Once it gets underway, is expected to be the most intense debate of the war since it began.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
KOPPEL (voice-over): Even before members debate the war on the House floor, the battle over the resolution is already well underway. Democratic and Republican leaders squared off over a decision by Democrats to block Republicans from offering an alternative measure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "MEET THE PRESS," COURTESY NBC)
REP. STENY HOYER (D), MARYLAND: We're going to continue to bring change and we're going to give the Republicans the opportunity to fully participate...
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), OHIO: When?
HOYER: John, the...
BOEHNER: You've been saying that for -- for a year.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KOPPEL: Instead, Democrats are pushing for a vote on their own resolution, which says simply: "Congress will continue to support and protect U.S. troops serving in Iraq" and that "Congress disapproves of President Bush's decision to deploy more than 20,000 combat troops."
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We don't agree and the president is commander-in-chief. And he has the obligation to do what he thinks is best to make this country safe, and that's what he's doing.
KOPPEL: Republicans concede the resolution will pass, but they're not giving up without a fight. Just off the House floor, they've staffed up a special room to offer members reports and speeches, talking points, as well as charts, graphs and visual aids. And during at least three days of debate, members will be encouraged to hammer away at key talking points, which say the resolution weakness morale among U.S. troops and gives comfort to the enemy and that Democrats have no plan for victory.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
KOPPEL: Now, in addition to this resolution's two Democratic co- sponsors, North Carolina's Republican Walter Jones has also signed on as a co-sponsor. He initially voted for the war and then later had a change of heart.
And, Wolf, he predicted tonight in an interview with CNN that at least 15 to 25 additional Republicans will follow his lead and support this resolution -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And unlike in the Senate, Andrea, this is the House of Representatives, where the majority -- meaning Nancy Pelosi and her team -- they can basically dictate the ground rules, the extent of the debate, how long it will go on, what the resolution will be. They have, pretty much, a carte blanch to go forward.
KOPPEL: They do. And that's what has the Republicans so burned up, because now, for the first time in 12 years in the minority, they were under the understanding they'd have an alternative proposal they could put forward and at the last minute, the Democrats blocked them.
BLITZER: Andrea Koppel on the Hill for us.
Andrea and Suzanne Malveaux, they're both part of the best political team on television.
And remember, for the latest political news at any time, check out our Political Ticker at cnn.com/ticker.
Also part of that best political team on television, Jack Cafferty.
He's here in New York.
Actually, I'm here in New York with you.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm here every day.
BLITZER: And I thank you for allowing me...
CAFFERTY: It's nice to have you here.
BLITZER: Thanks for letting me come.
CAFFERTY: Well, welcome.
Nice to have you with us.
A war of words, Wolf, heating up between the United States and Iran. U.S. officials yesterday showing off what they call a growing body of evidence that Iranian weapons are being used to kill coalition soldiers in Iraq. They say that Iran is making the violence worse there by providing Shiite groups with technology, money and training.
The officials are focused on something called EFPs, or explosively formed penetrators, that can punch through heavily armored vehicles. The U.S. says these weapons can be traced back to Iran and have killed 170 coalition forces.
An Iranian official calls the U.S. allegations "all lies," saying the administration has made mistakes in Iraq and they want to use Iran as a scapegoat.
The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also denied that his country is supplying weapons to Iraqi militants. He said they'll only be peace in Iraq when foreign forces leave there.
So here's the question -- when it comes to Iran's alleged involvement in Iraq, who do you believe?
E-mail your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile.
Reminiscent, Wolf, of the war in Afghanistan, when Russia invaded. It seems to me we were -- the United States was supplying weapons and intelligence and things like that to the Afghan rebels during that war.
BLITZER: The Mujahedeen, a lot, through the CIA, through the Saudis.
CAFFERTY: Yes, so...
BLITZER: Those shoulder-fired missiles, which brought down a lot of soviet helicopters.
CAFFERTY: So that was OK, but it's not OK if Iran -- I'm confused, Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, you know, later we're going to talk to Michael Ware about the timing -- why the U.S. is releasing all of this information right now, since it's been out there at least for a year, maybe two.
CAFFERTY: And Iran, arguably, is probably not the only country with vested interests in what's going on inside Iraq. All of the nations around in that immediate area, including Saudi Arabia, have a very vested interest in the outcome of what's happening in that country.
BLITZER: A lot of people do.
All right, Jack, thanks very much.
BLITZER: Jack will be back.
Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we're going to have the origins of that CIA leak in the words, by the leaker. You're going to be hearing precisely what the then deputy secretary of state told Bob Woodward of the "Washington Post." You're going to want to hear this.
Also, more on the showdown on Capitol Hill on the war in Iraq. I'll speak later with Congressman John Murtha about the Democrats' bill to protest the president's plans.
And the fight over Iraq out on the campaign trail.
Are Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama taking on each other as they talk to voters in crucial states?
And later, the race to the White House. On the Republican side, are the three frontrunners all running to the right?
I'll speak about that with Candy Crowley and John King.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
In the CIA leak case, for the very first time, we're now hearing audio of the man who actually leaked the information about Valerie Plame and we're hearing him do the actual leaking.
The tape is filled with revealing details and expletives.
Our Brian Todd is watching the case against Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
Brian is joining us now live from outside the courthouse in Washington.
This is pretty, pretty sensational material you're about to share with our viewers -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf. It was part of a very dramatic day of testimony, the defense opening its case.
This tape that you're about to hear is part of the central strategy by the defense to portray that some top Washington reporter who knew that administration critic Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA did not get that information from the defendant, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
Bob Woodward, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for the "Washington Post," testifies today that he had a meeting with the man now identified as the leaker in this case, then Deputy Secretary of Defense Richard Armitage, on June 13th of 2003.
This is the first time that we hear the words from the leaker to Bob Woodward.
Here it is.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP FROM
BOB WOODWARD, "WASHINGTON POST": What's Scowcroft up to now?
RICHARD ARMITAGE, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: [expletive] Scowcroft is looking into the yellowcake thing.
WOODWARD: Oh, yes?
ARMITAGE: As the PFIAB.
What happened there?
ARMITAGE: They're back together. [coughs] They knew with yellowcake, the CIA is not going to be hurt by this one...
WOODWARD: I know, that's...
ARMITAGE: ... Hadley and Bob Joseph know. It's documented. We've got our documents on it. We're clean as a [expletive] whistle. And George personally got it out of the Cincinnati speech of the president.
WOODWARD: Oh, he did?
ARMITAGE: Oh, yes.
WOODWARD: Oh really?
WOODWARD: It was taken out?
ARMITAGE: Taken out. George said you can't do this.
WOODWARD: How come it wasn't taken out of the situation then?
ARMITAGE: Because I think it was overruled by the types down at the White House. Condi doesn't like being in the hot spot. But she...
WOODWARD: But it was Joe Wilson who was sent by the agency. In many that's just...
ARMITAGE: His wife works in the agency.
WOODWARD: Why doesn't that come out? Why does...
ARMITAGE: Everyone knows it.
WOODWARD: ... that have to be a big secret? Everyone knows.
ARMITAGE: Yes. And I know [expletive] Joe Wilson's been calling everybody. He's pissed off because he was designated as a low-level guy who went out to took at it. So, he's all pissed off.
WOODWARD: But why would they send him?
ARMITAGE: Because his wife's a [expletive] analyst at the agency.
WOODWARD: It's still weird.
ARMITAGE: It -- it's perfect. This is what she does. She is a WMD analyst out there.
WOODWARD: Oh, she is?
WOODWARD: Oh, I see.
ARMITAGE: [expletive] look at it.
WOODWARD: Oh, I see. I didn't [expletive].
ARMITAGE: Yes, see?
WOODWARD: Oh, she's the chief WMD?
ARMITAGE: No, she isn't the chief, no.
WOODWARD: But high enough up that she can say, 'Oh, yes, hubby will go.'"
ARMITAGE: Yes, he knows Africa.
WOODWARD: Was she out there with him?
WOODWARD: When he was ambassador? ARMITAGE: Not to my knowledge. I don't know. I don't know if she was out there or not. But his wife is in the agency and is a WMD analyst.
How about that [expletive]?
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: That conversation, again, on June 13, 2003, believed to be one of the first times that the identity of Valerie Plame Wilson, the wife of administration critic Joe Wilson, was leaked to the media. That conversation between Richard Armitage, then deputy defense secretary, and journalist Bob Woodward.
Now, Woodward told the court today that he never wrote about that conversation. He says he met with "Scooter" Libby two weeks after that. He doesn't remember whether he asked Libby about Valerie Plame Wilson or not, but he says that Libby never said anything to him about Wilson's wife, two weeks after that conversation, when they met.
Also identifying Richard Armitage as a source of his information about Valerie Plame Wilson is Robert Novak, the columnist who first, essentially, told the world that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA in this famous column that ran on July 14th of 2003. Novak also saying that Karl Rove was one of his sources.
So, Wolf, the defense trying to pull other journalists out today to testify that they got information about this case not from Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the defendant.
BLITZER: And just to recap, Brian, last week the prosecution rested. Today is the first day that the defense have their opportunity to make their case on behalf of Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
What they're trying to do -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- is to show that "Scooter" Libby was really the fall guy, the scapegoat for the Bush White House, that they're trying to make him look like the bad guy.
And the defense -- the defense attorneys are trying to show that, you know what?
"Scooter" Libby wasn't the first one who leaked this name of Valerie Plame. It was other officials in the Bush administration.
TODD: That's correct, Wolf. They're trying to portray that other reporters knew about this, that they didn't get it from "Scooter" Libby, that he didn't leak the information.
But the defense saying that, in fact, he was part of this campaign to get that information out there. He says that -- Libby claims that he didn't know about this until Tim Russert told him on July 10th of 2003. Russert said that's not true, he never told Libby anything about it.
Again, a lot of claims and counter-claims in this case. Very dramatic strategy by the defense saying, look, a lot of reporters knew about this, they didn't get it from "Scooter" Libby.
And it's unclear at this point, a defense attorney said today unclear at this point whether Libby will testify in his own defense.
BLITZER: A pretty smart strategy, especially in the District of Columbia, where there are a lot of Democrats, to make it look like "Scooter" Libby was the scapegoat or the fall guy for this kind of activity.
All right, Brian, we're going to stay on top of this story with you and we'll have more on this story coming up.
Also coming up, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in New Hampshire -- are they competing against each other?
Mary Snow is on the scene for us. We're going to go there live.
Also, can Mitt Romney win the support of conservative Republican voters?
I'll ask our Candy Crowley and John King.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Where one goes, another goes, as well.
Today, Democratic Senator Barack Obama searches for support in New Hampshire. That's one day after one of his top political rivals visited and herself. Senator Hillary Clinton campaigned there over the weekend.
Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow.
She's now on the scene for us in the all important state.
She's joining us from Nashua with the latest.
This contest only beginning to heat up on the Democratic front -- Mary.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, it's certainly heating up. And Senator Barack Obama is just inside a house, wrapping up a house party where he met with about 100 people to talk with them about his campaign, also answer some questions. With 11 months to go before New Hampshire's primary, the two Democratic frontrunners are certainly wasting no time in trying to win support here.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
SNOW (voice-over): Senator Barack Obama took his campaign to the presidential testing ground of New Hampshire, where voters showed their willingness to put him right to the test. He arrived just a day after Senator Hillary Clinton left.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Thank you very much.
SNOW: Senator Clinton had spent two days there, where she was peppered with questions on Iraq. She was specifically asked about her vote authorizing the war and her choice not to call it a mistake, unlike her Democratic rival, former Senator John Edwards, has done.
Senator Obama was not in the Senate at the time of that vote, but he's made his stand clear.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: I am proud of the fact that I opposed this war from the start. I thought it as a...
OBAMA: I thought it was a tragic mistake.
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: We've seen Senator Barack Obama try to distinguish himself from the rest of the field. He was against the war from the beginning. He made that clear this weekend and I expect that he'll continue sounding that, as we head into the weeks and months ahead.
CLINTON: Which, for me...
SNOW: But for Senator Clinton, the weeks and months ahead may be spent with her trying to focus the war blame on President Bush and Republicans. She's also sending a message to those calling to win the war right away.
CLINTON: It's very easy to go around saying end the war now. Well, finally we have a Democratic president -- I mean a Democratic Congress -- and we're trying to use the powers we have. If we had a Democratic president, we would end the war, but we don't.
SNOW: During her time in New Hampshire, Senator Clinton didn't take press questions and wasn't directly asked about her Democratic competitors. But in Iowa this weekend, Senator Obama was asked about Senator Clinton's Iraq plans.
OBAMA: I will let her speak to her plan. And I will let her address both past decisions and how she wants to move forward. I am not clear on how she would proceed at this point to wind down the war in a specific way.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SNOW: And at this afternoon's event, the first question to Senator Obama was about his plan for Iraq.
Now, some of the people inside were also spending time this weekend with Senator Clinton. They say with time on their side, 11 months to go before the primary and such easy access to candidates, they are certainly going to take their time in making up their mind and they plan to really grill each candidate -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you for that. Mary is on the scene in Nashua, New Hampshire.
She's going to be spending a lot of time on the political campaign trail in the coming months.
Up next, are the top three Republican presidential hopefuls all moving to the right and can any of them seal the deal with conservative voters?
Bill Schneider is standing by.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Happening now, the White House isn't backing down on its allegations Iran is behind a number of deadly attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq. President Bush dismisses criticism of the comments and they sound eerily familiar to many critics to the lead-up to the war in Iraq.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insists his country opposes any bloodshed.
The House, meanwhile, is gearing up to debate a non-binding resolution opposing President Bush's plan to send nearly 22,000 more American troops to Iraq.
I'll talk to one of the most outspoken critics of the Bush administration's handling of the war, Democratic Congressman John Murtha. He's standing by to join us live in just a few minutes here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Also, U.S. and Asian negotiators have now struck a tentative deal with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program. Under the agreement, Pyongyang will stop producing plutonium in return for energy assistance. We'll have more on this, coming up.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani continues his swing through California today. Over the weekend, he received a warm welcome from fellow Republicans at a state party convention. Tomorrow, the former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is expected to announce his candidacy.
But are Romney, Giuliani and Senator John McCain all moving to the right, right now?
Let's turn to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider -- Bill.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, tomorrow, Mitt Romney becomes the first of three leading Republicans to declare he's officially running for president.
Now, those three Republicans do have a lot in common.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Polls show three candidates leading the Republican field, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Mitt Romney. All three are essentially blue-state Republicans who know how to win over Democrats and moderates. That's good, right? In a general election, it is.
But, first, they have to get through the Republican primaries. Giuliani was twice elected mayor of New York, the capital of blue- state America, as a supporter of abortion rights, gay rights, and gun control. Now he seems to be modifying his views ever so slightly.
RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: And -- and I would appoint judges to the court that were strict constructionists.
SCHNEIDER: Some conservatives aren't buying it.
TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: I think Giuliani is unacceptable from the outset.
SCHNEIDER: Giuliani's response? Let's talk about the war on terror.
GIULIANI: We learned from Ronald Reagan that the way that you achieve peace is through strength, not weakness.
SCHNEIDER: Romney was governor of a very blue state.
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: My home state of Massachusetts, where I have lived for, I think, 35 years.
SCHNEIDER: Recently, letters and debate clips have surfaced showing that Romney supported gay rights and abortion rights in 1994, when he was running against Ted Kennedy.
PERKINS: You know, a lot of things coming out about him that are troubling.
SCHNEIDER: Romney's response? I have seen the light, like other converts.
ROMNEY: On abortion, I wasn't always a Ronald Reagan conservative. Either was Ronald Reagan, by the way.
SCHNEIDER: Arizona is not a blue state, but, in 2000, McCain won blue-state primaries in New Hampshire and Michigan. He denounced Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as agents of intolerance. McCain's response to conservatives who won't forgive him? He gave the commencement address at Falwell's college. He's hired a number of Bush campaign staffers. And he is with President Bush on the biggest issue of all: Iraq. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I'm sticking with the president, in this respect. This is our last chance. The consequences of failure are catastrophic.
SCHNEIDER: It's not odd to see candidates move to the right to seek the Republican nomination. But three of them running for president at the same time and the three leading the field, that's unusual -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider, thank you.
Meanwhile, we also want to talk a little bit more about two potential rivals on the Democratic side.
And joining us now, our correspondents Candy Crowley -- she is in Chicago -- John King -- he is in Washington.
Candy, you got a chance to watch Barack Obama in Illinois making his campaign announcement out in Iowa. Talk a little bit about the rivalry that is clearly emerging between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, for -- for the first part of the trip, it was sort of not said.
I mean, there -- there were certain, obviously, that came up that were directed right at Senator Clinton -- one of them, this talk about the new generation. Barack Obama is positioning himself as the post- baby boomer. Even though he is sort of a shadow baby boomer, and there's not an entire generation between the two of them, everybody got the point that he was not of the generation; it was time to turn the page, as he said.
Then, when we got into Iraq, and by the time we got to Iowa, he was naming names. It was: I really don't understand where Hillary Clinton's strategy is.
He was pointing out, repeatedly: I was opposed to going into Iraq from the very beginning.
That, of course, contrasts completely with her position. She voted for the Iraq resolution. And they knew full well in camp Obama that Hillary was getting quite a bit of flak for that vote when she was in New Hampshire.
BLITZER: How does the Hillary campaign, John, deal with this -- deal with this major challenge to what they would have hoped would be simply a coronation?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They keep trying to go, Wolf, forward as fast as they can. They try to make it -- Barack Obama's pledge right now, like -- as Candy just laid out is -- essentially is: I'm the future. I represent the future. She -- without naming her and anyone else -- represents the past. What Hillary Clinton wants to say is: You know me. You can trust me. I know all of the issues. I'm tough enough to win in November.
That is her main challenge, that: There will be no surprises. I'm not new to this game. I won't stumble like a rookie down the road. You can trust me.
Her biggest trouble, Wolf, right now, if you ask anybody in the Democratic Party, and any Republican, for that matter, is with white men over 50. That is the biggest problem constituency for her. She needs to work on that constituency and keep watching the polls. If she can keep Senator Obama where he is right now, he's a challenge, but he's still behind her.
It's what happens over the next three months. If he can inch closer, then she has a problem.
BLITZER: Candy, let's turn to the Republican side.
You're off to Michigan to cover the big announcement tomorrow by Mitt Romney. He is going to be running for president, as we all know. But he's got Rudy Giuliani. He's got John McCain. Those are formidable -- formidable challenges standing in his way.
CROWLEY: That's true.
But here is how the campaign of Mitt Romney looks at that. They think that Rudy Giuliani and John McCain sort of draw from the same pool of voters. They believe that there is an opening on the conservative wing of the party.
Conservatives, as you know, are at odds with Rudy Giuliani's social policy. And they don't really trust John McCain for campaign finance reform and other reasons. So, Mitt Romney sees this opening on the right. And, as you know, conservative Christians and conservatives in general are the people that vote in the greatest numbers in Republican primaries.
So, that's where they see this opening, is on the conservative side of the spectrum.
BLITZER: He's got some problems, though, even with that conservative base, John, of the Republican Party, because he's changed his views on several of the most sensitive social issues.
KING: And that is, Wolf, where we could see the so-called second-tier candidates come into play here, Senator Sam Brownback, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, especially.
As the Christian conservatives put it, has Governor Romney truly had a conversion on the road to Damascus? Does he feel differently about abortion, does he feel differently about gay rights than he did two, four or five years ago, or is he doing this just for politics?
They are very suspect. They do applaud his early efforts, his outreach, as Candy noted, meeting with ministers, meeting with activists. They say he's done a very good job of being open, to say: Ask me any question you want.
But Governor Huckabee and Senator Brownback are meeting with these same meeting, saying: You know me. I have been with you all along.
And, so, if we're going to see an impact on Governor Romney, as he deals, first and foremost, with Senator McCain and Mayor Giuliani, I would watch those second-tier candidates, Sam Brownback, and especially -- in the last couple of weeks, we're hearing from people close to Governor Huckabee and people who have met with Governor Huckabee, saying, he is doing a great job coming in, saying: I'm a Baptist. I'm a Christian. I have been with you on these issues for a very long time. I'm not a Johnny-come-lately.
BLITZER: All right, John, Candy, we will be watching all this political action. It's only going to get more intense. Thanks to both of you.
And up next: the House of Representatives set to do what the U.S. Senate couldn't do, namely, debate and vote on a nonbinding resolution on the war in Iraq.
Coming up, we will have a key player in the debate, Congressman John Murtha. He is standing by live to join us right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania triggered a firestorm when he called the war in Iraq -- and I'm quoting now -- "a flawed policy wrapped in illusion." That was back in November of 2005.
Now the House is set to debate a nonbinding resolution opposing the sending of more U.S. troops to Iraq.
Congressman Murtha is joining us now live from Capitol Hill.
Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.
A lot of -- a lot of critics of the war are saying, is this the best that a Democratic House of Representatives can do, a nonbinding resolution? Why not something that has a little bit more teeth to it?
REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I think the public spoke, as you know, Wolf -- and we have talked about this before -- in the election itself.
I think this is the first step. The first step is say to the president: Mr. President, Republicans and Democrats are against the escalation.
Then, the next step is the supplemental appropriation, which means something. It's the money that goes to the people serving in Iraq. It's -- it's the money that goes to the troops.
Now, we're not going to cut off any money to the troops. But we're going to make sure the money is -- every cent is justified. We're going to make sure that -- that the troops don't get sent in without the training, without the equipment that they need. We're going to make sure they don't get extended. We're looking at closing down Guantanamo. We're looking at bulldozing Abu Ghraib.
We're looking at a number of things -- no permanent bases, no torture, those kind of things -- in the supplemental. That's a substantive vote. And that's the next thing that will come up. And we are having substantial hearings on readiness for the troops in the United States. And we're building a case to do that.
I don't think anybody wants to send the troops back into Iraq without the proper training, without the proper equipment. And that is what they will have to vote on, on March 15 or 16.
BLITZER: And, so, this -- this vote that you're going to go forward, you believe you have enough votes in the House of Representatives to pass this resolution, a nonbinding resolution, opposing the introduction of more troops into Iraq?
MURTHA: I think so.
And what we have found is, you can't win this militarily. They can't -- if they are going to have an escalation, Wolf, from all the principles of war, you should have it all at once. You send in 20,000 troops all at once.
When you send them in piecemeal -- why do we have to send them in piecemeal? Because we don't have the troops to send in all at once. So, we have to send them in brigade at a time, month at a time. That's the worst way to have an escalation.
But the point is, an escalation just doesn't work. Every surge has not worked before. And -- and I'm afraid it just puts more troops in harm's way. What we need to do is redeploy. We need -- need stability in the Middle East. We need to get our allies involved. We need a diplomatic solution.
Now, what we found when we went to Iraq not long ago -- and we talked about this -- we found that the Sunnis won't negotiate with the Shias, and vice versa. The Shias have to come up with a way to satisfy some of the Sunnis, or we won't be able to solve this problem. That's what we're working on now, some sort of a diplomatic solution, because they can't win it militarily. It has to be done by the Iraqis.
BLITZER: As you know, Democratic Senator Barack Obama, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, he says he would like all U.S. combat forces out of Iraq by March of next year. He would like to see that withdrawal start in May of this year.
Over the weekend, Australian Prime Minister John Howard really lashed out at this idea, and lashed out personally at Barack Obama. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN HOWARD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: I think he is wrong.
If I were running al Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008, and pray as many times as possible for a victory, not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right.
Not only is John Howard taking on Barack Obama; he is seemingly taking on you, as well, because your attitude, your policy is not all that different than Barack Obama's.
MURTHA: No, that's exactly right.
But -- but that's easy for somebody to say that hasn't really participated heavily in the deployment. The American people are paying $8.4 billion a month. Our troops are being in harm's way every day.
Now, the Australians are -- are one of our best allies. But for him to say something like this, when this is a policy decision, a policy difference with the president of the United States, is uncalled for. He is trying to interfere in our election. And that is -- that's something that shouldn't happen.
We appreciate the help of the Australians, but they haven't done anything, compared to what the United States forces have done. Our troops are in harm's way because of the policy. We differ with the policy of the president of the United States. We want our troops to come home. We think redeployment is the first step to stability. We all want stability in the Middle East.
BLITZER: Well, what about, Congressman, when he says, this would be a bonanza; this would be a gift for al Qaeda, what you and other Democrats are recommending?
BLITZER: What do you say to him, when he says al Qaeda should just mark the calendar and wait for that date?
MURTHA: I will tell you, they will rue the day when the United States gets out of there, because the Iraqis know who they are, and they will get rid of them.
I am absolutely convinced. They know the -- the tribes. They know the geography. The -- the -- the Iraqis know who the al Qaeda are. It's just that we, obviously, provide the incentive to recruit al Qaeda. Iran wants us in there, and -- and al Qaeda wants us in there. The minute we're gone, they will take care of al Qaeda by themselves. Al Qaeda will not even be a factor in Iraq once the United States is gone.
BLITZER: All right.
John Murtha, congressman from Pennsylvania, Democrat, thanks very much for coming in.
MURTHA: Good talking to you, Wolf.
And coming up: James Carville and J.C. Watts in our "Strategy Session." Does Senator Clinton have a -- have to come up with a different answer on why she voted for the resolution authorizing the war in Iraq? And why can't she just say she is sorry?
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Could the war in Iraq trip up Senator Hillary Clinton's expected bid for the White House?
Joining us now in today's "Strategy Session," CNN political analyst, Democratic strategist James Carville, former Republican Congressman J.C. Watts.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
BLITZER: Let me play, James, first to you, a little clip of a question that was asked to Senator Clinton over the weekend in New Hampshire.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to know if, right here, right now, once and for all, without nuance, you can say that that war authorization vote was a mistake.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Well, I have said -- and I will repeat it -- that, knowing what I know now, I would never have voted for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, James, you know she is being criticized for simply...
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
BLITZER: ... not saying what Chris Dodd has said, what Joe Biden has said, yes -- what John Edwards has said -- it was a mistake, and I'm sorry I voted that way.
CARVILLE: I think that -- that the senator needs a more concise answer, not a different answer. She was a senator from New York. She and senator Schumer were told that there were -- that -- that -- their state was hit -- that there were connections between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, that Saddam Hussein had a nuclear weapons program. All of it turned out not to be true.
I think what the senator is saying, quite understandably, is, is, given the knowledge she had at the time, she probably made the correct vote. And she has acknowledged that, if she knew what she knew now -- the problem is, she just needs to be a little more concise in that answer, I think.
BLITZER: You know, because other Democratic senators had exactly the same information she had...
BLITZER: ... like Ted Kennedy, former Senator Bob Graham of Florida...
CARVILLE: The other...
BLITZER: ... and they -- and they didn't vote for it...
BLITZER: ... because they didn't -- they didn't think it was hard enough.
CARVILLE: You know what? True, but they weren't from New York. Their state wasn't hit. They didn't have to deal with the grief of these 3,000 people.
I think -- again, I agreed with -- I agreed with Senator Graham and Senator Kennedy, myself, not -- not that it matters what I think. But I think that she was a -- she was operating in -- in -- by the time that the war started, she was urging the president to leave the U.N. inspectors in.
I think her answer could -- could -- could be more concise and a -- and a -- and a little tighter. But I think she needs a little better explanation, yes.
BLITZER: And what about, J.C., what Barack Obama says? You know, he didn't get any classified information. He didn't have any intelligence briefings. He just looked at what -- what he saw in Iraq, and he spoke out against this war before the war. And he is using that to -- to go after Senator Clinton.
How effective is that going to be in the Democratic side?
J.C. WATTS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I -- Wolf, I think Senator Clinton is smart enough and savvy enough that she will figure out a way to get around that. But it's -- you know, I -- I think it's -- you know, that that's somewhat of a -- being a Monday-morning quarterback, what Senator Obama, the position that he has taken there, because he didn't get a vote. He -- he didn't have to vote. So, that -- that is easy to say.
But I think Senator Clinton -- Wolf, in my opinion, I think, eventually, she's going to be pressured, either to say, I'm sorry, or to say, I shouldn't of voted like that, because every candidate on the Democrat side, they're taking a hard-left position on it.
And I -- I'm not so sure she is going to be able to be as nuanced as she has been to this point in her -- in her vote concerning Iraq.
BLITZER: Some people suggest, James, that she is simply too scripted, she's too cautious, and she should loosen up a little bit, move away from talking points, and just talk to the voters out there, which she certainly is capable of doing.
CARVILLE: Yes, she is. And she -- she -- you're right.
And I -- I -- I think that she does -- she -- she does -- she weighs what she says very carefully and very judiciously. I would point out that, when she made the joke about the evil men, everybody in the press, you know, came up, and she shows a -- shows a little side of her.
I think, as the campaign goes on, you're going to probably see more and more of this. Remember, we're in -- very early in this -- in this game. I hate to call it a game, but we're very early in -- in this process. And, you know, Senator Obama had a little slip yesterday.
There is going to be a lot of slips coming here along the way. And -- but I -- I think, as this evolves, that some of her warmth is going to come out. She does quite well in these -- in these settings with voters. And I think her campaign would like to continue to get her one on one with voters, and let the -- and let the cameras record that.
BLITZER: That -- that's clearly her favorite setting, those town...
CARVILLE: It is.
BLITZER: ... those town hall meetings.
On the Republican side, J.C., the -- the temperature is getting up a little bit as well -- three leaders right now of the pack. It's still a wide-open race, but McCain and Giuliani. Mitt Romney will make his official announcement tomorrow.
Is it -- is it a three-man race? Or you see some of these other candidates potentially emerging as a serious challenge?
WATTS: Well, I think Mike Huckabee could be very interesting, in terms of -- of how he scores with the conservative -- with the base. I think -- Duncan Hunter, I think, could be quite -- quite interesting. And, Wolf, I think Newt Gingrich -- you know, if something happens to one of those front-runners, it will be interesting to see how Newt might interject himself into the race. So, obviously, wide open, but I still think John McCain is the person to beat.
But 12 months is a long time. Anything can happen.
BLITZER: It might only be 11 months before...
BLITZER: ... Iowa and New Hampshire, but who is counting?
All right, guys, thanks very much for coming in, James...
CARVILLE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: ... and J.C.
WATTS: Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up in the next hour: Ambassador John Bolton, once a Bush administration insider. But now that he has left the team, is he having some second thoughts about the war in Iraq? Is he differing with the president?
Ambassador John Bolton standing by to join us live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's bring in Jack. He's in New York with "The Cafferty File."
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: As are you.
BLITZER: That's correct.
CAFFERTY: Welcome to the big town.
BLITZER: Thank you.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: When it comes to Iran's alleged involvement in Iraq, who do you believe? Our government says the Iranians are supplying weapons and stirring up trouble in Iraq.
B.D. in Saugerties, New York: "It's a classical case of the boy who cried wolf once too often. We have been lied to by the White House, the intelligence community, and the Pentagon for so long, nobody knows what to believe. What we do know, and is verified by the facts, is that this administration does not know how to handle the war with Iraq, much less take on one with Iran." Peggy in Saint Louis: "Jack, the real question is, even if the Defense Department is correct in what it is saying, does that give us the right or duty to attack Iran? Discussions of the credibility of Iraq prewar intelligence always seem to start with the assumption that, if the intelligence had been correct, it would have been right and necessary to invade. It wasn't."
Joe in Harrisburg: "They are our enemy. They want us dead, wiped off the Earth. I certainly don't believe a word they say."
Charles in Cinebar, Washington: "Four years ago, George Bush told us Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein denied this. Saddam told the truth. Bush lied. Now Bush says Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Iran denies this. Who should we believe this time? It's sad when the president of the United States is no more trustworthy than a two-bit dictator."
And Bruce in Amherst, New York: "I believed the Bush administration when they told us we had to go to war with Iraq because they threatened us with WMDs and that al Qaeda was in alliance with Saddam Hussein. I now believe them when they tell us of Iran's high- level involvement in supplying arms to the Iraqi insurgents. I also believe Elvis lives, the Tooth Fairy is real, and UFOs are extraterrestrial" -- some cynicism in that one.
BLITZER: Amherst, New York, right outside of Buffalo, New York.
CAFFERTY: Is Buffalo still there?
BLITZER: There's a lot of snow there.
CAFFERTY: Those towns have all been buried up there.
BLITZER: Thank you, Jack, for that.
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