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Congressional Democrats Challenge Bush on Iraq; Threat of War With Iran?

Aired March 8, 2007 - 19:00   ET


Happening now -- a traveling president in a showdown with Democrats back home -- House and Senate leaders directly challenge Mr. Bush on Iraq, tonight new timetable for a troop pullout in conflict with the military's war plan.

Also this hour the threat of war with Iran over its nuclear defiance as the U.S. opens the door to talks, could Israel be preparing to strike. We'll ask former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

And Senator Barack Obama pays his dues, so to speak, almost two decades late -- tonight the story of parking tickets and presidential candidates under red hot scrutiny.

Wolf Blitzer's off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tonight, Democrats in Congress are throwing down the gauntlet on Iraq. They're directly challenging the president by proposing new deadlines to withdraw U.S. troops. And they're doing it while Mr. Bush is out of the country, but the commander in chief and his generals are fighting back.

We begin our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, with more than 175 troops already killed in Iraq just this year, Congress is clearly losing patience with the war.



STARR (voice-over): Shiite pilgrims again running for their lives. For days now, they have been attacked even as more U.S. troops enforce the security crackdown in Baghdad. The new U.S. commander warns the troop buildup could last for months.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, CMDR., MULTINATIONAL FORCES, IRAQ: We're in the early stages of this and I have been on occasion, bemused by people saying hey, you know how's it going? Have you won yet? And the answer is we've just started. STARR: That's not what many in Congress want to hear. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's new plan would begin withdrawing troops in four months. Two groups of House Democrats also have new proposals to bring U.S. troops home. Speaker Nancy Pelosi measure calls for withdrawal if the Iraqis can't demonstrate progress.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: If by October progress hasn't been completed we begin the redeployment of our troops out of Iraq.

STARR: Some Democrats want all of the troops out by the end of the year.

REP. JANICE SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS: Four and a half years ago the president asked Congress to give war a chance and despite our objections he got that chance, and he blew it. No more chances.


STARR: But military commanders oppose a timetable, fearing the insurgents will simply wait for the U.S. to leave. And they say there are signs, small signs of progress.

GEN. PETER PACE, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Sectarian violence is down a little bit. And vehicle-borne (ph) explosives are up a little bit, so I think you see, potentially, the Iraqi people wanting to take advantage of this opportunity.


STARR: Pentagon planners are already looking at the real possibility of keeping increased troops' level in Iraq through much of 2008, an idea for which Congress has little support -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Barbara.

And President Bush is sending a long distance message to Democrats, threatening to veto their attempts to force a pullout from Iraq. Mr. Bush landed in Brazil just a short while ago, the first stop of a weeklong tour of Latin America.

Our White House correspondent Ed Henry is with the president in Brazil -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, just in the last hour, Air Force One has touched down here in Brazil, but the White house was so eager to jump into this Iraq story, they didn't even wait for the president to land here in order to issue this rare veto threat. The threat was issued by White House counselor Dan Bartlett traveling on Air Force One.

He told reporters quote, "Obviously the administration would vehemently oppose and ultimately veto any legislation that looked like what was described today by House Democrats."

The president's main beef of course is with the idea of pulling troops out of Iraq by August of 2008 or even sooner if Iraqi officials don't meet certain benchmarks. The White House charging that that would put Speaker Nancy Pelosi in charge of the military strategy instead of General David Petraeus, the commander on the ground.

Now the White House felt from a substantive standpoint that they could not wait to push back against this Democratic plan. Even while the president was in the air, they had to lash out at this Democratic plan, but also clearly beyond the substance, the White House saw a political opportunity here to capitalize on the fact that Democrats have been divided on exactly how to move forward on Iraq strategy. But of course there's also some danger for the president. He could end up by talking about Iraq step on his message here in Latin America where he wants to talk about economic development -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thanks Ed. And as Democrats blast the president from afar, Mr. Bush couldn't escape the harsh criticism. The president is flying to even more hostile territory as protesters take to the streets to greet him. In Brazil's largest city, Sao Paolo, students, environmentalists others protested, demanding an end to the Iraq war. In Colombia, it's the people against the police. Some protesters threw rocks and police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

CNN's Karl Penhaul is in the Colombian capital with more.

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, throughout the afternoon, hundreds of mosque students in downtown Bogota have been fighting running battles with riot police. The motive for this protest is in strong opposition to the visit by President Bush in just a few days now. They have been fighting with rocks, with homemade explosives and firing fireworks at the police through PVC tubes. The police have been responding with tear gas and firing from riot cannons -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Karl Penhaul, obviously in a difficult situation there. Officials in Colombia say they thwarted plans to disrupt President Bush's trip there. They say leftist guerrillas had planned attacks and sabotage. Mr. Bush is scheduled to stop in Bogota Sunday.

Jack Cafferty joins us now from New York. Jack, looks like he was in a little bit of trouble there.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: There aren't a whole lot of places I don't guess in the world where they just roll out the red carpet in eager anticipation of seeing President Bush these days.

You can accuse the Democratic Party of being disorganized, but you can't say they don't know how to read. The latest NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll shows that almost 70 percent of the American public thinks that no good will come from the war in Iraq. A scant 20 percent think that this war is a good idea.

Now with that in mind, the Democrats in Congress are moving on from nonbinding resolutions opposing the war to something with more teeth in it, proposed legislation now calling for deadlines for the U.S. to pull its troops out of Iraq. One idea is to get out by the end of this year, another plan, to get all of the troops out of there by August of 2008.

Gee, what a coincidence, right before the next presidential election. If the polls don't change the Iraq war will be the deciding issue in the 2008 elections. And as long as seven out of 10 Americans oppose the war, guys like John McCain who think the war is a good idea, can pretty much forget about it. But a guy like Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator from Nebraska, could have a real shot at the White House.

This is a tough, outspoken Vietnam veteran. He's been telling anybody that would listen that President Bush is clueless when it comes to the war in Iraq. Hagel's expected to announce his intentions on Monday. If he runs and the war remains the hot-button issue, he could wind up giving people like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama migraine headaches. Here's the question.

Are deadlines for withdrawing troops from Iraq a good idea? E- mail your thoughts to or go to -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So Jack, does Hagel have your vote do you think?

CAFFERTY: Well I'm not going to tell you who has my vote. He hasn't even said if he's going to be a candidate yet, but I like his position in opposition to some of the stuff that the public has recognized is just wrong about this war in Iraq for a long time. He's one of the few Republicans with the stones to stand up and tell the administration you've got this one all wrong.

MALVEAUX: Well, Jack, he could definitely make it a lot more interesting.

CAFFERTY: Absolutely. I hope he gets in because that'll make the lives of people like you and me a lot more fun, watch the dog fight.

MALVEAUX: It would be a lot of fun. Thanks, Jack.

And of course coming up -- how long will it take Iran to develop a nuclear bomb. Here's the answer of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three years, that sounds like a lot of time, but it's only 1,000 days and this day it's just gone.


MALVEAUX: So, would he be willing to launch a pre-emptive strike. I'll ask him.

Also a drill gets real in Miami; we'll show you how a group of Cuban immigrants confused law enforcement officials during a mock exercise.

And some say Vice President Cheney is losing clout. We'll look at what may be behind his changing status.

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


MALVEAUX: House and Senate Democrats are going to new lengths tonight to try to force the president's hand on Iraq and bring U.S. troops home, but some staunch antiwar Democrats are concerned that their congressional leaders aren't moving fast enough.


REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: We're not simply saying to our leadership we want to get out. We want to withdraw now, tomorrow, in the next week or so. We're reasonable, intelligent legislators elected by the people to make good decisions and those people who try to paint us as folks who simply want to get out and leave our troops exposed is incorrect.


MALVEAUX: Democratic Representative Maxine Waters of California is a member of the "Out of Iraq" caucus. She joins me now here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Thank you so much for joining us. Who were talking about earlier this morning, those who are trying to paint you in a way that makes you seem unreasonable or not intelligent.

WATERS: Well, a number of people. Sometimes we get it from the more conservative press. Sometimes there are staffers that are trying to whip us in line, who will give those kinds of stories to the press. Sometimes members of the blue dogs...


WATERS: Yes, Democrats will paint us that way, sometimes Republicans, so we wanted to set the record straight. To say that we want to end the war, certainly, we want our troops home. We know that it can't happen overnight. And so we think it should be done within a reasonable time period. And we want a straightforward bill that will do that.

MALVEAUX: Why do you suppose it's members of your own party that seem to be portraying you in this rather negative light. Is this coming from Speaker Pelosi in your private conversations? I mean why do you suppose there is this kind of vehement split?

WATERS: No, this is certainly not coming from the speaker. This kind of thing happens all the time. As you know, we have various constituencies. We have people here who represent very conservative constituencies in the Democratic Party, some of us who represent more progressive constituencies and so, we differ philosophically, and we try to have our way and so we're strong advocates for our position and often times you'll hear that advocacy take all kinds of ways of doing that. MALVEAUX: The president has the megaphone and I want you to take a listen to something that he said today, because this is a case that he's making against you.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hear the words of bin Laden in a message to the American people just last year. He says of Iraq, the war is for you or for us to win. If we win it, it means your defeat and disgrace forever. In the face of such a determined enemy the idea of pulling back from a fight and hoping for the best is not a reasonable position.


MALVEAUX: Now, this is the president, he mentioned this earlier this week, but essentially he is calling your position, saying that this is -- means a success, a win here for Osama bin Laden.

WATERS: Well, you know, the president uses all kind of language to try and intimidate and have people believe that we're just cut and run. That somehow we don't know how to win, that we're not willing to fight terrorism. So we're accustomed to all of those kinds of sound bites. They don't really mean anything.

The fact of the matter is the president misled us. We thought we were going because this country was at risk. That somehow we were fighting terrorism, only to find out there were no weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam Hussein was a bluffer, and that he didn't have us at risk at all. And the fact of the matter is we have been there long enough to find out that now we're in the middle of a civil war. Our soldiers are now at risk. We're not accomplishing anything.

MALVEAUX: Let's talk about the plan here, obviously, presented by the Democrats...


MALVEAUX: ... House and Senate. I mean clearly the president today issued this veto threat and if you don't have the votes to override the veto, is this just spinning your wheels? What makes this anything more than an academic exercise?

WATERS: Absolutely not. The people elect us to come here and fight for what we believe in. And we are trying to put legislation on the president's desk that will wind us out of Iraq and do it in a way that he's going to have to be accountable for. And so, even if he threatens to veto it's our responsibility as elected representatives to move forward.

And the people have spoken and the polls are showing us that the people know that this war has been mismanaged. They want us out of there and we have to lead them out. And that means putting together the legislation, putting it on the president's desk; he can veto it if he wants to. The people will take care of him.

MALVEAUX: When you say the people will take care of him, obviously he's still got some time in office here. What are you talking about? What is your recourse here if he vetoes this legislation? What more can you do?

WATERS: If he vetoes the legislation, as you know, we have the option to try and override the veto. It may be a steep hill to climb, but that's our responsibility, to try and meet those challenges. When I say the people will take care of him, they'll speak up, they will speak out, they will rally, they will protest, they'll challenge this administration and perhaps they'll be the ones that will help us to override the veto because they will convince their legislators that the right thing to do is to get out of Iraq, bring our soldiers home, and stop spending all of the taxpayer's money on a war that has proven to be a war that has caused our soldiers to be in the middle of sectarian violence every day.

MALVEAUX: I'm going to have to -- I'm sorry. We have run out of time.


MALVEAUX: I'm going to have to cut you off right there. Thank you so much...

WATERS: You're so welcome.

MALVEAUX: ... Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

WATERS: Thank you very, very much.

MALVEAUX: Up ahead tonight in THE SITUATION ROOM, U.S. talks with Iran? We'll show you why it appears the Bush administration may be backing down from its hard-line stance.

Plus, his former top aide convicted, the latest in a series of setbacks for Vice President Cheney that some say may be costing him his influence.

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


MALVEAUX: Carol Costello is in New York monitoring stories from around the world. Carol, what is crossing the wires right now?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Suzanne. Hello to all of you.

For dozens of Cuban migrants hiding in plain sight got them to U.S. shores, two boatloads of Cubans, 40 in all, sneaked ashore on Miami Beach during a massive drill by law enforcement officials. They arrived on day two of Operation Vigilant Century. The homeland security exercise simulated a possible mass migration from the Caribbean. The two vessels that dropped off the true Cuban boat people, of course, escaped. The Transportation Security Administration is acknowledging a security breach in Orlando, Florida. Court documents say two baggage handlers used their uniforms and airport I.D.s to bypass screeners with a duffel bag containing guns and drugs. They boarded a Delta flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico where they were arrested. A TSA spokesman said passengers were in little danger because at least two federal air marshals were also onboard that plane.

Greek police call it the worst violence in Athens in years; at least 43 people were hurt in a clash between police and students protesting university reforms. The students threw petrol bombs. The police threw back tear gas. The hot-button issue, Greece's conservative government is overhauling the education system and not everybody likes those reforms.

That's a look at the headlines right now, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Carol, thank you so much. Of course, we'll get back to you.

And coming up -- how serious is Iran's nuclear ambition?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a threat to the entire world, to Israel, to America, to the rest of mankind.


MALVEAUX: I'll ask former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if Israel would attack Iran over its nuclear program.

And is the star power of one presidential candidate dimming? Democratic Senator Barack Obama, with more popularity comes more scrutiny.


MALVEAUX: New evidence of the fish bowl that Senator Barack Obama is living in now that he's top-tier presidential candidate. A new report reveals that shortly before launching his White House campaign, the Illinois Democrat finally settled up on unpaid parking tickets from his college days.

Our Mary Snow has more about Obama under the microscope -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Suzanne. You know, those parking tickets are just a sign that not many stones will be left unturned in the presidential race as Senator Barack Obama gets puts to the test.


SNOW (voice-over): Is the honeymoon over between Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama and members of the press? You remember those that kept referring to him as a political rock star.

ANITA DUNN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I would say honeymoon ending, campaigning beginning.

SNOW: Case in point, you probably didn't know that while he was a student at Harvard Law School, Obama had some unpaid parking tickets dating back to 1988. A couple of weeks before announcing his run for president, he paid off the $375 he owed. It's not something that's going to bring down a campaign, but it points to the intense level of scrutiny Obama now faces.

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN'S "RELIABLE SOURCES": Barack Obama had been getting the most glorious press coverage, perhaps in the history of the republic. I mean the press just acted like this guy walked on water and it was inevitable that once the investigative reporters started digging around that he'd get a little bit wet.

SNOW: On Wednesday, Obama came to face questions about two stock investments he made in 2005.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: At no point did I know what stocks were held.

SNOW: Earlier in the week, his campaign found itself explaining why Obama dis-invited his pastor to his official presidential announcement in February. Still headlines like Obama mania show the Illinois senator is far from being an embattled candidate, but the level of scrutiny is expected to only increase. Some political strategists say Obama could use it to his advantage.

DUNN: You get put high on a pedestal; people are going to want to take you down. How he responds to that is going to be very telling in terms of how successful he is as a candidate.


SNOW: And it's not that the Obama camp wasn't expecting the scrutiny. A spokesman told me today when you're running for president, it's only fair to raise questions. And he added that so far Senator Obama has faced those questions head-on -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: I guess he's going to get a little bit of everything...

SNOW: Absolutely, especially parking tickets.

MALVEAUX: Gets you every time. OK, thanks Mary Snow.

Right now Senator John McCain is on Rudy Giuliani's home turf of New York City at a sold-out $2,100 a plate event with supporters, but for McCain's supporters who can't make it to New York, they can buy an e-ticket to participate in the event online.

Our Internet reporter Jacki Schechner has that story -- interesting, Jacki. JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Very much so, Suzanne. What you're watching behind me is Senator John McCain's exchange of ideas. He's using this interactive Web cast as a fund-raiser. Your $100 e-ticket gets you the seat that we are in right now and the opportunity to ask questions.

You can see those rolling down the right hand side of the screen. We have seen everything tonight from when are you going to host "Saturday Night Live" again to when are we going to get serious about fixing Social Security. Now, we have seen interactive Web casts from other presidential hopefuls so far, but this is the first time this cycle we've seen one used as a fundraiser.

Senator McCain did do a fundraiser online like this back in February of 2000, when he was running for president. He charged $100 a head for that one too and raised $50,000 and even though the money buys you an e-ticket, Suzanne, that money you're donating is very real and very much subjects to FEC regulations.

MALVEAUX: Good to know. Thank you very much, Jacki.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now -- President Bush flies into hostile territory and Mr. Bush begins a seven-day trip to Latin America. Protesters greet him. In Brazil demonstrators demand an end to the Iraq war.

In Colombia, protesters threw rocks and police respond with tear gas and rubber bullets.

In Massachusetts, Governor Deval Patrick wants detainees who were rounded up in an immigration raid to be kept in the state. More than 325 people were detained. Many are parents. The governor wants time to arrange care for their children.

And busting up the bureaucracy. At the Walter Reed Army Medical Center wounded troops will now have someone to help them cut through the red tape. The army's vice chief of staff he's named a new so- called bureaucratic buster to address issues quickly.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Little by little, the Bush administration has been backing off on its refusal to hold direct talks with Iran. The U.S. State Department appears to be opening the door to talks just a little bit wider. Here's our State Department correspondent Zain Verjee.


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, after months of playing hard to get the U.S. is showing it's in the mood.


VERJEE (voice-over): It may be coy. Just a wink, but the U.S. is flirting with Iran and Syria. The idea, talk one on one, but only about Iraq. Special adviser to Iraq David Satterfield heads to a conference this weekend on how to fix Iraq.

Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria will be there. Satterfield says if we're approached over orange juice by the Syrians or the Iranians to discuss an Iraqi-related issue, we're not going to walk away. U.S. officials tell CNN the offer to talk is on the table. So far, Iran isn't showing interest. The U.S. accuses of Iran of arming Iraqi militias and insurgents with deadly explosives which kill U.S. forces. And the American military has detained Iranian operatives in Iraq.

U.S. officials say a regional conference will put Iran's activities in the spotlight.

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Certainly positive. I would argue a different dynamic than the Iranians being able to operate in the shadows.

VERJEE: Iranian officials say they helped the U.S. in Afghanistan in 2001 but later got burned when President Bush stuck them in Axis of Evil.

AFSHIN MOLAVI, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: They're going to come into these talks with heavy doses of caution. There is a certain amount of hope that these talks will expand beyond the limited issue of Iraq.


VERJEE (on camera): There is a higher level meeting planned for next month. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says even if Secretary Rice herself had a chance to speak directly to Iran or Syria, even she wouldn't walk away.


MALVEAUX: Zain, thank you very much.

And the U.S. is taking the lead in opposing Iran's nuclear program. But could Israel wind up making the first strike.

I talked about the Iranian nuclear threat with former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


MALVEAUX: Mr. Netanyahu, I would like to start off by asking, polls in your country actually show that you could become the next prime minister. Very popular. That would mean that you are in charge of your own security.

If you found that Iran had nuclear weapons, would you go after them? Would you strike?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, FMR. ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Well, that would be kind of late, don't you think? I mean, the whole idea is to -- for the international community to do everything in its power to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. And it seems to me, before people discuss a hypothetical military action against Iran, there are plenty of other ways to make this regime stop.

Either bring down the Ahmadinejad regime itself, or make it suspend the nuclear option by applying massive economic pressure on it. That's one of the things I've been -- I'm going to talk to people in Washington about, just -- including the Democratic and Republican candidates, those who will be available in the next couple of days.

I just spoke to Major Giuliani, and he said, "Let's apply economic sanctions as fast as we can." I'm going to do -- talk to Vice President Cheney and others about this.

I think that those who are concerned with the consequences of a military action by anyone, not necessarily by my country, have another option, and that option is to apply enormous and effective economic sanctions on this regime which is very vulnerable to economic sanctions. Ahmadinejad just lost by elections a few weeks ago because of the economic difficulties this regime faces.

MALVEAUX: But Mr. Prime Minister, there have been Israeli sources, officials who have actually said that, according to their intelligence, it's just a couple of months away before they believe that Iran would have the capacity to build a bomb.

How much time does Israel have?

NETANYAHU: I'm not sure we know exactly, but the best estimate that I can give you is to quote what was said -- and this was publicly -- this was published, so I can reiterate it, what the chief of the Mossad -- the Israeli Mossad -- has said. He said it's about three years away.

Well, if it's three years, that sounds like a lot of time, but it's only 1,000 days, and this day has just gone. So I think the international community has really three options.

It can do nothing, in which case Iran will get there. It can resort to military means. Or it can take a middle course right now, and that middle course says that what you have to do is to apply massive diplomatic, but especially economic sanctions on a vulnerable regime, hated by the majority of the people. It's corrupt. Seventy- five percent of the Iranians can't stand it. They regularly have to execute political opponents inside the country, make them disappear, in order to stay in power. And the people are raising their voices. And even in Iran, even in this closed society, the people have something to say. And I think that ...

MALVEAUX: What if those economic sanctions don't work? What if those economic sanctions don't work? That Ahmadinejad really isn't moved to the point that he would give up enriching uranium?

What are your other options here? It seems as if you have run out of them.

NETANYAHU: Well, I can only quote what I heard Mr. Giuliani say to me today. He said, from his point of view, the military option has to be there on the table for the economic sanctions to work.

In any case, I think that they should be tried and exhausted. And it won't take a long time.

MALVEAUX: I want to bring back something that you said earlier, because you did compare Iran to Hitler's Germany. This, of course, November.

You said that "It's 1938 and Iran is Germany. And Iran is racing to arm itself with atomic bombs. Ahmadinejad is preparing another Holocaust for the Jewish state."

Clearly, there were some people in this government, as well as the Israeli government, who thought you were being alarmist. This from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when told about this, your comment. She said, "I'm fond of historical analogies, but not that fond."

It sounds like you don't have the U.S. support, at least when it comes to these kind of expressions. This kind of action that you were suggesting earlier, a much tougher line that you were taking.

NETANYAHU: No, it's -- I actually advocated the same thing. In fact, I heard Condoleezza Rice's full statement. She said the difference is that we now are not complacent, the international community is not complacent about Ahmadinejad's extremist policies. She didn't say that Ahmadinejad doesn't seek the destruction of Israel. He says that openly. She didn't say that he doesn't deny the Holocaust. He denies it, brazenly.

So we know that this is an apocalyptic, Messianic and extreme regime that denies the Holocaust while they prepare another one. And in that sense, I think that comparison to the '30s was apt.

But the difference is that we have the experience of the '30s before us, and that ought to make all the difference. And indeed, let the international community prove that it learned something from a previous encounter with a crazy ideology that wants to arm itself to the teeth and has no compunctions whatsoever about obliterating entire countries.

What is the example of the '30s? It is that you must act in time.

In the 1930s, my people, the Jewish people, had no capacity and didn't, in fact, talk on CNN. There was no CNN. There was no television.

They didn't mobilize parliaments, they didn't mobilize governments, they didn't mobilize economic sanctions. And there certainly wasn't a military option available to us. Or to the world.

And people said, well, you know, that was a Jewish problem. Hitler was a Jewish problem. Now people will say Iran is an Israeli problem, a Jewish state problem.

No it isn't. Iran is threatening Israel, but it's opening saying, we're just ...

MALVEAUX: One last...

NETANYAHU: ... you're the big Satan. And the missiles they're priming right now, intending to reach Europe and the sub-orbital device -- the rocket they experimented with two weeks ago is aimed to have ICBMs directed ultimately at the United States. So it's everyone's problem.

MALVEAUX: Sorry to interrupt here -- I'm sorry to interrupt here, but one last question. Of course, we know that the U.S. is possibly having side discussions with Iran, perhaps as early as this weekend, perhaps Secretary Rice herself will follow up at a later date. What do you think that will accomplish? Do you think that that's actually going to be fruitful, anyway, considering the kind of threat you have talked about, the kind of threat from Iran to your country?

NETANYAHU: I think that any discussion with Iran can only succeed if it's backed up by the pressure of sanctions, the pressure of -- the knowledge that the United States, as the administration has said time and time again, will simply not tolerate the acquisition of or development of nuclear weapons by this retrograde and extremist regime. This is a threat to the entire world, to Israel, to America, to the rest of mankind.

MALVEAUX: Thank you very much.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Appreciate your time.

NETANYAHU: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Thank you.


MALVEAUX: Up ahead tonight -- CIA leak case sequel. Get ready. Some of the star players are about to take the stage for a different reason.

Plus sky-walking a mile over the Grand Canyon. CNN's Jeanne Moos shows us the most unusual new tourist attraction.


MALVEAUX: It involves an outed former CIA operative. A convicted former White House insider. A victorious federal prosecutor and Vice President Cheney. Now it seems some of them may be talking to Congress. More from CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

So Dana, what's this all about?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Suzanne, every single day here, you see things that are such a good examples of how different things are now that Democrats are in charge. This is really prime example of something that would have never have happened when Republicans had the majority.

What we're going to see next week, we learned today, is that Valerie Plame Wilson, the outed CIA officer at the heart of the Scooter Libby trial going to be here on the Hill. A Democrat, Henry Waxman invited her to testify before his committee.

He says it's for one reason only, and that is to look into whether Congress needs to change the law looking into covert CIA operatives.


REP. HENRY WAXMAN, (D) CA: The whole issue here is not just Scooter Libby. It is really a question of whether information about a CIA agent can be divulged and whether the laws are strong enough to stop that from happening. But clearly her identity as a covert CIA agent was made public, and that's something that is very wrong.


BASH: Now as you just heard, Waxman insist this isn't about the CIA leak investigation. But there is no question that politically this keeps the spotlight on a bad news story on the White House. I talked to a Republican aide on the committee today, Suzanne, and asked why do you think this is happening? He said sarcastically, it's show time.

MALVEAUX: And he says something really unusual, too. He called for the federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. Why did he do that?

BASH: He said that he does not intend to call him to testify. He says he just wants him to come and meet privately with both him, the Democratic chairman, and the Republican ranking member of the committee. He says again it's not about the investigation, he says Fitzgerald, more than anybody else has an insight into what happens when a covert officer is outed. And he wants to talk to them about that issue. Fitzgerald's office says he's reviewing that request and he'll get back to the committee.

MALVEAUX: Great. Thanks so much, Dana.

He's been characterized as the real power behind the presidency. But many say Vice President Dick Cheney's influence is waning.

Here is CNN's Brian Todd.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, those rumblings stem from some political setbacks for the vice president. Including the most recent, criminal conviction of his most trusted former aide.


TODD (voice over): A former aide tells CNN the trial of his former chief of staff was tremendously painful to Vice President Cheney. A trial that pulled back the curtain not only on Cheney's influence, but also his penchant for secrecy and payback, portraying him as so politically touchy, that he directed a campaign to publicly rebuke a prominent war critic.

The fallout for Cheney, according to one analyst...

STEPHEN HESS, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: I think the vice president is the big loser after Scooter Libby himself. It showed him involved in a degree of manipulation that most of us thought should have been well below his pay grade.

TODD: A former colleague tells CNN Cheney's not a vindictive person, but says the company against Joe Wilson showed poor judgment. The resulting criminal trial is the latest of several recent developments raising questions about Cheney's influence inside the White House, including the ouster of his close ally, Donald Rumsfeld, the president's new initiative in Iraq, and the administration's diplomatic overtures to North Korea, Iran, Syria, regimes that Cheney always favored taking a tougher line with.

But one journalist who's written inside accounts of this White House believes those foreign policy moves actually spotlight Cheney's leverage.

RON SUSKIND, AUTHOR, "THE ONE PERCENT DOCTRINE": Well, I think the view is, is that in the dance of force and diplomacy between nations, we need a bad cop who people really fear, and Dick Cheney, well, he's perfect in that role.

TODD: In response to our inquiries, Cheney's office would only say he remains a trusted aide, that the president depends on his counsel. Publicly, White House officials shut down any talk of a chill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has his relationship changed in any way?



TODD: Those who know him and cover him point out that although Dick Cheney losing some political arguments right now, he still has very close access to the president. How close? Only two people know for sure if his influence on President Bush is waning or not. And those two people are not talking. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Brian, thank you so much.

And are deadlines for withdrawing troops from Iraq a good idea? Jack standing by with the "Cafferty File." Plus, CNN's Jeanne Moos has the new view of a new thrill that is not for the faint of heart.


MALVEAUX: And Jack Cafferty joins us once again. Jack, what do you have?

Democrats talking about possible timetables for withdrawing of troops from Iraq. We asked this hour, if you thought deadlines for troops withdrawals is a good idea?

Charlie who is an Iraq War veteran in Hampton, Virginia writes, "Timetables will do nothing to bring the war to a positive close. This is not the time for more political three card monte. If Congress is serious about ending the war then they should deny the funding and rescind the authorization of force, plain and simple."

Tyler in Ohio, "I don't believe we should create a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Something worth starting is something worth finishing, though I fully believe we were led their under false pretenses, too many of our fighting men and women have given up their lives for the cause."

Carl in Minnesota, "I don't have a good answer to when the troops should be withdrawn from Iraq, because they should never have been deployed. The president is clearly in over his head in nearly all facets of his positions. Iraq is only the most telling failure."

Carroll in Texas, "As a Vietnam combat veteran I watched many of my fellows comrades in harm's way die, and for what? We're seeing this out of control administration lead this nation down the same path. I hope Congress will have the guts to stop this madness."

Stephanie in Wichita Falls, Texas, "Yes, I think there should be deadlines for the troop withdrawal but I think they should be kept confidential and not shared publicly over the airwaves."

And K.P. in San Francisco, "We have a deadline, January 21st, 2009. As long as the current pack of crooks can borrow more trillions from China and pump the money into Halliburton, et al, there will be no withdrawal before that time."

If you didn't see your e-mail here you can go to where you can read more of them online. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Jack thanks so much.

And let's also find out what's coming up next hour on PAULA ZAHN NOW. Paula, great to see you.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN HOST: Suzanne, great to see you. Thanks.

Out in the open tonight. Unspeakable truths about the war in Iraq. At least according to one journalist we'll speak with. He says the Iraq is lost. And more than 3,000 American lives have been wasted.

Also, did you happen to catch last night's "South Park" season premier? If you did, you heard the "N" word dozens and dozens of times. They of course were trying to make a point, but did they take it too far?

We'll have that and more coming up at the top of the hour. Lots of heated debate on your way, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thanks again, Paula.

And of course up ahead - want to walk 4,000 feet above ground. You'll have to go to Grand Canyon, of course. Our Jeanne Moos will explain.

And a man wins a major settlement after a comedian provides him a rock solid alibi against murder. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: How much would you pay to walk high above the ground. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos from New York.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's like no other u-turn you have ever taken, a u-turn in the sky above the Grand Canyon. A see-through sidewalk made of glass meant for tourists.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, I don't think I would go on that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would soil myself.

MOOS: That is no way to talk about the just-installed Grand Canyon sky walk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like walking in air.

MOOS: A private developer built the sky walk. But the Wallapai (ph) tribe owns it since it's on the Indian reservation. The Indians blessed the project when the skywalk was finally pulled into place by trucks and cables.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will pull those pulleys and the bridge will start extending over the canyon.

MOOS: We're talking three inches of glass floor. High atop a more traditional o observation deck, the top of the Rock, the Rockefeller Center, just a picture of the skywalk sent shivers through some.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've got butterflies just thinking about it, actually.

MOOS (on camera): Butterflies thinking about it? It's 4,000 feet down. Look over there at Empire State Building, that's 1,200 feet up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four thousand feet? That's way too long to think about before you hit at the bottom.

MOOS (voice-over): It's: enough to give you vertigo. The Grand Canyon skywalk doesn't open until later this month when the first ceremonial steps on the skywalk will be taken by one of the first astronauts to walk on the moon, Buzz Aldrin. But instead of a giant leap for mankind, critics think it's a giant leap back ward.

ROBERT ARNBERGER, SKYWALK OPPONENT: A thrill ride pursuing the almighty dollar. A blemish on the face of that canyon.

MOOS: But this is one blemish may seem eager to pop.

Would you want to do it?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would do it in the hear heartbeat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Imagine the (inaudible). It would be fantastic.

MOOS: The Indians say they need the tourist dollars the skywalk will attract. It will cost more than $25 to walk this glass plank. At least they'll loan you special booties to protect the glass.

(on camera): They're going to give people little footies to wear so you don't scratch the glass. Slip also. Slip. I can see you're nervous.

(voice-over): Hey, why stop at handing out booties.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'd have to take a valium or something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'd want a parachute when you're going out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like it would to have some kind of straps on it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do they give you wings?

MOOS: To get a view better than this, you would have to be Thelma and Louise. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


MALVEAUX: Kind of cool, huh, Carol? I guess, pretty cool.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I'd do it in a second. That would be awesome.

MALVEAUX: You've got the rest of the news. Tell us what else is going on.

COSTELLO: OK. I'm going to tell you about people with lots and lots of money. There's rich and then there's rich. "Forbes Magazine" has tallied its list of the world's richest people and it's topped by two Americans. They are of course Microsoft's Bill Gates with a fortune totaling $56 billion and Warren Buffett who has amassed a $52 billion fortune.

Mexican telecom magnet Carlos Slim Helu is worth $49 billion and Ikea's Ingvar Kamprad and his family share a $33 billion fortune and you don't. Nor do I.

They are still waiting in New Jersey to find out who holds the second winning ticket for Tuesday's record Megamillions lottery jackpot. It was purchased at a liquor store at Woodbine. Whoever it is has a year to collect. The other ticket holder, Dalton, Georgia truck driver Ed Nabors collected his check yesterday. He is not answering his phone today.

Los Angeles has agreed to settle with a man who was cleared of murder charges by outtakes from a popular HBO comedy series. The city council agreed to pay 28 year old Juan Catalan $320,000. Catalan spent almost five months in jail. Finally footage from "Curb Your Enthusiasm" complete with time code placed him at a Dodgers game at the time of the killing. Back to you, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thanks. And of course thanks for joining us. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. Up next, PAULA ZAHN NOW.


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