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Standoff Over Captured British Sailors Intensifies; Murtha Calls for Return of Military Draft

Aired March 29, 2007 - 19:00   ET


Happening now -- Iran raises the stakes, parading off some new pictures of America's captured allies, releasing a letter from one captive that may be the ultimate insult.

And on a terribly bloody day in Iraq, the president's biggest critic uses the word genocide. He's calling for a return of the military draft. I'll speak with Congressman John Murtha.

And extraordinary pictures as a midair emergency forces an airline pilot to make a desperate landing attempt.

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

Iran adding insult to injury tonight, the ultimate insult that has put its captured British sailors and marines on display once again and in a cruel twist releasing a letter from one captive, telling America's ally to get out of Iraq.

CNN's Robin Oakley is joining us now live from London. This looks crisis look, Robin, like it's deepening.

ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN EUROPEAN POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, both sides keep insisting, Wolf that they don't want the diplomatic spat to intensify. But that's not the way they're acting. And certainly not Tehran, which just a few hours ago released new video footage.


OAKLEY (voice-over): Whose boats were where? The standoff between Britain and Iran Thursday became a battle of maps, pointers, and global positioning devices. The Iranians released new pictures of the capture of the 15 British sailors and marines. Then they showed a briefing from a naval commander, who claimed that British had not only strayed into Iranian territorial waters last Friday, but have done so several times previously.


OAKLEY: Leading sea woman Faye Turney has become the public face of the standoff between Britain and Iran.

FAYE TURNEY, BRITISH SAILOR: Obviously we trespassed into their waters. They were very friendly, very hospitable, very thoughtful. Nice people.

OAKLEY: Now Tehran has released a letter apparently in Turney's handwriting, in which she asks why the British government let the British into Iranian waters. It also calls for British forces to leave Iraq. British ministers' suspicions of coercion will be redoubled.


OAKLEY: With Britain trying to stoke up international pressure on Iran, it seems likely that things will get hotter before they cool down -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Robin Oakley reporting from outside the prime minister's residence, number 10 Downing Street, in London.

There's a new twist to this developing story as well. We've learned today that U.S. forces tried to help when the British crew was captured last week. Senior U.S. military officials says a Navy patrol craft and helicopter were called in when contact was lost with the British sailors and marines, but the Americans were not able to find them or communicate with them. The official says the British military received a broken radio communication after the crew disappeared with an Iranian voice indicating the crew was and I'm quoting now, "taken to a safe place".

Slap in the face from Saudi Arabia, meanwhile. King Abdullah says America is in Iraq right now illegally. And that's just the latest move from this old ally leaving the Bush administration reeling. Is Saudi Arabia moving from friend to foe?

CNN's Aneesh Raman is in Riyadh -- Aneesh.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, from the Saudi king some unwelcome words for President Bush.


RAMAN (voice-over): It's a claim often made by Iraqi insurgents, but now a long-time friend of President Bush is saying it, too, calling the Iraq war an illegitimate occupation.

KING ABDULLAH, SAUDI ARABIA (through translator): And in our beloved Iraq, the bloods among brothers are shed in the shadow of the illegitimate foreign occupation and the repulsive sectarian threatens civil war.

RAMAN: The statement by Saudi King Abdullah came at the start of an Arab summit here in Riyadh and put the State Department on defense.

NICHOLAS BURNS, UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE: I will admit we were a little surprised to see those remarks. We disagree with them. We're under -- the United States military forces are in Iraq under United Nations authority. The United Nations votes every year to authorize that mission. RAMAN: It's the latest hit to this close alliance. Just last week the Saudi king canceled a trip to White House set for next month. The reason according to analysts here is that the timing just wasn't right. So why the emerging strain as American influence in the Middle East has waned?

And as Iran's influence has gained, the Bush administration has pushed Saudi Arabia to be more active in Middle Eastern affairs, but not all the Saudi steps have been welcomed by Washington. Last month the Saudis brokered a deal between Palestinian factions to form a unity government, a deal the U.S and Israel say fell short of meeting international demands on Hamas. Shortly after came this visit to Riyadh by Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, showcasing at least for the cameras all sorts of affection.


RAMAN: Nobody here thinks the U.S.-Saudi relationship has suffered any real blow, but almost everyone here agrees that for the Saudi king to push for peace in the Middle East, he has to push back away from President Bush -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Aneesh Raman reporting from the Arab summit in Riyadh.

Another developing story we're tracking closer to home -- lots of back and forth, but no smoking gun as the former chief of staff to the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, testified before a Senate panel on those federal prosecutor firings. But Kyle Sampson did contradict his former boss, saying Gonzales was involved in discussions about the terminations.

And Democrats are increasing digging to see what role, if any, the White House adviser Karl Rove played. Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's picking up that part of the story -- lots of interest in Karl Rove, Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf, and you get a sense that the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee want to put more pressure on the White House to buckle and to make Rove testify under oath, but so far Karl Rove has only talked about this case on his terms.


TODD (voice-over): He joked about the U.S. attorney's story the night before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just want to ask you some questions about...

KARL ROVE, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Lots of people want to ask me questions.


TODD: Hours later, Senate Democrats clearly frustrated they couldn't questioned Karl Rove, grilled former justice official Kyle Sampson about him, zeroing in on e-mails, meetings, trying to discover whether Rove's fingerprints were on the firings of eight U.S. attorneys.

Sampson is asked did he collaborate with Rove to get former Rove aide, Tim Griffin (ph), appointed to one of those posts

KYLE SAMPSON, FORMER GONZALES CHIEF OF STAFF: I don't remember Karl Rove ever talking to me, in person or on the phone. I don't remember anyone telling me that Mr. Rove was interested in Mr. Griffin being appointed.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Then do you know why you would mention it in your e-mail where you said that was important to Harriet and Karl if there was no reason. Do you know -- have any idea why you would write that?

SAMPSON: As I said, that was based on an assumption. I knew it was important to Sarah Taylor (ph) and to Scott Jennings (ph), both of whom reported to Mr. Rove.

TODD: Sampson pressed on an e-mail he sent last November to White House lawyers, the subject, the U.S. attorney replacement plan.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: You told Ms. Miers and Mr. Kelly that you had not informed any in Karl's shop, which you considered a quote, "pre-execution necessity", closed quote. By Karl, are you referring to Karl Rove?


TODD: Sampson says the plan was circulated to Rove. Why are the senators targeting the president's top political adviser?

BRUCE FEIN, FORMER ASSOC. DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: By insinuating it's Karl Rove who has the clearance here, it's insinuating that it's a partisan process, not a non-political or politically even handed application of uniform standards of law enforcement.


TODD: Bruce Fein says that insinuation of partisanship in the firings does not imply that Rove did anything illegal, but he says it could erode the public's confidence in who President Bush placed in those U.S. attorney jobs -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What other cases notable cases I should say, Brian, was Sampson grilled about involving Karl Rove.

TODD: It was very interesting. He was asked if Karl Rove put him up to his suggestion that one of America's top prosecutors Patrick Fitzgerald be fired. You remember Fitzgerald, of course, is the one who got "Scooter" Libby convicted. But, Senator Chuck Schumer despite leading Sampson toward some kind of a conclusion there, Sampson said Karl Rove to his recollection said nothing to him about Patrick Fitzgerald.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Thank you, Brian.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, this ought to do it. Britain has gone to the United Nations to get its sailors and marines released by Iran. This is the same United Nations that imposed sanctions on Iran last Saturday because they refused to stop enriching uranium. Iran's response to the sanctions, they figured a raising of its middle finger.

Now the U.N. has issued a statement. Not a resolution, a statement. Calling for the release of the British captives. Hey they ought to be on the first flight out. First, though, they argued over the wording. Deploring Iran's actions was too harsh a word they decided, so they eventually settled on grave concern instead.

Then disagreement and discussion over where the British ship was when the troops were seized. Now, unlike a resolution, all 15 members of the Security Council have to approve a statement, which means any of them could have vetoed it and it may be a first in fact if that didn't happen here.

But here's the big surprise -- Iran rejected the statement. Saying it's quote, "not helpful". In other words, they raised the middle finger on the other hand in response to this latest suggestion from the United Nations.

Here's our question. Is it a waste of time to expect the United Nations to gain the release of Britain's captives from Iran? E-mail your thoughts to or go to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm very worried about those 15 marines and sailors, the British marines and sailors. Jack, we have a long history as you and I remember, 444 days when American diplomats were held captive by the Iranians.

CAFFERTY: Yes, this is a country with a PhD in hostage holding and with all the various little sub plots going on in the international arena these days, it may take a while to figure out how to get them out of there.

BLITZER: I hope it doesn't. All right, Jack, we'll get back to you shortly.

Coming up, an outspoken Iraq war critic issues a warning to the White House.


BLITZER: What do you say to President Bush, Congressman?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I say to President Bush if he vetoes this bill, he's the one that's cutting off the money to the troops.


BLITZER: Democratic Congressman John Murtha, you're going to want to hear what else he has to say to President Bush. My interview with John Murtha, that's coming up.

Also, dramatic video of an emergency landing and there's no nose gear. We're going to show you what went wrong at the front of the plane.

And is Bill Clinton giving his wife a boost when it comes to her presidential campaign? You might be surprised at what people are saying and why.

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


BLITZER: A catastrophic day in Iraq with the death toll well into the hundreds. Car bombs killed at least 43 people in Diyala and at least 76 people were killed in a Shiite marketplace in Baghdad. All this as politicians debate whether there's been a letup in the carnage.

Joining us now our correspondent in Baghdad Michael Ware -- Michael, walking around Baghdad, it's become a sensitive subject over the past few days because of various comments. I discussed it earlier in the day today with Senator Joe Lieberman your description of what's going on there on the scene. Listen to what he said.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: Well I'll told you most significantly the American solder is more confident walking the streets of Baghdad today and that's very important change.


BLITZER: You speak to American soldiers all the time. Are they more confident walking the streets of Baghdad today?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're certainly never fully confident. But do they see that there's been some kind of adjustment in the broad climate? Absolutely, as has been well noted by these soldiers' U.S. commanders.

Their enemies, the insurgents and the Shia militias are by and large laying low at the moment, waiting to get the shape of this surge. Nonetheless, in one of these areas that has been so prominently secured by the U.S. military and its Iraqi partners, where U.S. troops are now basically patrolling all the time with this great confidence, an area that had been patrolled by the Mehdi militia, today more than 70 people died when two men detonated themselves in a busy market.

And don't forget, we're looking across the country at about 80 American soldiers, sailors and Marines being killed. In March, we're approaching that number again, the third month in a row. So, are the soldiers seeing changes? Yes, sure, but are the fundamental dynamics altering at all? No, not really. Not yet. There's a chance, but far too early to tell -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A year ago the president said this, referring to the situation in Tal Afar.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm going to tell you the story of a northern Iraqi city called Tal Afar, which was once a key base of operations for al Qaeda and is today a free city that gives reason for hope for a free Iraq.


BLITZER: That was a year ago. The situation had calmed down. But today it looks like all hell is breaking loose in Tal Afar once again. You have been there. You've covered this story, what's going on?

WARE: Well, Wolf, I was actually in that battle to reclaim Tal Afar, the city on the Syrian border from al Qaeda. I was with the 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment. I was with American Green Berets and I was with the Iraqi troops, the Kurdish Peshmerga, as they battled al Qaeda and took that city back. Wolf, that had a huge impact on al Qaeda's operations there, no one for a minute believed that that was going to remove them.

The suicide bombings continued much lower rate, but no one imagined that al Qaeda would disappear. What have we seen now? We have seen al Qaeda hit yet another market, killing too many people. And then what we saw later that night is essentially Shia police from another Islamic sect go into a Sunni neighborhood, and all but execute entire families.

So honestly the dynamics, the fundamental underlying schisms, what's really driving this war, all over the country, are not yet being addressed. We're only talking about the surface.

BLITZER: Michael Ware reporting for us from Baghdad -- Michael, thanks.

WARE: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: And we're getting some new details on those tornadoes that hit Oklahoma earlier today. If you were watching THE SITUATION ROOM during our 5:00 p.m. Eastern hour, you saw a live picture of a tornado, a funnel cloud not very far from Oklahoma City itself. A trooper, Kera Phillipi, of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol is joining us on the phone right now. What kind of damage have you experienced out there, Trooper Phillipi?

KERA PHILLIPI, OKLAHOMA HIGHWAY PATROL (via phone): Well in the area -- we have a turnpike out here just east of -- I'm sorry -- just west of Oklahoma City. And when we arrived here we had about eight to 10 vehicles that had been hit by the tornado and thrown off the roadway. That included an overturned semi and we had at least one injury out of those vehicles. We're also dealing with structure damage and a lot of downed power lines.

BLITZER: Is it over with now, the tornado threat, or is it -- the warnings and the tornadoes are they still out there?

PHILLIPI: I believe the threat is over. Now, we're just dealing with the cleanup efforts. And obviously, you know, like I said, downed power lines, being able to restore power and everything to the area, but it appears the threat is out of the way now.

BLITZER: It was pretty scary when we saw those live pictures here in THE SITUATION ROOM earlier. Kera Phillipi of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, thanks much.

PHILLIPI: Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next -- no nose gear, but no problem. We're going to show you some dramatic video of an emergency landing. That's coming up.

And will comments by a top evangelical leader derail a possible presidential campaign that's gaining some serious momentum?

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


BLITZER: Our Carol Costello is monitoring stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What do you have, Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Well look at this Wolf, two unfinished tunnels running under the U.S.-Mexican border near San Diego. Federal officials discovered them this week, not far from the Otay Mesa border checkpoint. They're about 130 feet apart, each roughly three feet high. The tunnels both reach several feet across the border into the United States..

We've got some new details on the so-called Barbie bandits. The two teenage suspects were videotaped as they allegedly robbed a bank in an Atlanta suburb. At a hearing today, a police detective testified that they went on a shopping spree after the robbery. He says they also left a very large tip for a waiter and even gave money to the homeless. A judge today reduced the bond for one of the suspects from $26,000 to $10,000.

We know a lot more now about that big fire in Houston we were reporting on yesterday at this time. Three people are now confirmed dead in the blaze. Six others injured. Authorities investigating the cause, but say they think it started in a medical supply company on the fifth floor of the six-story building. That's a look at the headlines right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll get back to you shortly, Carol. Thanks.

Just ahead -- amid chaos, killings, and carnage, are U.S. troops in the middle?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Americans are bearing the brunt. We're caught in a civil war.


BLITZER: Congressman John Murtha has a harsh assessment of what's going on in Iraq right now, says something you might know necessarily believe. More of my interview with Congressman Murtha, that's coming up.

And what's one "Law and Order" actor's prayer life like? One leading religious conservative wants to know that about former Senator Fred Thompson.

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


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now -- some African American aviators is finally getting their due. The Tuskegee airmen received the Congressional Gold Medal and a major salute from President Bush. The president praised them for helping the U.S. win World War II, even amid prejudice and segregation.

Why use corn and grain for fuel when hungry people could eat it? That's the message Fidel Castro is sending President Bush. In an article in Cuba's official communist newspaper, the Cuban president criticizes President Bush for promoting the use of alternative fuels made from corn and grain.

And do you need to worry about what's happening with your credit cards? Forty-six million credit card numbers were lifted from computers from the parent company of T.J Maxx, Marshall's, and other discount retailers. The company says the breach also involves personal information, even drivers license numbers for hundreds of thousands of people who made returns.

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

Today the U.S. Senate did exactly what the president urged them not to do. It defied Mr. Bush, passing a war-spending bill with a timeline for U.S. troops to leave Iraq, but while the Senate did its business, President Bush continued to do his.

Let's get to some now from our White House correspondent Ed Henry -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the president under siege on two fronts, with the full Senate defying him on Iraq policy while a Senate committee hears explosive testimony in this U.S. attorney flap. The president is trying to push back while also focusing on the rest of his legislative agenda. But that's easier said than done.


HENRY (voice-over): In pictures and words a not so subtle message from the president. While Democrats are busy investigating, Republicans are legislating.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a very productive session, a session of friends talking among friends, all aiming to put a strategy together of how we can work together to secure this nation and keep it prosperous.

HENRY: Never mind that the president, who has spent very little time cultivating lawmakers never previously had all of House Republicans over at the White House at the same time, but in this hour of need, with controversy raging over the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, the administration is eager to show they're focused on the nation's business.

For the second straight day, the president threatened to veto a war-funding bill passed by the Senate Thursday that would begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq within 120 days.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We stand united. And, saying loud and clear, that when we've got a troop in harm's way, we expect that troop to be fully funded. And we've got commanders making tough decisions on the ground, we expect there to be no strings on our commanders.


HENRY: The White House already charging that the Army and Marines are borrowing money from other accounts to pay for equipment because of the delay in war funding. Democrats fire back, that if the president wants to get the money to the battlefield so quickly, he shouldn't veto this legislation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry at the White House.

So, has the violence in Iraq already reached the point of genocide? Should all Americans be prepared to serve in the military -- some very tough talk from a top critic of the war in Iraq.

And joining us now from Capitol Hill, Democratic Congressman John * joining us now from Capitol Hill, Democratic Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania. Congressman, I heard you utter the words "a military draft" earlier today. A lot of our viewers are going to hear that and they're going to say, what's going on? They're going to start getting nervous.

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Yes. Well, Wolf, I voted against the volunteer Army because I felt if we ever had a war, we wouldn't be able to sustain this war. I said a couple years ago, we would never have enough troops.

This is one of the smallest armies we've had since World War -- before World War II, right before the Korean War. And they just can't sustain this deployment.

What they have to do is take people back before they should, extend people, call people back from the -- from the deep reserve. Those are the kinds of things that happen.

And I think also, everybody ought to be able to serve in this country. I think we ought to not just have a select few who volunteer. I think everybody ought to be obligated to serve.

We do it by lottery and we call everybody up. I think we have a citizen's Army is what it ought to be, not just a volunteer professional Army.

BLITZER: The president says what you and other Democrats and a few Republicans in the House and the Senate want to do, as far as imposing a deadline on the withdrawal of troops, in effect, will undermine the troops and make their lives more miserable.

Listen to this.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We stand united in saying loud and clear that when we have got our troop in harm's way, we expect that troop to be fully funded. And we've got commanders making tough decisions on the ground. We expect there to be no strings on our commanders.


BLITZER: And he says what you're doing is trying to pull those strings.

MURTHA: Yes. Well, Wolf, I went to Iraq a couple years ago, and I found we had 44,000 troops without body armor. I found that they didn't have adequate numbers of up-armored Humvees.

I found they didn't have the jammers, the things that jam the signals that come in for the IEDs. I found all kinds of shortages.

What hurts the troops is these deployments, these continual deployments. We put every cent the president asked for and then some. We put an extra $4 billion into this budget, we put money in for a strategic reserve to start to rebuild the strategic reserve.

Somebody went down to the White House the other day, some of the members of Congress -- they call them Blue Dogs -- and so they asked a question, when the guy was ranting about the bill. They said, "Did you read the bill?" He said, "Well, I haven't read it yet, but a lot of people briefed me on it."

In other words, they're saying they're going to veto the bill which this guy who was trying to convince the Blue Dogs, which are members of Congress, that they should vote for ...

BLITZER: But he says no strings attached and he says you're trying to pull those strings.

MURTHA: Hey, let me just say something, Wolf. We have an obligation to make sure that the troops are fully trained, fully mission capable before they go into combat. And the benchmarks we've set says the Iraqis have to take this over.

In the past, what's happened is the Iraqis don't step up to it, so the Americans come in. The British leave and we come in. The Polish leave, we come in.

So the Americans are bearing the brunt. We're caught in a civil war. It's time for Congress to exert its influence. We have an obligation to exert our influence. This is about strength.

BLITZER: So what do you say to President Bush, Congressman?

MURTHA: I say to President Bush, if he vetoes this bill, he's the one that's cutting off the money to the troops.

BLITZER: Here's what Joe Lieberman, a Democrat, Independent in Connecticut, said in response to what you had said earlier in the day today -- I pointed out some of your earlier comments to him.

Listen to this.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: Well, I respectfully disagree.

Look, John's right that mistakes were certainly made in the prosecution of this war, and that the military is under stress because it's working so hard to succeed in Iraq. But I totally disagree with him that our cause in Iraq is hopeless.

Do we want to turn Iraq, the Middle East and our future over to fanatics like that if we have a chance to stop them? And, of course, my answer is no, because I believe we do have a chance to stop them.


BLITZER: All right. So that's Lieberman. MURTHA: Yes. See, I disagree completely with Joe. And he's a good friend of mine. And, you know, he and I agree with an awful lot of things. But here's what he's saying.

He's saying the course which has not worked for four years is going to continue to work. Another fifth year and give them more time.

That's not the problem. The problem is we need to redeploy, we need stability. All of us want stability. All of us want to solve the problem in the Middle East.

But, Wolf, you can't solve the problem going forward as they are. And I'm trying to protect the troops.

I'm saying these troops shouldn't be deployed, they should be combat ready before -- fully combat ready before they go into combat, and they should give the Iraqis the incentive. The Iraqis are the only ones that can -- the secretary of defense said this morning in the hearing, you heard him say, "We can't win this militarily."

I've said this over two years, we can't win it militarily. It has to be diplomatic effort and redeployment. It's the first step to stability in the Middle East.

BLITZER: When I interviewed Senator McCain earlier in the week, he said if your plan is implemented -- in other words, U.S. combat forces out in a year -- there could be genocide that begins in Iraq.

MURTHA: Well, Wolf, there's genocide already.

They're going -- the Shias are going into the hospitals and getting rid of all the Sunnis. They're getting all the Sunnis out of the Shia areas. They're already working -- if it's not genocide, they're getting them out of the area, so they're changing the pattern of what's going on in Iraq.

The thing I measure progress by is oil production, electricity production, unemployment and incident. All those are going the wrong direction, so we have to change the direction. That's what we're trying to convince the president of.

BLITZER: Congressman Murtha, thanks very much for coming in.

MURTHA: Nice talking to you, Wolf.


BLITZER: And up ahead -- does Bill Clinton help or hurt his wife's campaign for president? Our Bill Schneider has some poll numbers that show some decisive answers. That's next.

Also ahead ...

(MUSIC) BLITZER: A whole new meaning to the term of dinner dance. Coming up, Jeanne Moos and the high powered political operative. That would be M.C. Rove. You're not going to want to miss this story. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Is he an aid or an obstacle? That's what some people are asking about one woman's chances of becoming president with the help from one man who's already been president. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider joining us with more.


BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you've heard of buyers' remorse. How about voters' remorse?


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Does Bill Clinton help or hurt his wife's campaign for president. It's a question lot of people are asking. So the "USA Today" Gallup Poll asked it.

The answers, 70 percent of Americans think Bill Clinton will do more good than harm to his wife's campaign. Only 25 percent believe he'll do more harm than good.

A certain what, nostalgia, revisionism, has set in about Bill Clinton's presidency. You can run again, shouted someone from the audience.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Wait a minute. Well, I can't. You need to think about something else.

SCHNEIDER: We call it voters' remorse. It happens a lot. When Bill Clinton left office in 2001, only 42 percent of Americans had a favorable opinion of him. That number has climbed to 60 percent.

The more people turn against President Bush, the better remember his predecessor. The economy was booming. The rest of the world liked us. So what if he got impeached?

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NY: I believe Bill Clinton was a good president. And I'm very proud of the record of his two terms.

Voters remorse also benefited George W. Bush in 2000. Forty-nine percent of voters held a favorable of the first President Bush just before they fired him in 1992. By 2000, that number climbed to 73 percent. So what that the economy was disaster when he left office? People remembered the first President Bush as a man of good character who didn't carry on like his successor.

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: I want to thank my dad, the most decent man I have ever known.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER (on camera): In the Gallup Poll 76 percent of Americans said the state of Hillary Clinton's marriage shouldn't matter when people consider whether to vote for him but 58 percent said they think it will matter. It shouldn't but people feel it will. Wolf?

BLITZER: Bill Schneider looking at all of the numbers for us as he always does. Thank you.

A Christian conservative leader is stirring up the presidential race once again. And he is taking aim at a Republican who is not even running, at least not yet. That would be the actor, the former Senator Fred Thompson.

It's a new fight over faith and politics. CNN's Mary Snow is here in Washington. What's the issue we're watching here, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, really, Wolf, at the heart is the issue is religion. But the implications is all about politics. Fred Thompson is coming under scrutiny by the right.


SNOW (voice-over): Fred Thompson's Christian credentials are now being questioned by James Dobson, a major voice among Christian conservative voters. He's questioning Thompson's Christianity just as the former senator considers a presidential run.

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: If I'm advising Fred Thompson, which I am not, I would say good news, we're big enough so that somebody like Dobson has got to pay attention to us.

SNOW: It all started when Dobson was interviewed by "U.S. News and World Report." He said, quote, "I don't think he's a Christian."

To that, a Thompson spokesman said, "Thompson is indeed a Christian. He was baptized into the Church of Christ."

On why it came up, a Dobson spokesman tells CNN, "Thompson hasn't clearly communicated his religious faith and many evangelical Christians might find this a barrier to supporting him."

And he adds, "We were pleased to learn from his spokesperson that Senator Thompson professes to be a believer."

Dobson has shown so far he's not a believer in any of the front- running Republican candidates out there. Gave Mitt Romney a lukewarm review and said he couldn't support John McCain and frontrunner Rudy Giuliani and it signals a split among evangelicals.

CHARLES DUNN, REGENT UNIVERSITY: They're looking for someone to head off Rudy Giuliani. Some evangelicals want Thompson to be that person. But others want Newt Gingrich.

SNOW: Dobson recently had Newt Gingrich on his radio show, where the former House speaker admitted an extramarital affair. JAMES DOBSON, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY I asked you if the rumors were true that you were in an affair with a woman, obviously, who wasn't your wife, at the same time that Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky were having their escapades.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: Well, the fact is the honest answer is yes.


SNOW (on camera): Also gaining notice is the fact that Dobson called Gingrich, quote, "The brightest guy out there."

But he told "U.S. News and World Report" that he hasn't publicly endorsed any Republican presidential candidate.


BLITZER: How much influence, how much sway does he have, Dobson.

SNOW: He has followers and they are faithful followers. But he doesn't have the same kind of influence that evangelical leaders once did. And people would say that he has the power to suppress votes but not really drive voters to the poll.

BLITZER: Mary Snow in Washington for us, thank you, Mary. Lou Dobbs also here in Washington tonight working on a special edition of his program and that is coming up in a few minutes right at the top of the hour. What's in store for our viewers, Lou?

LOU DOBBS, CNN HOST: Wolf, thank you.

New questions tonight whether attorney general Alberto Gonzales is lying to Congress or telling the truth in the storm over those fired U.S. attorneys. Gonzales' former top aide today testifying before Congress. He contradicted the attorney general.

The Senate is defying President Bush, setting up a showdown with the White House over withdrawal of our troops from Iraq.

And the standoff between our strongest ally and Iran is intensifying tonight. Fifteen British sailors marked six days as hostages of the Iranians. What happens next? Please join us at the top of the hour.


BLITZER: It's a primetime special. Lou Dobbs here in Washington. We'll be watching, Lou, thank you.

Up ahead -- Jack Cafferty wants to know, a waste of time to expect the United Nations to gain the release of Britain's captives from Iran?

Jack standing by with "The Cafferty File." And a terrifying emergency landing. A plane with more than 150 people on board and no front landing gear. We're going to show you how it ended. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: A terrifying touchdown for more than 150 people on an Allegiant Airlines flight. The plane makes an emergency landing without its front landing gear. Let's go back to Carol Costello, she has been watching this extraordinary video that we saw earlier today, right here live in THE SITUATION ROOM. Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Pretty dramatic, Wolf. It's not exactly what you want to hear on a plane. The pilot telling you, he has to make an emergency landing. But don't panic.

It happened at the Orlando Sanford International Airport.


COSTELLO (voice-over): It was just as the crew prepared to land they noticed a problem with the landing gear. The wheels near the front of the plane would not go down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kind of quiet. Everybody was just -- it's scary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They went into the procedures of what was going to happen, what to do. And that was about it.

COSTELLO: The pilots circled the airport burning up fuel to make the safest emergency landing possible. Onboard 157 passengers and crew who waited anxiously, ready to evacuate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was fairly calm and they were very professional.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You would describe it as calm? Would you credit that to the flight crew that was dealing with you at the time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. There was no panic on their part. And people just reacted accordingly.

COSTELLO: You can see the plane come down, its nose dragging on the runway creating sparks and smoke but thankfully no fire. Airport officials give kudos to the pilot who did a magnificent job.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They prepared for us the pilot did a great job of getting us down.

COSTELLO: No injuries suffered by anyone on the landing. A sprained ankle as passengers deplaned via emergency chutes. All in all, a magnificent effort by a pilot who surely got an ovation.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COSTELLO (on camera): I'm sure he did, Wolf. The pilot actually circled the airport for an hour, then landed the jet on its back wheels before leveling off and allowing the nose of the plane to finally touch the ground gently.

The cause of the problem? A faulty hydraulic system.

BLITZER: It's pretty scary if you're a passenger inside during that hour and just as it's coming in. It once happened to me on a flight coming into Washington's Dulles Airport. And everything worked out just fine. Same thing. But it's pretty frightening if you're inside. Hats off to that pilot, the whole crew. They did a great job.

COSTELLO: They sure did.

BLITZER: Carol, thanks very much.

Jack Cafferty is in New York. He is joining us. Are you good a flyer, Jack?

CAFFERTY: I don't like to fly too much anymore. Airports are too much of a hassle. The planes don't run on time. They don't serve food and I just don't do it much. Used to when I was younger.

The question this hour -- is it a waste of time to expect the U.N. to gain release of Britain's captives from Iran?

Rick writes from Toronto, "It's not the United Nations that will win the release of the 15 captives from Iran but strangely the U.N. provides just enough legitimacy for countries to take action, even unilateral, illegal action."

Charles in Dallas writes, "I think the U.N. is an important organization, but it needs more teeth without requiring unanimous votes, and that's easier said than done. Group hug decisions in business and in politics never seem to produce results. Just ask Congress."

Jason in Illinois. "No, the U.N. might be helpful by allowing Russia and China to put some pressure on Iran without putting pressure on them directly. If Iran spurns the U.N., then it could lead to worldwide acceptance of a U.S./British attack against them.

"Of course Iranian leaders may actually desire such an attack for reasons of religious prophecy, maybe we should oblige them."

Shelley in Cortez, Colorado, "Iran is not in any receptive mood to listen to anyone at this point. We might not be either if Canada or Mexico were under siege by a superpower that had its next sites on us. I don't defend their actions but I sure can understand them."

Dennis writes from Las Vegas, Nevada, "The U.N. has eviscerated itself to the point of being nothing more than a convenient excuse for many foreign diplomats to escape the dismal conditions in their own countries so they can enjoy the good life," here in, "New York City. "The Cubs have a better chance of winning the World Series than the U.N. has of getting those British troops released from Iran."

And Karen writes from Albuquerque, New Mexico. "Yep, just as it was a waste of time to ask this question. Come on, Jack, dig deep, go long, cut to the chase. Stir the people from their apathy. Ask the really hard questions. If you need let me know."

If you didn't see your e-mail you can go to where me post more of them along with video clips of "The Cafferty File."

BLITZER: Popular site on the Web. Thanks, Jack. See you here tomorrow. Jack Cafferty in New York.

Up ahead, Rudy Giuliani reveals plans for his wife if he's elected president. You're going to find out what role he has in mind for her.

And he's a real mover and shaker. Jeanne Moos has the hip-hop side of Karl Rove. You are going to want to see this. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: We'll get the Jeanne Moos most unusual take on rapping Karl Rove. But first let's go to Carol once again, she is monitoring some other stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM. Carol?

COSTELLO: A couple of things to tell you, Wolf.

A drug used to treat Parkinson's disease no longer will be sold in the United States after reports linking it to heart valve problems. A short time ago the FDA announced that the maker of Permax has agreed to pull it off the market.

Federal officials say other treatments seem to be as effective as the drug at alleviating symptoms of Parkinson's.

You may remember the story of the bride to be who skipped town just days before her planned wedding in Georgia. That happened two years ago.

Well, now the police department in Albuquerque, the city where the runaway bride was finally tracked down, is hoping to capitalize on the notoriety of the case.

The officer featured on this police recruiting billboard is the same one who escorted the runaway bride through Albuquerque Airport.

Rudy Giuliani is opening the book on his personal life. In an interview with ABC News set to air tomorrow the Republican presidential candidate and his wife Judith discuss their relationships and their previous marriages. Each has been married twice before.

Giuliani also sheds light on what role his wife might play if he gets elected. He describes her as one of his closest advisers and says she would be welcome to sit in on Cabinet meetings.


BLITZER: All right, Carol, thank you.

He disses many political opponents and often uses harsh words to try to put people in check. All talents you'd need to be a rap star. Our Jeanne Moos has a most unusual comedic moment.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Viewer discretion advised. This is presidential adviser Karl Rove as you've never seen I him.


MOOS: Rapping Karl Rove, AKA...



MOOS: ... was the hit of the Radio and TV Correspondents Dinner, the kind of dinner where well-known media types rub shoulders with major newsmakers.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A year ago, my approval rating was in the 30s and my vice president had shot someone. Ah, those were the good old days.

MOOS: You get to see normally buttoned-down folks, like the White House deputy press secretary showing some skin. You also get to glimpse the president himself in unguarded moments, saluting and chewing and laughing and rubbing and waving and waving and waving, as people interrupt his meal to say, "Look over here, Mr. President," so they can snap his picture.

And if you sit next to the president, maybe he'll wipe your mouth. They debuted the new JibJab video at the dinner, targeting the press.


But even JibJab was over shadowed by Karl Rove, plucked out of the audience by comedians from the show "Whose Line is it Anyway?"


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no. Don't do that.

MOOS: We got some guys with a little street cred to critique MC Rove.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no, no, no. He needs to stop it.

MOOS (on camera): What's the problem?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He needs to stop it. He can't dance.

MOOS (voice over): MC Rove even gave multitasking a new dimension.


MOOS: ... whipping out his phone...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's not in touch with hip-hop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody who has the guts to do that, I show them a lot of respect.

MOOS: Rove has been called Bush's brain. Just be glad he's not Bush's rhythm.


ROVE: MC Rove.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: And here's a look at some of our "Hot Shots." In Portugal, a racecar soars through the air during the first stage of a rally.

In Baghdad a U.S. soldier keeps his eye on the neighborhood as his squad leader talks to one of the people of who lives there.

In Germany an artist performs with soap bubbles in a park where kids can learn about science and in Frankfurt a young giraffe gets a little help from a friend.

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

Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Up next, a special edition of LOU DOBBS TONIGHT. Lou?


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