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THE SITUATION ROOM

Missing White House e-mails; The MoveOn.org Presidential Poll Results

Aired April 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: Happening now, the case of the missing White House e-mails -- are they lost or are they hidden?
Top Democrats are using Watergate comparisons to accuse Republicans of something shady.

Also this hour, a dramatic attack on Iraqi leaders and a test vote of Senator Clinton's Iraq problem.

Do the results show she has lost the left in the race for the White House?

And the other '08 contender wounded by Iraq. Brand new evidence that Senator John McCain's presidential campaign is struggling.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

This hour, the Bush administration is facing another layer of scrutiny in the fired federal prosecutors scandal and a new level of red hot rhetoric, as well.

Congress is expecting the Justice Department to release hundreds of pages of documents, perhaps as soon as this afternoon.

Our Andrea Koppel is standing by on that.

We'll get to her in a moment.

At the same time, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy says President Bush's aides may be lying about the status of White House e- mails that his panel wants to see.

Listen to Leahy's angry comparison of this to the Watergate scandal. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), CHAIRMAN, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Those e-mails are there. They just don't want to produce them. It's like the famous 18 minute gap in the Nixon White House tapes. They say they've been erased or misplaced. They're there. They're there. They know they're there. And we'll subpoena them if necessary and we'll have them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA PERINO, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't know if Senator Leahy is also an I.T. expert, but I can assure you that we are working very hard to make sure that we find the e-mails that were potentially lost.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: For more on how the Bush White House is dealing with all of this, our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, reports.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The White House says they've lost e-mails that they should have saved.

PERINO: I will admit it. You know, there was -- we screwed up and we're trying to fix it.

MALVEAUX: But Democrats aren't buying it.

LEAHY: I don't believe that. I don't believe that. You can't erase e-mails, not today. They've gone through too many servers. They can't say they've been lost. That's like saying the dog ate my homework. It doesn't work that way.

MALVEAUX: Congressional investigators already have White House e-mails from ongoing investigations. But they believe the ones they're not seeing could be key in revealing whether the administration improperly fired eight U.S. attorneys or whether the White House had unethical dealings with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

LEAHY: I want to see those e-mails. I want them retrieved.

MALVEAUX: The White House says some e-mails could be lost because administration officials may have improperly used outside e- mail accounts to do official work.

PERINO: White House official business should be done on your White House official account.

MALVEAUX: The administration says it set up those accounts through the Republican National Committee for 22 current aides, including Karl Rove, to help them avoid using official e-mail for political purposes, which is against the law.

But those RNC accounts automatically deleted e-mails every 30 days.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux reporting live from the White House.

We'll be speaking with her later in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's get now to a powerful attack right in the heart of Iraq's fledgling democracy.

Look at these remarkable images.

(VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Suicide bombers struck inside the cafeteria of the parliament building in Baghdad today. It happened just as lawmakers were headed for lunch. U.S. and Iraqi officials say eight people were killed, 20 wounded. These pictures were taken by a television crew conducting an interview at the time of the blast.

President Bush today condemned the attack, saying it's a reminder of why the U.S. is at war in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's a type of person who would walk in that building and kill innocent life. And that is the same type of person that is willing to come and kill innocent Americans. And it's in our interests to help this young democracy be in a position so it can sustain itself and govern itself and defend itself against these extremists and radicals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That attack occurred, by the way, right in the heart of the so-called green zone, what is supposed to be the most secure part of the Iraqi capital. That's where the U.S. embassy is, where U.S. military forces are based. A lot of American contractors are there. Literally thousands of Americans work and live inside the green zone. That's where that attack occurred today.

Let's get to a new test of how the war in Iraq is influencing the Democratic presidential race.

The grassroots group, moveon.org, conducted a presidential straw poll of its members who have a clear anti-war bent.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is joining us with more on this.

Which candidate did the moveon.org members prefer when it comes to the situation in Iraq -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, there was a winner, but not really a clear favorite.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Moveon.org invited 12 presidential candidates to answer the question, "What's the best and fastest way to end the war in Iraq?"

No Republican accepted.

All seven Democrats did. That tells you something about the growing influence of MoveOn in the Democratic Party.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: I opposed this war from the start.

FORMER SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Congress should use its funding authority to force President Bush to end the war.

SCHNEIDER: MoveOn members voted online for who did best.

The winner?

Barack Obama -- but not by a big margin -- 28 percent of the roughly 43,000 voters, just ahead of John Edwards, with 25 percent.

Hillary Clinton gamely participated.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: So although some of your members may be a little surprised to hear me say this, I am grateful for your work.

SCHNEIDER: She came in fifth, with 11 percent.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

SCHNEIDER: So, Wolf, what did Obama say that moved those MoveOn members to vote for him?

Well, he said that on May 1st of this year, we need to begin a phased withdrawal from Iraq, with the goal of removing all combat troops by March 31st of next year.

And, by the way, those MoveOn members who gathered at house parties preferred Bill Richardson and John Edwards as their top choices. They gave very forceful presentations. Richardson, for instance, said, "I would pass a Congressional resolution deauthorizing the war based on The War Powers Act -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So what's the likely impact of all of this going to be, Bill?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I interviewed Tom Matzzie, who is the Washington director of MoveOn, and he said that the basic strategy of this event was to put pressure on Democratic candidates to keep united, keep up a united front on getting out of Iraq. And he called that a big step forward to doing just that.

Usually, Wolf, a straw vote showcases the differences among the candidates -- who's best, who's worst, who's ahead, who's behind.

But the MoveOn vote actually accomplishments something quite different. It showcases the Democratic candidates' basic unity on the Iraq issue J Wolf. BLITZER: All right, Bill, thank you.

The radio talk show host Don Imus says he's "apologized enough" for his racially charged remarks about the Rutgers University basketball team. Imus vented about his situation on his radio show this morning. This a day after word that NBC is dropping the simulcast of that program on MSNBC.

Our Carol Costello is following the continuing fallout from this affair.

What else is going on -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I checked it out this morning. Imus is off MSNBC. But for now, he's still doing his shtick on CBS Radio, telling his audience of three million or so he's done apologizing, NBC is unethical and, yes, he will still meet with the Rutgers players.

Let's talk what -- some of what he said this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY WFAN)

DON IMUS, TALK SHOW HOST: I'm not whining about this, but we wouldn't be here had I not said it....These bastards went after me. They got me. But they didn't catch me asleep.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Of course, it isn't over for Imus. Al Sharpton along with one of the Rutgers' players fathers met with CBS brass to get Imus kicked off CBS Radio, too.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I told him that several years ago I felt very passionate about a situation that I went all the way to Vieques and spent 90 days in jail for going because I believed in that. And Jose Rivera, the chairman of the Democratic Party in the Bronx, is here with me, that went to jail.

I told him I feel just as passionate that, if necessary, I'm ready to go back to jail before I allow us to be quiet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: That's what he told the top CBS brass. Sharpton went on to say he's willing to go to jail again if CBS doesn't fire Imus. A rally is planned for Saturday here in New York. And, Wolf, as for now, CBS is still deciding.

BLITZER: Was he specific, Imus, when he used the word bastards?

Who was he referring to?

Did he have any specific audience in mind? COSTELLO: Well, he was all over the map this morning, Wolf. But apparently he was referring to NBC, saying that, you know, they gave him this two week suspension. They were going to give him a chance to make things right. He didn't meet with the Rutgers players yet, before NBC just decided to come in and simply fire him, in essence.

BLITZER: All right, well, stand by.

We're going to have some more on this story coming up later in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Thanks very much, Carol.

Carol Costello, Bill Schneider, Suzanne Malveaux -- as you know, they are all 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.

Let's go to another member of that best political team on television...

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, yes, yes, yes.

BLITZER: ... that would be Jack Cafferty and The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Did anybody tell John McCain what happened in the Iraqi legislature today?

BLITZER: Yes, they did.

CAFFERTY: Wasn't he talking about...

BLITZER: He knew about it and he also said stuff happens.

CAFFERTY: Yes. Stuff is going to happen, I think, to his run for the White House, too.

Leave it to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to compare environmentalism to body building. The governor says it took a major P.R. blitz in the 1970s to give body building a better image and then he said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: It became mainstream. It became sexy, attractive. And this is exactly what has to happen with the environmental movement. Like body builders, environmentalists were thought of as kind of weird and fanatics, also, you know, the kind of serious tree huggers. Environmentalists...

(APPLAUSE)

SCHWARZENEGGER: Environmentalists were no fun. They were like Prohibitionists at the fraternity party. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CAFFERTY: Schwarzenegger said California should get some of the credit for turning around the image of environmentalists. He signed California's global warming law last year, making it the first in the nation to impose a statewide cap on emissions of gasses that can lead to global warming.

He insists California can encourage the rest of the country and the world to follow its lead.

So here's the question -- Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says California is making environmentalists sexy and mainstream, not tree huggers and weird fanatics.

Do you agree?

E-mail caffertyfile@cnn.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile.

Oh, that Arnold.

BLITZER: He's -- he's got a good sense of humor, doesn't he?

CAFFERTY: Yes. I -- you know, as long as he's been here, why is he still so hard to understand?

BLITZER: Yes, one of my favorite movies was "Twins."

Remember that movie?

CAFFERTY: You didn't answer my question.

BLITZER: It was a great -- a great movie.

I could watch that movie, in fact, right now, but I won't.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: Jack...

CAFFERTY: You still didn't answer my question.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Coming up, the Florida governor's hopes and fears for 2008.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHARLIE CRIST (R), FLORIDA: It's important, I believe, for Floridians to have that early voice, so that their voice is heard, that they have the opportunity to weigh in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: But will Charlie Crist get his way?

I'll talk to the Republican about presidential politics, whether the war in Iraq is putting his state at risk during hurricane season.

Also ahead, the numbers are working against Senator John McCain right now in his presidential campaign. We'll tell you where he's cutting, where he's losing and why.

And is it better to get your dirty laundry out before you get to the White House or even close to the White House?

Donna Brazile and Terry Jeffrey, they're on alert for dirt in our Strategy Session.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The state of Florida is an epicenter for national politics. We certainly saw that in the 2000 presidential standoff.

And as Florida's new governor knows very well, the Sunshine State also is a front line for natural disaster and emergency relief.

And joining us now, the Republican governor of Florida, Charlie Crist.

Governor, thanks for coming in.

CRIST: Thank you, Wolf.

Great to be with you again.

BLITZER: Your Democratic senator from Florida, Bill Nelson, said this on Monday. He said: "Problems from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched the Florida National Guard further than ever before, leaving it without all the resources it should have for responding to a domestic critics. Among other things, a hurricane -- getting ready for the hurricane season"...

CRIST: We are, indeed.

BLITZER: " -- that starts at the end of June."

How worried are you that because of the war, the National Guard is not going to be ready to deal with a crisis in Florida?

CRIST: Well, I'm concerned about everything. I always want to be the first warrior for the state of Florida. And that's probably why I have all this gray hair.

But I had the opportunity to talk to Senator Nelson this week. I share his concern. I've also had the opportunity to talk with the head of our National Guard, General Burnett, in Florida. He is relieved that we will have sister states that will be able to help us out in the event that we might have a hurricane or any other kind of natural disaster.

So I'm alleviated by that report from the general. So I -- while I share the senator's concern, the general makes me feel better.

BLITZER: Here's the assessment from the Colorado State University, the Atlantic hurricane forecast for this year. They're now suggesting that there will be 17 named storms, nine hurricanes, five intense hurricanes. And we always know Florida is in the bull's eye.

It sounds to me that you're the governor of Florida, you're basically taking a big not only political chance, but you're taking a huge chance with the lives of Floridians if, in fact, there is a disaster that strikes your state.

CRIST: Well, in fact, I don't think we are, Wolf.

Because of my conversation with General Burnett, I am assured that we have the resources necessary to protect our people. And that's my first obligation, you're right, to protect and to serve and make sure that our people are safe and secure in our state.

With the general's reassurance, I feel much better about that preparedness. And, frankly, Governor Bush, my predecessor, has done a great job in making sure that Florida is always prepared, with the great work of Craig Fugate, who heads our emergency division within the office of the governor.

So I think we're prepared. We're ready. And we'll face whatever comes our way.

BLITZER: I want to move on to some politics.

CRIST: Sure.

BLITZER: But bottom line, you trust the Pentagon, you trust the Bush administration to do the right thing as far as the National Guard, the capabilities in your state?

CRIST: I trust the Pentagon. I trust General Burnett of the Florida National Guard. I know he's doing a great job and working hard. And that gives me calm for the people of our state.

BLITZER: But what about the Bush administration?

CRIST: I trust them, too.

BLITZER: OK.

Let's talk about presidential politics.

CRIST: Sure.

BLITZER: You're thinking seriously in Florida of moving up your primary to a week after New Hampshire. That potentially would bring it up to January 29th.

CRIST: That's right, Wolf...

BLITZER: Is that going to be a done deal? Is that a done deal already?

CRIST: I think it's about a done deal. And I think it's important for Florida to do that. You know, we ought to have a mega state weigh in early to make sure that America has the opportunity to have that kind of judgment of a presidential candidate in -- as part of the process earlier, rather than later.

I think it's important that as the most diverse state in the country, as the fourth largest state now in America, soon to be the third largest, it's important, I believe, for Floridians to have that early voice, so that voice is heard, that they have the opportunity to weigh in and people like your mother to have the chance to vote early in a race that's so important to the future of our country.

BLITZER: My mother votes in every election, no matter what, down in Florida.

Let's talk, though, about the political consequences. You want to even be ahead of what's being called Super Duper Tuesday, February 5th -- California, maybe New York, a lot of other states are going to be having their primaries on that date. But you want to be even earlier.

CRIST: Well, we do. And, again, as the governor of the state of Florida, it's important to me, certainly. But I think it's important to the rest of the country. You know, Florida is a bellwether state. We have a great way of sort of ferreting through these different issues and different candidates, giving a good signal of what might be good for America, because usually what -- what happens in Florida now will happen in America very soon.

And I think that that's a great thing for the country and certainly it's good for my state.

BLITZER: Do you think it's possible -- you know Jeb Bush, the former governor...

CRIST: I knew him well.

BLITZER: ... the brother of the president.

Is it still possible that he -- when all the dust settles, could throw his hat in the ring?

I say that because our own political analyst, the Democrat, James Carville, thinks -- has suggested here in THE SITUATION ROOM -- that at some point John McCain might drop out and Jeb Bush could be drafted to throw his hat in the ring.

What do you think? Is that at all in the cards?

CRIST: I don't know that it is. I mean anything can happen in politics and Governor Bush was an extraordinary leader for our state. So he would be a great candidate, there's no question about it.

I don't see John McCain dropping out, though, in all candor. I mean somebody who was a prisoner for five years in Vietnam is not the kind of person who quits. And I just don't see him doing that.

BLITZER: You like him? Are you endorsing?

CRIST: I like him. I have not endorsed him. I like Rudy Giuliani. I like Mitt Romney. And I like John McCain. I mean they all were very kind to me during my campaign for governor last year. They come to the state a lot. They come to visit my office and I'm appreciative of that.

I want them to keep coming to Florida. They're all great men.

BLITZER: And with your moving up your primary, you know they're going to be there early and often.

Governor, thanks for coming in.

CRIST: Thank you, Wolf.

Always great to be with you.

BLITZER: And still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, there are some brand new poll numbers on the Republican presidential field.

It is time for John McCain's camp to start worrying?

Our John King standing by for some analysis.

Also, he's been calling for a military draft to help our troops fight the war in Iraq.

But is that idea gaining momentum?

New York Congressman Charlie Rangel. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM in the next hour.

Stick around.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our Carol Costello is monitoring the wires. She's keeping an eye on all the video feeds coming into THE SITUATION ROOM from around the world.

She's joining us now with a closer look at some other important stories making news -- hi, Carol.

COSTELLO: Hi, Wolf.

Army Chief of Staff General George Casey visited wounded veterans and their families at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. This happened just a short time ago. The visit comes just hours after an independent panel released a report blaming budget shortfalls and mismanagement for poor conditions at Walter Reed. The report calls for an immediate boost in funding as a first step toward fixing the problem.

The district attorney in Durham, North Carolina now apologizing to three former Duke University lacrosse players who he charged with rape. In a statement released just within the last few hours, Mike Nifong says he made incorrect judgments and that the students were wrongly accused. North Carolina's attorney general said yesterday that the three former players were innocent and that charges were being dropped.

Attorneys for the three are not ruling out suing for damages. Nifong is accused of withholding evidence and lying to the court. But traditionally prosecutors have immunity against civil suits related to their work.

Dramatic testimony today at the murder trial of the wife of slain Tennessee preacher Matthew Winkler. Mary Winkler is accused of shooting her husband in the back with a shotgun while he slept. Well, she wept today when prosecutors described the slaying in their opening statements, her attorney telling the court she was abused by her husband and suffered from post-traumatic stress symptoms at the time of the shooting.

That's a look at the headlines right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Carol, thank you.

Up ahead, the Justice Department expected to be releasing some new information on the controversial firings of those eight U.S. attorneys. Our Congressional correspondent, Andrea Koppel, she's standing by with a live report.

Plus, the Iraq War toll on Senator Hillary Clinton -- will it prevent her from winning the Democratic presidential nomination?

Donna Brazile and Terry Jeffreys take on Senator Clinton's troubles. That's coming up in the Strategy Session.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now, a suicide bomber infiltrates a government building in Baghdad's heavily fortified green zone, killing Iraqi lawmakers and others. President Bush says the bomber is the same type of person willing to come and kill Americans.

Congressman Charlie Rangel says one way to deal with Iraq is to bring back the draft. I'll ask the New York Democrat about his controversial proposition and Congress's war over the war with the Bush administration.

And after Hurricane Katrina, was a top insurance company pressuring engineers to change their damage assessments so that the insurer could get out of paying for damages?

I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Congressional Democrats continue to put the Bush administration on notice -- come forward with more answers regarding the firings of those eight U.S. attorneys. And it appears the Justice Department is still trying to respond. We're expecting hundreds of pages of documents from the Justice Department in the coming hours.

Our Congressional correspondent, Andrea Koppel, is standing by right now -- Andrea, any idea what's in those documents that the Department of Justice is expected to be releasing later today.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We don't really know, Wolf.

But what we do know is that earlier this week, the House Judiciary Committee, which is operating on a parallel track to the Senate's, issued the first subpoenas since this investigation began, demanding that new documents, as well as blacked out portions from thousands of pages they've already received, get delivered to the committee.

Now, the deadline for getting those documents to the Hill is next Monday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Andrea, isn't that the day before the attorney general himself is supposed to testify before the Senate?

KOPPEL: That's exactly right. And, today, Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee were trying to turn up the heat on Gonzales, approving, but not sending -- at least not yet -- new subpoenas to interview two more administration officials and to get more documents, which Democrats say they will need to determine whether eight U.S. attorneys were fired for political reasons or not.

And, today, New York Democrat Chuck Schumer, who is one of those who will be questioning the A.G. next week, sent him a list of 10 very specific questions he says he expects Gonzales to answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: What we're saying is, we're not playing gotcha. But, at the same time, we're saying, oh, I don't recall, I can't remember is not going to be an adequate answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOPPEL: Now, Schumer noted that, when the A.G.'s former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, testified last month, he said "I don't know" 122 times. And Schumer said that won't be an acceptable answer from Gonzales next week -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Andrea, thanks. We are going to stand by for those documents as well. As soon as we know what's in them, you will know what's in them as well.

In presidential politics, some are wondering about Senator John McCain's flagging fortunes. His campaign posted some lackluster fund- raising totals, as many of you recall. They are now cutting staff. And a fresh poll puts the Republican presidential candidate behind a man who isn't even running, reportedly handing McCain his lowest showing in any national survey to date.

Let's get some analysis from our chief national correspondent, John King. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

John, why is the campaign seeing these kinds of problems?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the biggest problem, Wolf, is Iraq, Iraq, Iraq.

Senator McCain, among the Republicans, is most closely associated with the policy in Iraq. And it is the cloud, still, over everything in American politics. But there is a lot of head-scratching in the Republican Party over this trimming the staff. They are very modest staff cuts.

But what's very different in this campaign is, remember, back in 2000, Senator McCain raised enough money to be competitive early on, was ultimately beaten by George W. Bush. And, then, this time, he not only had his old fund-raising operation. He brought in a lot of the Bush fund-raisers. The expectation was that he would be able to raise a lot of money.

Well, instead, he's in the middle of the pack. And, yet, he's the establishment candidate, not the insurgent candidate, in the Republican Party this time. So, he has a much bigger staff. So, they have -- we talked about this a little bit the other day. They are spending way too much money. They don't have as much money on hand as others. So, they are modestly trimming back the staff a little bit. It's a first step. It won't be enough.

BLITZER: Let's take a look at this latest "Los Angeles Times"/Bloomberg poll that just came up. And it's right over there behind us: Giuliani, 29 percent; Fred Thompson, the former senator from Tennessee, the movie star, 15 percent. He's not even running. McCain at 12 percent, Romney at 8 percent.

Those -- that's pretty surprising, that McCain comes in third, behind Fred Thompson.

KING: Right. They -- should they worry? Yes. They should definitely be concerned. Other -- even the campaigns will tell you their own numbers show McCain a little bit higher than that, somewhere up around 20 percent.

But it is proof again that the Republican primary voters are looking around for other choices. Rudy Giuliani is the front-runner right now. That surprises a lot of people, because of his views on social issues. But there's clearly an opening for another candidate. The challenge for McCain, if Giuliani stays up there in the top spot, is, when we get closer to people voting -- remember, we're still in April -- if you're going to have a bad rut, this is the time to do it -- to be the conservative, if you will, opponent to Giuliani.

But we're months and months away from that. And Republicans are clearly looking for other options. BLITZER: He's got two major speeches already scheduled over the next couple of weeks or so. He delivered one on Iraq yesterday at VMI, Virginia Military Institute.

You have been speaking to a lot of analysts, a lot of insiders. What does he need to do to get this campaign going again?

KING: Well, he can't do anything overnight, just like the president can't do anything overnight, because his biggest issue is the intractable problem of Iraq.

What Republicans around the country are looking for is proof that he realizes he needs some new blood in his campaign, that he needs to reinvigorate his fund-raising message, and that he's willing to fight, fight,, while he tries to figure out how to deal with Iraq.

Again, that won't go away. So, can he do other things, take some small, modest steps over the next few months, show people that he cares?

One of the big questions Republicans are asking around the country, is his heart really in it? People ask that in Washington. Who cares what we say in Washington? If people start to ask that around the country, the people who have to work for John McCain, he will be in trouble. So, that is his biggest challenge over the next few weeks.

And, then, he hopes, as we get into the summer, that, when he comes on your show and says, "Wolf, Iraq is getting better," that he can back it up this time.

BLITZER: Because I have heard a lot of Washington pundits and experts say, you know, he doesn't seem to have the enthusiasm, the passion, the fire in his belly that he had in 2000.

Based on the limited, you know, experiences I have had with him over these past few weeks, he seems to be pretty excited. Why are the local pundits, if you will, suggesting he doesn't have that fire in him?

KING: Well, part of it is that he's in a fundamentally different position as a candidate.

George W. Bush was the favorite out of the box last time. Nobody gave John McCain a chance. He came -- he stumped -- he thumped George W. Bush in New Hampshire. He ran competitive in other places. He had the appeal of the insurgent, the maverick in the race, which is what he likes. That's his character. He was very comfortable in that role.

This time, he was the establishment Republican, the front-runner out of the box. Front-runners often do get knocked down. Remember where John Kerry was at this point, or a little after this, back in the last campaign. So, if you are going to be a front-runner and get knocked down, this is when. But John McCain is an awkward position. He is the establishment Republican candidate. And some establishment Republican voters out there aren't so sure they want him.

BLITZER: All right, John, thanks very much.

John King, Andrea Koppel, they are part of the best political team on television.

Remember, also, for the latest political news at any time, check out our Political Ticker at CNN.com/ticker.

Coming up: the Iraq war weighing on both Democrat Hillary Clinton and, as we just heard, Republican John McCain -- two presidential candidates under fire and under scrutiny. That's coming up in our "Strategy Session."

And that dramatic and deadly attack on the Iraqi parliament today right in the Green Zone -- we will have a report from Baghdad. How did a bomber penetrate such a highly guarded place?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check back with Carol Costello. She is monitoring all the wires coming in, the video feeds.

What else is going on, Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Wolf.

Hello to all of you.

The nation's top law enforcement officials were in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, today to mourn an FBI agent shot and killed while pursuing a group of suspected bank robbers last week. FBI Director Robert Mueller eulogized Special Agent Barry Lee Bush, a 19-year veteran of the agency. The FBI says he may have been killed accidentally by a fellow agent -- an investigation now under way.

World Bank president and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz is under fire for helping a close female friend get a high-paying job. Just a short time ago, Wolfowitz publicly admitted he made a mistake when he helped a woman he dated transfer into a position that pays close to $200,000 a year. He declined to say if he might have to resign over the matter.

Federal prosecutors are painting a sinister picture of an Ohio man they say provided support to al Qaeda. Christopher Paul was arrested outside of his apartment in Columbus, after what authorities say was a four-year investigation. In an indictment unsealed today, they charge that he trained in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan in the 1990s and plotted to set off bombs in the United States and Europe. Paul has not yet entered a plea. And America has lost one of its renowned and influential literary figures. Kurt Vonnegut, author, social critic, and countercultural hero, is dead at the age of 84. He reportedly suffered brain injuries following a recent fall in his Manhattan apartment. In a statement released a short time ago, fellow writer Norman Mailer hailed Vonnegut as a modern-day Mark Twain.

Vonnegut wrote short stories, essays, plays, and more than a dozen novels, including "Cat's Cradle" and "Slaughterhouse-Five," which was inspired by his time as a war prisoner in Germany during World War II -- back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Those were great books, indeed. What a great writer he was.

All right, thanks very much for that, Carol.

Up next in the "Strategy Session:Well,: Senator Hillary Clinton and the war in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Bringing our troops home. Now he says he's going to veto that. Well, I challenge him. Mr. President, don't veto the will of the American people. You need to listen.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: She's talking tough. But why is she off message for the left wing of the party?

And why did Fred Thompson choose now to share with us an illness he's known about for the last few years? We will talk about that, a lot more, with Donna Brazile and Terry Jeffrey. That's coming up next in our "Strategy Session."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're getting some breaking news right now.

CNN has just confirmed that CBS, following NBC, has decided to dump the Don Imus radio program. That's just coming in to CNN right now. CBS Radio, once again, which sponsors his radio program, distributes it around the country to local radio affiliates, has decided no more Don Imus radio show -- this after NBC yesterday announced that its cable operation, MSNBC, would no longer simulcast the Don Imus morning radio program.

Let's get some analysis of that and other news. Donna Brazile is here, our CNN analyst, and Terry Jeffrey as well.

What do you make of this decision, Donna, by now NBC and CBS to get rid of Don Imus? DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this is what the public clearly has demanded from both NBC, as well as CBS, to dump Mr. Imus and to dump the show. I think it should send a message not just to Mr. Imus, but others, that the public airways should be free of this type of hurtful commentary.

BLITZER: What do you think, Terry?

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, "HUMAN EVENTS": Well, I think it's a sad thing, but Imus did bring it on himself. What he said was outrageous. It was racist. It brought unnecessary hurt to those fine young ladies on the Rutgers basketball team.

But I think, you know, there are other things on NBC that they ought to look at. I think that we need a higher standard in general in American broadcasting. I think they knew, basically, what the tenor of Imus' show was, and they had it on there for years and years and years and years.

I know that the CBS people have said they want to look at the -- the standards in their broadcasting. And I think they should.

BLITZER: How offended were you personally, Donna, when you heard those words that he uttered?

BRAZILE: I was very offended. As a young collegiate athlete, someone that worked my way from across those train tracks, I -- all I thought about was those young girls and the impact that those words had on their lives and what they had accomplished.

He took all of that away, not just the young ladies of Rutgers, but the other young ladies from Tennessee and LSU and others, who played for the championship.

BLITZER: It's opened up a dialogue around the country, Terry, on the state of racism and sexism in our country. And -- and we're speaking about it, a lot of people are speaking about it, in the aftermath of this Don Imus racial slur. What -- what initial conclusions are you drawing?

JEFFREY: Well, you know, I think America has come a long way on the issue of race. I don't think we are ever going to get to the point in any society where you completely eliminate racism.

But, when you go back to '63, when you had Bull Connor in Birmingham, with an armed fist, enforcing segregation, to the point where, this year, you have Barack Obama as a major president for the -- candidate for the presidency of the United States, where he very clearly could win the Democratic nomination, maybe become the first Democratic president of the United States.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: First African-American president.

JEFFREY: Excuse me, the first -- I wish it was the first Democratic president.

BLITZER: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

JEFFREY: But, no, the first African -- clearly, this country has made great progress on that.

I think another problem that this -- focus -- ought to focus attention on, though, is what we put out on radio and TV. I have five kids. There's lots of stuff on broadcast TV that I don't want my kids to watch. There's lots of stuff on the radio I don't want them to hear. People ought to think about those girls on the Rutgers team, like Donna said.

But they also ought to think that there are kids out there listening to radio at 8:00 in the morning and there's kids out there watching TV.

BLITZER: Let me read a little bit of the statement, Donna, that CBS has put out, the CBS president and chief executive officer Les Moonves making this announcement -- quote -- "From the outset, I believe all of us have been deeply upset and revulsed by the statements that were made on our air about the young women who represented Rutgers University in the NCAA Women's basketball championship with such class, energy and talent.

He says, "Those who have spoken with us the last few days represent people of goodwill from all segments of our society -- all races, economic groups, men and women alike."

He adds: "In our meetings with concerned groups, there has been much discussion of the effect language has -- language like this has on our young people, particularly young women of color trying to make their way in this society. That consideration has weighed most heavily on our minds as we made our decision, as have the many e- mails, phone calls and personal discussions we have had with our colleagues across the CBS Corporation and our many other constituencies."

He then goes on to say: "I want to thank all those who came to see us to express their views. We are now presented with a significant opportunity to expand on our record on issues of diversity, race and gender. We intend to seize that opportunity as we move forward together" -- this statement by Les Moonves on the announcement by CBS Radio to cancel his program and to eliminate it from the air.

I assume this goes into effect right away.

BRAZILE: Well, it's a good -- it's a good statement. It was a great decision to remove somebody who has made offensive comments, as Terry said, in the past, degrading, hurtful.

I think it's an opportunity to have a new dialogue. Often, when we talk about race, it's always negative, whether it's Katrina, whether the Duke rape case. It's always negative. This may give us an opportunity to talk about racism in a way that can move this country forward.

JEFFREY: You know, Wolf, leaving this aside, Don Imus, obviously, was a very talented broadcaster. I suspect his career is not over.

He has an opportunity to go forward and be very successful in his future career taking a slightly different approach to it. And I suspect that's what we are going to see happen, which will be a good thing.

BRAZILE: Well, let -- I hope he apologizes to those young women in person next week, when he sits down with them, and offer an opportunity to do reconciliation with those -- those players in the future.

BLITZER: If, in fact, he does manage to hold onto a radio show, on satellite radio, for example, which are not bound by the same constrictions as over-the-air broadcast radio is concerned, would you suggest that politicians, big-name journalists, media celebrities, others boycott that show or continue to appear regularly, as they have over these many years?

BRAZILE: It all depends if he learns from this -- this -- this mistake, and he changes the tenure of not just of his remarks, but also change the tenor of the conversation that he's broadcasting to the American people.

BLITZER: And, all the good work he's done, the millions of dollars he's raised for poor children, sick children, children with cancer, sudden death syndrome, all -- all those kinds of good deeds that he did, does that not -- not -- should that not play into this equation?

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFREY: Well, sure.

I think -- first of all, I believe Don Imus' apology was sincere. I do not believe he is a racist. The other day on this program, James Carville, who is a friend of his, said he believes in redemption. I do, too.

And I think Don Imus has an opportunity to go forward and do great things, and prove to people what an excellent broadcaster he is, without using this kind of technique to attract an audience.

BRAZILE: I believe in redemption as well.

But, when you allow people on your airwaves to use words like jigaboo and other distasteful remarks, that -- that signals to me that you have no racial sensitivity, as well as gender sensitivity.

BLITZER: But what about -- and this has been widely asked over the past few days, Donna -- the African-American artists who use those kinds of words, whether in music or rap or song or whatever?

BRAZILE: Look, for years, C. DeLores Tucker, the late C. DeLores Tucker, led a national campaign against those lyrics.

Often, it was with just a couple of people, Dick Gregory, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson. Perhaps others will join with her -- well, she is no longer here -- join with the other leading women's organizations to help set a new tone in the African-American and American culture.

JEFFREY: Yes, supply creates demand. If the broadcasting industry and the entertainment industry in this country had more respect for the intelligence of the American people and gave us better things, higher quality in general, I think they would still make just as much money, and they would have a better impact on our culture...

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: And more respect for women.

JEFFREY: Absolutely.

BRAZILE: There's a war on women.

JEFFREY: Absolutely.

BRAZILE: And we need to end that in this country.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much, Donna Brazile, Terry Jeffrey, for joining us.

We are going to continue to follow this breaking news: CBS Radio, CBS announcing only moments ago it's firing Don Imus. His radio program will no longer be on the air, as far as CBS is concerned. Yesterday, NBC announced it would no longer simulcast that radio program on MSNBC. We will continue to watch this story.

Also: Is Arnold Schwarzenegger bringing sexy back? Jack Cafferty examining the governor's claims about California and the environment -- "The Cafferty File" just ahead.

(AUDIO GAP) White House. Is correct spelling optional? Stick around for that.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: On our "Political Radar" this Thursday, more fuel for the Don Imus controversy, after the breaking news that CBS has fired the radio host.

Senator Hillary Clinton is about to get a new opportunity to make an issue out of the Imus firestorm. The Democratic presidential candidate will visit Rutgers University on Monday. And her campaign confirms she will meet with the Rutgers women's basketball team -- this after Senator Clinton used her Web site to blast Imus' racially and sexually charged comments about the team.

And Congressman Duncan Hunter may have lost some support among voters who are sticklers for proper spelling. The Republican presidential candidate's formal Federal Election Commission filing had a prominent error. It cited his committee as Hunter For President, Inc. with president spelled P-R-S-E-I-D-E-N-T. Obviously, they didn't have spell-check in that.

Jack Cafferty, very good speller, he's joining us with "The Cafferty File."

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It's a typo, you know?

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: It's a typo.

CAFFERTY: Right. When you write an e-mail quickly, you hit the wrong -- it's a typo.

BLITZER: Happens to me all the time.

CAFFERTY: Cut the guy a little slack.

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: All right, the question is: Governor Schwarzenegger, in California, says that his state is making environmentalists sexy and mainstream, not tree huggers and weird fanatics? Do you agree?

Billy in Mississippi: "I think what Governor Terminator was getting at, in his own awkward way, was that going green has now become somewhat mainstream among governments and businesses, not something viewed as being fringe anymore."

Bobby, a former L.A. resident: "To Arnold in California: See you what you can do to clean up the smog in L.A. quickly, and then maybe you can call your state a leader in the environmental movement."

Robert in California: "Put it this way, Jack. As a native Californian and a strong environmentalist, Arnold is the only Republican I could and have voted for in the last seven years."

Mike in Alaska: "I watched and listened to Schwarzenegger's speech yesterday, greatly surprised to find myself agreeing with him virtually all the time about everything he said. His optimism, straightforward, crystal-clear message were a breath of fresh air. Now I have to write a letter to my friends in California to apologize for disparaging their wisdom in electing this particular self-made man."

Julien here in New York: "Governor Schwarzenegger's comparison of environmentalists to body builders is nothing short of baffling. Mother Earth cannot and should not be sexed up. Nature needs nurture." Joshua in Pennsylvania: "If Californians make environmentalism sexy or not is irrelevant. You and Wolf need to make it sexy, and so does everyone else that is on television or any form of media. It's the only way people are going to get it. If it's on TV, it's got to be true."

And Bill in Sevierville, Tennessee: "I'm not really sure what a man who shaves all the hair off his body and poses in a bikini bottom would consider sexy."

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you for that. Good e-mail.

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

Happening now: There's breaking news on Don Imus, another blow to his career. We will have details coming up.

Also: a devastating attack aimed at Iraqi leaders in the heavily guarded heart of Baghdad, the so-called Green Zone. How did a suicide bomber get into a highly guarded building?

And, as the casualties mount and U.S. troops face longer tours of duty, the debate sharpens here at home. Is victory possible in Iraq, or should America pull out? I will speak with a powerful Democrat, Congressman Charlie Rangel.

And who should pay for Hurricane Katrina

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