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Widening Storm Over Missing White House Emails; Rutgers Women's Basketball Team Accepts Imus' Apology
Aired April 13, 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, a widening storm over missing White House e-mails intensified by a Karl Rove connection.
How big is the problem and the political fallout?
Also this hour, apology accepted. Newly fired radio talk show host Don Imus makes amends with the basketball players he insulted.
Is the controversy, though, finally over?
And Arnold Schwarzenegger finds a new way to make environmentalism sexy. The California governor is pimping his ride. We'll explain what's going on.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Even the White House acknowledges that any time Karl Rove's name is attached to a controversy, it's raw meat for Democrats. And right now, administration critics are pouncing on the possibility that even more White House e-mails may be missing than first thought. Some of those messages may have been sent by the president's political guru and lightning rod.
Our White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is standing by.
What are we learning, Ed, about these missing e-mails?
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we already knew about sharp questions about whether some top White House aides like Karl Rove misused Republican political e-mail to try to -- used it for official business.
But now a new development today. CNN has pieced together some information suggesting that official White House e-mail, e-mail right here at the White House, may have gone missing, and that could ratchet this story up to a whole new level.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
HENRY (voice-over): Even as Democrats have Karl Rove in their sights over Republican National Committee e-mail that may have disappeared, fresh signs there could be a much bigger problem -- missing e-mail from the White House itself. A new report by a liberal watchdog group charges that over a two year period, official White House e-mail traffic for hundreds of days have simply vanished, in possible violation of the federal Presidential Records Act.
MELANIE SLOAN, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY & ETHICS: There were, between March of 2003 and October of 2005, apparently over five million e-mail that were not preserved. And these are e-mail on the regular White House server.
HENRY: White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino stressed there is no indication the e-mails were intentionally lost. But she was careful not to dispute the group's allegations.
DANA PERINO, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not taking issue with their conclusions at this point. We're checking into them. And, again, you know, there's 1,700 people in the executive office of the president. Allegations that there could be days -- whole days missing -- and what I'm saying is we're looking into that.
HENRY: In fact, Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the CIA leak case, disclosed last year that some White House e-mails in 2003 were not saved, as standard procedure dictated. In a January 2006 letter to the defense team of former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Fitzgerald wrote: "We advise you that we have learned that not all e-mail of the office of vice president and the executive office of president for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system.
Democrats charge this raises questions about whether the public has gotten the full story on everything from the CIA leak case to the fired U.S. attorneys controversy.
SLOAN: Here is a White House that is deliberately violating an existing statute that requires them to preserve all records. And we have significant evidence now, both from the RNC e-mail and the White House e-mail that are missing, that the White House was using every means possible to avoid complying with the law.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
HENRY: Now, just moments ago, I got off the phone with Robert Luskin. He's Karl Rove's private attorney. And when I asked about the special prosecutor's claim of missing White House e-mail, Rove's attorney told me: "You're quite right. There was a gap there."
Now, Luskin adding: "I have no reason to doubt Patrick Fitzgerald when he says there was a gap in White House e-mail in 2003. But Luskin said it was foolish speculation and nonsense for CREW, this outside group, to suggest that this gap prevented Patrick Fitzgerald from indicting Karl Rove, that it left unanswered questions.
Luskin says Fitzgerald told him Rove was cleared because he had not done anything wrong. And Luskin also pointed out that CREW is representing Joe and Valerie Wilson in their outside, private suit against Karl Rove. That's important to note.
But to underscore, even Karl Rove's private attorney is now saying that there appears to be at least a gap in White House e-mail, official e-mail, in 2003 -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All this sets the stage for the big testimony next Tuesday that's scheduled by the attorney general.
How nervous are White House officials about Alberto Gonzales' appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee and the fallout that could result from that?
HENRY: They're very nervous. They realize this is make or break testimony by Alberto Gonzales before the Senate Judiciary Committee. But then they're also concerned about what's going on in the House. You have congressman Henry Waxman investigating this Republican National Committee e-mail I pointed out, and also Robert Luskin, Karl Rove's attorney, saying: "Rove has always understood from very early on in the Bush administration that the RNC and campaign e-mail were being archived. He was absolutely unaware until very, very clear that any e-mails were lost and he never asked that e-mails be deleted or asked for the authority to delete e-mails."
So you have there the reaction from Karl Rove's camp about these allegations about misusing Republican e-mail, the Republican e-mail disappearing.
Was that a political e-mail used for official business to shield what White House aides also were really doing?
He's insisting no -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Henry reporting for us at the White House.
Reams of Justice Department documents now are in the hands of members of Congress. They're part of the investigation into the firing of those eight federal prosecutors. It's an uproar, as we just mentioned, that has clearly put the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales', job on the line.
Let's get some more specifics from our Andrea Koppel.
She's been examining the paper trail.
What are we finding new in these latest documents, the so-called document dump that's just been made?
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, from what we've seen so far -- and, quite frankly, we are still going through them -- there doesn't appear to be a smoking gun or any document that would seem to support the Democrats' argument that these attorneys may have been fired for improper political purposes.
Now, in the almost 2,400 pages of documents delivered to the Hill today, some were duplicates of documents previously released. Others were actually complete copies, with sections that had been previously blocked out. And others were new ones.
But DOJ, Wolf, is still refusing to hand over documents that could shed light on the performance of the 85 U.S. attorneys who were not fired. Remember, Democrats say they need this information so they can determine why those eight U.S. attorneys were singled out.
BLITZER: Is there anything fascinating or interesting in some of those documents that sort of jumped out at you -- Andrea?
KOPPEL: There is at least one case. As you know, DOJ has argued that many of the U.S. attorneys were fired because there were performance problems and they have mentioned that there were management problems in the case of former U.S. Attorney Margaret Chiara. Now, she is from western Michigan.
In one e-mail that was released today, an unidentified person in Chiara's office is writing to someone at DOJ and she describes a meeting, or he describes a meeting last fall in which Chiara called the entire office together to announce who would be getting a bonus and who would not.
Now, that person writes: "Publicly shamed secretaries started sniffling in the meeting, then broke down in heart-rending sobs in their cubicles. Angry and disgusted prosecutors, both those who got bonuses and those who didn't, were treated in groups behind closed doors, saying they had never seen anything like it."
Now, clearly, Wolf, this e-mail would seem to bolster the DOJ argument, at least in the case of Margaret Chiara.
BLITZER: Thank you for that.
I know there's a lot of important information coming out all the time and Andrea is on top of it.
Appreciate it, Andrea.
On this Friday the 13th, fired radio talk show host Don Imus may be hoping his luck is about to turn. There's new word today of what happened when Imus met with the targets of his racially and sexually charged on air slurs.
CNN's Jim Acosta is in New York.
He's watching this story for us.
What are members -- Jim, of the Rutgers basketball team now saying about their exchange last night -- hours they spent at the governor's mansion with Imus?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the I-mess, Wolf, is far from cleaned up. But at least for Don Imus, he knew his apology to the Rutgers women's basketball team was not rejected.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
ACOSTA (voice-over): Apology accepted.
C. VIVIAN STRINGER, RUTGERS WOMEN'S BASKETBALL COACH: We, the Rutgers University Scarlet Knight Basketball Team, accept -- accept Mr. Imus' apology and we are in the process of forgiving.
ACOSTA: That process started last night when Imus and his wife met with the team at the New Jersey governor's mansion, a meeting the governor, Jon Corzine, missed after he was critically injured in a car accident on the way to the gathering.
Imus, according to his wife, asked the players to offer suggestions for ways he could make amends for his racial slur.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, COURTESY WFAN RADIO)
DEIRDRE IMUS: They gave us the opportunity to listen to what they had to say and why they're hurting and how awful this is.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
ACOSTA: The Rutgers coach said some good could come from the incident.
STRINGER: These comments are indicative of greater ills in our culture. It is not just Mr. Imus and we hope that this will be and serve as a catalyst for change.
ACOSTA: Change was certainly in the air, as Imus' radio show was broadcast for the last time with his wife filling in. She revealed that the Rutgers team had received hate mail, mail that she says should be directed elsewhere.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
IMUS: One thing I want to say is that the hate mail that's being sent to them must stop. It's -- this is -- this is the wrong -- if you want to send hate mail, send it to my husband.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ACOSTA: Still unclear is what CBS Radio is planning to do with that lucrative morning drive time slot on Monday after abruptly firing Imus on Thursday. A staffer told CNN over the phone today: "We really don't know right now."
BLITZER: Jim, what about the impact on the charities?
There's obviously a lot of money that's been raised by Imus over these many, many years for a lot of really good causes, many of them involving children. ACOSTA: Well, it could be a big impact. As a matter of fact, Imus was supposed to be hosting his own charity telethon this week. And because he was fired and dropped by MSNBC, his wife had to fill in.
And so now there is this big question -- he has a ranch out in New Mexico that helps kids with cancer -- what will happen to all of these Imus charities?
And right now we just don't know.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta reporting for us from New York.
Jim, thanks very much.
Jim a new addition to CNN.
I want to welcome you, Jim, to our network.
Thanks for joining us.
ACOSTA: You're welcome.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is not a new addition to our network, but we want to welcome, as well -- welcome, Jack Cafferty.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks a lot.
I'm not new to anything. I'm older than you are.
All right, serious stuff. I want to read you a few quotes.
"The plan is a 100 percent failure. It's a complete flop."
"What security do we have?"
"Nowhere is safe."
"The security plan is dead."
Those aren't U.S. politicians, those are Iraqi lawmakers of various parties -- Sunnis, Shiites, you name it -- reacting to that bomb attack on the Iraqi parliament inside the green zone yesterday. The death toll revised down now to just one. But the fact of the matter is that whoever carried out that attack made it through multiple checkpoints, usually manned by a combination of U.S. and Iraqi troops and private guards.
The green zone is such a secure area that soldiers sometimes refer to it as the ultimate gated community.
Also yesterday, and perhaps just as symbolic, a truck bomb destroyed a bridge over the Tigris River, cutting off a key link between the mostly Shiite eastern side of Baghdad and the mostly Sunni western part. Sad symbolism, indeed, for what's tearing that country to pieces. All this coming three months after President Bush decided to escalate the war by sending more troops to try to secure Baghdad and two months after that new security plan was launched.
So here's the question -- what does yesterday's bomb attack on the Iraqi parliament say about the U.S. surge plan?
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you, Jack, for that.
Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, a 2008 battle for Congress.
Who's a vulnerable target? Who might sit out the showdown?
Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is standing by live.
Plus, we'll check up on former Senator Fred Thompson's presidential prospects after the disclosure of his cancer diagnosis.
Why is he praying today?
And Arnold Schwarzenegger teams up with MTV to promote environmentalism and souped up cars. We'll watch the California governor, in his words, "pimp his ride."
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Beyond the red hot spotlight on the presidential race, there's a lot going on in the 2008 battle for the U.S. Senate. And, as always, our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is watching all of this very, very closely.
Let's talk about one potentially hot race in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The incumbent Republican, Senator John Warner.
What's the buzz?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the buzz earlier this morning came out of the financial reports. John Warner has raised $500. Now, when you look at that, you think, OK, if you raise $500 in the first quarter, you're 80 years old, you're in the minority now, this looks like a guy that's going to retire.
However, I've spent a lot of time this afternoon talking to people that know Warner who say listen, we would bet that he is going to run. And he seemed to indicate that himself in the statement that he put out following questions about these first quarter reports. And he said: "If I confirm my decision to seek reelection, I have every confidence that I will be able to raise sufficient resources," which is what friends around him are saying -- look, if he needs to raise money, he's going to be able to raise money.
That brings us to Mark Warner, the very popular Democratic ex- governor of the state of Virginia, still very popular. Democrats are trying very hard to recruit him to run against John Warner. But they don't -- they believe he won't. If John Warner is in the race, they believe Mark Warner will sit it out and run for governor later on. If John Warner gets out of the race, they think Mark Warner will go for the Senate seat.
BLITZER: What other races potentially are you watching right now?
CROWLEY: Well, let's first bring up Senator Domenici in New Mexico. There had been some chatter that he might retire at this point. As you know, there have been questions about his phone calls to a U.S. prosecutor who was later let go by the Justice Department.
But when you look at it, this is a man who won by 30 points last time around. Democrats do not seem to be targeting him at this point.
If you look at those who are in danger, you have to bring up about three names. Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota facing a tough challenge. Senator Susan Collins of Maine -- always tough for Republicans in the Northeast, as you know. But at this particular time, because of the war, she seems a little endangered. And then you have Senator John Sununu, also because of the war, under heavy fire in New Hampshire. Democrats, again, are trying to recruit somebody here they think can give Sununu a run for his money, another ex-governor, Jeanne Shaheen. They're pushing her to run against him.
BLITZER: A third of the 100-member U.S. Senate up for election this time around, next year.
Explain to our viewers why the environment would seem -- seem to favor the Democrats.
CROWLEY: Because 21 of those who are up for reelection, either with open seats, as we have in Colorado -- Senator Allard is retiring -- only 12 of those seats belong to the Democrats. So Republicans are defending a tremendous amount of seats. They have the potential for four or five retirements, including Allard.
This is a tough row. You add the Iraq War on top of that, Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader up in the Senate, said the other day, listen, I've seen some numbers, and they're pretty compelling, that we're going to pick up some Senate seats. And at this time, Republicans don't disagree.
BLITZER: It's still a long time to go between now and November of next year, though.
CROWLEY: Yes, it is. BLITZER: Thanks, Candy, very much.
And this note to our viewers, I'm going to be speaking live with Senator Norm Coleman. And I'm going to be asking him how worried he is about the challenge he's getting from the comedian turned candidate -- at least potential candidate -- Al Franken. My interview with the Minnesota Republican, that's up ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Also coming up, New Jersey's governor in intensive care right now after a violent car crash.
How extensive were his injuries?
In our Strategy Session, the war in Iraq and the 2008 GOP presidential race -- how closely linked are they?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Our Carol Costello is monitoring the wires. She's keeping an eye on all of the video feeds coming into THE SITUATION ROOM from around the world.
She's joining us here in Washington with a closer look at some other important stories -- first of all, welcome to Washington -- Carol.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you.
It feels like I've come home. I love Washington.
Hello to all of you.
You have four more days to file your taxes, but President Bush has done his a bit early. The president and first lady reporting a little over $765,000 in income in 2006. That's about $30,000 more than last year. And they'll pay about $186,000 in federal tax. They contributed nearly $80,000 to charity.
New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine is heavily sedated and on a ventilator in the intensive care unit of a Camden hospital. He suffered what's being called severe trauma in a car accident yesterday -- yesterday night, I should say. Corzine was riding in the front seat of an SUV and apparently not wearing a seatbelt. A doctor at the hospital says Corzine is lucky he wasn't hurt worse.
We'll have a full report on the crash and the governor's condition coming your way in the next hour.
And federal officials say about $4 million worth of food stockpiled for this year's hurricane season went bad because it was not stored properly. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, saying it was part of a resolve designated to feed up to a million people for a week. No major hurricanes hit the United States this year and food that didn't spoil is now being donated to groups that feed the hungry.
That's the headlines right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Carol, thank you.
Is YouTube too liberal?
That's what some of the people behind a new conservative video Web site are saying.
But will their new venture work?
Let's go to our Jacki Schechner -- Jacki, why are they suggesting they need a conservative YouTube?
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, the founders of Qube TV, Wolf, say there aren't enough conservative voices on YouTube and they wanted to create a user generated content outlet for conservatives by conservatives.
The founders of this Web site are Jeff Lord and Charlie Gerow. They both worked under the Reagan administration. And Gerow says that he's hoping to have a whole army of budding young conservative journalists contributing content to this site.
Now, this is not the first conservative version of a popular Web site that we've seen. Last fall, we saw the launch of Conservapedia, which is the conservative alternative to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that anyone can edit -- Wolf.
BLITZER: How are other conservatives online reacting to all of this?
SCHECHNER: Well, we spoke to a couple of leading conservatives online who say that YouTube has actually been very good with conservative content, even, in some cases, reaching out to get more of it. And others say that these niche sites actually cut conservatives off from the conversation and it's not a good thing and Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll check back with you.
Thanks very much, Jacki.
Up next, the furor over Don Imus' remarks and over his firing -- did Imus get the punishment he deserved?
We'll speak about it with CNN's Howard Kurtz.
Also, it's the latest case of cancer touching the presidential race.
Will former Senator Fred Thompson's diagnosis encourage him to get in or to stay out?
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Happening now, the World Bank president, Paul Wolfowitz, has apologized for promoting his girlfriend to a higher paying job.
But will his apology be enough?
President Bush now weighing in. We'll have details.
Also, it took over 18 years and cost some $20 billion. The V22 Osprey will soon fly over Iraq, even though earlier versions were involved in accidents that killed Marines.
And wanted -- more recruits. The government looking for more than a few good men and women to join the U.S. military.
But why are they using big bonuses and video games, lots of advertising, to attract all of them?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Former Senator Fred Thompson is appealing to the faithful today as he weighs a possible presidential run. The "Law and Order" actor is under heightened scrutiny for his newly disclosed cancer diagnosis and for being a potential political savior Republicans dissatisfied with their 2008 options might be looking for.
Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is joining us.
What about the implications of his disclosure that a few years ago he was diagnosed with a form of cancer? What's the impact of all that -- Bill?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, the fact that Senator Thompson put that information out in the open seems to have fueled the speculation that he may run.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Here is Fred Thompson at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a real treat for us. Former Senator Fred Thompson is here.
SCHNEIDER: Thompson is thinking about running for president.
FRED THOMPSON, ACTOR, FORMER SENATOR: And I feel like that I may have some leadership ability that might be useful to my country.
SCHNEIDER: He's let it be known that he was diagnosed with cancer. A cancer survivor has run in each of the past four presidential campaigns -- John Kerry in 2004; John McCain in 2000; Bob Dole in 1996; and Paul Tsongas in 1992. While none of them got elected, health was never a big issue.
Two 2008 contenders have had cancer diagnoses, as does the wife of a third.
RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think that the notion of having cancer, depending upon the type, is not automatically a disqualification, which, 20 or 30 years ago, it almost certainly would have been.
SCHNEIDER: What do so many Republicans see in Thompson? He's conservative, but he doesn't sell his ideology like Ronald Reagan. Observers see other Reaganesque qualities.
GALEN: People are beginning to look at him and saying, this guy can win.
SCHNEIDER: With President Bush in so much trouble, Republicans seem desperate to find a winner. The most successful Republican politician in the country right now, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, is ineligible to run for president. But, for Schwarzenegger, as for Reagan, acting experience helped.
GALEN: The ability to sell a line, to actually deliver a line, to make your point in a convincing way, is helpful in public policy. Whether it's Ronald Reagan or Arnold Schwarzenegger or now Senator Thompson, we can see that that is an advantage in American politics today in the day of television.
SCHNEIDER: President Reagan was once asked, how can an actor become president? Reagan's response? How can a president not be an actor? -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Good question. Thanks very much, Bill Schneider, reporting.
A Republican presidential candidate is offering an unusual take on the Don Imus controversy and the fallout. The former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee spoke out on Iowa radio today. He says that, now that Imus is getting the axe for being offensive on the airwaves, who might be next?
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That was a decision the networks had to make. I think, if Imus is going to get fired, then there's a lot of other people that need to go out the door. Rosie probably has got to go. Bill Maher has to go. Gosh, half of talk radio and television has to go.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: Still, Huckabee says Imus' remarks were wrong, inexcusable, and in his words, over the top.
Let's bring in Howard Kurtz of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."
Howie, does Huckabee have a point?
HOWARD KURTZ, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Wolf, if half of television has to go, I hope you are in the other half.
But, sure, he has a point. Look, Imus said a repugnant thing. He needed to be punished. Did his entire career need to be blown up over this? I'm starting to hear other voices who say, if what he did was that terrible, what about some of these people who constantly say vile things on the air, attack people out of anger and meanness and ideology? Why hasn't anything happened to them?
BLITZER: You know, he had a lot of people who were frequent guests on his radio show. What's the political fallout likely to be? I know you have been looking into this.
KURTZ: Well, Imus hosted guests of both parties, but Democratic senators in particular, including a couple running for president this time, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, were regular guests. That was a great outlet for them. They got a lot of time to talk. They got a chance to joke around and show their lighter side. Now that's gone. The show doesn't exist anymore.
And it's kind of hard to replicate it. There weren't many radio shows, even with the locker room humor, sometimes went over the line, weren't many radio shows where you could engage in that kind of political and substantive banter.
BLITZER: John McCain was a regular on his show as well.
KURTZ: And John McCain said that, while he didn't disagree -- he disagreed, obviously, with what Imus said, that he would be willing to go back. Rudy Giuliani said he would be willing to go back.
But suddenly NBC and CBS, under great pressure from their own employees, and despite now the -- the touch of class by the Rutgers women, who have forgiven Imus. They were willing to go back, but there's no show to go back to, unless Imus ends up somewhere else.
BLITZER: Some people are suggesting, had the meeting occurred with the Rutgers team and the coach before CBS and NBC made their decisions, the outcome might have been different. Do you buy that?
KURTZ: That flashed through my mind. But, when I started to think about it, Wolf, it occurred to me that what really drove this was not even the outside criticism, was not even the advertisers bailing out. It was African-American employees at NBC and CBS, people like Al Roker, for example, at NBC, going to their bosses and saying, this is hateful. We don't want to be associated with this.
I think that's what turned the tide. So I think even if the meeting had taken place, I'm not sure it could have saved Imus' job, given the tsunami of criticism that he was under.
BLITZER: Howie Kurtz doing some excellent reporting on this subject for us -- Howie, thanks very much.
KURTZ: Thank you.
BLITZER: I want to just point out to our viewers, Howie is going to have a special edition of "RELIABLE SOURCES" this Sunday morning on the Don Imus controversy. You are going to want to see this, Sunday morning, 10:00 a.m. Eastern, right before "LATE EDITION," a full hour on the controversy, the fallout, all of the ramifications.
Coming up: Arnold Schwarzenegger says he's trying to make environmentalism sexy. Is MTV the vehicle to do it?
And he broke with President Bush over sending more troops to Iraq. He's facing a serious challenge by a former comedian. I will talk about all that, a lot more, with Senator Norm Coleman. He is standing by live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is making waves once again, this time by urging environmentalists to make their cause sexier. Now he's found a new vehicle to try to do that, the MTV popular program. It's called "Pimp My Ride."
CNN's Sumi Das is in San Francisco.
Sumi, a lot of people suggesting this is part of the governor's evolution from a muscle man, if you will, to someone who really wants to go green.
SUMI DAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right. I think that characterization is not too far off the mark, Wolf.
Well, this is a man who has taken heat for his Hummer. And now he is taking a spin on MTV's "Pimp My Ride," but in a distinctly green way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "PIMP MY RIDE")
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: I see a spot over here. Give me this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DAS (voice-over): Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to make tree hugging hip. The California governor will appear in the Earth Day episode of MTV's hit show "Pimp My Ride," scoping out a souped-up 1965 Chevy Impala and its 800-horsepower biofuel engine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "PIMP MY RIDE")
SCHWARZENEGGER: Which reduces the greenhouse gas emissions by 40, 50 percent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right.
SCHWARZENEGGER: So, this is because I changed some of my cars over to biofuel. The only thing is that, now, when you use vegetable oils, it smell like french fries.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BEAU BOECKMANN, GALPIN AUTO SPORTS: The carpets are actually made out of recycled plastic bottles.
DAS: Liking what he saw under the hood, the actor-turned- politician ordered the same engine for his own car. It's all part of his push to make going green cool.
On an East Coast swing this week, Schwarzenegger said taking a stand against global warming is politically courageous, not suicidal, and offered this warning for those who refuse.
SCHWARZENEGGER: You will become a political penguin on a smaller and smaller ice floe drifting out to sea.
DAS: Schwarzenegger's green speak hasn't quelled his hunger for horsepower. He says automakers must meet that need for car buyers.
SCHWARZENEGGER: What we have to do is make those muscle cars and those SUVs and those Hummers more environmentally muscular.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "PIMP MY RIDE")
SCHWARZENEGGER: Wow. Look at this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DAS: The MTV cameo has raised questions of political favors. "Pimp My Ride" is filmed at a shop owned by Bert Boeckmann, who has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Schwarzenegger. Boeckmann says he never talked to the governor about the show.
Schwarzenegger's political spokeswoman describes Boeckmann as a supporter of the governor's vision for the future of California, saying -- quote -- "There is certainly no connection."
DAS: This isn't the first time Schwarzenegger has turned to a popular TV show to push his environmental policy. Two years ago, he popped up on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." He visited a house with energy-saving features -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Sumi, environmentalists, what do they say? He's talking the talk, but is he really walking the walk?
DAS: Well, the governor has become the poster boy, at least one of the poster boys, for the environmental movement. Here are the magazines to prove it.
But I talked to one environmental group, the California League of Conservation Voters. And they said that, while the governor should be applauded for using his fame to raise awareness about global warming and other environmental issues, they say there's a bit of a disconnect that they are worried about, because he's got a mediocre record when it comes to signing environmental laws -- excuse me -- environmental bills into law.
And so what they are saying, though, is that they are optimistic, and they say the governor has an opportunity to increase his environmental legacy this year. There's a record number of bills that will be showing up on his desk -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Sumi Das, in San Francisco, reporting.
The man who has taken heat for his Hummers is pumping -- excuse me -- pimping his ride, but in a distinctly green way.
And, as we noted, the governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a longtime fan of muscle cars. And he got flak for driving a gas- guzzling Hummer. In fact, back in 1992, the governor became the first private citizen to own a street version of the military vehicle. And he was quite proud of it. I want you to listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHWARZENEGGER: I am going to get the whole collection of Hummers, just to make sure that someone out there doesn't have something that I don't have, God forbid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: As Schwarzenegger became more environmentally conscious, though, he urged General Motors to develop a hydrogen- powered Hummer.
Up next in the "Strategy Session": Republican presidential politics and the war in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It's a declaration of surrender. If we declare a date for withdrawal, then the bad guys and al Qaeda and the rest of them lay back until we leave.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Senator McCain and the rest of the GOP field are sticking with the president. But will their support hurt them with the voters? And Fred Thompson, he received a warm welcome at today's prayer breakfast. But how would his entrance into the field be received by the rest of the candidates? We are going to explore all of that in our "Strategy Session" with Bill Bennett and Paul Begala.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: On the presidential campaign trail, there's more criticism of John McCain over his stance on Iraq. McCain has become a lightning rod of sorts for critics of the war, but the other Republicans, at least the presidential candidates, basically in line with the president as well.
Joining us now in today's "Strategy Session," conservative commentator Bill Bennett, Democratic strategist Paul Begala, both CNN contributors.
First of all, congratulations, Bill.
BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Your new book, "America: The Last Best Hope, Volume II..."
BENNETT: Yes, sir.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Hold it up. Pimp my book.
BENNETT: No, please, please.
BLITZER: There it is.
BENNETT: We will all be trouble. We will all be trouble. Stop.
BLITZER: "Volume II: From a World at War to the Triumph of Freedom."
We're going to come have you back to talk about this book.
BENNETT: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: But I just wanted to congratulate you on the release of this new book.
BENNETT: Thank you, sir.
BLITZER: Well, let's talk a little bit about these Republicans. You have been studying them very carefully. How much trouble are all the Republican presidential candidates in, potentially, because of their supporting the president's strategy in Iraq?
BENNETT: I think, at the end of the day, the American people will not punish a candidate, will not punish a Republican or a Democrat for saying: I support the war. I support the troops. I want victory.
We will see how things turn out. Obviously, a lot depends on how things turn out. If this surge succeeds, if we see things continuing to get better -- and there are some signs, I believe, that things are getting better -- then it's obviously a tremendous win.
Let's suppose things don't get better. Will the American people turn to someone who says, I didn't want to get out; I didn't want to run prematurely -- what I thought was prematurely?
I don't think so. We know where public opinion is, but I think you have to say this about John McCain. He's been criticized in the past for being very poll sensitive, public opinion sensitive. You can't say that about his position here. He is way out there. This thing that started -- we had talk on the radio show. You quoted that.
Michael Ware got involved in it. John McCain went. It went all over the world, these comments. He has tied himself to victory in this effort. And I think it's a courageous stand. People can disagree with it, but it's certainly not taking the political test.
BLITZER: Paul, what do you think?
BEGALA: As an historian, Bill remembers Henry Clay, who I think famously said, I would rather be right than president.
BEGALA: Then the rejoinder was, he was neither.
And I think that's the case with Senator McCain. I think he's neither right, nor going to be president because of that.
And it's not just because he doesn't want to withdraw. It's not even just because that he supported the war, which most of the Democrats running for president did at the time as well.
It's that, even today, he's saying things like to -- to Bill that: I'm in Baghdad. And things are better. And I strolled through the market.
BEGALA: And then we learned that it was all just a fraud.
(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: It's not just Senator McCain. Rudy Giuliani supports the president.
BLITZER: All of the Republican candidates, except for Chuck Hagel, who is not a candidate, they all say virtually the same thing that John McCain says...
BEGALA: Which is why they are going to lose.
BLITZER: ... whether it's Mitt Romney or Huckabee or any of those guys.
BENNETT: You think that's why they will lose?
BEGALA: Yes. I think -- it's a long way away.
BEGALA: But I do think the '08 election. First, you have had eight years of one party. Generally, we like to switch back and forth.
But I do think that the war has so damaged the Republican brand, and not even just whether it was ill-conceived. It's been poorly executed in many people's eyes, incompetently executed. And I think that bleeds to everybody who supports it.
BENNETT: Certainly, there's been poor execution. But the question is, what is the Democrat alternative? And, right now, there are a number of Democrat alternatives. I don't find any of them compelling. We will see.
The thing is that McCain again is not taking political soundings on this. And, whatever else he is, you can't accuse him of political opportunism. And I think, if Fred Thompson steps in, my guess is, you are going to see another voice supporting this...
BLITZER: I want to talk about it in a second.
But you support Hillary Clinton. We know you support Hillary Clinton.
BEGALA: My private views. I don't advise anybody.
BLITZER: You are very loyal -- you are very loyal to...
BEGALA: I worked for her husband for a while.
BLITZER: I know.
So, is Iraq going to hurt her, though, among the Democratic base...
BLITZER: ... because she supported that resolution authorizing the president to go to war?
BEGALA: So far, it is, yes. It is hurting her.
And she -- it was MoveOn.org, which is a huge, three million members, anti-war organization, started as an anti-impeach-Clinton organization. Now it's an anti-war organization. When they did their online debate, Hillary participated and did really poorly in the post- debate survey. I think something like 11 percent supported her, whereas 28 percent supported Obama; 25 percent supported John Edwards.
So, this is hurting her, not only that she voted for the war, but that she's been resolute in refusing to use the M-word, mistake.
BLITZER: Let's talk about former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson. There's the "L.A. Times"/Bloomberg poll that came out this week. It had Giuliani, among registered Republicans...
BLITZER: ... Giuliani with 29 percent, the former Senator Fred Thompson with 15 percent, McCain at 12, Romney at 8.
You think he's going to run?
BENNETT: I think he's going to run. And I think he's a formidable candidate. I think that was a watershed poll. Watershed polls. What does that mean?
BENNETT: We have got 18 months. Everything has to be significant.
I think it was an important poll, because there is some sense of dissatisfaction with the field, for one reason or another. There is a lot of excitement about Giuliani, but he really screwed that thing up last week. He messed that thing up last week when he talked about the constitutional amendment and the Hyde amendment and funding for abortion and so on. That was a mistake, bothered a lot of people.
So, Fred Thompson is a very attractive guy. People like him, first Southerner, really, to enter the ranks of the presidential candidates. I guess Huckabee, but I'm talking about major players on the Republican side, after we have had a lot of Southern candidates.
So, I think it's very substantial. I think he will run. And, remember, he plays a lawyer on TV. He plays a prosecutor.
BLITZER: He's played a president...
BENNETT: But he also is a lawyer, and a very good lawyer. Watergate.
BLITZER: A lot of people say he reminds -- a lot of conservative Republicans say he reminds them of Ronald Reagan, because, not only is he conservative, but he's a former actor, is still an actor, and he's a very likable, as you well know, kind of guy.
BEGALA: He is. And I think that's part of the appeal.
But I think what it is, is they want the idea of Fred Thompson, or the memory of Ronald Reagan. I can't wait to read to read Bill's chapter on Reagan, because he served him in the government for so many years.
But Ronald Reagan brought deep experience and real accomplishments to his campaign for the presidency. And Senator Thompson is a fine guy. By the way, he voted on the right side of history, against removing Bill Clinton, against most of his party, when he was in the Senate.
But you can't look at a lot of accomplishments. There's not a Thompson law or a Thompson amendment or a Thompson interstate highway system. He's not Ronald Reagan in that sense.
BLITZER: We have got to leave it there, guys.
BENNETT: Imagination is important in politics. And he's got a lot of people's imagination.
BLITZER: Hold your thought. We will continue this conversation down the road -- Paul Begala, Bill Bennett.
BENNETT: Thank you.
BLITZER: Our "Strategy Session."
A quick note: Earlier, I credited Iowa radio for its interview with Governor Huckabee. He actually appeared on Radio Iowa -- two different things out in Iowa.
Still to come: Is the surge of American troops making Baghdad safer? Jack Cafferty has your e-mail. That's coming up next.
And is the war still winnable? A Republican senator who came out against sending more U.S. troops to Iraq will answer that question in the next hour.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack Cafferty in New York for "The Cafferty File."
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the question is: What does yesterday's bomb attack on the Iraqi parliament say about the U.S. surge plan?
Brian up in Calgary: "A lot of things come to mind. This is an inside job, i.e., the people who our kids are dying for are simply not worth it. The surge is failing, like all our attempts, because our efforts are being undermined by the treacherous traitors inside the Iraqi government. They are not worth saving anymore."
Eric in Post Falls, Idaho: "It seems to me the surge plan is as poorly executed as this entire war was. This is supposed to be the most secure are in all of Iraq. I wonder if Senator McCain will be visiting any time soon."
Donna writes: "We don't know yet what it means. And you don't either. I have a son in Iraq. And, frankly, part of the reason I can hardly bear to watch CNN and I keep you turning you off is that you guys are always, without exception, so negative. Bush may not have all the answers, but you don't either. The only difference is you don't know that you don't."
Kathy in Virginia writes: "At least some of the Iraqi legislators, after nearly being blown to smithereens, had the common sense enough to declare the security plan dead. The only surge that will make a difference will be the surge of our guys and girls coming home."
Donna in Lucerne, California: "We surge, they surge. Maybe, if we leave, they will, too. Isn't the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result? This misguided war in Iraq is the epitome of insanity. When do we get to take the inmates out of the White House, put them back in the asylum?"
And Richard in Ashland, Kentucky: "It means we are in big trouble. I will accept the position of war czar, even at the cost of leaving my position at Burger King. Where do I apply?" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you, Jack. See you in a few moments.
We're also getting some surprising new fund-raising details from a top Republican presidential candidate. The Mitt Romney campaign says it is raising more campaign cash online than any candidate yet. Let's bring in our Abbi Tatton.
She's joining us. How much did -- did he raise?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: The Mitt Romney campaign saying, Wolf, they raised $7.2 million online in the first quarter. That would put Romney at the top of the leaderboard in terms of online fund-raising. Barack Obama was at $6.9 million.
And the Romney campaign is actually breaking down that $7.2 million figure, saying that 3.3 came in pure and simply through the Web site, and that a little bit more than that came in through an online pledge tool that they have called quick commit.
This comes on the same day that the Rudy Giuliani campaign put out some online fund-raising figures, saying nearly one million raised in online funds since December, quite a different figure. We contacted the McCain campaign to see if they were putting out any figures. The McCain campaign aide would say only their online fund- raising has gone up significantly -- significantly -- I'm sorry -- since McCain's address on Iraq earlier this week, but no figure was given -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Abbi, thank you very much.
And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: The search is on for those responsible for the bombing of Iraq's tightly guarded parliament. But Baghdad is shaken to its core, as Iraqis wonder if anyone is really safe. We're going to take you to the scene.
As the troops serve overtime in the war zones, a tightly stretched Army spends heavily on advertising, bonuses, even video games, to try to find new volunteers. Is it enough?
And he's taken heat as an architect of the Iraq war. Now he's accused of unethical behavior over at the World Bank.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
In Iraq, the hunt is on for those behind the attack on the parliament inside Baghdad's tightly guarded Green Zone. Claims of responsibility have been made by an insurgent umbrella group. And the top U.S. military commander in Iraq says al Qaeda -- and I'm quoting now -- "probably somewhat involved."
The shockwaves are still being felt. One lawmaker was killed.
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