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Cheney's Impeachment Charges; Outrage over Tillman's Death; Rove Under Scrutiny; VA's New Symbol for Tombstones

Aired April 24, 2007 - 1900   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou.
Happening now, Dick Cheney in a verbal brawl with Democrats over the war in Iraq as one Democrat files impeachment charges against the vice president. I'll ask White House wannabe Dennis Kucinich if he really has a chance to make those charges stick.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) death of Pat Tillman sparking new outrage. The football star's brother accusing the U.S. military is lying about what happened in Afghanistan and a fellow soldier saying he was ordered to keep quiet.

And Karl Rove under scrutiny once again. But this time, the president's political guru may be facing an investigation from within the Bush administration. Should the White House be worried?

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

Tonight, a heavyweight fight over Iraq that's explosive and increasingly becoming personal. The vice president, Dick Cheney, today unleashed his anger at the man who says the president is in, a, quote, "state of denial" and that the Iraq war is lost. That would be the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Some of Senator Reid's fellow Democrats are giving him backup tonight. Listen to these red hot exchanges.


RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Senator Reid himself said the war in Iraq will bring his party more seats in the next election. It's cynical to declare that the war is lost because you believe it gives you political advantage.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm not going to get into a name-calling match with administration chief attack dog.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: It is Vice President Cheney who has been wrong and deadly wrong in Iraq. Even more, Vice President Cheney is the last person in the administration who should accuse anyone of making uninformed and misleading statements.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. Dana, Senator Reid says he's not going to get into name calling but calling the vice president an attack dog that sounds a little bit like name calling.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well you know Wolf, Harry Reid was a boxer back in his youth, and he definitely got a jab back at Dick Cheney today. He said he's not going to call anybody a name who is at nine percent in the approval rating, but what you just saw is really a snapshot of the dizzying back and forth up and down Pennsylvania Avenue today about the Democrats' bill that they intend to send to the president that would start bringing troops home.

And really what it is, is remarkable, because this is a foregone conclusion. We know what's going to happen. Democrats are going to send the White House the bill, the president is going to veto it. So what we're seeing is really a preparation, positioning for the fight after that veto -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And the vice president went to new lengths today to make his case. Tell our viewers what he did.

BASH: You know we see Dick Cheney come up here almost every Tuesday Congress is in session to have lunch with Senate Republicans. And he doesn't even make eye contact with the press corps up here much less talk to us. And this was the first time for sure he went to the cameras to talk to reporters about anything at all. And that's what made this particular attack on Senator Reid so sane because he did it here in the Capitol. And what you're seeing there is the position where Dick Cheney was. That's just steps away from Harry Reid's office. So it's just not the rhetoric, but it's also the place where he did it. It was definitely intended to send a powerful message.

BLITZER: All right, Dana. Thank you.

Let's get a reminder now what the fireworks are all about. Congress is moving toward final votes on a $120-billion war funding bill that President Bush is vowing to veto. It would requires troops to begin leaving Iraq as early as July 1 of this year if, if the president fails to adequately deliver an Iraq progress report to Congress.

The bill would require the pullout to begin no later than October of this year. In both cases, though, the nonbinding goal is to complete the redeployment within 180 days or by April 1 of next year, 2008. Meanwhile, there's mourning going on at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina right now. That's the home of the 82nd Airborne. That's after a suicide attack at a U.S. base in Iraq's Diyala province yesterday that killed nine U.S. paratroopers and wounded 20 more.


MAJ. TOM EARNHARDT, U.S. ARMY: When we lose nine heroes, nine brothers, we all have to turn, you know turn within and look you know within ourselves, and it's a -- the best way I can describe it is a gut check.


BLITZER: The attack was the deadliest so far against U.S. troops in Iraq. CNN's Arwa Damon is in Baghdad with the latest -- Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the U.S. military is now saying that it believes that it was two 30-ton trucks packed with explosives that slammed into that small outpost in Diyala just north of Baghdad. Now the Islamic State of Iraq has claimed responsibility for the attack. It is an umbrella group that al Qaeda and Iraq leads and encompasses a number of other Sunni extremist groups as well as elements of the Sunni insurgency and has managed in the last six months to establish a firm stronghold in the province of Diyala, very much making Diyala the new frontline in the battle between al Qaeda and Iraq and U.S. forces.

Now U.S. forces over the last few months have been aggressively conducting combat operations throughout the entire province. But the challenge that is being posed by this ever morphing (ph) insurgency, it's taking its toll on troops there. The brigade that is operating there has been in the country for six months and has already lost more than twice as many troops as the brigade that was there before lost in their entire year of deployment.

Now, west of Diyala in another area, al Anbar province where al Qaeda is also operating in great strength, a suicide truck bomb targeted Iraqi security forces just outside of Ramadi, exploding in a residential area, causing a number of civilian casualties, as well as casualties among the Iraqi security forces. The insurgency here, al Qaeda and Iraq proving that it can still pose a challenge to U.S. forces and U.S. forces constantly striving, trying to stay one step ahead of the insurgency -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Arwa, thank you -- Arwa Damon reporting from Baghdad.

The attack, by the way, in Diyala immediately ranks as one of the worst against U.S. ground forces in Iraq. Only a handful were in fact deadlier. A few days before Christmas in 2004 a suicide bomber walked into a mess tent in Mosul, killing 21 people, 14 of them U.S. troops.

In August of 2005, 14 U.S. Marines were killed when a roadside blast tore apart their assault vehicle near Haditha. A civilian interpreter also died. And in December 2005, 10 U.S Marines were killed in an insurgent bombing near Falluja. The U.S. military has grim memories of Mogadishu, that's Somalia's capital where American troops battled militias a decade and a half ago. It's now once again the scene of carnage, this time as Ethiopian and Somali government troops are trying to wipe out a bloody insurgency.

Let's go to our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee, with the latest -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, blood shed in Somalia means a security threat for the U.S.



VERJEE (voice-over): The gun rules Mogadishu.


VERJEE: Relentless fire, shelling, car bombs, total chaos. It's a city of death. Hundreds killed, bodies rotting in the streets.

JOHN HOLMES, U.N. UNDER SECRETARY-GENERAL: Civilians been caught in the crossfire. Killed and wounded in large numbers.

VERJEE: Sir John Holmes briefed the U.N. Security Council saying one third of the population, more than 300,000 Somalis, have fled their homes.

HOLMES: Biggest population displacement we've seen anywhere in the world this year.

VERJEE: 1993 is the year Americans remember in Somalia. Blackhawks (ph) shot down, American soldiers dragged through the streets and murdered.


VERJEE: Fast forward to 2007, planned warfare, vicious war lords, and lawlessness ruled the day, and perhaps an even bigger threat, al Qaeda. The U.S. says Somalia is a refuge for terrorists. It's a logical choice. No effective government, long porous (ph) borders and unguarded coastline.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the al Qaeda threat is real, particularly in east Africa.

VERJEE: In January, Osama bin Laden's right hand man, Ayman al- Zawahiri, called for fighters to go to Somalia where Islamist insurgents are battling the weak transitional government. U.S. officials believe al Qaeda masterminds are hiding out in Somalia after terror attacks in Kenya and Tanzania. The fear now is that the anarchy could make Somalia an even bigger threat.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The situation is not only playing OUT very badly in Somalia, it's threatening many of the countries around it.

VERJEE: Washington says it wants a cease-fire.

JENDAYI FRAZER, ASST. SECRETARY OF STATE: We need to get the political process on track and that that is the key.


VERJEE: U.S. officials say they want to build support for the transitional Somali government to isolate the extremists -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, who exactly are these insurgents?

VERJEE: Well they're essentially linked to the Council of the Islamic Courts (ph). It's a hard line religious movement that had control of Mogadishu, the capital, in southern Somali for the past six months. They got driven out. The Islamic courts basically don't want a secular government and they want Somalia to become an Islamic state -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Zain. Thanks very much.

Somalia's size, geography and poverty make it hard to impose anything resembling law and order. Somalis is slightly smaller than Texas. It's mostly desert, the population about 9.1 million, but that was the last official census that was taken some three decades ago in an area that's been swept by war and famine. The life expectancy in Somalia, get this, life expectancy only 49 years old.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Intentional falsehoods, fraud and deliberate and careful misrepresentations. That's what the U.S. military is guilty of, according to Pat Tillman's brother. Tillman was the NFL football star killed in Afghanistan. At first the military said he died as a result of combat with the enemy. They lied.

He was killed by friendly fire. Members of Tillman's family testified to Congress today. They said the military didn't reveal the real cause of Tillman's death because it would have been a political disaster. So rather than risk that, you just lie. When lawmakers asked how high up the chain of command to cover up went, Tillman's mother said she thought Donald Rumsfeld knew about it. An Army Ranger who was with Tillman when he was killed testified he was ordered to keep his mouth shut.


SPEC. BRYAN O'NEAL, U.S. ARMY: I wanted right off the bat to let the family know what happened especially Kevin because I worked with him in the platoon and I knew that him and the family both needed or all needed to know what had happened and I was quite appalled that when we were -- I was able -- actually able to speak with Kevin, I was ordered not to tell them what happened, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were ordered not to tell them?

O'NEAL: Roger that, sir.


CAFFERTY: Jessica Lynch also testified. Remember her? She's the Army private who was seriously injured when her convoy was ambushed in Iraq. Lynch was rescued by U.S. troops from an Iraqi hospital. She was immediately portrayed as a hero by the military and the media went crazy with her story. But once again, it wasn't true. Today she said the American people don't need to be told elaborate tales.

So here's the question. What lessons can the public learn from the cases of Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch? E-mail or go to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you for that.

Coming up, Congressman Dennis Kucinich on why he wants to impeach the vice president.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well the vice president had a singular responsibility in whipping up public sentiment to lay the groundwork for the war against Iraq on false pretenses.


BLITZER: Is this simply a political stunt by a presidential candidate? I'll ask him.

Plus, Karl Rove under investigation. You're going to find out why the Office of Special Counsel now looking into allegations of political arm-twisting.

Also pet food poison, thousands of hogs potentially infected, you'll also find out why the feds are now expressing some concerns about the human food supply. Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Tonight there's something else for the Bush White House to worry about. Its once praised political operation led by Karl Rove is now being targeted for a wide-ranging investigation and whenever Karl Rove is under scrutiny, partisan fireworks likely to follow.

Let's bring in our White House correspondent Ed Henry. Ed, this probe is being launched within the administration. What's behind it? What's being investigated?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well you're right, Wolf. This is the Office of Special Counsel, a somewhat little known federal agency, but to give you an idea of the seriousness of this, late today the office of that special counsel contacted the White House chief of staff, Josh Bolton (ph), to tell him about the probe and to urge cooperation with this, noting that he had subpoena power if the White House does not turn over whatever documents they want, does not available people for testimony.

What the probe is centering on is allegations that Karl Rove and other top White House aides may have violated the Hatch Act (ph), may have misused federal resources for political purposes. We've heard these allegations before. What is really new here is as you noted it's within the administration, it's by a Republican appointee of this president who is now launching this investigation. And he's vowing to let the chips fall where they may.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SCOTT BLOCH, OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL: The evidence, we will follow it where it leads. We'll do a thorough job. We will not leave any stone unturned. We will be fair. We will be impartial and we will be thorough.


HENRY: But there are questions tonight about how effective this investigator will really be. First of all, Scott Bloch himself is under a separate federal investigation for allegedly retaliating unfairly against some of his employees who did not follow his policies. He insists he's innocent of that and there was no wrongdoing.

And secondly, liberal groups are already coming out today and saying they think this will turn out to be a whitewash because this is a Republican-led investigation of a Republican administration, but I can tell you that today, Wolf, this White House was caught off guard by this probe. And they're privately realizing this is a political headache they don't need right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I've been in Washington a long time. I didn't even know there was this office in operation. Ed, thanks very much for that.

Walk through a military cemetery and you'll see tombstones with crosses, stars of David, Muslim crescents (ph) and others. Now there's now a new symbol that's been approved but not without some considerable controversy.

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's standing by to tell us about this new symbol -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's called a Wiccan pentacle and starting this week veterans of that faith now have the option of having this controversial symbol associated with witchcraft placed on their headstones.


TODD (voice-over): Sergeant Patrick Stewart (ph) died in combat a year and a half ago in Afghanistan. But on the wall of heroes at Fernley (ph), the veteran's cemetery in Nevada, his memorial marker has been some time in coming. His widow told CNN last year she was holding out until she could get a plaque with a symbol of his religion, a forbidden Wiccan pentacle.

ROBERTA STEWART, WIDOW: I must have it on his memorial plaque before I can lay him to rest so that he can move on and that our family can even begin to start to grieve.

TODD: Now she can after a lawsuit. The Veterans Administration has just announced that the pentacle will be added to its list of 38 other approved emblems of belief that can be engraved on government provided markers. REV. BARRY LYNN, AMERICANS UNITED: If you serve your country at least you deserve to be able to be recognized with the symbol that you choose in a memorial in a veteran cemetery.

TODD: The VFW, Veterans of Foreign Wars, said it has no objection, but not everybody is comfortable with witches in the military. In 1999, George Bush, then the governor of Texas, said he disagreed with the Pentagon's decision to allow witchcraft to be practiced on military bases, but one of the plaintiffs tells us people have nothing to fear.

SELENA FOX, SR. MINISTER, WICCAN CIRCLE SANCTUARY: Witchcraft is not Satanism. It is not harming others. It's not power over others. It's not hocus-pocus.


TODD: The Veterans Administration has agreed to pay the Wiccans more than $200,000 to cover the cost of the lawsuit and the Wiccans believe they can get pentacles inscribed on headstones in time for Memorial Day next month -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Tell us, Brian, about this symbol. What is it all about?

TODD: Well the spokesman for the Military Pagan Network tells CNN that the pentacle is a symbol of earth, air, fire, water and spirit. It is surrounded by a circle of life. He says don't believe what you've seen in the movies, in a lot of movies. It's associated with you know violent images. It's often found in horror movies. He says historically this is not a satanic symbol.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks for that -- Brian Todd reporting.

Still ahead tonight, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, order to keep quiet. An Army Ranger tells Congress his higher-ups told him to lie about Pat Tillman's death.

Also, Sheryl Crow says it was just a joke. Find out how her musings about toilet paper, the environment became fodder for critics and headline writers around the world.

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


BLITZER: Our Carol Costello is monitoring stories coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Carol, what's going on?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Well let's start with an update, Wolf. That riot we've been following all afternoon at an Indiana prison is now over. This was the scene at the New Castle Correctional Facility (ph) earlier. During the two-hour standoff inmates set fires and two prison staff members were hurt. Hundreds of inmates from Arizona were recently moved there and officials say they're angry about the transfer, although we don't know if exactly if that caused the riot.

A landmark vote in Mexico City, in just the last hour lawmakers voted 46-19 to legalize abortion in the Capitol during the first trimester of pregnancy. There were large and vocal protests ahead of the vote in the overwhelmingly Catholic country. Even the Pope weighed in urging against the law and church leaders have threatened to excommunicate lawmakers who voted for it.

A first of its kind discovery in space, a planet researchers say is so much like earth that it could sustain life. European astronomers found it in a galaxy 120 trillion miles away. They say it appears about the size of earth with temperatures that would permit liquid water. Of course here's still a lot of research to be done but the discovery is being called a major milestone.

And if you have 10 bucks, you can book a seat on the new start of an airline. Skybus plans to start flying out of Columbus, Ohio on May 22 and it is advertising $10 one-way fares on all flights. Now that doesn't include taxes and fees and of course seats are limited. Skybus' initial destinations are Burbank, California, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Richmond, Virginia and Kansas City, Missouri with more to come. You can't beat that, Wolf, 10 bucks.

BLITZER: That's not bad, not bad to fly to those locations. If you got to go there, that's a good way to do it. Thanks...


BLITZER: Thanks, Carol, for that.

Still ahead, articles of impeachment filed against the vice president, Dick Cheney.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These articles are filed in response to the question of who are we as a nation that we can let high public officials violate the law within punity (ph), take us into war that are based on lies. Who are we? Who is going to stand up to this?

BLITZER: Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich says he's the one who will stand up, but does he really think he can unseat the vice president? I'll ask him.

Plus, very emotional testimony on Capitol Hill from the family of pro football star turned Army Ranger Pat Tillman. Find out why they say they're sickened at the way the military handled his death.

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


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

Happening now, a check-up for Dick Cheney, today a doctor checked a blood clot in the vice president's left leg. A Cheney aide says tests show the clot is gradually resolving. Cheney had complained of discomfort in his leg after an overseas flight back in March.

Murder, conspiracy, and spying, those are among the formal charges a Canadian prisoner at Guantanamo Bay now faces. He may now stand trial before Gitmo's war crimes tribunal. He's 20 years old but was nabbed at an alleged al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan when he was 15 years old.

And the armed wing of Hamas breaking a five-month old truce, today the group fired rockets into Israel causing minor damage, but no injuries. The Palestinian government is seeking calm, Israel warning against more rocket attacks.

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

Did the Bush Administration make up stories to try to find heroes in Afghanistan and Iraq? That's the charge on Capitol Hill today where the government is accused of manipulating the facts in the death of the football star Pat Tillman.

Let's turn to our senior Pentagon, Jamie McIntyre. Jamie, these charges are very serious indeed.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what is not in dispute is that there was bad information, misinformation from the battlefield. What is in dispute is whether it was in -- by accident or design.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): The Congressional hearing featured a video replay of the big lie, the phony account of Pat Tillman's heroism given at his memorial service.

SENIOR CHIEF STEPHEN WHITE, U.S. NAVY: Pat sacrificed himself so his brothers could live.

I'm the guy that told America how he died, basically, at that memorial, and it was incorrect.

MCINTYRE: That Navy SEAL says he relied on Tillman's largely fictitious Silver Star citation, which said Tillman died engaging the enemy instead of from friendly fire. No one admits writing the inflated account, but one Ranger, who was with Tillman when he was killed, says his firsthand account was changed and he was ordered to keep quiet, not even to tell Tillman's brother Kevin, a fellow Ranger, the truth.

SPEC. BRYAN O'NEAL, U.S. ARMY: I wanted right off the bat to let the family know what had happened, especially Kevin, because I had worked with him in the platoon. And I knew that him and the family both needed -- or all needed to know what had happened. And I was quite appalled that when we were -- I was actually able to speak with Kevin, I was ordered not to tell him what happened, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were ordered not to tell him?

O'NEAL: Roger that, sir.

MCINTYRE: Kevin Tillman, who served with Pat in Afghanistan, believes the worst, that it was deliberate deception, with a crass P.R. motive.

KEVIN TILLMAN, PAT TILLMAN'S BROTHER: And we believe the strategy had the intended effect. It shifted the focus from the grotesque torture at Abu Ghraib and a downward spiral of an illegal act of aggression to a great American who died a hero's death.


MCINTYRE: Wolf, what four investigations have failed to answer is the key question. Who started the lie and why? Nobody has admitted to who wrote that Silver Star citation that contained the inaccuracies that became part of the untruthful myth -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Why is it so hard, Jamie, to find out who is responsible for this Tillman tragedy?

MCINTYRE: Well, you know, again, they've gone back and tried to figure out where did the story start from? Because one thing is clear, everybody knew at the time that this was a friendly fire death. This was not a fog of war situation where people were confused.

But nobody has confessed to who actually came up with the idea of putting out this more heroic version of events. And they may never get to the bottom of that.

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon. Thank you.

A rare and dramatic move by a Democratic presidential candidate. That would be Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Just a few hours ago he announced he's introducing articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney.


Dennis Kucinich is joining us from Capitol Hill right now.

Congressman, thanks for coming in.


BLITZER: Lots of questions. Why the vice president, if you're so concerned about the war, as opposed to the commander-in-chief? That would be the president.

KUCINICH: Well, the vice president had a singular responsibility in whipping up public sentiment to lay the groundwork for a war against Iraq on false pretenses, and the articles of impeachment cover that. And there's another practical reason, Wolf, and that is that if someone was to aim at impeaching the president, then Mr. Cheney would become the president. I don't think that this country could tolerate two consecutive impeachments. So I think that the evidence is there to focus on the vice president. That's the appropriate place to begin. And that's what I've done today in filing House Resolution 333.

BLITZER: A lot of your critics already suggesting it's a political stunt, given the fact that the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has ruled out impeachment. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, says that's not on his agenda.

Do you think you have enough votes to really get this out of a committee?

KUCINICH: I think that people in Congress are about to find out that all over the United States, citizens have been asking questions, what kind of a government do we have? And why isn't someone stepping forward to challenge the conduct of this vice president?

And so my -- people are asking me today, is anyone standing behind me? And I think that there are millions of Americans who believe that it was time to raise this issue.

And the reason I did it now, Wolf, is because the vice president is beating the same drums of war against Iran that he beat against Iraq under false pretenses, and he's doing it all over again, against Iran. The same false pretenses. And I say that it's time to stand up to that.

Our country couldn't afford this last war, we sure can't afford to go into another one. And somebody has to challenge the conduct of this vice president. And that's what I've done today.

BLITZER: Well, high crimes and misdemeanors. That's a high threshold. Specifically, explain to our viewers what your articles -- you have three articles of impeachment, what they are alleging.

KUCINICH: Well, the first article, and I quote, says that he "fabricated a threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to justify the use of the United States armed forces against the nation of Iraq." And the second article points to the fact that he "fabricated a connection between the government of Iraq and al Qaeda and used that to justify war." And the third article says that he's "openly threatening aggressive war against Iran," which is a violation of Article VI of our Constitution and a violation of Article II Section 4 of the U.N. Charter.

That's basically a synopsis of the articles.

BLITZER: Even a war critic as fierce as John Murtha, Democrat of Pennsylvania -- I spoke with him yesterday here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I asked him about your -- then expected plan to release these articles of impeachment. He himself said he didn't think it was a good idea to do any kind of thing like that right now.

KUCINICH: You know what? I respect John Murtha. He's a good friend of mine. He's a great patriot. These articles are filed in response to the question of, who are we as a nation that we can let high public officials violate the law with impunity, take us into war that are based on lies? Who are we? Who is going to stand up to this?

And these articles of impeachment are a response really to questions that are being asked all over the United States. And so, that's my stand today, House Resolution 333.

People should know that someone can take a stand. And, you know, I think that the American people will be heard from now and members of Congress will be guided accordingly.

BLITZER: What about the argument, Congressman, that this is during a time of war, and that's not a time to go after impeaching a sitting vice president?

KUCINICH: Well, we have to keep in mind that the United States was still involved in conflict during the Nixon years. I think that we have to consider that it's important for us to be able to protect our constitutional form of government.

And we're at war, Wolf, because lies were told by top public officials. In this case, Mr. Cheney. That's why we're at war. And the next question is, how do we stop from getting into another war? It could become much worse than it is.

BLITZER: Did you discuss this with the speaker, Nancy Pelosi...


BLITZER: ... with the majority leader, Steny Hoyer? Any of the leadership -- the Democratic leadership in the House?

KUCINICH: No, I very carefully have sought to avoid any attempt at making this look like a partisan move. It is not.

These articles are filed far beyond any questions of partisanship. This is about being an American. This is about loyalty to our country and to our nation's highest principles.

BLITZER: We've got to leave it there, Congressman. Dennis Kucinich announcing that he has filed articles of impeachment against the vice president of the United States. Thanks for coming in.

KUCINICH: Thank you very much, Wolf.


BLITZER: And the vice president's office has quickly dismissed impeachment call. A statement saying, let me read it to you: "In all seriousness, the vice president is focused on doing the job the American people elected him to do." That is from a Cheney spokesperson.

Still ahead tonight, some say it's the answer to what ails the current political process, pairing people from different political parties to run from the White House. I'll speak to long-time "Law & Order" actor Sam Waterston about his new political initiative.

And is the rap music industry ready to clean up his act? Music mogul Russell Simmons, part of a movement to get some commonly used but explosive words out of music. Stick around, we'll explain.


BLITZER: Right now, longtime "Law & Order" star Sam Waterston has a close connection to presidential politics in more ways than one. His co-star, the former Republican senator, Fred Thompson, is mulling a presidential campaign. And Waterston thinks he knows what Thompson's decision will be. Waterson also is heading up a campaign aimed at ending polarization in politics.


And joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Sam Waterston, the actor, the star of "Law & Order," and now a great -- I guess, a citizen who wants to get involved in politics and do something.

You come in, Sam, on a day when there's a lot of bitterness happening here in Washington. You're trying -- and your supporters, your group trying to change all that. Tell our viewers what you have in mind.

SAM WATERSTON, ACTOR: Well, I'm here as an advocate for Unity '08, which is an alternative to what you're talking about is happening today.

BLITZER: You'd like to see Democrats and Republicans working together to try to solve some of these crucial problems, as opposed to fighting.

WATERSTON: Exactly. And if -- our belief is if an independent or a bipartisan executive were in place, that it would make a huge difference to all the politics in Washington and might make possible to get back to the way things used to be in the old days, when cooperation and public service were...


BLITZER: Give us some examples of -- you know, it may be wishful thinking on your part, on some of your colleagues' part, but give us an idea of what you have in mind. In the best of all circumstances, name names.

WATERSTON: Well, I would say, in the best of all circumstances, it would be a Republican and a Democrat or a Democrat and a Republican, in no particular order, or two independents or any credibly bipartisan ticket -- obviously bipartisan ticket.

And as to names, I'm glad you asked, because one of the virtues of Unity '08 is that it puts the process first, the questions and the agenda first, and from the candidates' responses to those questions and that agenda, the people who join Unity '08 online at and become delegates will choose their favorites.

BLITZER: So it...

WATERSTON: And that's how it will be decided.

BLITZER: Hypothetically, what we're talking about -- and I'll just throw out some names. If, for example, Hillary Clinton and John McCain got together to form a ticket...

WATERSTON: Precisely.

BLITZER: ... or Barack Obama and Rudy Giuliani got together to form a ticket...

WATERSTON: Yes, but not necessarily...

BLITZER: That's what you...

WATERSTON: ... from among the candidates that are presently before us.

BLITZER: There are others out there that you might like, as well?

WATERSTON: Absolutely.

BLITZER: What about your co-star on "Law & Order," Senator -- former Senator Fred Thompson? A lot of buzz, as you know, about him.

WATERSTON: Well, you mean, as far as Unity '08 is concerned?

BLITZER: No, as far as throwing his hat in the presidential ring.

WATERSTON: Yes, I think that's going to happen, don't you?

BLITZER: You do?

WATERSTON: Mm-hmm. I'm sure.

BLITZER: What kind of relationship do you have with Fred Thompson?

WATERSTON: Friendly. Friendly. He's a good man, a very nice man and he's a very -- he has been very, very straightforward with me all the time.

BLITZER: As a co-star of "Law & Order?"

WATERSTON: As a co-star and when I've come to him with questions about what was going on in the world, he has given me straightforward answers.

BLITZER: Now, what about a third party coming up? You know, there's talk that Michael Bloomberg, for example, the mayor of New York, might come in as a third party candidate. WATERSTON: Well, Unity '08 proposes to be that third party for this one election only, to show that a unified executive, a non- partisan executive can change the way politics is done.

BLITZER: So you really want to do what Ross Perot tried to do back in '92, have a third party that brings everyone -- tries to bring everyone together?

WATERSTON: A third party of the center that demonstrates that that's where politics get done and that the possibility for consensus building is very real and that we do not need to be swinging between the extremes of two parties all the time and getting nothing done.

BLITZER: Now, you want to have your convention online.


BLITZER: Have people vote. But it's going to be not until, what, in the summertime? When do you want to do that, because the clock is ticking as far as getting Unity '08 names on various ballots in 50 states?

WATERSTON: The getting on the ballots on 50 states is under way. That effort is under way now. But the -- but the convention itself, and the solicitation of delegates is happening right now.

BLITZER: Sam Waterston, thanks for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

WATERSTON: Thanks. Thanks for having me.


BLITZER: And up ahead, enough is enough. Music mogul Russell Simmons wants three words common to rap music voluntarily banned from public airwaves. We're going to tell those -- what those words or.

And no joke. The reaction to a joke by singer Sheryl Crow was loud and heard around the world. Our Jeanne Moos takes a look. Stay with us, we'll be right back.


BLITZER: In the wake of the controversy that cost Don Imus his job, some inside the hip-hop community are calling for a voluntary ban on the type of language that got the radio host into trouble. CNN's Mary Snow is in New York.

Mary, what is being proposed?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's a call to remove three epithets from the mainstream media. But not to ban these words outright from all records. We do have to warn you that there is offensive language contained in this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SNOW (voice-over): The N-word, bleeped out here, is used in many hip-hop lyrics. But now hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons says enough. That word and two others, he says, should be on par with extreme curse words.

RUSSELL SIMMONS, HIP-HOP SUMMIT ACTION NETWORK: We think we can say today bitch and ho and also the N-word, which you don't say often, but could say if you wanted, be taken off the airwave.

SNOW: Simmons is part of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network. They say they still defend the artists' use of these words but they are proposing a voluntary ban on the words on the public airwaves. And it follows the Don Imus controversy.

Imus was fired following his use of offensive language describing the Rutgers women's basketball team. The outcry prompted hip-hop lyrics to once again go under the microscope.

SIMMONS: Public outrage has inspired to look inside. This is about response to public outrage.

SNOW: Reverend Conrad Tillard is a longtime critic of Simmons. He calls the voluntary ban a good first step but says there has been damage, especially to African-American women.

REV. CONRAD TILLARD, NAZARENE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH: These young women, in cities and in suburbs around this country, have had to embrace their own degradation, I'm a bitch, I'm a ho, in order to be considered cool and to be considered hip-hop.

SNOW: That's not how Russell Simmons views it. In his new book, "Do You!", he says hip-hop has empowered young people. And he says hip-hop artists speak about their reality.

SIMMONS: The artists should paint the picture as they see it. That's why we have the poets and other artists, so they can tell the truth as they know it. And if that's a road map to how we can clean up our dirt, then good.


SNOW: Now Russell Simmons says the proposal is all about corporate responsibility and not censorship. So how are hip-hop artists reacting? We reached out to several of them today, but they declined comment -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We will continue to stay on top of this story. Thank you, Mary, for that.

Jack Cafferty is joining us from New York -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: What lessons can the public learn from the cases of Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch, two members of the U.S. military whose experiences in Iraq were turned into fiction by the press releases coming out of the Pentagon. Teri in San Antonio, Texas: "We should learn the military under this administration has been co-opted from its real mission, to protect the United States, and is now an active arm of the administration's PR program. To use Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch to boost the administration's image is not only unmilitary, it is despicable."

Leslie writes from Japan: "Had the truth been known earlier, the American public would have come to see our fallen troops more as victims than heroes in this hapless, wasted military intervention, and perhaps they would have put a stop to it sooner."

Wade in Pennsylvania: "Jessica Lynch wasn't upset enough to return the Bronze Star or to resist the urge to capitalize on her notoriety by writing a memoir. The Defense Department exploited her experiences for the public relations value, but Lynch exploited the same experiences for dollars and cents."

Richard in Canada: "We expect corporate and political hacks to spin stories, misrepresent the truth, and attack their detractors' motives and integrity. But if we can't trust our police, security, and military agencies to tell the truth, there is nothing left."

Gary in New York writes: "Everyone in the military involved with cover-ups should be court-martialed for dishonorable conduct. Those not in the military should imprisoned. I don't know about you, but I'm sick and tired of elected officials breaking the law and not having to suffer the consequences like us lowly citizens would have to do."

And Eugene writes from Jacksonville, Florida: "One big question comes to mind, what else has the government covered up?"

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to We post more of them online. There are also video clips of the "Cafferty File," along with my high school graduation picture.

BLITZER: I want it see that. I'm going to check it out, Jack. Thank you.

CAFFERTY: You're welcome.

BLITZER: Let's find out what is coming up right at the top of the hour. That means Paula is standing by.

Hi, Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, HOST, "PAULA ZAHN NOW": I bet you he was just as cute then as he is now, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very handsome.

ZAHN: "Out in the open," coming up at the top of the hour, Senator Hillary Clinton ahs been bashing the use of racist and sexist language since the Don Imus mess. So why did she collect $800,000 for her presidential campaign, raised by a foul-mouthed rapper?

And how bad is it for an ex-convict to actually ask a judge to put him back in jail? We're going to show where that is happening and why, coming up at the top of the hour.

And then of course, the latest on the war of words between the vice president and Senator Harry Reid today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll be watching. Thank you, Paula.

And still ahead here in "THE SITUATION ROOM," the toilet paper joke heard around the world. Sheryl Crow, just kidding. Jeanne Moos gets to the "bottom" of this frenzy, stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Sheryl Crow says it was just a joke. Jeanne Moos explains though how her proposal on toilet paper was heard by many people around the world.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a story that kept unrolling and unrolling. A toilet paper tale that stretched around the world, from Australia to London. Singer and environmental activist Sheryl Crow had everyone crowing about her proposed limitation to save trees.

GLENN BECK, CNN HEADLINE NEWS HOST: And I'm not kidding, America, one square of toilet paper per sitting.


JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": One square of toilet paper. Thank you. I'm not going to be shaking hands anymore.

MOOS: Rush Limbaugh's listener's rushed to experiment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It rolls up to the size of a penny. I don't know what the heck you're supposed to do with it. You can't blow your nose, you can't do anything with it. This is utterly -- insanity.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Now wait, did you try the four-ply or were you using the cheaper two-ply?

MOOS: The right-wing blogs papered with postings too crude to show. "Give me Charmin or give me death," was one of the more charming ones.

(on camera): Have you heard about Sheryl Crow and her one square of toilet paper?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's an ugly thought, though, isn't it?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not very sanitary.

MOOS: Have you heard that it is a joke?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no, I thought she was dead serious. I still think she's serious.

MOOS (voice-over): But according to Sheryl Crow's blog, the toilet paper thing, it was a joke. But being ridiculed hasn't been fun for Sheryl Crow and her activist partner, Laurie David, producer of "An Inconvenient Truth.".

(on camera): They're calling the media up, saying, this was a joke, don't make this sound like it's not a joke, like they're mad at the press.

(voice-over): The whole thing started when Sheryl Crow blogged: "I propose a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting. Now, I don't want to rob any law-abiding of his or her God-given rights, but I think we are an industrious enough people that we can make it work with only one square per restroom visit, except of course on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required.

ROSIE O'DONNELL, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": One little thing? Has she seen my ass?


MOOS: On Monday, Rosie didn't seem to think it was a joke. Though by Tuesday...

O'DONNELL: It was joke. She doesn't really think that, people.

LIMBAUGH: The only thing you're going to be attracting in the next couple of days is flies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My guess would be Sheryl Crow looks to me like a woman that would use one square.

MOOS: Maybe Sheryl was inspired by the famous "Seinfeld" scene since fellow activist Laurie David is the wife of "Seinfeld's" co- creator.

JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS, ACTOR: Three squares? You can't spare three squares?

JAMI GERTZ, ACTOR: No. I don't have a square to spare. I can't spare a square.

MOOS: Spare us from being "ply-ed" with anymore square talk. LOUIS-DREYFUS: Well, is it two-ply? Because if it's two-ply, I'll take one ply.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: That's it for us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Up next, "PAULA ZAHN NOW" -- Paula.

ZAHN: Oh, and what a note for you to close on, Wolf, thanks.


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