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THE SITUATION ROOM

Tenent's Comments; U.S. Officer Blasts the Generals; Saudi Arabia Anti-Terror Sweep; Missile Defense Shield Plan Cooling U.S. Relations With Russia

Aired April 27, 2007 - 1900   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Lou.
Happening now, a former spy chief takes on the vice president of the United States. New insights into why George Tenet feels betrayed by Dick Cheney. Is Tenet giving Democrats new ammunition against the White House and the war in Iraq?

Also this hour, President Bush sticks to his guns about vetoing a troop withdrawal timetable. Tonight, the former U.S. Senator Max Cleland charges Mr. Bush will be signing that veto in blood. Cleland is our guest.

And the actor Richard Gere on the kiss that caused an international incident. Is he laughing off the outrage and the threat of jail time?

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

The former CIA director, George Tenet, lashing out at Vice President Dick Cheney as the blame game over Iraq reaches a fiery new level -- Tenet very angry at the Bush administration in his new book and using some very harsh words, including disingenuous and despicable.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us. Brian, you've been speaking with people who know George Tenet quite well. What do they say?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one former colleague says Mr. Tenet feels betrayed by the Bush White House and the recriminations over the pre-war intelligence and in this new book that's not even out yet, Tenet seems to direct much of his anger toward one man.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): The former CIA director describes palpable tension between himself and Vice President Cheney before and after the Iraq invasion. In his new book, "At the Center of the Storm," George Tenet boasts of helping to kill a speech Cheney planned just before the war linking al Qaeda and Iraq.

Tenet writes that during the finger pointing over pre-war intelligence the president publicly supported him, but at a meeting he had with then Secretary of State Colin Powell, quote, "Colin let me know that other officials, particularly the vice president, had quite another view."

The quote excerpted in "The New York Times" and confirmed to CNN by two sources familiar with the book. Assistants for Cheney and Powell say they won't comment before reading the book. Then there's this comment from the vice president on NBC's "Meet The Press" in September.

RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When George Tenet sat in the Oval Office and the president of the United States asked him directly, he said, George, how good is the case against Saddam and weapons of mass destruction, the director of the CIA said it's a slam dunk, Mr. President. It's a slam dunk.

TODD: Tenet fires back in the book and on CBS' "60 Minutes."

GEORGE TENET, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: The hardest part of all of this has just been listening to this for almost three years, listening to the vice president go on "Meet The Press" on the fifth year of 9/11, you know, and say, well, George Tenet said slam dunk, as if he needed me to say slam dunk to go to war with Iraq, as if he needed me to say that.

TODD: Tenet's former deputy, John McLaughlin, now CNN's national security adviser, was at that the 2002 meting where Tenet said slam dunk. McLaughlin says the phrase has been taken out of context.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: What he meant was that it was a slam dunk that we can put more information into the mix to make it clearer why analysts believe there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: White House officials tell CNN that decision to go to war was based on many other reasons apart from the slam dunk comment -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And you know there are some other pretty inflammatory quotes from George Tenet in this new book, Brian.

TODD: That's right, Wolf, one in particular we flagged today, quote, "there was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraq threat. Now Dan Bartlett, the counselor to the president disputes that, saying the president did wrestle with those questions, and he made the decision to go to war very carefully.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us -- thank you, Brian.

On Capitol Hill George Tenet is helping to stir up old questions and outrage about the lead up to the war in Iraq. Our congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel reports Democrats are seizing on Tenet's book.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SEN CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: What George Tenet's book brings out very simply is that this administration makes up its mind and then talks about facts, and it should be the other way around.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Earlier this week, the second ranking Democrat in the Senate went even further. As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2002, Senator Dick Durbin said he saw top secret Intel which directly contradicted presentations like this one by then Secretary of State Colin Powell who told the United Nations Iraq posed an imminent threat.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources.

KOPPEL: Durbin said he couldn't go public with what he knew because he was sworn to secrecy.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), DEMOCRATIC WHIP: And so in my frustration I sat here on the floor of the Senate and listened to this heated debate about invading Iraq thinking the American people are being misled. They are not being told the truth.

KOPPEL: Durbin's allegations are nothing new. Other Democrats like Maryland's Barbara Mikulski have also claimed the intelligence they saw back then didn't support the administration's case for war.

SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D), MARYLAND: I really had very grave suspicions about the level of weapons of mass destruction Saddam had.

KOPPEL: And Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: At the time I said the intelligence does not support the threat.

KOPPEL: But among nine Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2002 only five, including Senators Durbin and Mikulski voted against the war. The other four voted to authorize it, among them, West Virginia's John Rockefeller who shared the administration's concerns.

SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D-WV), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I do believe that Iraq poses an imminent threat, but I also believe that after September 11 that question is increasingly outdated.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Andrea Koppel filing that report for us from Capitol Hill. More explosive charges from George Tenet and this important programming note. He sits down with our own Larry King Monday -- that interview, George Tenet and Larry King Monday night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 p.m. Pacific.

Tonight a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel is firing powerful warning shots about the way the war in Iraq is being carried out. His main target his superiors, the military brass on the battlefield. Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's an embarrassing crack in the Army support for the war in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): It's a damning indictment of the U.S. generals running the Iraq war from an officer currently serving who has done two tours of duty there. In the latest issue of "Armed Forces Journal," a privately owned magazine, Army Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling writes, America's generals have repeated the mistakes of Vietnam in Iraq.

He calls it a crisis in American generalship. Yingling says, like the Vietnam years, America's generals throughout the 1990s failed to anticipate the need to train their forces for the type of unconventional war that has emerged in Iraq.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, CMDR., MULTI-NAT'L FORCE, IRAQ: Now I don't think anyone would say that there were not mistakes and there were not a variety of areas in which we could and should have done better.

Starr: Lieutenant Colonel Yingling, now a deputy commander at the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood, Texas, says there have never been enough troops and the generals did not provide Congress and the public with an accurate assessment of the conflict in Iraq, again, something many say occurred in the Vietnam War.

It's rare for an active duty office to go public. Retired officers have, however, been speaking out for months. Some say General David Petraeus, the new top commander in Iraq, just won't be able to make a difference.

COL. DOUG MACGREGOR (RET.), U.S. ARMY: The notion that he is going to have any profound impact on this thing, tactically or otherwise, is open to very serious debate.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Lieutenant Colonel Yingling doesn't name any generals. In fact, he says it's not a problem with individual generals, but rather a crisis in the entire military institution -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara. Thanks very much.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York. A lot of people wondering, Jack, what's going to happen to Paul Yingling, the lieutenant colonel who wrote that article.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Soon to be Sergeant Yingling. I mean, you can't expect to verbally criticize the status quo when you're wearing the uniform and not expect some kind of retribution to come your way. It's frowned upon, to put it mildly. Speaking of things frowned upon, the 2008 presidential election may feel a long way off to you but as we saw with that debate last night in South Carolina the candidates are well on their way now, and the primary job, you should pardon the pun, of all of these White House wannabes at this point anyway, is to somehow embed themselves in the minds of the voters, and they do all kinds of things to try to accomplish that.

They give speeches. You got your TV commercials, mailings, posters, mug shots. What about a song? Politico.com recently took a look at how finding the right song can brand a campaign. Remember Bill Clinton's optimistic theme, Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" or Ron Reagan's use of the patriot "God Bless The USA."

They also highlighted though the risk of picking the wrong song, like Ross Perot's choice of "Crazy" by Patsy Cline, although in Perot's case the title was perfect or when Bob Dole had to stop using "Dole man" because of copyright issues with the song's original version, which of course was "Soul Man."

Feeling creative? Here's the question this Friday night. What campaign song would you recommend for any of the presidential candidates? E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You know some of our viewers are going to think of "Barbara Ann" for John McCain's campaign.

CAFFERTY: That's his wife's name, right?

BLITZER: No, that...

CAFFERTY: Wrong.

BLITZER: Yes. We'll talk about...

CAFFERTY: Why would they think...

BLITZER: Remember he said the other day he was saying bomb Iran, he was singing it to the tune...

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: Oh my...

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: ... Beach Boys tune, yes...

BLITZER: Right, the Beach Boys song.

CAFFERTY: Yes. Were you ever a disc jockey?

BLITZER: I was never a disc jockey. Were you?

CAFFERTY: Yes, oh absolutely. Talked dirty, played the hits.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Jack. Stand by.

Coming up, a major bust against al Qaeda's plans to fly planes into another terror target.

Plus, shaking up the political debate -- unpredictable and speaking his own mind, a former cab driver and a United States senator lets loose, and Hillary Clinton's southern twang. She explains her on again, off again accent.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Suspected al Qaeda terrorists plotting to use airplanes once again in a deadly new attack, just one of the disturbing details coming out of a massive anti-terror sweep in Saudi Arabia.

Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is joining us from the CNN Center. What were the suspects allegedly plotting to do, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they were plotting to attack oil facilities in Saudi Arabia to kill Saudi officials. This operation was nine months in the making. There were many arrests over that period of nine months but it does show one very glaring problem for the Saudis right now, that the war in Iraq is spilling over and affecting them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Wrapped in plastic, buried deep below the Saudi desert, these al Qaeda guns were never meant to be captured. Saudi intelligence officials say al Qaeda plan to use them to bring down the Saudi royal family and kill Americans soldiers in Iraq. In an unprecedented nine-month operation, netting more than 170 al Qaeda suspects and more than $5 million, Saudi intelligence officials say they thwarted plans to fly aircraft into oil facilities, attack security installations, kill senior officials and send money to al Qaeda in Iraq.

GEN. MANSOUR AL-TURKI, SAUDI INTERIOR MINISTRY SPOKESMAN: The activities we are seeing al Qaeda are trying to recruit young Saudis to be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and be terrorist outside the kingdom.

ROBERTSON: But the raids reveal a far more worrying trend for the Saudis. The war in Iraq is spilling over into Saudi Arabia. Saudi al Qaeda fighters train in Iraq and come back to Saudi to fight.

AL-TURKI: They are taking advantage of terrorist actions outside the kingdom in order to recruit, in order to train.

ROBERTSON: In the past, al Qaeda has killed westerners. Early last year they switched tactics targeting oil facilities, trying to kill the Saudi economy. Intelligence gleaned as they switched tactics led to many of the recent arrests, but in their success the Saudis showed just how tough their coming battle is.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: And the indication of that is in the amount of money captured, $5 million. That is 10 times the amount of money that al Qaeda needed -- $500,000 was all they need to execute the 9/11 attacks -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I've been hearing the last couple of days, Nic, about some tensions between the Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his government in Baghdad and the Saudi government. What are you hearing?

ROBERTSON: Wolf, Saudi intelligence sources have told me today that Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, asked the Saudis, asked King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia if he could go and visit the king of Saudi Arabia, turned him down. The Saudis don't think that he's doing, Nuri al-Maliki is doing a good enough job to protect Sunnis in Iraq and indeed this source said that from what the Saudis can see they think Nuri al-Maliki may be on his way out as prime minister -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll watch that closely, Nic. Good reporting. Thank you.

And the full extent of Saudi Arabia's terrorism problem as many of you remember came to light right after the 9/11 attacks when it was revealed that of the 19 hijackers all but four of them came from Saudi Arabia.

Right now on the world stage, two friends are using language normally used by enemies. The United States and Russia are at serious odds over a plan the U.S. says will help defend Europe.

Let's go to our State Department correspondent Zain Verjee. She's standing by. Zain, explain to our viewers what's going on.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a cold blast is blowing between the U.S. and Russia. A new dispute could send the former foes down a dangerous path.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE (voice-over): From the Kremlin to the White House, a new chill, a sharp scolding for Russia from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for opposing a missile defense plan.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: The idea that somehow 10 interceptors and a few radars in Eastern Europe are going to threaten the Soviet's strategic deterrent is purely ludicrous and everybody knows it.

VERJEE: The U.S. says it wants to build it in Poland and the Czech Republic, Russia's back yard. The stated U.S. goal, counter any threats from Iran and North Korea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

VERJEE: Russia is making a stink. President Vladimir Putin warns that missiles next door increase the chances of mutual destruction and is threatening to dump one of the centerpieces of the end of the Cold War, the treaty limiting non-nuclear weapons.

RICE: Of course, these are treaty obligations, and everyone is expected to live up to treaty obligations.

VERJEE: The U.S. points to multiple frustrations with Russia, its business dealings with Iran, Putin's poor record on democracy and his crackdown on press freedom, and all of a sudden Russia is again a campaign topic for Democratic presidential hopefuls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Complete autocracy under Putin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tendency of Putin to move in a totalitarian direction.

VERJEE: Experts say the row is not just over missiles but President Putin's quest for international prestige. He especially wants the U.S. to take Russia seriously. The State Department says it does.

TOM CASEY, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: Russia has a very significant and important role to play in the world today.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE: And at home, President Putin (UNINTELLIGIBLE) mind the appearance of a crisis with the U.S. because, Wolf, it could help him consolidate his own power -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's interesting. She slipped. She called them Soviets instead of Russians, referring to the bad old days of the Cold War. What's the earliest timeline you're hearing, Zain, these missiles could actually be put in place?

VERJEE: Well the U.S. plans to base 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar base in the Czech Republic. The date that they are wanting to get that done by is 2012 and Russia today, Wolf, has been warning that if that happens, they're going to have to develop a new anti-missile technology to counter it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Zain. Thanks very much.

Some fast facts about NATO, by the way. During the Cold War NATO forces were stationed in places like Italy, Turkey, Germany, but at the end of the Cold War in 1991 NATO reached out to communist states, Poland, the Czech Republic, others joining NATO in 1999. In 2002, Russia actually became what's called a limited partner in NATO, and this note, the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, will be among our guests this Sunday on "LATE EDITION". "LATE EDITION" the last word in Sunday talk. It airs for two hours, Sunday morning, 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

Up ahead, a former U.S. senator and wounded war veteran comes out firing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it reminds me of Vietnam quite frankly. The essence of what we're seeing in Iraq is what we saw in Vietnam.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Max Cleland here in THE SITUATION ROOM, find out what he says to those who call opposition to the war un-American.

Plus, a 28-year-old lie exposed at MIT. What was the dean of admissions' resume looking like that led to her resignation?

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring the wires. She's keeping an eye on all the video feeds coming into THE SITUATION ROOM from around the world. She is joining us now with a closer look at some other important stories making news -- hi, Fred.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, again, Wolf.

Police in Austin, Texas, say they have arrested a suspected in connection with a bomb planted earlier this week at a women's clinic where abortions are performed. Twenty-seven-year-old Paul Ross Evans (ph) faces three federal charges, one of them, use of weapons of mass destruction. That carries a penalty of life in prison. The makeshift device was found in a bag in the clinic's parking lot on Wednesday. It was detonated safely by a bomb squad.

The head of the New York State police says they now believe a trooper shot and killed earlier this week was the victim of friendly fire. It was originally thought that trooper David Brinkerhoff was gunned down by an escaped convict. Well officials now say the fatal bullet came from a fellow trooper's weapon during a shootout. The escapee, Travis Trim (ph), died in a house fire.

The bill for New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine's medical care is far from final but Corzine says whatever the tab is he'll pay for it himself. A spokesman confirmed the multi-millionaire's governor's plan to forgo state health insurance today. Corzine was critically hurt when his SUV driven by a state trooper crashed into a guardrail at 91 miles an hour. The governor was not wearing his seat belt. Not wearing your seat belt, Wolf, but certainly still very lucky.

BLITZER: Very lucky. We wish him a speedy recovery. He can certainly afford to buy those bills. He's a former chairman of Goldman Sachs and he...

WHITFIELD: Yes.

BLITZER: ... has a lot of money, but we wish him only, only the best.

WHITFIELD: Just a drop in the bucket.

BLITZER: Thanks, Fred, for that.

WHITFIELD: All right.

BLITZER: Just ahead, who is to blame for the troubled U.S. mission in Iraq?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The truth of the matter is there is no strategy. That the president is telling the generals to do. You see, that's the problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Vietnam War veteran and former Senator Max Cleland says President Bush could wind up with blood on his hands. Max Cleland here in THE SITUATION ROOM -- plus, a Democratic presidential candidate unplugged and stealing some of the spotlight at the first debate.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, the Pentagon announces a major al Qaeda terrorist is in detention at Guantanamo Bay. He's described as once being a top operative involved in the group's training program, directing plots against al Qaeda's opponents and other attacks.

A ban to stop the sale of so-called blood diamonds is lifted. Today the United Nations Security Council lifted the six-year-old ban on Liberian diamond exports. The Council says Liberia has made progress with controls on its diamonds.

And regarding that pet food recall, federal agents searching facilities of a dog and cat food-maker in Kansas and one of its suppliers in Las Vegas, both companies say they are cooperating with the probe.

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

The death toll mounts for U.S. troops in Iraq, and one of Iraq's top generals says his country will never forget the sacrifices of coalition forces and their families, but he is appealing to the United States not to leave yet.

CNN's Hugh Riminton visited an Iraqi army training ground center -- Hugh.

HUGH RIMINTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the question is, are the Iraqi security forces ready to stand up so that coalition forces can stand down? The answer is no, no and no. No from the Iraqi government, no from the top reaches of the Iraqi army and no from the U.S. general who most closely watches the training of Iraqi troops.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RIMINTON (voice-over): While America debates troop withdrawal the men with the most intimate knowledge of Iraq's ability to secure itself are on this helicopter. The commander of the coalition's Iraq assistance group, Brigadier General Dana Pittard, has joined the head of Iraqi ground forces, General Arlie Gadan-Majee (ph), to visit a dusty base north of Baghdad. They have come to see this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You always want to have your entire...

RIMINTON: Under the eye of Americans, these men are learning how to survive and prevail in a dirty war. By the end of this week, these men and 1,500 others will be deployed in Baghdad.

(on camera): What is the standard of these guys by the time they leave here for the job ahead?

CAPT. MARK TOMOLA, U.S. ARMY: The standard -- the standard is, obviously, we don't hold them to quite the same standard I would hold an American unit to.

RIMINTON (voice-over): The training attempts to give the Iraqi soldiers real answers in fighting an insidious enemy.

(on camera): They train on this range for the sorts of conditions that Iraqi army soldiers will meet every day. There is a highway just over here and that is for convoy training. As they pass a village, a typical rural setting in Iraq, suddenly, there are the men with the guns. There are the men with the rocket-propelled grenades.

(voice-over): General Ali says Iraq still needs help but he acknowledges the price. "The sacrifice of U.S. soldiers and the families of soldiers, it's incredible," he says. "In Iraq, we will never forget them."

General Pittard says progress is being made. There were just two Iraqi divisions two years ago. Now, he says, there are 10.

BRIG. GEN. DANA PITTARD, COMMANDER, IRAQ ASSISTANCE GROUPS: We cannot leave Iraq in disarray. I mean we -- we came here in 2003. We cannot leave here -- leave this nation as a failed state in disarray.

RIMINTON: A direct appeal to the politicians thousands of miles away.

Hugh Riminton, CNN, Besmia (ph), Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And all of this comes as the battle over Iraq continues here in Washington. Funding for the war and a time line for withdrawal raging here in Washington, that debate with Congress and the White House at an impasse.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Joining us now, the Vietnam war veteran, the former Democratic senator, Max Cleland.

Senator, thanks very much for joining us. Let me get your quick reaction to that piece we just heard. It has been, what, four years. The U.S. has been training thousands of Iraqi troops, but they're still not ready. How frustrated are you that it's taking so long to get these Iraqi troops ready to defend their own country?

MAX CLELAND (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Well, it reminds me of Vietnam, quite frankly. The essence of what we're seeing in Iraq is what we saw in Vietnam, that unless you have the political support of the people there, they're not going to support really fighting for their own country.

It's not until we get out will they really take it upon themselves to defend themselves, particularly against al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is just now using them and coming in and attacking Americans, as they did when they killed those nine soldiers from the 82nd Airborne.

So, we are part of the problem, not part of the solution. That's why, after five years of war, it's painfully obvious that there is no strategy to win. There is no strategy to end this war. And so the war is essentially unwinnable and untenable militarily. And that's why we have to get out.

But the Iraqis must ultimately take care of their own country. And that's what we need to leave them to do.

BLITZER: Here's what the president said today about the Democrats' desires to include a timeline for withdrawal in the war funding bill.

Listen to the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If the Congress wants to test my will as to whether or not I'll accept a timetable for withdrawal, I won't accept one. I just don't think it's in the interest of our troops. I really think it's a mistake for Congress to try to tell generals, our military experts, how to conduct a war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. What do you say to the president?

CLELAND: Well, this is not a test of the president's will, you know? And Congress is not trying to tell the generals what to do. The truth of the matter is, there is no strategy, that the president is telling the generals to do. You see, that's the problem.

I mean, more and more, generals are coming out of the military, particularly the Army, and saying the war is unwinnable militarily. It is essentially a political war that we're going into. And we're on the wrong side of it. We're trying to occupy a nation that doesn't want us there.

Secondly, we're going after the wrong enemy here. Al Qaeda is morphing around the world. They morphed most recently into North Africa. And George Tenet's book, just coming out in the next few days, says his concern is still about al Qaeda in the United States.

So, we need to withdraw from Iraq, withdraw our ground forces from there, because we are not part of the problem -- I mean, solution. We're part of the problem there.

BLITZER: But you're...

CLELAND: And this is not a test of the president's -- this is not a test of the president's will. He may have his -- he may have his day on this, but when he signs that veto early next week, he will sign it in blood, because he's just guaranteeing the death of more Americans in Iraq.

BLITZER: Saxby Chambliss, the man who beat you in your run for re-election the last time around in Georgia, he says, and I'm quoting now: "It's almost un-American, un-American to come out and tell the enemy that they've won and lost."

Listen to this little clip of what he said on the Senate floor yesterday. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: Men and women of the 3rd ID simply don't agree with the Democrats who want to tuck tail and run. Georgians don't want to do that, the military does not want to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. He says Democrats are almost un-American for what they are trying to do. What do you say to Senator Chambliss?

CLELAND: Well, first of all, I've been called un-American and unpatriotic by the senator before. It wasn't true then, it's not true now.

And secondly, I don't take my advice on war from somebody, Mr. Chambliss, who tucked his tail and ran from the war of his generation. He got out of going to Vietnam with a trick knee. So I'm not going to follow anybody's advice on that, and I'm certainly not going to back off my view that it's time to protect Americans, it's time to bring our young Americans home, and it is time to set a timetable. That's what the Congress is voting on, and has voted successfully on. It is now time to change strategy, change policy. If the president won't change, ultimately we will see more Americans die, and ultimately we will get out of Iraq, but after he's gone.

BLITZER: You fought in Vietnam at a time of serious debate here in the United States over what U.S. troops were doing there in Vietnam. You know the impact on morale to fighting men and women. What about the impact on the battlefield right now in Iraq, as a result of this very serious debate under way here in the United States?

CLELAND: Well, you feel like -- a young French lieutenant in the French Indochina War in Vietnam said he felt like he was shot in the stomach and kicked in the rear end. And I'm sure that members of the armed forces in Iraq feel that way.

I know that's the way I felt in Vietnam when the massive unrest in the United States breaking out in '67 and '68. But the worst morale problem is to commit young Americans to a cause that is not winnable and is ultimately untenable and unsupported by the United States people, people in America.

So, the best thing we can do is make sure we have as good an exit as possible. And the president, if he vetoes this bill, will give up the last opportunity he has to make a bipartisan exit from Iraq. Ultimately, it's going to be ultimately on his head and shoulders, and he'll be signing that veto pen in blood because more young Americans are going to die when he vetoes this bill.

BLITZER: Senator Cleland, the current U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, has been in Washington all week. He's appealing to everyone for patience, to give him some time, to see if this new strategy can work, at least through September or so. He says at that point, he and the U.S. ambassador, Ryan Crocker, would have a better sense of whether or not it's working. He promises that if it's not working, he will tell the American people the truth.

Why not give the general some more time to see if he can make it better?

CLELAND: Time? This is the fifth year of this war. As a matter of fact, next Tuesday is the anniversary of President Bush standing up on an aircraft carrier, playing dress-up with his flight suit, which he never wore in combat, trying to be the war hero he never was, and saying major combat over, "mission accomplished." And later on he said, "bring 'em on." Well, they came on, surprise, surprise. Have killed over 3,300 young Americans and wounded over 30,000, and over half a million Iraqis have died.

I don't want that kind of patience. It's five years into this thing now. It's time to end it, and it's time to move on and worry about al Qaeda. That's the real threat to this country.

BLITZER: We're going to leave it there. Senator Cleland, as usual, thanks for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. CLELAND: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And President Bush once again today vowed to veto the war spending bill heading to his desk next week because it includes an Iraq pullout timetable. But he's also complaining that the bill is laden with items not related to the war.

Listen to this clip from today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: So I've made it clear, I would veto -- and by the way, they are adding spending that shouldn't belong in the bill in the first place. Maybe they are important issues but they ought to be -- the spending bills ought to be -- or spending issues ought to be debated in the normal course of business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We did a quick check of past war supplemental funding bills that were approved by the Republican-led Congress, signed into law by the president, and we found they did include non-war spending as well. For example, the 2006 bill included $2.3 billion for bird flu preparations, $1.9 billion for U.S. border security and nearly $20 billion for rebuilding the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

Still ahead tonight, do you know this man? If you didn't before last night's Democratic debate, you might know him now or maybe soon.

And later, a startling revelation by the dean of admissions at MIT. It has cost her credibility and her job. Stick around, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Now to the first Democratic presidential debate. You may not necessarily have heard Mike Gravel's name before last night, but people definitely are talking him right now, including our own Tom Foreman.

Tom, who is Mike Gravel?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know what, for many people, he's a big mystery. If you've seen his name in print, you thought it was "GRA-vel," but it's not. It is "gra-VEL," but he did rock the debate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE GRAVEL (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm the senior statesman on here, and I was beginning to feel like a potted plant standing over here.

FOREMAN (voice-over): He was the life of the party. And that's because when you're low in the polls with not much to lose, you can speak your mind.

GRAVEL: And I've got to tell you, after standing up with them, some of these people frighten me. They frighten me.

FOREMAN: But does former Senator Mike Gravel frighten the other Democratic candidates?

KATE MICHELMAN, EDWARDS CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: You never know what to expect from him. And so he gave it a little life, you know, a little unpredictable.

(LAUGHTER)

FOREMAN: Maybe that's because he has had quite the life. Gravel served in the Army during the Korean War, moved to Alaska, and became a leading state lawmaker there, before representing Alaska for two terms in the U.S. Senate.

He has also had such diverse jobs as being a New York City cab driver, a brakeman on the Alaska railroad, and a clerk on Wall Street. Gravel isn't the first long shot to add some entertainment to debates.

ADM. JAMES STOCKDALE (RET.), U.S. NAVY, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Who am I? Why am I here?

(LAUGHTER)

FOREMAN: That was Ross Perot's running mate, Admiral James Stockdale, during the 1992 vice presidential debate.

REV. AL SHARPTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Probably the best person I have met to campaign and party with, Mrs. Kerry. I'm sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

FOREMAN: And Democratic presidential hopeful Al Sharpton kept things loose during the last campaign. But do these kinds of candidates belong on the campaign trail?

KAREN TUMULTY, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME: I think that candidates like that do not really help debates. And I think that that becomes a real problem, because they become sort of the entertainment value.

FOREMAN: Maybe, but don't tell Mike Gravel he's a joke.

GRAVEL: Who the hell are we going to nuke?

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC ANCHOR: Senator...

GRAVEL: Tell me, Barack. Barack, who do you want to nuke?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not planning to nuke anybody right now, Mike. I promise you. GRAVEL: Good.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: You know, sometimes it seems very good to have someone around who sticks a big pin into the balloons of those big campaigns. And, Wolf, even though the big campaigns may say, look, Mike Gravel, he is never going to amount to anything in this thing, at one point people said that about Ross Perot, they said that about Ralph Nader, and they stuck around and they did affect the campaigns.

BLITZER: Yes. They certainly did. Tom Foreman, thanks very much. And Tom is going to be anchoring "THIS WEEK AT WAR" this weekend here at CNN, Saturday night, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, Sunday afternoons, 1:00 p.m. Eastern, right after "LATE EDITION."

Senator Hillary Clinton is responding to critics who accuse her of putting on a fake drawl to appeal to southern and African-American voters. The Democratic presidential candidate today offered a light- hearted explanation of her occasional lapse into a southern accent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I lived about a third of my life in Arkansas, and I lived about a third of my life in Illinois, and I've lived about a third of my life on the East Coast, and I think America is ready for a multi-lingual president.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Senator Clinton spoke in South Carolina earlier today.

She has looked at thousands of resumes, applications as dean of admissions at MIT, and she has been a vocal advocate for honesty and transparency, so you can imagine the shock at revelations that the dean herself lied on her resume. CNN's Mary Snow is joining us from New York with more on this story.

How did this come to life, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, MIT says it received a tip about 10 days ago and that raised questions about the dean's background. She had been working since 1979, and until yesterday she held the keys to admission to one of the most prestigious schools in the country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): As MIT's dean of admissions, Marilee Jones was used to giving speeches to parents and kids looking to get into college. She even leant her expertise to CNN for this interview on the pressures facing high school students. MARILEE JONES, MIT DEAN OF ADMISSIONS: It's an epidemic in America. I really do believe that perfectionism is an epidemic now. I see it everywhere.

SNOW: But it's Jones who is under pressure now, stepping down after an anonymous tip exposed a 28-year-old lie. In a statement, Jones said: "I misrepresented my academic degrees when I first applied to MIT 28 years ago and did not have the courage to correct my resume when I applied for my current job or at any time since."

In fact, Jones had three college degrees listed on that resume, but she never even attended Union College or Albany Medical. As for the third school, Jones attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as a non-matriculating student for a year.

MIT's admissions office says it's shaken. Students are mixed.

ERIC SCHMIEDL, MIT SOPHOMORE: Whatever she was thinking 30 years ago, she has proven herself by now.

AUSTIN GLASSMAN, MIT JUNIOR: I really liked her when she was here. But I think it's the right thing that she chooses to resign in the interests of integrity.

SNOW: When it comes to integrity on college campuses, the stakes are high.

JEFFREY SELINGO, CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION: What colleges are selling, what people pay so much for in terms of tuition, is that credential, is that degree.

SNOW: And when it comes to integrity, Marilee Jones advised college applicants in her book: "Holding integrity is sometimes very hard to do because the temptation may be to cheat or cut corners. But just remember that what goes around comes around, meaning that life has a funny way of giving back what you put out."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Many are shocked, many are expressing sadness. One contemporary of Jones said it's especially sad because she was so passionate about her work -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Mary, thank you. Up ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the actor Richard Gere defending the illegal smooch that has him in trouble abroad.

And what campaign song would you recommend for any of the presidential candidates? Jack Cafferty with your e-mail. All of that coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack in New York -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Good way to end the week. We asked, what campaign theme song would you recommend for any of the presidential candidates?

Pat in Nebraska: "The campaign song for Rudy, Tammy Wynette's 'D- I-V-O-R-C-E.'"

D.L. in San Diego: "Team Clinton is still 'Stand by Your Man,'" also by Tammy Wynette. or "I Love You, Bill."

John: "John Edwards, how about the theme from 'Hair.'

Patrick in North Carolina: "For Obama, 'The Great Pretender' by The Platters. Clinton, 'It's too Late Baby' by Carol King. Edwards, 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' by Bob Dylan. Giuliani, 'Ticket to Ride' by the Beatles. And McCain, 'I Can't Explain' by The Who. America's campaign song, 'We Won't Get Fooled Again.'"

Richard in Nashville: "How about 'Onward Christian Soldiers' for the Republicans and 'Brother Can You Spare a Dime' for the Democrats who are going to have to figure out how to pay for the war?"

Mike in Stow, Ohio: "As a lifelong resident of northeast Ohio, his home state, the only appropriate campaign song for Dennis Kucinich has got to be 'They Are Coming to Take Me Away, Ha Ha.'"

Colin (ph) in Cary, North Carolina: "Hillary Clinton's campaign song 'Witchy Woman' by The Eagles."

Roxanne in Maryland: "'Still Crazy After All These Years,' by Paul Simon, John McCain's theme song."

Dave in Shell Beach, California: "I would suggest 'Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald' for the Republicans. And 'Feeling Stronger Every Day' by Chicago for the Democrats."

The father of a soldier in Arkansas: "It's a shame Bush can't run again, 'Leaving on a jet plane' would be a cinch.

David in Massachusetts: "'Liar' by three dog night. Their ain't one of them in either party that can tell the truth."

And Bill in California: "'Send in the Clowns,' appropriate for one and all."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, we put a bunch more of these online. They're at cnn.com/caffertyfile, along with video clips of same -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Have a great weekend, Jack. Good way to end this week, thank you.

Let's check in with Paula to see what's coming up at the top of the hour -- Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, HOST, "PAULA ZAHN NOW": Hi, Wolf. Thanks. We have a special hour coming up. We're going to focus on the mortgage crisis. Millions of Americans who took out subprime mortgages, many of them who should never have qualified for those loans in the first place are tonight in danger of losing their homes because their interest rates have ballooned. How did this crisis happen? Who is to blame for it? And how can you save yourself from going under? We'll have all of the answers for you coming up in our special hour, "Debtor Nation: The Mortgage Mess." I think it is going to help a lot of folks tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll be watching, Paula. Thanks very much.

Still ahead here, the actor Richard Gere defends the kiss. Will it keep him out of an Indian jail. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Richard Gere is apologizing for offending anyone with the kiss heard around the world. Let's go to CNN's Sibila Vargas.

Sibila, what's behind the apology?

SIBILA VARGAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, some say "a kiss is just a kiss," Wolf, but call this the kiss that won't go away. The "Officer and a Gentleman" star is accused of being anything but a gentleman. Last night Richard Gere finally got it address it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD GERE, ACTOR: Kissing the girl on the cheek was nothing.

VARGAS (voice over): Richard Gere on "The Daily Show" to defend a kiss? This smooch the "Pretty Woman" actor planted on Bollywood starlet Shilpa Shetty during an AIDS awareness event has caused quite a stir.

Just last week, moms in several cities took to the streets in outrage, burning Gere in effigy. After a local citizen filed a complaint against Gere and Shetty, an Indian court ordered their arrest, calling the kiss obscene.

Gere could face jail time, but he didn't seem concerned about that on his "Daily Show" appearance.

GERE: You know, I don't know that anyone has actually gone to jail. It has to go through a process.

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": Right.

GERE: I mean, it's like...

STEWART: And it would dissipate, and they'd go, OK, say you're sorry and that's it.

GERE: No, it goes to, you know, a reputable court and they throw it out.

VARGAS: Gere told host Jon Stewart that the arrest warrant was politically motivated.

GERE: But there is a very small right-wing, very conservative political party...

STEWART: We're talking about India?

GERE: In India, yes.

STEWART: Oh, OK. Sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

GERE: And they are the moral police in India. They do this kind of thing quite often.

VARGAS: Indian actress Nandita Das agrees it's much ado about nothing.

NANDITA DAS, ACTRESS: But usually, it's always a handful of people who scream the loudest, and they know they're going to get the attention because it makes good copy because it's sensational.

VARGAS: Public displays of affection are considered mostly taboo in India, and some say Gere put Shetty's image in peril.

LISA TSERING, ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR, INDIA WEST: Richard Gere should have really appreciated how sensitive her public persona is right now.

VARGAS: Shetty is a rising star in India who earned public support after becoming a victim of racially-charged insults while on the U.K. version of "Big Brother." Shetty has defended Gere, saying he has apologized to her. But Lisa Tsering, entertainment editor for India West, says Gere should have known better.

TSERING: He knows Indian culture very well. And he knows that -- he knows how women in India are supposed to be treated.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VARGAS: And Gere released a statement to CNN today saying it was never his intention to offend anyone. He also defended Shetty saying the burden should be his alone.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Sibila, thanks very much.

I'll see you Sunday on "LATE EDITION." Among my guests, the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, "LATE EDITION," two hours starting at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. Until then, thanks for watching. Let's go to Paula in New York -- Paula.

ZAHN: Hi, Wolf. Thanks.

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