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THE SITUATION ROOM
Plan to Cut Gasoline Usage; The Latest in the Battle Over War Funding
Aired May 14, 2007 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, President Bush's new drive help America kick its oil addiction.
Will it help bring down those soaring prices we're all paying at the pump right now?
Also this hour dueling endorsements -- Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama tout new and influential backers.
But do voters really care?
And the first lady puts women's health issues first. Laura Bush talks one on one with our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta about matters very close to the heart, including her own past as a smoker.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
President Bush is putting new urgency today into his goal of cutting gasoline use in this country. The measures he announced today are at least, in part, a response to a recent United States Supreme Court ruling. But you can bet the White House also is taking into account Americans' anxiety about rising gas prices right now.
Let's go to our White House correspondent Ed Henry.
Why exactly is the president doing today what he did -- Ed?
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you noted, clearly there's a legal reason -- the Supreme Court ruling last month that the federal government has to regulate these greenhouse gases. But clearly, also, a political reason. The White House nervous about the fact that the national average for gasoline has now climbed above $3 per gallon. Also, in some areas, it's climbing up close to $4 a gallon. That's worrisome.
But it sounded like more talk from the president in the Rose Garden. Really no new action. The president signing an executive order that merely directs the relevant cabinet secretaries to take the first steps toward reducing gasoline consumption, but actually not doing anything to reduce that consumption.
The president kept using the word "action" in the Rose Garden, as if that would make it seem like there was some new action.
But his own press secretary, Tony Snow, admitted in the short- term this will do nothing to help consumers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The American people expect common sense. They expect action. The policies I've laid out have got a lot of common sense to them. It makes sense to do what I proposed and we're taking action by taking the first steps toward rules that will make our economy stronger, our environment cleaner and our nation more secure for generations to come.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, it's not going to have an immediate effect. On the other hand, if you look at what the president has been proposing for a long time, this president, who proposed an energy policy upon taking office -- and it took years to get Congress to act on it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now the White House clearly trying to shift the blame a bit to Congress there. But up until January, of course, it was a Republican Congress -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So what's the chance -- what's the likelihood, Ed, that Congress will pass legislation that the president will sign into law that will have a significant impact?
HENRY: Well, very little chance right now. The president today saying that he's directing his cabinet secretaries to use as a starting point his 20 In 10 Plan. That's the plan to cut federal consumption of gasoline by 20 percent in the next 10 years.
But, as you know, he unveiled that in January in the State of the Union. The last four months, there's been very little action.
Something to pay attention to -- the president, in the Rose Garden today, said he wants his cabinet secretaries to deal with this by the end of 2008 in terms of the legal maneuvering here and whatnot.
What's significant about that?
By 2008, the end there, we'll have a new president elect. So it really looks like he's kicking this to another -- to the next administration -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Henry at the White House for us.
And if the White House needed more evidence that the American public is deeply concerned about rising gas prices, take a look at this.
In our latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, 43 percent of Americans said gas prices would be extremely important in casting their vote for president. That's tied with health care for fourth place after the war in Iraq, terrorism and education.
Meanwhile, an e-mail is circulating urging people to protest high prices at the pump by not buying gas tomorrow. But no environmental or consumer group is known to be backing this boycott and many experts say it will have absolutely no impact on oil companies. They point out that simply filling up your tank on a different day does not reduce overall gas consumption.
Let's go to Capitol Hill right now, where the Senate is taking up an issue that has left lawmakers tied up in knots more than once. That would be funding for the war in Iraq.
The majority leader, Harry Reid, threw something new into the mix just moments ago.
Let's go to our Congressional correspondent Dana Bash -- tell us about Reid's latest proposals to try to get this ball moving again.
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, even as we're all sitting here watching and waiting for these behind the scenes negotiations to tell us a little bit about where this war funding bill is going to go, Wolf, you're right, Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, threw a bit of a curveball at us.
He went to the Senate floor and said there are going to be two votes on Democratic Iraq measures this week. One would cut most off funding for the war and the other would begin to bring troops home by this time next year.
Now, there is a twist to it. He is going to offer these as part of a water bill that is currently on the Senate floor.
It certainly sounds like process, but it is a telling sign of the politics at play here -- and that is that the Senate majority leader has conflicting goals.
On the one hand, he has an urgent deadline. He's got to pass a war funding bill the president will sign in the next two weeks, by Memorial Day. And in order to do that, he needs Republican votes. But, on the other hand, he has to keep satisfying rank and file Democrats who don't want to give up on their goal to tie funding for the war to troops coming home.
So he's going to have these two votes before they get down to the nitty-gritty on negotiations -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And the first one would be on just stop the funding, which Russ Feingold and Harry Reid themselves support. That's likely to fail.
The other one is basically what they proposed the last time, that was passed by the Senate, vetoed by the president. That would, in effect, call for those timelines for withdrawal.
But it gives the president an out. He can simply waive them if he so decides to certify. Is that right?
BASH: That's exactly right. Those are exactly what the two votes will be.
Now, it's unclear if either will pass. As I said, they're on a water bill, and there might be a 60 vote threshold for those to pass if that is the case. And they -- then they almost definitely will fail.
Democrats say it's a couple of things. One is, again, as I said, to give the rank and file a chance to vote once again on what they say is their policy of focus here -- to change policy in Iraq. But it's, also, Democrats say, to try to have another test, if you will, of where the Senate is when it comes to the big picture issues of troop withdrawal and money for the war before they get down to the actual negotiations here in the Senate; and, also, ultimately the big picture negotiations with the House, so that they can get this war funding bill to the president by Memorial Day.
BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks very much.
Dana Bash and Ed Henry are both part of the best political team on television.
And remember, for the latest political news at anytime check out our political ticker at cnn.com/ticker.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty for The Cafferty File -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Wolf.
Not an easy time these days for relations between the U.S. and Russia. But it's also not time for people to talk about a new cold war.
So says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is on her way to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Rice told reporters: "I don't throw around terms like 'new cold war.' It's a big, complicated relationship, but it's not one that is anything like the implacable hostility between the U.S. and the old Soviet Union."
She also highlighted some areas of cooperation between the two powers, like dealing with Iran and North Korea's nuclear programs.
But there is no denying things have been, how should we say, tense lately. Russia strongly opposed U.S. plans to put in a defense shield in Eastern Europe. They are suspicious of U.S. activity in their 'hood.
Just last week, Putin denounced "disrespect for human life, claims to global exclusiveness and dictate, just as it was in the time of the Third Reich." The Kremlin insists Putin didn't mean to compare the Bush administration's policies with that of Nazi Germany, but he wasn't exactly tossing around bouquets of flowers, either.
There is also growing U.S. concern about how Russia is treating his former Soviet state neighbors. Some see Putin's consolidation of power in the Kremlin as backsliding when it comes to Russia's newfound democracy.
So here's the question -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she sees no new cold war with Russia?
Is she right?
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Go to cnn.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A lot of us of a certain age, Jack, remember the cold war. And let's hope there is no backsliding to the '50s, '60s, '70s.
You remember those days, don't you, Jack?
CAFFERTY: It was terrible.
Remember when Khrushchev was pounding his shoe on the desk at the U.N.?
BLITZER: Yes, we were practicing ducking underneath our little desks.
You don't remember that, though, do you?
CAFFERTY: Yes, I do, too.
BLITZER: You do, Jack?
CAFFERTY: I'm older than you are, Mr. Blitzer.
BLITZER: All right, Jack.
We'll talk in a few minutes.
Coming up, Bill Clinton goes to new lengths to promote his wife's presidential campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM CAMPAIGN COMMERCIAL, FROM HILLARYCLINTON.COM)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know that she'll deliver because she spent a lifetime caring working and delivering.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is this the act of a supportive husband or a sign the Clinton campaign is feeling desperate?
James Carville and J.C. Watts -- they're are standing by for our Strategy Session this hour.
Plus, the Republican presidential contenders getting ready for debate number two.
When they stand at their podiums this time, will they lean further to the right?
And for New Yorkers, it might be the political equivalent of who would win -- would it be Batman or Superman?
A surprising clash of the Gotham titans.
All that coming up.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Right now, the Republican presidential candidates are prepping for their second debate. They square off tomorrow night in the early primary season battleground of South Carolina.
And joining us now from Columbia, South Carolina, our chief national correspondent, John King -- John, based on what you're hearing from Republicans down there in South Carolina, are they happy with the field, the Republican candidates who are going to show up at this debate?
JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A field of 10, Wolf. You might call it a forum more than a debate, because there won't be much interaction. But it depends who you ask.
Some Republicans are already supporting, some might say they're fiercely behind their candidate and they hope to propel them to victory here in South Carolina.
But others do say there's some dissatisfaction with the field, or at least an openness to new candidates.
It's interesting -- I dropped by to see the governor here today, Republican Mark Sanford, and he noted, when he was back in Washington a few weeks ago for a big dinner, former Senator Fred Thompson, who we all know is considering jumping into the Republican field, pulled him aside and said, Governor, I hear you're keeping your powder dry."
And the governor said, "Yes, I'm neutral."
And he said Senator Thompson told him, "Stay that way. I might be coming to see you soon."
So there's an openness among some Republicans and some of the activists, especially Christian conservatives, to some new candidates in this field and there's indications we may soon get at least one -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Is Iraq emerging for the Republicans in South Carolina as the dominant issue or are they more looking towards some of the social issues out there?
KING: It's interesting. Iraq, of course, is a huge issue everywhere -- more in the Democratic primary than in the Republican primary, but certainly in the Republican primary, as well. Add taxes and spending -- the size of government to the list. It is a big debate here at the state level in South Carolina. Fiscal conservatives are a very important constituency here. So that is a key issue in the Republican primary.
But remember, this is also a state that put the Christian Coalition and the whole Christian conservative movement on the map back in the late '80s and the early '90s -- Pat Robertson's campaign for president in '88, the strength of the Christian Coalition in this state was very strong in the '90s.
So one of the defining questions in this campaign season is do those groups still have the power they once had in the Republican primaries?
And, of course, the test of that -- can they stop Rudy Giuliani, a candidate who supports abortion rights, who they consider to be too liberal on gay rights?
So a number of issues -- add immigration, taxes and spending. But certainly the social issues will get a great deal of attention because of the historical strength of the Christian conservative movement here.
BLITZER: And remind our viewers, John, why, for Republicans, South Carolina is so important.
KING: Two President Bushes are a good reasons the Republican primary here in South Carolina is so important.
Go back to 1988. Bob Dole won in New Hampshire.
George H.W. Bush, then the former vice president won in New Hampshire. He used South Carolina as a firewall to win two in a row, get momentum and move on.
It was a different dynamic here back in 2000, when John McCain stunned George W. Bush, then the Texas governor in New Hampshire. Governor Bush came here, won the South Carolina primary by just 67,000 votes, Wolf. It was not a huge margin. More than a half million votes cast.
But George W. Bush wins by 67,000 votes. That was the beginning of the end of the McCain candidacy.
Many say this time maybe it won't be as powerful because you have so many other states moving up so quickly on the calendar -- Florida, New York, California, Illinois, other big states. But by the time you get to South Carolina, there will probably only be two or three candidates left in the race. And, certainly, most of the candidates -- if not all of the candidates -- will be running short on money. That is the traditional role of South Carolina -- winnow out the field. Usually, the winner of South Carolina, in Republican politics, goes on to win the nomination.
BLITZER: It explains why it's so important, John.
Thanks very much.
John king reporting for us from Columbia, South Carolina.
Senator Hillary Clinton is taking her presidential campaign straight to a cell phone near you. At an event in New York today, Senator Clinton invited people to get out their phones and get ready to text message.
Let's go to our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton.
How does the Senator plan to campaign by texting?
ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Hillary Clinton campaign is going to be sending out messages -- photos, information about nearby events -- to cell phones of people that sign up. And Senator Hillary Clinton talked people through that sign-up process today.
This is the latest of campaigns trying to reach voters by using different technology. They've been reaching out on social networking sites, using online video, using YouTube.
Former Senator John Edwards was the first to invite supporters to text their messages in when announcing his candidacy in December. And John Edwards and, also, Barack Obama, have been using the free site, Twitter, to send out short campaign updates to the cell phones of subscribers that choose to join.
Now Hillary Clinton is trying to get in on tapping these over 200 million cell phone users, though she did acknowledge to the crowd today that maybe not everyone will know how to do it. And she advised people to ask a young person nearby for help if they couldn't figure it out -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Preferably a very young person.
What about the risk of irritating people who get these unsolicited text messages all the time? Isn't that a potential problem for them, Abbi?
TATTON: Well, it's not unsolicited in this case. The Web site talks you through how you actually sign up for this information. So you're not going to be getting these updates if you're not signing up for the particular campaign.
BLITZER: All right.
Well, that -- that's an important point.
Abbi, thank you very much.
Still ahead, Laura Bush dives into the debate over the new cervical cancer vaccine for young girls.
Does she buy into the culture war's controversy?
Plus, thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq are searching for a few of their own despite warnings to stop or else.
Much more of our coverage right after this.
BLITZER: Carol Costello is off today.
Brianna Keilar is monitoring the wires, keeping an eye on all the video feeds coming into THE SITUATION ROOM from around the world.
She's joining us now with a closer look at some other important stories -- hi, Brianna.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf.
An Iraqi insurgent group says U.S. troops must stop looking for three missing American soldiers or they will endanger those soldiers' lives. The three have been missing since their convoy was ambushed Saturday. At least 4,000 U.S. troops are said to be involved in the search.
Meanwhile five U.S. troops were killed and at least 11 were wounded in Iraq today. Another soldier died from what's being called non----combat related causes.
Overall, 3,400 U.S. troops have now died in the Iraq War.
Fresh off a week long tour of the Middle East, Vice President Dick Cheney says he recognizes that advancing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is related to stabilizing Iraq. Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force Two, Cheney said many Arab leaders were receptive to his appeal for help in supporting the fragile Iraqi government. But he also found that some were more eager to discuss the Israeli- Palestinian situation.
The Coast Guard says all 206 passengers on a cruise ship that ran aground off the coast of Alaska early this morning have now been safely evacuated. Right now, the ship is reportedly still taking on water, but officials say it should be able to make it to port on its own power. They say an oil tank was breached, but oil is not leaking into the water.
And it's a sign of the radically shifting nature of the retail business. For the first time last year, online shoppers bought more clothes than computers. And according to a new report on online retailing, total Internet related sales are expected to jump nearly 20 percent this year. The report predicts that more than $174 billion of goods and services will be sold online in 2007 -- Wolf.
BLITZER: That's a lot of business online. Thank you, Brianna, for that. The U.S. military in Iraq started its own YouTube channel several months ago. But now YouTube is among several popular Web sites actually being blocked -- blocked by the Pentagon.
Let's go to our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner.
What other Web sites -- what is the military doing to block these Web sites -- Jacki.
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, Wolf, they're calling them entertainment sites. And they're names you'd recognize. There's 13 of them in particular -- sites like YouTube and MySpace, and even mtv.com.
This affects some five million military computers and computer networks.
Now, we have seen a limited restriction before. The Multinational Force in Iraq says that they have been blocking content on video and audio streaming Web sites. And sites like MySpace are blocked with a signature of "personal."
And what they do is to limit the military bandwidth that's being used in work computers to just that -- work. Now the reason why the DOD says said they are now making these limitations is twofold. One, they don't want to risk any sort of security breach. There's always a risk when you go to a Web site that something unwanted may seep in. The other reason, of course, is that they want to keep military resources, and bandwidth in particular, for military causes.
Now they are issuing this statement and they are saying that people can still access these sites through non---military networks and on non---military computers. And the Pentagon says that there are plenty of networks around Iraq and in other combat zones where they can access these Web sites and send photos and videos and all sorts of information home -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jacki, thanks for that.
Up next, some say Rudy Giuliani is out of step with many Republicans on such issues as abortion and gay rights. But now he says rather than change himself, he's going to try to change the party. We're going to fill you in on his latest comments.
And political endorsements -- candidates put up a lot to try to get those endorsements.
But do they really matter?
That's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, it was the most expensive auto merger in history. Now DaimlerChrysler is making a U-turn. We're going to have a full report on what caused the multibillion dollar deal to fail and what happens next.
Also coming up in our next hour, planning for the worst. Military and disaster response personnel are practicing how they would react to a nuclear strike right here in the nation's heartland. We're going to show you the terrifying simulation of how it all might actually look.
And we'll also tell you about another terrifying simulation. This one was so real that it had a group of grade school students actually diving for cover.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A surprising new presidential poll out today. It asks New Yorkers to make a choice between their ex-mayor, who is running for president, and the current mayor, who isn't -- at least not yet.
Tom Foreman is here in THE SITUATION ROOM -- Rudy Giuliani versus Michael Bloomberg.
What's going on?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know what's going on?
Exactly what always goes on in politics. This is like that game you played when you were a kid in school -- king of the hill.
If you're up top, everybody wants to push you over. And that's Rudy Giuliani right now.
The thing is, he's now getting hit from some very unexpected quarters.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just like the first priority now is to make America safe from terrorism.
FOREMAN (voice-over): He's the former New York city mayor and current frontrunner in the Republican race for the White House.
He's the current mayor, who's toyed with running for president as an Independent, but as of now says he's not jumping in.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), NEW YORK: Let me make it clear, I am not a candidate for president of the United States.
FOREMAN: Rudy Giuliani's running on his record as mayor of the nation's largest city.
GIULIANI: My city was going in the wrong direction. I had to change it. And the first priority was making it safe. FOREMAN: But a new poll from the "New York Daily News" finds New Yorkers overwhelmingly think his successor, Michael Bloomberg, is the better mayor.
Out on the street today, New Yorkers told CNN...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like Bloomberg because he doesn't -- he doesn't seem like a publicity hound.
FOREMAN: In that same "Daily News" poll, New Yorkers also side with Bloomberg when asked who would make the better president?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But right now, I'd actually vote for Mayor Bloomberg before I'd vote for Mayor Giuliani.
FOREMAN: So, what gives?
Giuliani left office on a high, with a strong approval rating, much of it thanks to his response in the hours, days and weeks after 9/11. But, after a shaky start, Bloomberg's become extremely popular in New York, with sky-high approval numbers.
So, what if he does run as an independent? He's a billionaire, so money is not an issue. And there's a new twist. Bloomberg had dinner recently with Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, who has also had presidential ambitions. Could the two team up?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FACE THE NATION")
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: It's a great country to think about a New York boy and Nebraska boy to be teamed up leading this nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: So, we still don't know if either one or both of those gentlemen are going to get into the race, and what that would mean to Rudy Giuliani.
And, in fact, Wolf, even with a billionaire at dinner, among the two of them, we don't know who picked up the tab.
BLITZER: They can both afford it.
FOREMAN: They can both afford it.
BLITZER: They can both afford it.
FOREMAN: And, if they get into the race, it is going to turn the world a little bit upside down, not just for Republicans, but for Democrats, especially if they go independent.
BLITZER: If they go third party, we all remember the Ross Perot phenomenon... FOREMAN: Sure.
BLITZER: ... from '92. And this could make that look like child's play, if you will.
FOREMAN: A tea party compared to this one, yes.
All right, guys -- thanks very much, Tom, for that.
Let's get to the Democratic presidential race and the battle for endorsements. Today, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama added new names to their list of key supporters in the Northeast.
Mary Snow is in the Northeast. She's watching all of this.
Mary, there's a big scramble to try to pick up these endorsements. But, in the end, do they really matter?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, strategists say, when you think about it, in a general election, it's doubtful that you remember endorsements. However, in the primaries, they say, they can prove useful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next president of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton!
SNOW (voice-over): In her home state of New York, Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Clinton received public support from state Democratic leaders and the governor.
Right next door, in New Jersey...
CORY BOOKER (D), MAYOR OF NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: It is my privilege and my honor to endorse Barack Obama.
SNOW: ... rival Senator Barack Obama received a seal approval from two mayors, including one viewed as a rising political star.
There's fierce competition for the endorsements, but do they really matter? Some strategists say, they can show strength.
HANK SHEINKOPF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Hillary Clinton has to protect her base, New York, and people she's worked with. Barack Obama has got to expand his base, coming out of Illinois.
SNOW: Endorsements can also open doors to supporters.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can't do this without your help. And I am asking you to join my campaign, to be part of it.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To me, the endorsements help provide a leadership infrastructure in the state that allow you to get that message out. But the campaign will be won or lost on my message.
SNOW: One example, Howard Dean. Back in 2004, Al Gore backed him, but that endorsement didn't get him very far.
LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: When Gore endorsed Howard Dean, it really did give the impression that things were coming together for Dean, that he might well be the nominee. But, after a few days, Dean had to stand on his own.
SNOW: Beyond headlines, winning endorsements from local politicians can bring access to political organizations and the ever important factor money.
SHEINKOPF: When you show up, and they get an endorsement from those people, the fund-raisers also say it's OK now to raise money for the candidates they endorse.
SNOW: And, while endorsements can open those key financial doors, observers say they are not as effective in bringing out big votes -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Mary, thank you.
Mary Snow and Tom Foreman, both part of the best political team on television.
And, remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can always check out our Political Ticker at CNN.com/ticker.
Coming up: the first lady of the United States, Laura Bush, urging women to be heart smart. She tells our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta about her fight to kick the habit and stay healthy. This is an interview. You are going to want to see it.
Also: How are U.S. troops trained for a worst-case scenario? That would be captured by the enemy, a brutal enemy.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The first lady, Laura Bush, is trying to today to get the message out that heart disease is the number-one killer of women in the United States. She took her campaign to George Washington University Hospital.
And CNN's top doctor went along with her.
And joining us now, our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
You were over at the White House today, Sanjay, speaking with the first lady. Women and heart disease, this is a huge, huge issue. And smoking is clearly a cause of a lot of these problems, heart disease, smoking. You spoke to her about that. What did she say?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I wanted to get right to it, because there's been a lot of rumors about whether she was a smoker and whether she still is a smoker. I decided to just ask her. This is what she said.
GUPTA: Were you a smoker at one time?
LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: That's right. I used to smoke. Uh-huh. Uh-huh.
GUPTA: Do you smoke anymore?
L. BUSH: No, I don't smoke anymore.
GUPTA: How did you quit?
L. BUSH: Well, it was very hard to quit. And smoking is very difficult to quit.
And I want to encourage people to not pick it up. It's very difficult to quit. And one of the good ways, I think, one of the easier ways to quit is the way the president did, when he smoked, which is when he was back in graduate school. And that was, he took up running. And I think, once you get up and exercise, smoking becomes counterproductive...
L. BUSH: ... and that it's easier to quit.
GUPTA: So,. she says she's no longer a smoker, period, paragraph. There was a lot of rumors about whether she might still be. But she doesn't.
And she said the president, by running, actually, because, I guess, he just had shortness of breath, stopped smoking as well.
BLITZER: But, in all the research, the connection between smoking and heart disease, especially for women, talk a little bit about that.
GUPTA: It's very strong, certainly, with smoking.
What's difficult here, and what's interesting as well, is that women and heart disease often aren't two things that go together. There's been this campaign, a big red dress campaign, they call it, for some time. They are trying to send out the message that women are actually more likely to die of heart disease than men.
It's the biggest killer of women in this country. People think it's breast cancer. It's not. In fact, the red dress campaign has had some success. In 2000, about 34 percent of women actually knew that it was the biggest killer. In 2003, the numbers went up, in 2006 now, 57 percent. So, more than half of people now actually realize that it is the biggest killer. But they have still got a long way to go.
BLITZER: Was that her basic message to you and our viewers today, heart disease and women? What was the theme that she wanted to present?
GUPTA: That is far and away the biggest message today. And I think, in many ways, it's been one of the biggest messages for her over the last couple of years.
She's really thrown herself into this. This is Women's Health Week. She's going around the country, talking to people about this. And she really wants to get this message out. She says she was surprised a few years ago when someone said to her, Mrs. Bush, breast cancer isn't the biggest killer.
Her mom and her grandmother had breast cancer. But, in fact, heart disease is. So, she really wants to go out there and talk to people. We were in a hospital today, talking to patients, talking to doctors. This is what she's doing.
BLITZER: You had a chance, also, to speak with her about the HPV vaccine, which is designed to prevent cervical cancer. It's been controversial. First of all, give our viewers the background and tell us what she said.
GUPTA: This is a vaccine that can actually prevent cervical cancer, which is striking in and of itself.
Most times, we don't know what causes cancer. So, with cervical cancer, they figured out what causes it, which is this virus, and they figured out how to prevent it, with this vaccine. So, those are two startling things in and of themselves.
It's been very controversial. In Texas, they tried to mandate it, got thrown back. There are 20 states right now thinking about mandating it again. And it's all sort of in flux right now.
I asked her specifically, does she think this should be a mandatory thing?
L. BUSH: So, there's nothing new about requiring a vaccine that will protect the health of people in our country.
And I think it's important for young women to have this -- or girls, actually -- to go ahead and have this vaccine. It will protect them from cervical cancer later in their lives. And it's just like getting a flu shot. You get those vaccines, so you won't have a problem later in your life with disease. And, in this case, it's cervical cancer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: Now, to be fair, Wolf, when they mandated vaccines, it was often for contagious diseases. If I didn't get the vaccine, I was putting you at risk.
And that's why it made it easier to make some of those vaccines mandatory for school-age children. With this HPV vaccine, it's a sexually transmitted disease, which makes it much harder to mandate and I think why there is so much controversy.
Reading between the lines with what she is saying, she thinks probably everyone should get it.
BLITZER: And the uproar that this, by having the vaccine, it could promote teenage sex, promiscuity, if you will, that's been the other side, where they are saying it shouldn't be forced on these teenage girls.
GUPTA: Yes. I think that that's certainly part of it. You have -- you may have to have a discussion with your teenager, and maybe even 9-year-old, which is as young as they get this vaccine, about sex.
And a lot of people don't want to have those conversations. Other people say, you don't have to have that conversation. Just give them the vaccine. You could prevent cervical cancer later on.
There's also a question. It's only been around for -- tested for about four-and-a-half years. So, there's always questions. Well, what are going to be the longer-term side effects? Do we know all that yet? So, there's some concern.
BLITZER: Sanjay, thanks for coming in.
GUPTA: Thanks, Wolf. Good to see you.
BLITZER: Good to have you here in Washington.
GUPTA: Thank you.
BLITZER: And you can see much more of Sanjay's interview with the first lady later tonight on "ANDERSON COOPER 360." That airs 10:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.
Up next: In a new campaign video, Bill Clinton is speaking out on the race for the Democratic nomination.
The only reason to really support anybody for president is you believe they will be the best president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, the only reason to really support anybody for president is that you believe they will be the best president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: No surprises when it comes to whom he is supporting, but some say it's a surprise that he's being used this publicly this early.
We will get reaction in our "Strategy Session." James Carville and J.C. Watts, they are standing by live, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Bill Clinton and Rudy Giuliani, two men at the center of our "Strategy Session" today.
Joining us to discuss both of them and a lot more, Democratic consultant James Carville, former Republican Congressman J.C. Watts, both CNN political analysts.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
Listen to this little clip...
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: All right.
BLITZER: ... Bill Clinton explaining why he really wants his wife to be the next president of the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
W. CLINTON: You know, the only reason to really support anybody for president is that you believe they will be the best president. I have seen a lot of people come and go over time, and I like most of the people I have met in politics. But I can tell you that what I believed 35 years ago about Hillary, that she has the best combination of mind and heart, of leadership ability and a feel for the human consequences of the decisions that a leader makes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, J.C., let me go to you first, because I know what James is going to say about Bill Clinton.
What do you think? Is it too early for Bill Clinton to be this actively involved in his wife's campaign? Or should he be on the sidelines a little bit more? What do you think, as a strategist?
J.C. WATTS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, as a strategist, I guarantee you that the -- Senator Clinton's people have talked about that, and they have drawn the conclusion that it is good.
You know, if I am a Democrat candidate, I want Bill Clinton engaged as early as possible. Now, I think you have to calculate. And then you obviously, you know, weigh the risks, the pros, the cons.
But, by and large, I think Bill Clinton is going to be very good for any Democrat candidate. And, if his wife can't use him, who can?
BLITZER: What do you think, James?
CARVILLE: Yes. I -- you know, first of all, it's on the Web. And it is a kind of a video. So, it's very, very, very nicely done.
BLITZER: Music in the background.
CARVILLE: Music in the background and every -- you know, it's very nicely done.
I suspect there's a fund-raising pitch tied in somewhere. And, if I just -- if I took a wild guess here, they are going to try to throw up a pretty good second-quarter number in association...
BLITZER: How does this work? The former president, the senator, the Democratic presidential candidate...
BLITZER: ... how do they work out the strategy for him, you know, when they discuss what they should do? Who makes those kind of decisions, do you think?
CARVILLE: Well, I think -- I think pretty clear that Senator Clinton and her campaign is -- they are the people that are making the decisions.
And, any time you use a surrogate -- this happens to be the highest level surrogate that any presidential candidate has ever had. But do -- the schedule and what state you go into, or how are we going to say this, are like any other campaign. It's just -- a surrogate is a surrogate, no matter if you are a former president of the United States, or you're somebody else.
They will have a schedule that will be worked out within the campaign. And, obviously, President Clinton is going to be active in the campaign. They are going to use him wherever they can, I think, early on. They very are wisely using him to fund-raise...
BLITZER: He's not just a surrogate. He's not just a surrogate, J.C. He's the husband, obviously, but he's also a strategist, a political strategist, one of the best in the business, presumably.
WATTS: That's right. And he's a former president.
And I think President Bill Clinton is the type of figure that just, you know -- and I have been in the room with him. I was with him about a month ago in Orlando. And he just sucks up the oxygen from everybody that's in the room.
And I think that's the challenge on how they use him. Do they use him with the senator, or do they send him out and give him a plane and let him do his own thing? He has got quite a following. And I think that's going to be the challenge.
BLITZER: What's the answer to that? What's the best, most effective way to use him?
CARVILLE: Well, first of all, I think Senator Clinton's people are very, very aware of this.
And the point I'm making is, is that's something that they are working out. Obviously, they thought the most effective way to use him now was on this Webcast, a part of her Web site, to give some explanation -- and they knew that people like us would be talking about this -- and to try to use him in fund-raising.
As it gets closer and closer to Election Day, I suspect, depending on the situation, they will use him more and more. But all of that is -- that's an evolving process that I'm sure is under discussion within Senator Clinton's campaign every day.
BLITZER: All right.
WATTS: I would rather need him and have him than have him and not...
BLITZER: In the Democratic Party, he's obviously very, very formidable.
Let's talk about Rudy Giuliani right now. He was on "FOX News Sunday" yesterday.
I want to play this little clip. And then we are going to talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY")
RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My attempt is to try to broaden the base of the Republican Party, to try to bring in people that can agree and that can disagree on that, because I think the issues that we face about terrorism, about our economy, about the growth of our economy, are so important, that we have to have the biggest outreach possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You know, he's obviously defending his stance on abortion rights, gay rights, which may not necessarily be the mainstream of the conservative part of the Republican Party.
WATTS: Well, Wolf, I think it's noble that a presidential candidate would say, we need to broaden the party.
And I don't believe that the unity of our party should require unanimity. However, in broadening the party, you don't do that by running a consultant campaign. Consultants don't do broad. They don't do expansion. They don't do outreach. They do safe.
And I think, in terms of broadening the party, I would be curious, do you have any African-Americans on your strategic team, any Hispanics on your strategic team, you know, any pro-life people on your strategic team?
You know, I doubt very seriously they do. And I find it interesting that the same question that conservatives are asking Rudy Giuliani, who is a moderate, "Can you relate to us?" the African- American community has been asking Republicans that for the last 25 years.
We agree with -- you know, the black community says, we agree with some of the things that you guys stand for, that you fight for, but can you relate to us and where we are?
So, it's going to be a challenge. And I think he's -- he's got a real challenge ahead of him.
BLITZER: What do you think, this strategy that Giuliani has? And it's a delicate tightrope he has to walk.
CARVILLE: You know, in political consulting 101, somebody teaches, if you aren't going to win with the people already in the tent, which he decidedly is not, then you go out and you say, we want to broaden the tent, because if he's -- he's now talking about he's not even going to do the straw poll in Ames, Iowa, which every Republican has always done.
Giuliani and his people have figured out, hey, we can't win this with the deck we have got. So, we're going to try to play with a bigger deck.
My guess is, it's not going to work very well. But who can blame him for trying?
BLITZER: James Carville, J.C. Watts, thanks to both of you for coming in.
BLITZER: And still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM: a massive manhunt under way for three missing U.S. soldiers in Iraq -- and now a militant group claiming to be holding the troops speaking out. We are going to tell you about their grim new message.
And that cruise ship that ran aground off the coast of Alaska still taking on water, but what about the number of people on board, hundreds of them on board? We are going to update you on what's going on right now.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Fred Thompson tops our "Political Radar" today.
Whether the former senator from Tennessee will jump into the race for the White House, one of the biggest questions on the campaign trail right now -- but maybe NBC knows something we don't. The network's president of entertainment said today he doesn't -- doesn't -- expect Thompson back on "Law & Order" the new season. That would be the next season.
Thompson is one of the stars of the long-running crime-and- punishment show, playing the district attorney Arthur Branch.
Hillary Clinton's on top of a new poll among Florida Democrats. In a survey by "The St. Petersburg Times," the senator from New York is 23 points ahead of Senator Barack Obama -- John Edwards in third place.
On the Republican side, by the way, Rudy Giuliani is in the lead. The former New York City mayor is 14 points ahead of John McCain, with Mitt Romney in third place. Florida is in the process of moving up its primary to January 29 to become more of a player in the primary process. If that happens, they will be.
And, remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can always check out our Political Ticker at CNN.com/ticker.
While the Republican -- all the presidential candidates, that is, are busy on the campaign trail, some of their duties on the home front apparently are being ignored. The AP asked White House hopefuls which chores they had left undone.
Here's a sample of the Democrats' responses.
Senator Clinton says she hasn't had time to organize her closets. Check this out. Senator Chris Dodd says he's missing out on tending to his 2-year-old, who wakes him up at 3:00 in the morning. Former Senator John Edwards says she could be clearing paths in the woods near his North Carolina home, but he is not. And the New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson, says he hasn't been taking out the garbage at the governor's mansion.
What chores are the Republican candidates neglecting? Their answers coming up in the next hour.
Jack Cafferty is joining us with "The Cafferty File." He always does all of his chores.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: You believe any of that stuff?
CAFFERTY: Hillary says she's not cleaning her closets? Come on.
The question is: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she sees no new Cold War with Russia. Is she right?
Tony in Florida: "When the Soviet Union wanted to put missiles in Cuba, we were ready to go to war to prevent it. Now President Bush wants to put missiles in Putin's backyard. If this doesn't revive the Cold War, nothing will."
Hugh in Florida writes: "Secretary of State Rice is correct. There's no way that Russia could afford, economically, to abandon its ties to the U.S. and the West. Though President Putin's rhetoric some days sounds like he would like to resurrect the Soviet Union and its former policies, it's not going to happen. Plus, his days in power are numbered."
David in Texas: "Condoleezza Rice is the worst secretary of state this country has ever had. Vladimir Putin is in the process of rebuilding Russia's military power and reasserting Russia's presence on the world stage. Our unilateral foreign policy is a threat to Russia's position. And renewed tensions between Russia and the U.S. are inevitable. Russia and China are not our friends, and we should stop treating them like they are. Our interests and theirs are in direct conflict. And our foreign policy should recognize that."
Alex in California: "Rice's area of expertise is the old Soviet Union. This may be the only area of foreign policy that she's qualified to comment on."
Chris in Connecticut: "If you mean, will the U.S. recycle an old rhetorical device to oversimplify the world and justify questionable foreign policy endeavors, then I would say no. We have what is called the war on terror."
And Eric in Alexandria, Virginia: "'Cold' war implies that a 'hot' war could start at any time. I really don't think that's the present case with Russia. Relations have degraded because we have a couple of tough guys as these countries' president. And Russia is swaggering under a glut of oil and gas money. I think the current situation is more cold shoulder than cold war" -- Wolf.
Jack, thanks very much.
And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now -- quote -- "Your soldiers are in our hands" -- that chilling message from al Qaeda and its allies, even as a desperate, desperate search is under way for those three missing American troops. The ultimate nightmare, a nuclear device blows up in an American city, in this case, Indianapolis. We're with the National Guard, training for the unthinkable.
And some students
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