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Al Qaeda Kidnaps American Soldiers

Aired May 14, 2007 - 19:00   ET


Happening now, a chilling message from al Qaeda and its allies -- your soldiers are in our hands. Even as a desperate search is under way for those three missing American troops, we are watching this story unfold.

It's the ultimate nightmare. A nuclear terror attack on an American city -- what happens afterward? We're with the U.S. National Guard training for the unthinkable.

And putting women's health first -- the first lady Laura Bush has a heart-to-heart chat with CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta. They talk about her own experience, among other things, with smoking.

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

Thousands of U.S. and Iraqi troops backed by aircraft and dog teams are on the hunt for three U.S. soldiers missing since a weekend ambush. But a chilling communique today indicates the trail leads straight to al Qaeda.

CNN's Hugh Riminton is in Baghdad -- Hugh.

HUGH RIMINTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, night has fallen here once again as you can see. That does not mean that this search is not continuing with full intensity for these three soldiers still missing after an ambush at Mahmudiyah to the south of Baghdad. Now they do know who they are up against now. U.S. Major General William Caldwell saying their intelligence has satisfied them that this is al Qaeda or an al Qaeda affiliate.

And an al Qaeda based group the Islamic State of Iraq has released a statement through a Web site in which it taunts the United States saying your search for your soldiers will exhaust you and bring you misery. Your soldiers are in our hands. If you want your soldiers' safety, you must call off this search. This coming from this al Qaeda linked Web site.

The U.S. Army says that they are getting cooperation from the Iraqi public. Tips from the public have led to operations against a number of targets. According to General Caldwell, however, they do know that this is going to be a tough task. The advice coming from experts being that al Qaeda will not negotiate. They cannot be bought off. The only way to get these soldiers back alive will be to locate them and then somehow to recover them -- Wolf. BLITZER: Hugh Riminton in Baghdad for us.

It may be the worst fear for many U.S. troops, winding up in the hands of al Qaeda or its allies. CNN's Brian Todd has been looking into this part of the story. What can they do to prepare for this nightmare, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, experts say the old training line for soldiers, give only name, rank and serial number has not applied for quite a long time. Even more modern techniques of captivity training are constantly being updated because now captured Americans are often not in the hands of a standard army.


TODD (voice-over): Despite a sweeping manhunt, the prospects seem dire for three missing American soldiers, according to former servicemen who have been trained for captivity. In the hands of their likely al Qaeda captors...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They aren't viewing most likely those soldiers as human beings. And, therefore, that's a very dangerous situation.


TODD: Former Army and Special Forces soldiers tell CNN the U.S. military has extensive training for capture situations. It's a course for elite combat units and pilots called SERE, survival, evasion, resistance and escape. Soldiers are dumped in a wilderness. Those who can't evade capture are taken to a mock POW camp, bound, hooded, roughed up, locked in small cages.

COL. PATRICK LANG (RET.), U.S. ARMY: The idea was to toughen people up who are quite possibly you're going to be captured by a hostile group who would not observe the Geneva Conventions.

TODD: All designed to help withstand interrogation, but what if your captors are with al Qaeda who experts say want to use their prisoners to create terror and propaganda and are less interested in gathering intelligence? U.S. officials won't discuss updated training techniques but one outside expert offers a possible way out if a soldier is in the hands of al Qaeda.

MIKE RITZ, TEAM DELTA: Always appear disoriented, tired, sick, unhealthy. Appear in a state less than they truly are in hopes that their captors will underestimate them and perhaps they will leave them alone for a second or they will overlook something or they won't expect the soldier to grab a weapon.


TODD: U.S. special operations command tells us the training techniques for captivity have been updated since 9/11, much of it now focusing on what one official called nongovernmental detention. Outside experts say, of course the bottom line best tactic, don't get captured -- Wolf. BLITZER: Brian Todd with that story. By the way, two American soldiers are listed as missing captured in Iraq. Keith Matt Maupin, a 23-year-old disappeared after a convoy attack back in April of 2004. Al Jazeera showed a video of Maupin being held captive and later said it received another videotape from insurgents who claimed to have killed Maupin but U.S. officials were unable to identify him.

Ahmed Altaie, a 41-year-old Army Reservist was kidnapped last October while serving as a translator in Iraq. The U.S military believes he was abducted during a visit to Iraqi family members. An unknown group later claimed to be holding him.

There are new and significant developments tonight in the controversy over the firing of those eight federal prosecutors. The number two man at the U.S. Justice Department is resigning.

Let's go to our justice correspondent Kelli Arena. She's joining us live. He says he's stepping down for personal reasons, Kelli. What are you hearing behind the scenes?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you're right. McNulty says he's leaving for personal reasons because he has got college age kids and has been working for the government for two decades, so basically he needs to start making some money. But of course his departure is already being tied to that whole U.S. attorney controversy and here's why, Wolf.

McNulty told Congress that the eight prosecutors who were fired were fired for performance reasons. Now he had to go back and correct that testimony after documents came out showing that there was some politics involved. Now a source close to him insists that he wasn't pushed out. Actually, Congress wasn't really gunning for him. But he decided to look for another job without having to sneak around. He decided to make the announcement now at the annual U.S. Attorney Conference so he could tell his colleagues face-to-face, Wolf.

BLITZER: And there's already reaction, though, coming in, a lot of skeptical reaction from Democrats on Capitol Hill.

ARENA: Right. They don't buy the personal reason business. And as you know, the New York senator, Chuck Schumer has really been spearheading this whole investigation on Capitol Hill. He says, you know, that, look, these guys, Schumer and McNulty worked together for a long time on the Hill many years ago. Schumer put out a statement saying he thinks it's really ironic that McNulty tried to level with the committee and he's leaving but the attorney general who he says stonewalled Congress is still in charge. And Schumer, as you know, Wolf, has called for Gonzales to resign, so already politics are flying over there.

BLITZER: A couple of other Justice Department officials already resigned. Now McNulty resigns, the highest ranking official so far. Thank you, Kelli, for that.

It was the most expensive merger in auto history. Now DaimlerChrysler is shifting into reverse, selling its Chrysler unit to a private U.S. firm for a fraction of what it paid.

CNN's Ali Velshi is outside Detroit with the latest -- Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, for more than nine years they tried to make this work. But being owned by the German company, the American carmaker kept losing market share. So now, Chrysler is coming home.


DIETER ZETSCHE, CEO, DAIMLERCHRYSLER: With this transaction, we have created the right conditions for a new start for Daimler and Chrysler.

VELSHI (voice-over): New starts don't come cheap. Bowing to pressure from shareholders, Germany's DaimlerChrysler is selling its American unit back to Americans for $7.4 billion. The buyer is private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow is the chairman. It's a first for a U.S. carmaker to be owned by a company that's not listed on the stock exchange. Firms like Cerberus choose their investors and don't have to answer to shareholders like the ones who strong-armed this sale.

JOHN SNOW, CHAIRMAN, CERBERUS: Sometimes companies can do better outside of the requirements of quarterly analyst reports.

VELSHI: The new U.S. company, Chrysler Holding, will keep its CEO and no layoffs were announced in connection with this sale, although Chrysler did announce plans to cut 13,000 jobs earlier this year. The United Auto Workers Union is behind the move. But to some industry watchers, all this is noise. "Consumer Reports" Michael Quincy says it doesn't matter who owns Chrysler.

MICHAEL QUINCY, CONSUMER REPORTS: It's all about the product. And in the last few years, Chrysler has put out some pretty mediocre product -- kind of lousy interior, cheap, noisy engines. The products have got to get better before the consumer is really going to care who owns who.

VELSHI: Cerberus seems to be piecing together all the parts of a major car company. It already owns a controlling stake in GMAC, General Motors finance arm and it's in talks to invest in Delphi, the world's biggest parts supplier, also once owned by G.M.


VELSHI: Now, Wolf, the last few years haven't been all bad for Chrysler. In fact, take the Grand Caravan for instance, the granddaddy of minivans. Chrysler leads in this category and it does in other categories as well. So all of this back office stuff aside, what remains to be seen is whether under new leadership Chrysler can actually succeed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's see what they can do, Ali. Thank you.

Let's go to New York. Jack Cafferty is standing by with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: An independent presidential ticket would be good for the country. So says Chuck Hagel, the Nebraska senator saying that he's not happy with his own Republican Party and that a credible third party would, quote, "force both parties that have been hijacked by the extremes of their two parties. And I think we would want something like that. The system needs to be shaken up" -- unquote.

So could Hagel be the guy to do some of this shaking? He says he'll decide by late summer if he's going to be a candidate for president. Hagel recently met with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who insists he's not running, but not everybody believes that.

According to Hagel, they didn't make any deals but he thinks Bloomberg is quote, "the kind of individual who should seriously think about this". He added, "It's a great country to think about and a New York boy and a Nebraska boy to be teamed up leading this nation."

And here's something to ponder. A new poll in today's "New York Daily News" shows New Yorkers overwhelmingly think Bloomberg would make a better president than their former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the guy who has already declared. Forty-six percent of those polled backed Bloomberg compared to 29 percent who picked Giuliani.

So here's the question. What success would a third party presidential ticket of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Senator Chuck Hagel possibly have? E-mail your thoughts to or go to I guess the most successful independent run was Ross Perot, wasn't it, Wolf, and he was nuts.

BLITZER: And he did pretty well, though...

CAFFERTY: Twenty percent.

BLITZER: Bloomberg has got a few billion dollars, so financing it probably wouldn't be that difficult.

CAFFERTY: Of course the other school of thought is Ralph Nader ran as an independent and some political scientists suggest he's the reason we got George Bush the first time around.

BLITZER: He got 90,000 votes or so in Florida and Al Gore lost by, what, 500 some?

CAFFERTY: Well, before they quit the recount, yes.

BLITZER: Yes. All right. Thanks very much. We'll get back to Jack shortly.

Coming up, gun battle in the streets -- Palestinians turn their guns on each other. We're watching this story.

Plus, campaigner in chief -- Bill Clinton makes a new video appeal to put his wife back in the White House.

And Laura Bush, ex-smoker -- she speaks with our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta about women's health, heart disease, kicking her own bad habit. You're going to want to see this.

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


BLITZER: Visiting Jordan, the Vice President Dick Cheney got a warning today from King Abdullah who told him that time is running out to use an Arab peace plan to try to resolve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. That plan includes a land for peace formula and calls for a Palestinian state.

But Palestinians have been battling among themselves once again raising the prospect of a potential civil war. CNN's Atika Shubert is in Jerusalem.



ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gaza in turmoil again. Hamas and Fatah militants are back fighting on the streets just months after forming a coalition government intended to end their violent power struggle and just hours after the latest attempt at a cease-fire between the two sides.


SHUBERT: In the last 24 hours of fighting, at least six have been killed, more than a dozen kidnapped and scores more wounded. The latest round of violence was triggered when Palestinian president and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas ordered thousands of police on to the streets of Gaza, despite the objections of Hamas. It didn't take long for the fighting to begin.


SHUBERT: Egyptian mediators in Gaza tried to broker a cease-fire agreement on Sunday evening.


SHUBERT: But by Monday morning, the cease-fire was broken and the dead and wounded filled the local hospital. In February, Hamas and Fatah leaders met in the Muslim holy city of Mecca to hammer out a power sharing agreement and end the violence. The appointment of an interior minister to oversee security was a hotly contested issue.

Hani Qawasmi was appointed for his neutrality and independence from both factions. But his attempts to enforce law and order on the armed wings of both Fatah and Hamas were rejected. Today, after the fighting resumed, Qawasmi resigned in protest.


SHUBERT: I am not going back to the ministry, he said in a press conference. It's over from this moment. Gaza residents are staying inside. Shops are closed. Some fear the Palestinian government is in danger of collapsing, but Hamas and Fatah seem unable to govern without the other. Yet neither seems willing to pull their forces off the street.

Atika Shubert, CNN, Jerusalem.


BLITZER: And this just coming in from Gaza, a Palestinian government spokesman says a cease-fire has been reached between the rival factions with Hamas and Fatah both ordered to pull their forces from the streets, but just one night earlier, a similar truce fell apart within hours. We're watching this story unfold.

Can two other bitter rivals reach an understanding? That would be the United States and Iran. They are engaging in a furious new exchange of rhetoric and threats from the very top. But they are also actually making some plans to talk things over.

Let's go to our State Department correspondent Zain Verjee. Zain, what's going on?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the U.S. and Iran met for just a few minutes on a sideline of a conference in Egypt a couple of weeks ago. There are plans now for a real sit-down in the works in just a few weeks.


VERJEE (voice-over): American diplomats agreed to meet with their Iranian counterparts in Baghdad. At issue, how to stop the bloodshed in Iraq and move the political process forward with Iran's help.

TOM CASEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: They continue to say that they wish to be a positive force.

VERJEE: Even as both sides reach out, their fiery rhetoric continues. Washington accuses Iran of fueling sectarian warfare, supporting militias and supplying insurgents with explosives that kill U.S. troops. But on her way to Moscow, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says it's time to talk.

CASEY: We want to see whether the Iranians are willing to make any kind of change in their behavior.

VERJEE: While in the region, Vice President Dick Cheney lashed out at Iran.

RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll stand with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region. VERJEE: Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, punched back, hosting an anti-American rally in Dubai and saying if the U.S. attacks Iran, there will be severe retaliation and the U.S. would repent. In spite of tensions, it's Iraqi leaders who are pushing both sides to the table hoping it could ease sectarian tensions.

AFSHIN MOLAVI, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: This could potentially be an important channel of dialogue. I don't see it as a channel that leads to a breakthrough that may lead to widespread, you know, wide- ranging Iran/U.S. rapprochement


VERJEE: The last time the U.S. and Iran tried to cooperate was after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. But they really weren't able to break the ice there. Experts say they have low expectations in a similar way of these talks -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Based on everything you are hearing, Zain, are the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and the vice president, Dick Cheney, on the same page?

VERJEE: Secretary Rice has been pushing the diplomacy card. Vice President Cheney has always been a little more weary and suspicious of Iran, not really wanting direct talks. But in this case, yes, it seems as though they are on the same page. Both have agreed that it's necessary to talk but only about Iraq. The U.S. needs help in Iraq and also there is the view too that by engaging in some level of direct talks with Iran it at least looks like the U.S. is serious about stabilizing Iraq by engaging Iran -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Zain. Thanks for watching the story for us.

Still ahead tonight here in THE SITUATION ROOM, hundreds of people evacuated after their cruise ship runs aground in the middle of the night. We've got the latest developments for you on this.

And surviving a nuclear disaster -- the National Guard drilling for the worst case scenario -- find out why the war in Iraq may be leaving some people vulnerable right here at home.

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


BLITZER: Welcome back. A near disaster at sea for more than 200 passengers on a U.S. cruise ship that ran aground off the southeast coast of Alaska -- it happened in the middle of the night forcing frightened passengers to abandon the ship as the vessel started taking on water.

CNN's Dan Simon is in our San Francisco bureau -- Dan.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, all the passengers are now safely back on land, back in the town of Juneau, same goes for the ship as well, as investigators try to figure out what went wrong. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIMON (voice-over): Few vacations offer more breathtaking views than an Alaskan cruise. This one was abruptly cut short after suddenly running aground. One by one, all the passengers, more than 200, were evacuated from this ship, the "Empress of the North" -- the Coast Guard and dozens of volunteers helping with the evacuation.

The ship was on its third day of a week's voyage in Alaska. Authorities say just before 2:00 a.m. local time, it ran aground off the southwestern shore of Juneau in the Icy Strait. The ship took on water and began listing or leaning at a six-degree angle.

ANNE MARIE RICARD, MAJESTIC AMERICA SPOKESWOMAN: It's premature to comment on what happened right now. She's heading back to Juneau and they will be taking a look at her when she's in the marine facility.

SIMON: The seas, however, don't seem to be a factor. They were reportedly calm. The ship has had other problems since its maiden voyage in 2003. In fact, this incident was the fourth time its run aground or hit something, including this mishap last year on the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington State. It's operated by the Majestic America Line.

The "Empress of the North" was specially built for the Alaskan cruise business. The company says its unique design is a throwback to the stately night boats of the 1800s. Its paddle wheel four stories high, the ship has 112 staterooms. Prices for the week range from $2,400 a person to more than 5,000.


SIMON: The ship was able to sail back to Juneau on its own. An NTSB team is on its way there to figure out why the ship ran aground. As for the passengers, the cruise line says it's working hard to accommodate those folks. It says it's going to offer them a complementary cruise they can use sometime in the future -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan Simon reporting -- thank you.

And just to give you some perspective, the vessel itself is 360 feet long, but that's less than half the size of a regular cruise ship and significantly smaller than other ships that cruise the Alaska waters.

Just ahead -- the former president, Bill Clinton, cuts a video to help his wife win the White House. But will it help or hurt her campaign? James Carville and J.C. Watts, they'll weigh in.

Plus -- our own chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta gets exclusive access to the first lady, Laura Bush, as she puts the spotlight on matters of the heart.

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


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

Happening now, the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, saying it's time for intensive U.S. diplomacy with Russia. But she denies that rising tensions and policy differences between the two countries amount to a new Cold War. Rice meets with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in Moscow tomorrow.

A new drive by President Bush to help America kick its addiction to oil -- he's ordering his administration to take the first steps to cut gas consumption by the time he leaves office. That means no short-term relief for gas prices creeping up above $3 a gallon, a new high today.

Also tonight an inferno on the Georgia/Florida state line -- strong winds are complicating firefighters' efforts to contain this gigantic blaze. Officials say more northern Florida residents may need to be evacuated.

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

Tonight, a surprising new presidential poll. For New Yorkers it could be the political equivalent of who would win? Would it be Batman or Superman? In this case Rudy Giuliani versus Michael Bloomberg. CNN's Tom Foreman is here in THE SITUATION ROOM for this clash of the Gotham Titans.

Tell our viewers what's going on.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Batman or Superman? I'm glad you didn't throw Spiderman in, because that Spiderman III thing, I didn't go for that at all.

Here's the thing. Here's some political wisdom for you to take home and keep throughout the campaign season. If you are losing in the polls to someone who is not even in the race, that's a bad sign.


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 front-runner 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bloomberg is a really excellent mayor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think Giuliani, you know, for who he was, was that effective a mayor.

FOREMAN: In that same "Daily News" poll, New Yorkers also side with Bloomberg when asked, who would make the president?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now I'd actually vote for Mayor Bloomberg before I'd vote for Mayor Giuliani.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I had to vote for him, if it was just him and Giuliani, it would be Bloomberg.

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 has 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?

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R) NEBRASKA: It's a great country to think about a New York boy and a Nebraska boy to be teamed up leading this nation.


FOREMAN: A lot of people say you can never trust what a politician says. I always say you just have to listen to them very carefully. Listen to what Bloomberg says. Not I will never be a candidate, I'm not thinking about it. But I'm not a candidate right now. And he could still be in play and if he does it changes the race.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens. It makes our life a lot more exciting if there is a third party run for the White House. Thanks very much, Tom, for that.

In our "Strategy Session" tonight, James Carville and J.C. Watts on Bill and Hillary Clinton. The former president is stepping up his visibility in his wife's campaign. He appears in a brand new web ad touting Senator Clinton's personal and political strengths.


BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, the only reason to really support anybody for president is that you believe they'll be the best president. I've seen a lot of people come and go over time, and I like most of the people I've 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.

BLITZER (on camera): 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, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, Wolf, as a strategist, I guarantee you that Senator Clinton's people have talked about that, and they've 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 you obviously, you know, weigh the risk, the pros, the cons, but by and large, I think Bill Clinton is going to be very good for any Democratic candidate. If his wife can't use him, who can?

BLITZER: What do you think, James?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know -- first of all, it's on the web. It is a kind of videotape. It's very, very nicely done.

BLITZER: Music in the background.

CARVILLE: Music in the background. Very nicely done.

I suspect there's a fundraising pitch tied in somewhere and if I took a wild guess here, they're going to try to throw up a pretty good second quarter number in association with this.

BLITZER: How does this work? The former president, the senator, the Democratic presidential candidate, how do they work out the strategy for him? You know, when they discuss what they should do? Who makes those kind of decisions you think?

CARVILLE: I think it's pretty clear that Senator Clinton and her campaign is -- they are the people that are making the decisions. Anytime you have a surrogate, this just happens to be the highest level surrogate that any presidential campaign has ever had.

But they look at the schedule and what state you go into. Are we going to say this? Like any other campaign, it's just surrogates a surrogate, no matter if you're a former president of the United States, or you're somebody else. You have a schedule that has to be worked out within the campaign. Obviously, President Clinton is going to be active in the campaign. They are going to use him wherever they can, I think, early on.

BLITZER: 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've been in the room with him. I was with him about a month ago in Orlando. 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 most effective way to use him?

CARVILLE: First of all, I think that Senator Clinton's people are very, very aware of this. The point I'm making is that's something they are working out. Obviously, they thought the most effective way to use him now was on this webcast, a part of her website, to give some explanation. And they knew that people like us would be talking about this and to try to use him in fundraising.

As it gets closer and closer to election day, I suspect, depending on the situation, they'll 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: James Carville and J.C. Watts, part of the best political team on television.

Still ahead tonight, here in THE SITUATION ROOM, our chief medical correspondent Doctor Sanjay Gupta, on an exclusive tour with the First Lady Laura Bush. They sit down for a one-on-one interview discussing matters of the heart. Stay with us for that.

Plus, preparing for a nuclear terror attack on U.S. soil. We're going to take you inside a major military exercise. You'll want to see this. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: 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. Mrs. Bush making it clear that smoking is a really, really bad habit.


BLITZER (on camera): Joining us now, our Chief Medical Correspondent Doctor 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 CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, 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 (on camera): Were you a smoker at one time?

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: That's right. I used to smoke.

GUPTA: Do you smoke anymore?

BUSH: No, I don't smoke anymore.

GUPTA: How did you quit?

BUSH: It was very hard to quit and smoking is very difficult to quit. I want to encourage people to not pick it up. It's very difficult to quit.

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. That was, he took up running. And I think once you get up and exercise, smoking becomes counterproductive, and then it's easier to quit.


GUPTA: So she says she's no longer a smoker, period, paragraph. There were a lot of rumors about whether she might still be. But she doesn't. And she said the president, by running, I guess because 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 the people now actually realize that it is the biggest killer, but they still have 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. 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 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 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 of themselves.

It's been very controversial. In Texas they tried to mandate it. It got thrown back. There are 20 states right now thinking about mandating it again. It's all sort of in flux right now. I asked her specifically, does she think this should be a mandatory thing?


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. In this case, it's cervical cancer.


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. 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's so much controversy. Reading between the lines of 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. Or they are saying it shouldn't be forced on these teenage girls.

GUPTA: I think that's the only part of it. You may have to have a discussion with your teenager. May be even be a nine-year-old, which is as young as they get this vaccine, about sex. 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 and you could prevent cervical cancer later on.

There's also a question -- it's only been around -- tested about four and a half years. There are always questions, well, what are going to be the longer term side effects? Do we know all of that yet? There's some concern.

BLITZER: Sanjay, thanks for coming in. Good to have you here in Washington.

GUPTA: Good to see you. Thank you.


BLITZER: You can see more of Sanjay's interview with the first lady later tonight on "Anderson Cooper 360." That airs at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

Up ahead -- a disaster drill with really chilling implications. What if terrorists strike the U.S. with a nuclear device? We're going to show you how the U.S. military is now preparing.

And marking time, CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a most unusual look at the conductor in chief. Stay with us you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Some state governors are now saying they don't have the resources to cope with tornadoes or floods. What about a nuclear strike? National Guard is trying to plan for a worst-case scenario. Let's go to our Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre who is watching this story.

What's going on, Jamie?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, National Guard troops are the first military responders in a domestic crisis. While the Army says it's managing the equipment shortage by sharing from state to state, there is still a lot of concern about what would happen if worse came to worse.


MCINTYRE (voice over): It's the ultimate nightmare depicted in the movie, "The Sum Of All Fears", a terrorist nuclear device detonated in a major American city. In the exercise now under way, that city is Indianapolis. Hypothetically destroyed by a 10 kiloton blast. Miles to the south away from the hot zone of Indiana's capital, National Guard troops and civilian first responders struggle to pull mock survivors from radioactive rubble, and simulate the decontamination process in a portable shower tank.

(on camera): General, can you ever really be prepared for something on the scale of a nuclear bomb going off?

GEN. GENE RENAURT, U.S. NORTHERN COMMANDER: Well, Jamie, it is -- the magnitude of that -- of the aftereffect of it, really, is so significant that I'm not sure that any state, or single agency, can be in a position where they can say we've got it all covered.

MCINTYRE (voice over): In fact, commanders say the point of the exercise is not to show how ready the U.S. is, but to practice coordination and pinpoint deficiencies.

(On camera): One of the things a drill like this shows you is that in a disaster on this scale, one of the prime things you need is earth-moving equipment, things like bulldozers, backhoes, medical supplies, protective gear. All the things that currently are short in the National Guard inventory.

(Voice over): With so much of the Army's equipment chewed up by the war in Iraq, the Pentagon says it will take more than $20 billion and five years just to get the Guard up to 75 percent of its authorized level. It just comes down to money.

(On camera): Can you fix this equipment shortage faster than the current plan?

LT. GEN. STEVEN BLUM, CHIEF, NAT'L. GUARD BUREAU: Equipment is the easiest problem to fix.

MCINTYRE: One big factor in readiness is advance notice. If the states have time to plan for something like a hurricane, they can move equipment in from other states. But if it's a no-notice event like a terrorist attack, it's going to take time. In this business, time equal lives, Wolf.

BLITZER: What's a truly nightmare scenario. Let's hope it never, never materializes. Thanks, Jamie, for that.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: The question this hour: What success would a third party presidential ticket of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel have?

Michael writes from Raleigh, North Carolina: "That depends on whether or not the voting population is willing to look past the party brands and act on what's really happening in Washington. Or for that matter, to notice what's not happening. For all the blood and thunder spent on the hype for "The First 100 Hours, was anything accomplished? The news media seemed to completely forget about the associated promises as the lackluster time frame quietly ran itself out."

It's a very valid observation, Michael.

Bill in Macungie, Pennsylvania, "Jack, third party candidates historically have had no chance. As great as Bloomberg-Hagel might be as a 3rd party, they would not have a chance whatsoever. But they could change the outcome of the election."

Bob in Florida writes: "A viable third political party and probably a fourth and fifth would be a great idea. However, as long as we have the corporate-controlled media running the information show in this country, it ain't going to happen. The corporations, A.K.A. Wall Street, like the status quo. The people of this once great country now have absolutely no say in how things are run anymore. It is a very sad situation indeed."

Bruce in Houston, "Bloomberg, plus Hagel may well redefine the third party ticket. Both men bring unquestioned leadership credibility in business and in their brief tenures in public office. Credential wise, they're smart, they bring the no-nonsense mentality someone in DC needs to have, the courage to demonstrate day in and day out. They have my vote and two bumpers for the campaign stickers.

Bill in Kirby, Texas: "A presidential ticket consisting of Michael Bloomberg and anybody else would go no where. Bloomberg's just another New York gun control advocate and in that category we already have "copy and paste" gun control candidates Giuliani and Romney. New Yorkers aren't known for being in the mainstream with what the rest of the country thinks, so who cares what they think?"

And Linda in Bisbee, Arizona: "I don't know the answer to your question. I'm just writing in to raise you response count. Cheers."

Cheers, Linda. If you didn't see your e-mail here go to file. We post more of them online, along with video clips of "The Cafferty File.

Cheers, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see if Linda writes in tomorrow to do the same thing. We'll be watching, Linda, thank you.

Let's find out what's coming up at the top of the hour on "Paula Zahn Now." Paula is standing by.

Hi, Paula.


Is the U.S. ready for a Mormon president whose great-great grandfather was a polygamist? That is something we will address tonight with our panel.

Also coming up, a couple of shock jocks get fired for making some outrageous racist jokes. But the fact is, many of the worst offenders are still on the air. So when will talk radio finally clean up its act?

And who is letting overseas companies make money off the roads and bridges we drive on? Would you believe our elected officials? We'll explain. All that and more coming up just about five minutes from now, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll be there. Thanks, Paula.

Up ahead, he may be the decider. But this time he's also the conductor. President Bush wields the baton. Jeanne Moos takes a most unusual look. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: He's called himself the decider, but now President Bush is the conductor in chief. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a most unusual look.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Maybe it was that catchy beat. You could almost see the moment when the thought entered President Bush's head to sneak up on the conductor.

JOANN FALLETTA, MUSIC DIR., VIRGINIA SYMPHONY: It was kind of a little devilish grin that he has.

MOOS (on camera): So, when he came in borrowed your baton, there was not a word exchanged?

FALLETTA: Not a word. He just made a gesture with his hand, it was very clear what he wanted to do. You would never say no to the president of the United States.

MOOS: Tell that to the Congress. Joanne Falletta was conducting the Virginia symphony along with about 350 young musicians from all over the country. Turns out this wasn't the first time President Bush ran into a band he couldn't resist. Look what happened on a trip to Germany last year.

The president should have used the baton on this guy's head.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me, Sir, Sir!

MOOS: And the president teased a flute player the same way he teased the Virginia Symphony conductor. President Bush has played a drum. He's played a xylophone-type instrument. But this was one of his better performances.

FALLETTA: He was able to cue the brass when they were coming in. He cued the percussion. He kept the tempo going.

MOOS: Now, wait a minute. Did he really cue them or do they know this so well they could do it in their sleep?

FALLETTA: He did give them a cue and at the right time.

MOOS: The president's performance invoked online comparisons. Bill Clinton once conducted the same music President Bush did.

(LAUGHTER) All a president has to do to get a laugh or a cheer is raise the baton.


MOOS: President Clinton actually had the conductor come to the White House for a practice session.

"The Stars & Stripes Forever" is an easy one for beginners. A Virginia Symphony violinist put down his instrument long enough to snap a couple of photos. After about 40 seconds, the president handed back the baton and his conduct became unconductor-like.

FALLETTA: Kissed me on the top of the head.

MOOS: The verdict?

FALLETTA: I think he must be quite musical.

MOOS: Who is more musical? The Democrats? Or the Republicans? Must be a relief for a president not to have to blow his own horn. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: That's it for me.


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