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THE SITUATION ROOM

Desperate Search Under Way in Iraq

Aired May 16, 2007 - 19:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou.
Happening now -- we're with the troops in Iraq's "Triangle of Death" where a desperate search is now underway for three American soldiers believed held by al Qaeda or its allies. Among families back here at home, there's anguish and anger.

Britain's army chief does an about-face ordering Prince Harry to stay home -- why Iraq is just too risky for the third in line to the throne.

And the candidate who fought with the frontrunner Rudy Giuliani in the latest Republican debate now wants an apology. I'll speak with the outspoken congressman, Ron Paul, this hour.

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

U.S. military's putting everything it has into the search for three soldiers missing since a weekend ambush. The troops carrying out that search are past the point of exhaustion.

CNN's Arwa Damon is with them. She reports from the area of Yusifiya in the "Triangle of Death".

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll take a couple.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pushing themselves to the limit, some soldiers are collapsing from the oppressive heat. But the hunt continues defined by long hours and glimmers of hope. They've trudged across miles and miles of fields and farm land, navigated the harsh terrain to avoid the roads and the bombs. They even drained this canal parallel to the attack site to look for clues.

LT. COL. JOHN VALLEDOR, U.S. ARMY: Yesterday our soldiers, those are the brigade, physically walked the canal and on both sides to make sure that -- you know make sure that you know there isn't anything in here related to our missing soldiers.

(CROSSTALK)

DAMON: They have said the same thing hundreds of times since Saturday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any information will help us... DAMON: Information that leads to the missing soldiers is worth $200,000 and they have been receiving tantalizing tips but none have panned out. It's a hunt for three men in an area about 330 square miles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A piece of U.S. equipment which we think could possibly be from the soldiers that were abducted or could have been just equipment abducted from the site.

DAMON: Nothing is taken for granted or left to chance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in here, almost every day. This is kind of a just covering all of the bases. We're just making sure; we're checking every house again.

DAMON (on camera): It's day five in the search for the missing soldiers. These men have been out for about seven, eight hours now. They're both physically and mentally exhausted, but no one is even talking about giving up.

(voice-over): These men have been fighting out here in an area better known as the "Triangle of Death" for nine months now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This sector has historically been one of the most lethal in Iraq, and there are some very capable insurgents out there. And we do not underestimate them.

DAMON: The military doesn't underestimate them. But it I determined to defeat them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of the motivation they need is what they're going after. We talk about the soldiers and you know they know who they're looking for. They know their names. That's as much motivation as they ever need. Every time they get tired (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and keep going.

DAMON: All of these soldiers have sworn never to leave a man behind.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Yusifiya, Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The death of one of the soldiers caught in Saturday's ambush has left his young widow angry, bitter and blaming President Bush.

Let's go to our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre. Jamie, what's this all about?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, obviously, every death, every loss is felt deeply by family members back at home. But when you're in love and in lost what you believe is the love of your life, it can seem particularly hard.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MCINTYRE (voice-over): Jennifer Courneya got the news just shy of what would have been her sixth-month wedding anniversary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was so wonderful. It's just hard to imagine he's gone.

MCINTYRE: In her kitchen in Plexus (ph), New York, looking at pictures of her now deceased 19-year-old husband, the 21-year-old war widow is haunted by what Private Daniel Courneya wrote in a letter that arrived Monday just two days after she was informed of his death.

JENNIFER COURNEYA, WIDOW OF PFC DANIEL COURNEYA: He just hated it over there. He couldn't wait until November. I mean we were -- had to cancel our big wedding, so we were trying to debate about a time, a date to set that back up. But, guess not now.

MCINTYRE: Jennifer says Daniel wrote if he had met her sooner, he never would have enlisted in the Army, and he complained bitterly about how the war was being waged.

J. COURNEYA: He didn't think he needed to be over there. He said it was a waste of his time.

MCINTYRE: Jennifer and Daniel were married by a justice of the peace. Jennifer's dream of fancy wedding upon Daniel's return has been replaced by a far more modest hope. That his wedding ring comes back with him and is not lost in the desert of Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: And Wolf, Jennifer Courneya says the one thing that's gotten her through is the support she has gotten from the military and the people at Fort Drum, New York, where her husband was based. She says she couldn't cope without that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Our heart goes out to her and all of the families. Jamie, thank you very much.

They may be leaving no stones unturned in the "Triangle of Death", but is that all-out search making any real progress.

Joining us now in Baghdad Major General William Caldwell, U.S. Army, the chief spokesman for the Multinational Forces in Iraq. General Caldwell, in the search for these missing American soldiers, are there any indications, any signs of life that have come up, that they're still alive, any videotapes, any ransom demands, anything along those lines.

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ: Wolf, we haven't had anything of that nature that's been brought to our attention but through intelligence sources, obviously at this point, we have no confirmation either that the troops have been harmed. So we're holding out hope. We're praying for the best. But more importantly, we're continuing an intensive massive search to look for our three missing soldiers. BLITZER: And is it your working assumption, General that al Qaeda is directly responsible for this -- al Qaeda in Iraq or other groups or simply those seeking money?

CALDWELL: Wolf, still based on the intelligence we have been continuing to pick up, all indications are it's al Qaeda or an al Qaeda-affiliated group that has taken our three soldiers.

BLITZER: And you've deployed, what, 4,000 soldiers to this so- called "Triangle of Death" area south of Baghdad as part of this massive search for these three missing soldiers. Is that right?

CALDWELL: That's correct, Wolf. There are literally thousands of soldiers, both coalition forces, but also Iraqi security forces, they're very much involved with about 2,000 Iraqi security forces down there assisting us and helping us, not only on the ground searching, but also helping us with intelligence assets too, to further work the neighborhood and the surrounding areas to help us see if we can pick up any more leads.

BLITZER: Have you gotten any leads yet?

CALDWELL: There have been about -- about 140 different good tips that have come in so far, Wolf, that have come from the people and other sources that we followed up on, based on that, 37 of them specifically, we followed up and conducted immediate raids. Although we did not find our missing soldiers, each one leads us to a little more information, and so we're going to continue with that pushing forward over these next few days.

BLITZER: Major General William Caldwell speaking with me from Baghdad.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's in New York -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, Iran should be attacked from it gets nuclear weapons, so says John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton told the British newspaper, "The Daily Telegraph", that the European Union has to get more serious about Iran and recognize that its diplomatic attempts to get Iran to stop enriching uranium have failed.

Bolton says economic sanctions with pain have to be the next step, followed by an attempted regime change. Does that sound familiar? And finally Bolton says if all else fails, military action to destroy Iran's nuclear sites. Bolton still has close ties to the Bush administration and he says Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad poses a threat to similar to Hitler, quoting here -- "If the choice is then continuing toward a nuclear bomb or the use of force, I think you're at a Hitler marching into the Rhineland point. If you don't stop it then the future is in his hands not in your hands just as the future decisions on their nuclear program would be in Iran's hands, not ours" -- unquote.

Bolton also conceded that military action has its disadvantages and in fact might not work. So here's the question. The former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. says Iran should be attacked before it gets nuclear weapons. Is he right? E-mail CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

Coming up, a Republican president candidate takes Rudy Giuliani to task.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he needs to back down. I think he needs to read the report and come back and apologize to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Congressman Ron Paul, his battle over 9/11 with the former New York City mayor. Find out why neither one is backing down.

Also Prince Harry's not going to Iraq. We'll find out why British officials don't want the young royal in combat -- a major about-face from London today -- Richard Quest on the scene for us.

Plus, former President Bill Clinton, we're going to find out why he's now lavishing some praise on Senator Barack Obama, his one-on-one interview with Anderson Cooper. That airs, coming up, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Prince Harry is staying home. Britain's army chief says the risks of deploying to Iraq are simply too great for the royal who's third in line to the throne.

And joining us now in London outside Buckingham Palace, Richard Quest our man on the scene -- Richard, this is a huge, huge development for everyone in England because it was only days ago, everyone assumed he was on his way to Iraq. And then all of a sudden they announce, guess what, he's not going. What happened?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What happened was the military decided it was simply too dangerous, not only for Prince Harry but also for the other members of his battalion, the Blues and Royals. The chief of the defense staff said basically he had been to Iraq. There have been reports that Harry was to be targeted and then simply -- the risk simply became unacceptable. It would have been a disaster not only if Harry had been injured or worse killed, but if any of his battalion had been injured and they turned around and said this would not have happened if we'd not been with Prince Harry -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I assume this is a big disappointment for Prince Harry. Has there been any reaction from him or associates of his?

QUEST: At the moment the view seems to be Harry will take it as a big disappointment, but that he probably won't resign, he always knew there was a risk. The problem, Wolf, was the decision to send him in the first place; they were never going to be able to win with this one.

If he went to Iraq, it could have been seen that the royal family were involved in some cases in the occupation of Iraq. If they didn't send him to Iraq, then of course it's a clear indication that the military can't keep an heir to the British throne safe against the insurgents. And that's what's happened tonight. The worst in some cases of all P.R. scenarios, the decision taken, now you're going, now you're not. And that's what really is the most damaging aspect tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Because I assume going into this weeks ago, months ago, they must have known the pros and cons, the dilemma of actually sending him off to Iraq. That's why I thought it was a little late in the game, all of a sudden to make this about-face today.

QUEST: I think that's the interesting thing about it. The circumstances don't really appear to have changed. There are no new arguments that can be advanced today that couldn't have been advanced say three, four, five weeks ago. The only new element is this comment from Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the general staff that says he's been to Iraq, he's heard the reports. He now realizes that the risk to Prince Harry and crucially, Wolf, do not forget, to his battalion is simply too great. Those are the issues tonight. Whether Harry just has to suck it up, like it and get on with it, he's a serving member of her majesty's forces, and you know something Wolf, you just follow orders.

BLITZER: Richard Quest, our man in London outside Buckingham Palace. Richard, thanks very much.

Last time a member of the royal family went to war, it was more than a quarter century ago when Prince Andrew, Harry's uncle, served as a helicopter pilot in Britain's war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands.

The British Prime Minister Tony Blair will step down next month. And he's making what may be his last visit to the White House. He's there right now for a dinner with the president. As you know, he's been President Bush's best friend and Iraq war ally, but it's all costs him dearly.

Let's turn to CNN's Brian Todd. He's joining us. Brian, are they still really, really good friends?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: From every indication, Wolf, they are and it's leading many to ask with all that's happened in Iraq, doesn't the prime minister, even in private have doubts about the path he's taken with George W. Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): A last official visit, one last chance to plot a future course in Iraq. A war so unpopular in Britain it's pushing Tony Blair out earlier than he had planned, casting a shadow over all his other accomplishments. Blair has paid an immense political price for his alliance with George W. Bush. But the closest he comes to showing any outward resentment, when pressed by NBC News that he couldn't have been happy with the America's management of the war and asked if he ever said that to the president.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: There are discussions that you have in the course of something like this that's again should remain between allies.

TODD: Blair says since September 11 he's never had any doubts about standing shoulder to shoulder with the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq. Could he have had those doubts in private about Bush?

BLAIR: Not even private that I'm aware of. I have spoken to many people who work for him and with him and he's absolutely dogged in his loyalty.

TODD: But why when it's cost him so dearly. Analysts say Blair is driven by a sense of honor, not wanting to let down the man who has shown unwavering faith in him.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When Tony Blair tells you something, as we say in Texas, you can take it to the bank.

TODD: Observers say the strength of their religious convictions still bond the two men and Blair, they say, has a firm belief to this day that intervention in Iraq was right.

JAMES CUSICK, "SUNDAY HERALD": Tony Blair almost shared very similar objectives. He regarded Saddam Hussein's Iraq as a dangerous regime.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: And that belief, analysts say, dates back to the late 1990's when Bill Clinton was president and Blair advocated a hard line against Saddam, an interventionist streak that led him to push for action in Kosovo as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thank you.

This is Prime Minister Blair's twentieth official trip to the United States. More than half of those visits, 11 of them, have been to Washington. Mr. Blair has visited Camp David in Maryland four times. He's twice met with U.S. presidents at the United Nations and he's made one trip to President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Still ahead tonight here in THE SITUATION ROOM, our own Anderson Cooper join us with a preview of his one-on-one interview with former President Bill Clinton. You're going to want to hear what the former president says about getting nervous at his wife's debates.

And should Rudy Giuliani apologize? We're going to hear from a presidential candidate asking Rudy Giuliani for an apology.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There's late word coming into THE SITUATION ROOM tonight of an attack on body guards at the Palestinian prime minister's residence. No immediate word of injuries, but it's the latest sign that Palestinians may be moving a lot closer to all-out civil war. There's chaos in Gaza right now where power-struggle has led to gun battles and dozens of dead and now Israel is being drawn into the conflict as well.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Jerusalem with the latest -- Ben.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, for much of Wednesday, Gaza seemed be rushing madly toward total anarchy. In the evening some of the fighting did subside, but nobody in Gaza is betting that the calm is going to last for very long.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(GUNSHOTS)

WEDEMAN (voice-over): In Gaza cease-fires are made to be broken. Wednesday evening Hamas declared a unilateral cease-fire but three truces have already come and gone. For Gazans Wednesday was the blackest yet in a series of black days. Gaza's morgues are filling with the dead, hospitals urgently appealing for blood for the wounded.

Complicating matters Hamas has lobbed dozens of crude locally made Qassam rockets in the direction of Israel, wounding more than a dozen Israelis since Tuesday. Hamas may be trying to provoke an Israeli ground incursion, working on the assumption that the only way that Palestinians will reunite is in the face of an invasion by a common enemy, Israel.

For now Israel isn't taking the bait. But Israeli aircraft have retaliated, striking among other targets a base in southern Gaza belonging to the Hamas-controlled executive force. Three months ago, leaders from Fatah and Hamas met in Mecca, Saudi Arabia and worked out an agreement for the creation of a national unity government.

But all along unity was more facade than fact. The factions couldn't settle their differences through words. Now with ordinary Gazans caught in the middle, they're giving war a chance. A few of those ordinary Gazans braved the gunfire to protest the internal fighting only to come under fire themselves. Also caught in the crossfire more than two dozens journalists pinned down for hours as Hamas gunmen tried to take a building that houses several media organizations.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WEDEMAN: Leaders from both Hamas and Fatah have publicly stated they do want to restore calm and unity. But in Gaza it seems the guns speak much louder than words -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ben Wedeman reporting for us.

And just ahead -- a dark horse Republican presidential candidate breaks from the pack with a blunt assessment, a preemptive strike like the one in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's a bad foreign policy. It's not Republican. It's not conservative and it's not constitutional.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I'll talk about with the congressman, Ron Paul. Plus we'll find out why he wants an apology from Rudy Giuliani.

Plus, former President Bill Clinton talks with our own Anderson Cooper about Hillary Clinton's number one rival, Senator Barack Obama. You might be surprised at what Bill Clinton has to say.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, the board of the World Bank set to resume talks tomorrow on the fate of the embattled president, Paul Wolfowitz. He's under enormous pressure to step down over a promotion and pay raise arranged for his girlfriend. Senior administration officials tell CNN efforts are now underway to try to forge a face-saving resignation agreement, but his lawyer is quoted as saying Wolfowitz will not resign under a cloud. We're watching the story.

France has a new president tonight. Nicolas Sarkozy inaugurated with elaborator ceremonies. His new government could be in place as early as Friday.

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

The White House today is describing the new post of war coordinator as more of a red tape cutter than a military planner. A day after he got the nod from President Bush, there still are gaps in Lieutenant General Doug Lute's job description and questions remain, serious questions, about why the position is needed at all.

Here's our White House correspondent Ed Henry -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, even Republicans are confused about the rationale for this post. And they charge it reveals a White House in disarray over what to do next in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY (voice-over): Conservatives are flabbergasted by President Bush's decision to tap Lieutenant General Douglas Lute as the White House war coordinator. RICHARD PERLE, FMR. CHMN. DEFENSE POLICY BOARD: The idea bringing in an outsider to tackle what is arguably the administration's most urgent priority makes no sense at all to me.

HENRY: A Lute classmate at West Point praises his candor and experience, but says this position is a waste.

BRIG. GEN. JAMES MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: You know there are really two ways that you get attention in this town. It's you hit somebody in the face with a shovel or you have budget authority and Doug might have a shovel, but he won't have budget authority, so that's going to be the rub that makes it difficult.

HENRY: Tony Snow struggled to explain why it took five years for the White House to figure it out it needed this.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't know. I think what happened is, again, as we were taking a review, it became clear to us at this -- as you develop -- as you move into a new phase of the war, keep in mind, we're still in the process of deploying in this New Way Forward, as the president called it.

HENRY: And the White House is still in the process of figuring out exactly what the job description is.

SNOW: How many times have people been in the field where somebody says, here's a problem we have, I write notes and it never gets up to the top? Well, part of his job is to cut through that.

HENRY: Nonsense to Richard Perle, who still counts himself as an admirer of the president, but charges Mr. Bush has been ill-served by top staff.

RICHARD PERLE, FMR. CHMN., DEFENSE POLICY BOARD: The whole idea strikes me as absurd. This is a job for the national security adviser, for Steve Hadley. And if Steve can't do it, then perhaps somebody else should be the national security adviser.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: It's striking that the president didn't publicly introduce General Lute, choosing instead to announce the appointment via a written press release. Normally for a high profile appointment, the president would make a big splash, raising questions about just how much clout this appointee will have -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry is on top of this story at the White House.

Meanwhile, a maverick congressman may be a long shot, but he gave it his best shot last night in the latest Republican presidential debate, going toe-to-toe with the front-runner.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now from Capitol Hill, Congressman Ron Paul, Republican of Texas. He's a candidate for president of the United States.

Congressman, you had quite a little testy exchange there with Rudy Giuliani last night. Let me run this little clip to remind our viewers what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They attack us because we've been over there. We've been bombing Iraq for 10 years.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of September 11th, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don't think I've ever heard that before and I've heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He really had some supporters in that auditorium. Are you ready to back away from the implication of what you were saying last night? Because certainly when you were given the chance last night you didn't.

PAUL: No. There's no reason to. I think he's going to have to back away from his statement pretty soon, because I found two very clear quotes in the 9/11 Commission report that says that very thing, that our foreign policy has a very great deal to do with their willingness and desire to commit suicide terrorism. So, I would suggest that he read the 9/11 Commission report.

BLITZER: Well, but the impression that I got from what you were saying is that the U.S. monitoring in the no-fly zones in Iraq for 10 years before the war, that that was -- that was responsible for al Qaeda coming to the United States and blowing up the World Trade Center?

PAUL: No. I said that was part of it. And part of it was the fact that we had troops in Saudi Arabia, which is considered holy land. And this is what -- this is backed up by the 9/11 Commission report. So I think he needs to read that, because that's policy. And the CIA does not deny this. This is what they found when they went into deep investigations.

So here he is, mayor of the city, and brags about all this security and he hasn't even read the report. So, I think he needs to read that report.

BLITZER: But you were saying specifically that the U.S. had been bombing Iraq for 10 years. You didn't mention the Saudi Arabian element last night.

PAUL: Well -- well, you know -- you know, Wolf, you know, in 30 seconds, sometimes you don't get to make a full explanation. But that's what the case has been. Yes, we did bomb. I mean, how many times did Clinton bomb? And how many times did Bush bomb? And it was not infrequent. I'll bet you we didn't go one year where we didn't bomb it. Besides, we had sanctions. They also cited sanctions where, literally, hundred of thousands of people died from the sanctions, from loss of medicine and food, due to our sanctions. I mean, if somebody did that to us, would we be angry?

BLITZER: But that...

PAUL: That's my question.

BLITZER: I guess the bottom line question, though, is that a lot of viewers came away saying, here's Ron Paul. He's a Republican who wants to be president. He's blaming the United States, in effect, for 9/11...

PAUL: Yes...

BLITZER: I wonder if you want to -- if you want to revise that impression?

PAUL: No. No. They need to understand history. They need to understand that he's hiding behind patriotism, because what they're saying is I'm un-American because I'm challenging policy.

I am an American because I have a right and an obligation to challenge policy. If policy is detrimental and has blowback, then we should change it. But to say that we have to accept this policy without any question, I think is the wrong thing to do. And this is what they expect. And if you don't do it, they say oh, you're blaming America. You're unpatriotic. And I think that's foolish.

I think somebody that does not allow dissent and discussion and arguments about why this policy is good or bad -- the American people -- see, he wants to say -- put words in my mouth and say that the American people caused this, I blame the American people.

No. I blame bad policy. And bad policy can have consequences, unintended. The CIA recognize it . The 9/11 Commission recognize it. So, to me, this sounds very logical. I think he needs to back down and I think he needs to read the report and come back and apologize to me.

BLITZER: If he is the Republican nominee -- and he is the frontrunner right now, could you support him...

PAUL: It would be...

BLITZER: ... for president?

PAUL: That would be pretty difficult. It depends on -- if he changed his foreign policy, I might consider it. But, no. He's not very Republican and he faced a lot of challenges in the debate, too, you know, on abortion and gun rights and a lot of other issues that fiscal conservatives, you know, challenged him on.

So, I mean he has a ways to go. And I take it as a compliment that he did what he did, because, you know, if you're at the bottom of the wrung of the ladder, you know, you don't get attacked like that. So evidently he considers me a threat.

And in the polling last night, on FOX, of all places, I outbeat him. You know, I won the polling over -- over Giuliani. So why do people not talk about that?

BLITZER: We're almost out of time, Congressman. But if you were president, what would you do about the al Qaeda threat? Forget about Iraq right now. The al Qaeda threat, Osama bin Laden, he's still on the loose. What would you do about that threat to the United States?

PAUL: Well, I'd go after him. I voted for the authority. I wish they had done it. We voted for the money and yet we ignored it. So this is my complaint, that we didn't do what we were supposed to do and we went and started a war that we shouldn't have.

And here we have Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. They have a nuclear weapon. They have a military dictatorship. They overthrew an elected government. And what do we do when they get nuclear weapons, not following the NPT Treaty? We reward them. We give them money.

So I'm saying don't reward people who get nuclear weapons. Then they'll want to get them. That's why Saddam Hussein pretended he had one, because he thought if he had one maybe we'd leave him alone.

So it's natural for people like Iran -- the leadership in Iran to want to get a nuclear weapon, because we respect people that have power and we disrespect people that we think we can run over them and run roughshod over their countries, invade them preemptively and change their regimes.

I think it's a bad foreign policy. It's not Republican. It's not conservative. And it's not constitutional.

BLITZER: Congressman Paul, thanks very much for joining us here in the in THE SITUATION ROOM.

PAUL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: I think you're have a long wait if you really expect Rudy Giuliani to apologize to you for that last night.

PAUL: Well, ask him, please.

BLITZER: All right. The next time I interview him, I'll ask him. Thanks, Congressman.

PAUL: OK.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And still ahead tonight here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the former president, Bill Clinton, heaping praise on Hillary Clinton's opponent. A candid one-on-one conversation he had with CNN's Anderson Cooper, that's coming up next. Also, a Republican White House hopeful gets a boost from a joke. CNN's Jeanne Moos has a "Moost Unusual" look. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A very frequently asked question about Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign, what role will her husband play? The former president, Bill Clinton, spoke about that in a one- on-one interview with our own Anderson Cooper. And Anderson is joining us from New York.

Before we get to that, Anderson, you also spoke to him about her main rival at least right now according to all of the polls, that would be Senator Barack Obama.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: That is right, Wolf. We spoke to president just a short time ago -- President Clinton, about a new environmental initiative he's launching. Also talked to him about politics. In particular, Senator Obama's strong showing in the race for the White House so far. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL CLINTON, 42ND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, no, because in the beginning there was this impression that he was the only one that was really against the president's policy in Iraq, which I don't think is accurate. But it nonetheless had some legs out there.

His voting record and Hillary's are almost identical, I think, on all of the relevant issues. And also, he's just a very gifted man, I mean, he's an attractive, compelling, charismatic guy who has not been in politics very long, therefore has not had the time to pick up the enemies that you pick up, or at least the opposition that you pick up if you stay around and actually, you know, are in the fray, and you're fighting to do things.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: President Clinton trying to point out to Democrats that Obama's positions on Iraq are not all that different from his wife's, and also that he hasn't been around very long -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. What about the role he's likely to play? A lot has been written about this lately, Anderson, in his wife's administration if in fact she's elected president?

COOPER: Well, at this point, he's certainly playing an important role in his wife's campaign. I asked him about that. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: A recent piece in The New York Times described you as a fund-raising machine for your wife's campaign as a master strategist. I think they also said you were sort of a consigliere. What kind of advice do you give?

CLINTON: The story also said a couple of times I have tried to pontificate about something going on in New York and didn't know what I was talking about, Hillary told me.

COOPER: She told you to get out of the room. Well, I was actually going to ask you about that. While she was -- the sort of claims that while preparing for a Senate debate, you were giving too much advice. And she basically kind of scooted you out of the room. Is that true?

CLINTON: Well, she got -- that was back in 2000 when she was nervous about it. We get so nervous at each other's debates. It's very interesting, she...

COOPER: Do you really?

CLINTON: Oh, she used to get so nervous that she could hardly bear to come to my debates.

COOPER: Really?

CLINTON: Yes. And it is very interesting because she's very calm when she's on the line. But -- and when I was on the line, I was always calm. But when she's in the line of fire, I get nervous. I think it's -- you know, it's a husband/wife thing. It's just -- so, that was true. I'm just trying to help.

COOPER: Would you work full-time for the campaign when the time comes?

CLINTON: Well, I'll do whatever they ask me to do. I think right now it is far better for her to be out there on her own, establishing an independent identity so that people don't think that she is anything other than what she is.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: The president went on to say he doesn't think that America really knows who Hillary Clinton is. That's one of the things he is going to be trying to change in the race ahead. We'll have more on the interview tonight on "360" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Anderson, thanks very much.

A lot more coming up. "ANDERSON COOPER 360," that airs tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. You're going to want to see that. Former president of the United States, once again, with Anderson Cooper later tonight.

Still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we're following several developments. One Republican presidential candidate getting noticed, get this, for his humor. Jeanne Moos goes inside the joke that brought down the house at the Republican debate last night.

And we have got new information on the candidate's personal finances tonight. We're going to tell you how much Rudy Giuliani makes from his speaking fees, among other things. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The presidential candidates are revealing their wealth tonight with most putting out their financial statement disclosure statements. CNN's Mary Snow is on the money trail, as we call it.

Mary, what are we learning tonight?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, late today, we are learning that Republican candidate presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani earned roughly $9 million in speaking fees alone last year. It is all part of a glimpse into the finances behind the 2008 White House hopefuls.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): Financial records show John Edwards earned $479,000 last year at a hedge fund that has been the target of scrutiny. That is because Edwards said he worked at Fortress Investment in 2006 to learn about financial markets and their relationship to poverty.

The Edwards camp point out that in that same year, the family donated $350,000 to charity. And on the campaign trail the Democratic presidential hopeful has been defending his commitment to helping the poor.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have been doing a whole variety of things. And I think if you put all of those things together, it's very difficult to question my commitment to low-income families and to the poor.

SNOW: The reported assets for John and Elizabeth Edwards are estimated to be $29.5 million. For Senator Barack Obama, writing is paying off. His financial disclosure report shows he made about $572,000 last year from royalties from one book and an advance on another.

Obama's 2006 tax return shows he and his wife reported income of $991,000 last year, including the book money. What does it say about his wealth?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It will say that I'm not one of the wealthiest candidates in this race.

(LAUGHTER)

SNOW: The wealthiest candidate appears to be Republican Mitt Romney. Advisers estimate his worth to be between $190 million and $250 million. Plus, a blind trust for his children and grandchildren worth at least $70 million. Details of his fortune are yet to come since Romney filed for an extension on his financial disclosure form.

So did Senator John McCain. Much of his family's millions are tied to the beer distribution company founded by his wife's family.

Also filing for an extension, Senator Hillary Clinton. She's expected to report her husband earned roughly $10 million in speeches alone last year.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now, the president and the vice extension also filed disclosure forms. President Bush's listed assets estimated between $6.5 million and $20 million. And that is just a fraction of Vice President Dick Cheney's assets, estimated to be between $21 million and $100 million -- Wolf.

BLITZER: But the gifts that they have received, that's getting a little bit of attention as well, isn't it, Mary?

SNOW: It certainly is, as they always do. And some of the more unusual items. President Bush receiving about $2,600 worth of fishing equipment, not all that unusual. But Vice President Dick Cheney gave him $654 worth of a wireless weather station. And in return the president gave the vice president an instrument that measures both temperature, barometric pressure and tides, and it is worth about $700.

BLITZER: Nice gifts indeed. Thank you, Mary.

By the way, we have been looking into unusual gifts given to presidents and their families over the year, most from private citizens. Franklin Roosevelt received a wooden cowboy figure with a lasso around the neck of Adolf Hitler. That was a sign of the times.

Richard Nixon was given a cloth doll that captured him in a familiar pose, with his fingers in the V-sign.

As first lady, Barbara Bush was given a painted chair in appreciation of her work to promote literacy and help the homeless. And the Clinton family cat, you remember Socks, Socks was immortalized in that -- this oil painting given to then-first daughter Chelsea.

Jack Cafferty is joining us from New York with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Who sits down and paints a picture of the president's cat and gives it to the president's child?

BLITZER: Somebody did.

CAFFERTY: Who does those things?

BLITZER: I don't know. The question this hour is former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, says that Iran should be attacked before it gets nuclear weapons. Is he right?

Tom in Illinois: "Yes, the U.S. should attack Iran. Iran has threatened to attack Israel at the first opportunity. We should take Iran at its word. If that means the use of nuclear weapons, so be it."

Art in Colorado Springs: "Let's go to the deepest, darkest corner of the deepest, darkest insane asylum and find the most psychotic individual there and ask him about bombing Iran. I would trust that poor wretch's answer before I would ever trust anything John Bolton said."

Keith in Ontario: "I'm sorry, but where does Bolton get his right to think he can kill innocent people because they might commit a crime? Attacking Iran now would be tantamount to executing everyone in the United States who owns a gun based on the belief that they might shoot someone."

John in Nashville, Indiana: "Of course it should be done. Just get someone else to do it."

Vinny in Acworth, Georgia: "Hi, Jack. Oh sure, all we need is another war in the Middle East. With our equipment almost junk, our troops worn out and demoralized, and our China credit card maxed out, Bolton is obviously off his rocker."

R writes: "Jack, I believe that Iran should be stopped before they gain the nuclear strike advantage. I also believe it should fall to Iran's neighbors to stop them. They hold no direct threat over us, yet they would certainly be able to threaten those within 500 to 1,000 miles of their missile launch sites."

Barry writes: "Let irrational fanatics have nuclear weapons? Not."

And Rita in Port Lavaca, Texas: "Are we looking for a larger hornet's nest?"

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile where we post more of them online as well as video clips of the "Cafferty File." And one of the people that's involved with that Web page says it is very important for us to promote those video clips because he wants people to go there and look at them.

BLITZER: A lot of people do.

CAFFERTY: Huh?

BLITZER: A lot of people do.

CAFFERTY: It is kind of like painting a picture of the president's cat and sending to the president's daughter.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

Let's go to Paula, see what's coming up at the top of the hour -- Paula. PAULA ZAHN, HOST, "PAULA ZAHN NOW": Hi, Wolf. We have got a special hour ahead. Looking at what it means to be Asian in America today. We're exploring some of the stereotypes and the facts. Why are so many Asian students near the top of their classes? Is it about genes or upbringing? That debate coming up.

Also another stereotype, Asian families really considered shameful to ask for medical help, especially for mental illness. Please join me for a fascinating hour coming up in just about six minutes from now.

BLITZER: See you in a few moments, Paula. Thank you.

Still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, beauty shop politics, the joke that brought the house down at the Republican debate. Jeanne Moos on the unlikely comedian. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You don't usually expect a lot of humor at the presidential debate, but at last night's Republican debate in South Carolina, one candidate had the crowd roaring with laughter. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a "Moost Unusual" look into the anatomy of Mike Huckabee's show-stopping joke.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "President Huckabee" might not roll off your tongue, but that show-stopping haircut joke rolled off his.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have had a Congress that has spent money like John Edwards at a beauty shop. And it is high time...

(LAUGHTER)

HUCKABEE: ... that we have a different kind of tax structure...

MOOS: There was laughter, laughter that swelled into a wave of applause. That joke resulted in 23 seconds of merriment, all at the expense of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards. What a difference a joke makes: "Mike Huckabee graduates," "rapidly ascending to top tier," "capable of cracking big three."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was good. It was great TV. It was great timing.

MOOS: Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee described his remark as spontaneous, not planned, and was still cracking hair jokes the morning after.

HUCKABEE: If my barber charged me a dollar per hair, we couldn't come up to $400.

MOOS: Never underestimate the power of hair to influence opinion. Jon Tester ran for Senate highlighting his buzz cut.

SEN. JON TESTER (D), MONTANA: I'm Jon Tester, and I approve this message. I approve the haircut too.

MOOS: He won. And remember how bad Michael Moore made then- Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz look when he showed him substituting spit for hair gel.

But it is John Edwards who suffered most from his handsome head of hair. The so-called "Breck girl" video of Edwards prepping for a TV appearance, with soundtrack added became a hit on YouTube.

(on camera): That clip is so unfair. Anyone, anyone who goes on TV either primps themself or has someone primping them.

(voice-over): By the way, Governor Huckabee says he pays $15 for his haircuts from a bald-headed barber in Arkansas that he has been going to since college.

HUCKABEE: When you go to a bald-headed barber, it is kind of like going to a skinny chef. There is just something wrong with that.

MOOS: After his haircut joke, one conservative commentator wondered, is it wrong to call a governor adorable? All in all, it was a bad hair day for John Edwards, and a good hair day for presidential wannabe Huckabee.

HUCKABEE: Mark (ph) is getting some real good close-ups of my head.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: That's it for us. Let's go to Paula in New York -- Paula.

ZAHN: Hey, Wolf, thanks.

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