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THE SITUATION ROOM

Clinton, Obama Promise to Help Middle Class; Gingrich Accuses Bush Administration of Incompetence

Aired May 29, 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, a new round of one-upmanship between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The Democratic presidential contenders are promising to help Americans where they hurt. This hour, the middle class squeeze pushes Iraq to the back burner, at least for now.
Plus, is President Bush the GOP's version of Jimmy Carter?

Possible White House hopeful Newt Gingrich broadsides the Bush administration with charges of incompetence.

And President Bush takes new action against what he's calling genocide in Sudan.

Why is he doing it now?

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

Up first this hour, though, a quarantine.

A new fears about a fierce and potentially deadly strain of tuberculosis. Federal health officials say a man infected with a drug- resistant form of T.B. may have exposed fellow passengers on board two transatlantic flights.

Let's go to our medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

She's watching it very closely.

They're looking at this very seriously. How big of a deal is it -- Elizabeth?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, if you were one of those people on those two flights, it is a big deal. You need to get yourself checked out by a doctor to see if you have T.B.

That's a flight from Atlanta to Paris on May 12th, Air France Flight 385. And another one from Prague to Montreal on May 24th.

Now, it doesn't mean that you necessarily have T.B. if you were on that flight. In fact, when people have T.B. and get on planes, usually they don't transmit it to most of the people. Only a handful of passengers get it.

However, people who were on those flights need to talk to their doctor. BLITZER: So what is the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, doing about this right now?

COHEN: Well, they've done something extremely unusual, Wolf -- very unusual. The CDC has issued a federal order to isolate this man in a hospital. In fact, CNN has just learned that this man is being isolated here in Atlanta at Grady Memorial Hospital.

And this -- obviously, the reason why they've done this is that tuberculosis can be transmitted person to person. This disease, it is a terrible disease -- an extremely high mortality rate. Drugs just don't seem to work on it.

And so they said that, yes, we man -- you know, it takes away his civil liberties, but Dr. Julie Gerberding said we had to do it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. JULIE GERBERDING, CDC DIRECTOR: We always want to balance personal liberties with the requirement to protect people's health. But in this situation and because this organism is so potentially serious, we felt it was our responsibility to err on the side of abundant caution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COHEN: Now, Dr. Gerberding said that they're not ordering people on these flights to go in and talk to their doctors, but they suggest it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to stay on top of this story.

Elizabeth Cohen watching it for us.

Thank you.

We'll move on to other important news.

Right now, a gruesome new measure of America's wartime loss, as the U.S. military reporting 10 more troops killed in Iraq on, of all days, Memorial Day. Most died in an attack in the volatile Diyala Province that began with the shooting down of a U.S. military helicopter. And that brings the total troop death toll this month alone to 114. That makes May the third deadliest month for U.S. forces in Iraq in more than four years of war.

We'll have a live report from the Pentagon. That's coming up.

Two of the top Democratic presidential candidates are setting aside their anger about Iraq, at least on this day, to focus on issues that hit voters close to home.

In Iowa, Senator Barack Obama laid out his prescription for health care. And in New Hampshire, Senator Hillary Clinton zeroed in on economic worries.

Let's go to our Congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

She's in New Orleans watching all of this for us -- Dana, as we take a look at the situation on the campaign trail right now, what's behind these decisions by Senators Clinton and Obama to focus in, at least on this day, on some of these domestic issues?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's really interesting, Wolf, because traditionally when you think about the economy as a campaign issue, it's usually about job loss. You remember in 2004, the last presidential election, every month both campaigns waited with baited breath to see how many job losses there were in America.

Now unemployment, that's down. A lot of people -- many people actually have jobs. The problem is their wages are low. They can't make ends meet.

So what they want to know from their candidates, especially Democrats, is what are they going to do about it?

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

BASH (voice-over): The Iraq War may be Democratic voters' top issue, but economic anxiety comes next. And Hillary Clinton came to New Hampshire to say she gets it.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: While productivity and corporate profits are up, the fruits of that success just hasn't reached many of our families. It's like trickle down economics but without the trickle.

BASH: Calling herself "a modern progressive," Clinton promised to shrink the gap between rich and poor and do away with the president's so-called ownership society.

CLINTON: I prefer a "we're all in it together" society.

BASH: She proposed a nine-point plan, from eliminating tax incentives for companies to send jobs overseas to reducing special tax breaks for corporations.

CLINTON: Fairness doesn't just happen. It requires the right government policies.

BASH: It's exactly the kind of talk Julie Hobbs, an undecided New Hampshire voter, wants to hear from candidates.

JULIE HOBBS, UNDECIDED NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: I see a lot more money being pulled into the big corporations. And there's not a lot going into families. We're working and working and we're not reaping any benefit. It's getting harder and harder all the time. It's not improving.

BASH: She's a classic example of the middle class squeeze.

HOBBS: I make good money, but my expenses are huge, because with children and gas prices, it's very, very difficult to make ends meet. BASH: The 34-year-old single mom's biggest anxiety?

She has no health insurance.

Another Democratic candidate, Barak Obama, unveiled his plan to address that -- a proposal to provide health care for all Americans by the end of his first term as president.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BASH: Now, Obama would keep the private health care insurance in -- system, I should say -- in the United States. But he would expand coverage by paying for it with government money. That would probably cost, his campaign said, between $50 and $65 billion.

How would he pay for it?

He would try to eliminate the taxes -- the tax cuts, I should say -- among the most wealthy Americans -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, what was Senator Clinton doing in Nashua today?

BASH: She was doing what every candidate who wants to be president needs to do in the state of New Hampshire, and that is good old-fashioned retail politics, Wolf.

She was walking down the streets of this town where I am right now, Nashua, New Hampshire. She went into a couple of stores. She went into a restaurant. And she got the kinds of questions that she was trying to address in her speech, where she didn't take questions.

It is exactly the kind of thing that New Hampshire voters say is important and is critical to keeping this particular state so important in the process of getting a nominee for the Democrats, and also for the Republicans, because they get to have face-to-face time with the candidates in a way most Americans just don't get to have -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana Bash watching the scene for us in New Hampshire, the state with the first primary.

Dana, the vast majority.

And to our viewers, speaking of New Hampshire, don't forget, we're gearing up for our big debates in New Hampshire. CNN, WMUR and "The New Hampshire Union Leader" are sponsoring back-to-back debates next week.

The Democratic candidates square off Sunday, June 3rd. That's this coming Sunday night, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll be on for two hours without commercial interruption.

The Republicans go head-to-head on Tuesday, June 5th. Once again, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Eastern, without commercial interruption.

You're going to want to see both of these debates. Jack Cafferty is already getting excited even thinking about those two debates.

There's going to be a lot of -- a lot of serious, substantive discussion on the issues, Jack.

That's what I can assure our viewers.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm sure it will. And, at this time, we're now going to do The Cafferty File without commercial interruption.

For the first time ever in U.S. history, the American dream is under siege. Thirty year old men are making less money than their fathers did at the same age. This troubling but not surprising piece of news comes courtesy of a study that was done by an amalgam of think tanks that run the gamut from conservative to political.

Adjusted for inflation, American men in their 30s in 1974 made a median income of $40,000. Today, men of that same age have a median income of about $35,000 per year.

What's more frightening is that the growth of median family income is slowing -- a lot.

Between 1964 and 1994, American households saw a 32 percent increase in income levels. That figure has now slowed to 9 percent between 1974 and 2004, again, according to this report.

It's always been a given in this country that the current generation would enjoy a better standard of living than the one that preceded it. You know that old line, "when I was your age, I had to walk two miles to school and we didn't even have shoes."

Well, the implications of this dramatic change in all of that are profound for this country's future, needless to say.

So here's the question -- what does it say about the U.S. economy when 30-year-old men are making less money than their fathers did?

E-mail your thoughts to caffertyfile@cnn.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's a pretty scary statistic right there.

CAFFERTY: Yes, it is.

BLITZER: It is. It's very worrisome.

CAFFERTY: Remember that stuff when we were kids?

BLITZER: I know.

CAFFERTY: It was always, you know, the generation coming along would do better than the one that was in front of it. Not anymore.

BLITZER: You're right.

All right, Jack.

Thanks very much.

A good question.

Coming up, President Bush has called the crisis in Darfur genocide. Today he unveiled a new response.

How tough is it?

Critics wondering already if it's too little, too late.

Also ahead, an offer of political cover to members of Congress who are on the fence about immigration reform.

And Newt Gingrich takes aim at the Bush administration by invoking the legacy of Jimmy Carter.

Is this a sign that Gingrich is ready to jump into the presidential race?

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

COMMERCIAL

BLITZER: President Bush today is offering up a new weapon against what he calls genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. He's ordering economic sanctions to pressure Sudan's government to stop the bloodshed.

Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne, who is targeted with these latest sanctions?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, of course, the Sudanese government that is supporting the militias there, the Janjaweed, is targeted.

I want to tell you here, it was three years ago that the president called the tragedy in Darfur genocide. We learned today from the White House that the president, about six weeks ago, wanted to make this announcement about tough sanctions at a speech from the Holocaust Museum, but he was asked by the U.N. secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, to put that off, to hold off so, so he could let diplomatic pressure, not economic pressure, further change the behavior of the Sudanese government.

That has not happened and today President Bush said he has run out of patience.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): President Bush announced tough new sanctions against the Sudanese government for committing what he calls genocide in the country's Darfur region.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I promise this to the people of Darfur, the United States will not avert our eyes from a crisis that challenges the conscience of the world.

MALVEAUX: The sanctions target 31 companies and at least three individuals from doing business with American companies.

The aim?

To cripple Sudan's booming oil industry, which is crucial to the country's economy and is funding the weapons and militia forces committing widespread atrocities in Darfur.

ANDREW NATSIOS, U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY TO SUDAN: The purpose of these sanctions is to send a message to the Sudanese government to start behaving differently when they deal with their own people. That's what this is about.

MALVEAUX: But some Africa analysts believe the sanctions are too weak to convince the Sudanese government to stop the killing.

SUSAN RICE, THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: The Sudanese government will feel the pain and potentially stop the killing if one of two things happen -- either their oil revenues are locked up and shut down in a meaningful fashion or there is the threat or use of military pressure to compel them to stop the killing. This action does neither.

MALVEAUX: The Sudanese government reacted with anger.

JOHN UKEC LEUTH, SUDANESE AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: It's not really a good way to continue. We need a reward rather than punishment.

MALVEAUX: President Bush also wants a United Nations Security Council resolution that would implement further sanctions. But member nations China and Russia, who depend on Sudan's diplomatic ties and oil, have been cold to the idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Peace can only be obtained in Sudan after the country is developed. And development can only be guaranteed after the peace is obtained there.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, it's guaranteed that there's not going to be any kind of reward that is coming to the Sudanese government. But it is notable that there are already sanctions against that government by the United States and so far it has not changed that government's behavior.

So the real question is whether or not they're going to reach some sort of threshold here of desperation and actually decide that they're going to allow those international peacekeepers inside of Darfur -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux at the White House. Darfur is home to one fifth of the population of Sudan. It's in the western part of the country and about the size of California. It's huge. The United Nations estimates that more than 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur amid fighting between Sudanese government backed militias and rebel groups. At least two million people have been displaced.

The largest pro-Sudanese government militia, known as the Janjaweed, is accused of murder, rape and burning homes in Darfur villages.

And coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM in the next hour, I'll ask the deputy secretary of state, John Negroponte, if sanctions are enough and why it's taking so long to stop the bloodshed, the murder in Darfur. That interview with Ambassador Negroponte, that's coming up.

There's a new internet video out this afternoon from an American man closely tied to Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

Let's go straight to CNN's Brian Todd. Brian is joining us -- tell us what this video, Brian, is all about.

What's going on?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a new video from Adam Gadahn. He is believed to be part of Al Qaeda's media operations, working as a producer and a translator, and is believed to be hiding out with Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

And he's appeared in at least four other Al Qaeda videos.

And in this latest one, he makes a series of demands and issues a direct warning to President Bush. Gadahn calls on the U.S. to withdraw all troops from Muslim countries or face continuing fighting and killings. He warns Washington to stop supporting what he calls "the enemies of Islam" and to end support for Israel and to release all Muslim prisoners. And he presents President Bush with this choice: "Bring your troops out with a white flag or they'll send American soldiers home in caskets draped in American flags."

Gadahn was born in California. He grew up in somewhat of a rustic lifestyle on a farm without a TV or a computer. He was home schooled until he was 17 years old, when he converted to Islam.

He lived for a time with his grandparents, who are secular Jews. He attended a southern California mosque for a time, but he was banned after striking a leader at that mosque.

Gadahn moved to Pakistan in 1998. He first appeared in an Al Qaeda video in 2004. He is on the FBI's most wanted list, accused of treason and providing support to terrorists. There is a $1 million reward leading to information for his capture -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The assumption, Brian, is that Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number one and two of al Qaeda, are somewhere in Pakistan, along the border with Afghanistan.

Is that where they think Adam Gadahn is based right now, as well, somewhere in that no-man's land, if you will, the tribal areas?

TODD: That's the approximate region where they believe he is. Now, the Pakistanis clearly always deny that bin Laden and al-Zawahiri and the other al Qaeda leaders are within their borders. But it's a point of contention. U.S. intelligence officials point bin Laden and al-Zawahiri to somewhere in that border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. They won't necessarily pinpoint it into Pakistan for political reasons. It is believed that Adam Gadahn is somewhere with that group.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us.

Thank you, Brian.

Still ahead -- is Rudy Giuliani the Republican whom Democratic presidential candidates fear the most?

James Carville and Terry Jeffrey, they're standing by for our Strategy Session.

And why is the anti--war activist Cindy Sheehan calling it quits?

You'll find out right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We'll be right back.

COMMERCIAL

BLITZER: Our Carol Costello is monitoring the wires, keeping an eye on the video feeds coming into THE SITUATION ROOM from around the world.

Let's go to her and see what other news is making -- what other headlines are making news right now -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, let's start in Florida.

A trip to Disney World ends with injuries. Five visitors and an employee are hurt after a water ride malfunctions. A Disney spokeswoman says the injuries are not life threatening and she adds it's not immediately clear exactly what happened on the Kali River Rapids ride. We'll keep you posted.

The Supreme Court dismisses a pay discrimination lawsuit. It involved a female worker at a tire plant who accused her employer of gender discrimination for paying her less than her male co-workers doing the same work.

Well, today the court ruled that the woman missed a critical deadline for filing a lawsuit. So I guess the sad moral of that story -- if you think you've been discriminated against, don't wait. File right away. A scene of horror and frantic investigation in Texas. Near Fort Worth today, police found the bodies of a 23-year-old mother and her three children. They were all dead, hanging inside of a closet inside of their mobile home. Police say an 8-month-old baby had also been hanged, but was found alive. The infant is now recovering.

Officials say it appears to be a murder/suicide, but they stress they will not say that until the investigation is complete.

And home prices fall for the first time in 16 years. Prices fell over the last 12 months, according to a national survey. Some experts believe the chances for a recovery in home sales are dim. And investors seem to think the downturn will only continue.

That's a look at what's happening now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Carol.

We'll check back with you shortly.

Up ahead, does President Bush have the clout to get immigration reform passed this year?

The answer may lie with his powers of persuasion over Congress.

And is the president like Jimmy Carter?

Republican Newt Gingrich says yes, and it's not necessarily a form of flattery.

Stick around.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

COMMERCIAL

BLITZER: Happening now, they allegedly wanted to kill as many U.S. troops as they could. That is, until a tipster tipped off police. Regarding that alleged plot at New Jersey's Fort Dix, the man who informed police now talks to CNN about his decision. We'll share that conversation with you.

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has promised to respond to a U.S. plan for a missile defense system in Europe. Now it appears his nation has. Russia has test launched a missile capable of carrying several warheads, one -- that a Russian official says it can penetrate any missile defense system. Ominous developments on that front.

And the U.S. military has kicked out some of the people it desperately needs -- U.S. troops who speak Arabic. But they can't stay in the military simply because they're gay. One person says that directly affects national security. We'll have a full report.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. President Bush is telling members of Congress stand up, show courage, take leadership. In a speech today in Georgia, Mr. Bush said the time is now to act on comprehensive immigration reform.

He praised a bipartisan Senate bill as what he's calling "the best hope for lasting reform" and he urged Congress to move quickly.

Let's turn to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.

He is joining us -- Bill, tell our viewers a little bit what the president is trying to do by delivering this speech in Georgia today.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, he was trying to provide political cover for members of Congress to support the legislation. That could be tough.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Republicans are getting an earful on immigration.

SEN. JON KYL (R-AZ), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I have learned some new words from some of my constituents.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The angry response comes as a shock.

BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We've talked to a number of Republican senators and they confess to being surprised by the reaction.

SCHNEIDER: There's a big difference in intensity. Among those who favor a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, only 28 percent say the issue is extremely important to them. Those who oppose a path to citizenship feel much stronger about the issue. Forty-seven percent say it's extremely important.

President Bush insists the legislation puts enforcement first.

BUSH: If you're serious about securing our borders, it makes sense to support legislation that makes enforcement our highest priority.

SCHNEIDER: Conservative critics respond with a scathing indictment.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Folks out there in America who, when they see Washington say we have this wonderful plan, they say, yes, right. We saw what you did with Katrina. We saw what you did with corruption. We saw what you've done in terms of managing the war. So when you tell us you've fixed immigration, we're not buying it.

SCHNEIDER: You don't see much intensity among supporters of the legislation.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Our product is better than those who want to do nothing.

SCHNEIDER: Those who favor the legislation are not demanding that Congress act, or else. Those who oppose it are threatening retaliation, which is why President Bush felt he had to say:

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It takes a lot of courage, in the face of some of the criticism in the political world, to do what's right, not what's comfortable.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: President Bush may not be in a position to offer much by way of political cover. When he spoke at the event in Georgia, only one Georgia lawmaker, Senator Saxby Chambliss, appeared on the platform with the president -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider watching this story for us.

And, in a related development, let's turn to this story. Newt Gingrich, he's known for verbally lashing out at Democrats. But now the staunch Republican reportedly is turning -- turning his attention to members of his own party. He thinks, at least according to this report, that the Bush administration has become the Republican version -- get this -- and I'm quoting now -- "of the Jimmy Carter presidency."

That's not the only verbal bomb Gingrich drops on the White House.

Let's turn to our Tom Foreman. He's here.

He's making waves in this interview with "The New Yorker" magazine.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Everybody has to wonder if this is really about what he wants to say or if this is just posturing for a possible presidential run. But the simple fact is, in a field where there are many candidates on both sides trying to get attention, this man, who is not a candidate, is stealing a lot of the limelight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Whoever is writing this stuff, between the Congress and the White House, is just totally out of -- they are living in a fantasy land.

FOREMAN: That's Newt Gingrich slamming the Senate immigration bill. The former House speaker is on the sidelines right now in the race for the White House, but his voice is clearly heard.

GINGRICH: No Republican will win in 2008 on keeping Washington as it is. President Bush is not the future. He's not a solution.

FOREMAN: And now the mastermind behind the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress is taking on the White House again. In an interview in the new issue of "The New Yorker," Gingrich says the Republican Party has not been in such desperate shape since Watergate.

And he blames the White House, saying the Bush administration has become a Republican version of the Jimmy Carter presidency, when nothing seemed to go right. Carter took his own shot at President Bush earlier this month.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think, as far as the adverse impact on our nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in -- worst in history.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

FOREMAN: The former president clarified his remarks, saying he was making a comparison with the Nixon presidency.

Gingrich may have his own designs on the White House. He says he will decide whether to jump into the Republican race later this year. But now he's sharing the sidelines with Fred Thompson, the former senator from Tennessee, who could declare his candidacy in the next month or two. So, keeping in the headlines doesn't hurt Gingrich.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: If Newt Gingrich intends to launch an 11th hour bid for the Republican presidential nomination, he's going to have to distinguish himself from the other candidates. One way to do so is to distance himself from the Bush administration.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: And, boy, is he doing that. Gingrich also went after Karl Rove in his comments to "The New Yorker." He called the senior adviser to the president's 2004 reelection strategy "maniacally dumb," and said that he promoted a strategy which left President Bush with no political capital.

Attempts to reach Gingrich's spokesmen today have been unsuccessful, but I bet we will hear from them as the weeks go on -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm sure you will.

Thank you very much, Tom Foreman, reporting.

Barack Obama is in Iowa today, unveiling his new health care plan. But, thanks to a popular Web site, people from Portland to Paris are demanding that Obama and other candidates come to their hometowns.

Let's bring in our Abbi Tatton.

Abbi, why are these presidential hopefuls paying attention to this Web site?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, because the fans are demanding that they do so. This is Eventful.com, where users petition bands and performers to come and appear in their hometown. Here, for example, in Dallas, Texas, 313 people want Kelly Clarkson to come and appear.

But, as the presidential race heats up, increasingly, it's the presidential candidates that are in demand. And the candidates and the campaigns are using the site to tap into these supporters all around the country.

Barack Obama did this recently before this rally in Atlanta, letting people know that he was on his way there, letting these users of Eventful know this.

Barack Obama is currently the most requested, demanded political figure on the site. He's followed by Hillary Clinton. She's got demands coming in from all across the country, and this one in Slovenia. She's followed by Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who is popular around the country -- almost 5,000 people wanting the Republican candidate to show up near them. That's putting him ahead of R. Kelly, although he's trailing Kelly Clarkson.

Ron Paul is so far the only presidential candidate to schedule a specific event based on the demands coming in from Eventful.com -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Slovenia, a lovely place, I have been there. A lot of people say it's the best-kept secret in Europe. Maybe she should pick up and head over to check out Slovenia.

Abbi, thanks very much.

Abbi Tatton, Tom Foreman, Bill Schneider, as you know, they're all part of the best political team on television.

And, remember, for the latest political news at any time, check out our Political Ticker. You can do that by going to CNN.com/ticker.

Coming up: new efforts to turn the Capitol green. Why would that prompt some people to blow their stacks? Clues, that's coming up.

And the hidden talents of presidential candidates -- find out who has got a good poker face. That's coming up.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: And we are just getting this in from Reuters and the Associated Press.

The president has decided Robert Zoellick, the former deputy secretary of state, will be the next president of the World Bank, succeeding Paul Wolfowitz, who resigned under pressure over the past several days -- Zoellick, a former special trade representative, highly respected, not only in the diplomatic community, but in the financial world as well -- Robert Zoellick named by President Bush to be the next president of the World Bank.

In the process, the president made clear he was not going to listen to the Europeans, the Asians, or others. He wanted an American to lead the World Bank. An American will continue to lead the World Bank.

We will watch the story for you.

In the meantime, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, went all the way to Greenland to try to promote the fight against global warming. And now she's in Europe, discussing the subject with scientists and lawmakers there.

But the new Democratic leaders in Congress are also addressing climate change closer to home.

Let's bring in our congressional correspondent, Andrea Koppel.

Andrea, what kind of progress are the Democrats making on their promises to deal with global warming, not only closer to home, but literally within -- within eyesight of where you are on Capitol Hill?

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are making some progress, Wolf. And they have plans to make even more. But some say that Pelosi and other Democrats are letting politics trump what's happening here in their own backyard.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KOPPEL (voice-over): Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to turn the Capitol green. And she tapped this guy, Dan Beard, the Capitol's chief administrative officer, to make it happen.

DAN BEARD, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER: We have 17,000 lamps in the House of Representatives. If we replace all the light bulbs, you know, with compact fluorescents, it's the equivalent of taking 250 cars off the road for -- you know, forever.

KOPPEL: A good first step? Maybe. But just down the street, the equivalent to 5,700 cars sit idling day after day, pumping tens of thousands of tons of greenhouse gases into the air. Built in 1910, the Capitol power plant is responsible for heating and cooling the Capitol, among other buildings.

And, if it were December, instead of May, you would see plumes of thick smoke. That's because about half the plant is still fuelled by coal, one of the biggest producers of greenhouse gas emissions. Why do they still burn coal?

BEARD: Seven-letter word starting with P, politics.

(LAUGHTER)

KOPPEL: Politics, as in two of the most powerful lawmakers in the Senate from two of the biggest coal-producing states, eight-term Democrat Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, now the Republican leader.

Frank O'Donnell is with Clean Air Watch.

FRANK O'DONNELL, PRESIDENT, CLEAN AIR WATCH: It's as if Tony Soprano had a seat in the Senate. They are saying, this plant must stay alive. It must keep burning coal, even though it's causing pollution and global warming.

KOPPEL: According to the D.C. government, Capitol Power is the third-biggest polluter in the city. Still, burning coal at Capitol Power and elsewhere is legal.

So, we asked Pelosi why, as she works to green the Capitol, it isn't a priority for her to stop it, at least in her own backyard.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER: There are issues involved with the power plant that we -- we have to learn more about.

KOPPEL: O'Donnell says what Pelosi won't. It's all about special interests.

O'DONNELL: Speaker Pelosi can't override Senator Byrd. He has been around too long, and he has got too much power.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOPPEL: And later next month, Dan Beard -- Remember him? -- He's the Capitol's chief administrative officer -- he plans to present Pelosi with his final plan that would eliminate coal from the power plant and replace it with natural gas, Wolf.

And he estimates that would cut back on 34,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, but, if he's got Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, and Robert Byrd, the elder statesman from West Virginia, that's not going to be an easy task, as you point out in your piece.

KOPPEL: Well, absolutely.

And, in fact, in 2000, the then architect of the Capitol, tried to do just that, eliminate coal. And both Byrd and McConnell said, absolutely not. It's a cheap fuel. They wanted to keep it going.

And, in fact, later this summer, we are going to see the big energy bill come down the pike. And you can bet that those senators, along with others from coal-burning states, are going to be pushing hard for this new technology, which would turn coal into a liquid- based fuel -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I suppose they can put the new light bulbs in without too much controversy on that front.

Andrea, thanks. Good, solid reporting on your part.

Up next in the "Strategy Session": Newt Gingrich trying to light a fire under conservatives.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: If we don't get beyond red vs. blue, and get back to red, white and blue, we are going to be in real trouble as a people.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: But how does comparing President Bush to former President Carter motivate the base?

Also, is Rudy Giuliani the biggest threat to Democrats in 2008? And is that the reason why conservatives are trending his way, as they say?

All that for James Carville, Terry Jeffrey -- they're standing by right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: As we just reported, Newt Gingrich turning against members of his own party -- in an interview in "New Yorker," the magazine, he blasts the Bush administration as a Republican version -- get this -- of the Jimmy Carter presidency, and even blasting Karl Rove.

Joining us in our "Strategy Session," our CNN political analyst James Carville -- he's a Democratic strategist -- Terry Jeffrey. He is the editor at large of "Human Events."

That's -- I guess, it doesn't get tougher. It's one -- one thing for Jimmy Carter...

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

BLITZER: ... to criticize President Bush. It's another thing for Newt Gingrich to criticize President Bush and compare him to Jimmy Carter.

(LAUGHTER)

CARVILLE: You know, you have got to give the Newtster. He makes it interesting. I think he sees the scaffold being built, and they are getting the hangman's knot kind of tight.

And he's saying, look, I -- I told you guys early on. I didn't have anything to do with this. If they would have listened to me, this never would have happened.

I think what you are seeing here is the -- the abandonment of the Bush presidency, and -- and the Republicans bracing themselves, which is going to probably be a big defeat in '08.

BLITZER: Here's a quote from the "New Yorker" interview. "Let me be clear." Gingrich says. "Twenty-eight percent approval of the president, losing every closely contested Senate seat except one, every one that involved an incumbent, that's a collapse."

What do you make of this?

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, "HUMAN EVENTS": Well, I think in that "New Yorker" article, Newt Gingrich makes a lot of points.

He makes a lot of points that conservatives here in Washington, around the country, are making. One interesting point he makes, though, Wolf, is that the Republicans need a candidate -- candidate like Nicolas Sarkozy, who is a conservative...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: He's the new president of France.

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFREY: The new president of France, who was elected running against a female candidate who is much like Hillary Clinton.

And he ran against the president of his own party, Jacques Chirac. Also, Sarkozy took a hard line on immigration, which Newt Gingrich is doing now.

One big difference: Nicolas Sarkozy shared the view of Segolene Royal, the -- the socialist candidate, and Jacques Chirac in opposing the war in Iraq, which was tremendously popular over there. That issue is not on the table in the French election. It will be on the table in the American election.

BLITZER: You like that analogy?

CARVILLE: Oh, man, I love these U.S. Republicans looking to France for guidance. I would have -- who -- who would have thunk? That just goes to show you where things are, if we're now looking at what happened in France. We can save ourselves. The French can do it for us.

Maybe, you know, Lafayette -- they can bring Marquis De Lafayette back to help us or something.

(LAUGHTER)

JEFFREY: I mean, if we had a Sarkozy, he would be a formidable candidate in the United States.

BLITZER: Is there a Republican Sarkozy out there?

JEFFREY: No, I don't think so.

I think Newt Gingrich is trying to position himself that way. I think he's trying to be a conservative in opposition to a very unpopular president of his own party. But, like I say, the difference in there is the Iraq war. Newt is very much a hawk on foreign policy. Unless there's a significant change in the Iraq war between now and November of 2008, it's going to be difficult for a Republican hawk to get elected...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: A lot of people think Fred Thompson, the former senator from Tennessee, is going to throw his hat in the ring within a few weeks.

CARVILLE: Right. And he's going -- but I doubt it -- my guess is, is he's not going to take an anti-Bush hard line, as the speaker, as former Speaker Gingrich is saying to do.

And, also, the problem is, is that, in lock -- almost in near lockstep, the congressional Republicans have gone down the line with this president. It's not just the president's policy. It is the policy of the entire Republican Party.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Well, Chuck Hagel -- Chuck Hagel, who is running...

CARVILLE: I said near.

BLITZER: ... but is thinking about it...

CARVILLE: Right.

BLITZER: ... he's one that has...

CARVILLE: I said near.

BLITZER: ... been critical.

JEFFREY: Well, not only that. On "Face the Nation" on Sunday, you had Jeff Sessions, the Republican senator from Alabama, one of the most conservative members of the United States Senate, saying, U.S. policy in Iraq is going to have to change in September.

I think we're -- we are at the point...

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFREY: ... of a major watershed in U.S. policy in Iraq.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: How worried are Democrats, James -- and you are about as plugged into the Democrats as anyone -- that Rudy Giuliani will capture the Republican presidential nomination?

CARVILLE: Well, not -- not that worried. And I will tell you why. He may -- what would worry Democrats, if he were to capture the Republican nomination and lead a united and enthusiastic Republican Party into the general election. If Rudy Giuliani is able to do that, my hat is off to him. That will be an -- an act of political dexterity, the likes that maybe we -- we haven't seen in some time.

I -- I think that that would be what the Democrats would -- would worry about, but I don't think the Democrats are very worried about that happening. It's very unlikely.

If there is some chance he could be the Republican nominee -- I don't think very much -- I think there's almost no chance that he could lead a unified and enthusiastic Republican Party.

BLITZER: Because some people suggest, some conservatives suggest, he's the most formidable potential candidate -- candidate out there to win a general election.

JEFFREY: I think they are wrong.

And I think here's the basic fallacy at the basis of their thinking. Social conservatives, which Rudy Giuliani rejects, helps the Republican Party in two ways. One, it definitely brings in Southern evangelical Christians, who have helped give the Republicans basically a lock on the Electoral College votes of the Southern states.

The other thing, though, it does...

BLITZER: And they would sit on their hands, you think, if he got the nomination?

JEFFREY: Well, I think -- I think he -- I think Rudy could probably win the Southern states.

But where he really would run into a problem, I think, Wolf, is with Reagan Democrats, who tend to be Catholics in the North, who are swing voters, who have come into the Republican column because the Republican Party is socially conservative, and candidates like John Kerry, Michael Dukakis simply do not appeal to them. Rudy would take that off the table for them...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: What do you think?

CARVILLE: Yes. I just think it is awfully hard for Rudy Giuliani to -- to lead a -- a unified Republican Party.

Look, that this party has been told -- and there actually are people in Washington -- people are actually -- Washington Republicans are actually stunned that there are Republicans out there who are actually pro-life, who really are adamantly against abortion, who are adamantly, like, against gay marriage.

And they have sort of cranked these people up. And they said, oh, gee, no, well, we will go back and we will say, look, if -- Rudy can win. And that's the most important thing. And -- and a lot of these people out there -- I know many of them in my own family in Louisiana -- are -- they aren't buying this.

(LAUGHTER)

JEFFREY: See, here's the complication that you would likely see if Rudy were the Republican nominee.

Archbishop Raymond Burke of Saint Louis, the Roman Catholic archbishop down there, he flat-out says, which is really the position of the Catholic Church, you can't vote for a pro-abortion candidate.

Missouri is a key swing state. If you had Rudy Giuliani running as a Republican Catholic pro-abortion candidate for president, you would have archbishops like Raymond Burke saying, don't vote for this guy.

BLITZER: We have got to leave it there, guys, unfortunately.

Terry Jeffrey, thanks very much.

James, I will see you tonight.

The Washington Nationals, the Los Angeles Dodgers, they are playing here. We will be heading out to the ballpark.

Still to come: It's not your father's economy. Jack Cafferty will be back with your thoughts on the wage gap between 30-year-olds and their dads.

Plus: lost in translation. U.S. troops with a desperately needed skill get the boot because they are gay.

And abducted in Iraq -- we will have the latest on five British men and two Iraqis kidnapped, victims, in Baghdad. What's going on?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Mitt Romney tops today's "Political Radar."

The former Massachusetts governor and Republican White House hopeful said, if elected, he would take the presidential salary of $400,000 a year, and donate it to charity. He's a very, very wealthy man, as you know.

Another major political endorsement could be coming Senator Hillary Clinton's way tomorrow -- sources telling the Associated Press the Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, will announce his support. We will watch that with you.

Other things we're watching: Their political skills are being put to the test on the presidential campaign trail, but the 2008 contenders also have some hidden talents out there, which they revealed to the Associated Press.

Here's a sample of the Democrats' little-known abilities. Check it out. Joe Biden says he's got a knack for designing homes. Who knew? Hillary Clinton says she loves crossword puzzles, just like her husband. That, we knew.

John Edwards likes to exercise his hoop dreams. He says he's got a mean jump shot. Well, he's from North Carolina. And Barack Obama says he's a pretty good poker player.

In our next hour, we are going to find out which Republican presidential candidate has a hidden talent that is something of a secret weapon. We're watching that.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty, in the meantime, for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Not a brain surgeon in the bunch, is there?

BLITZER: No, it looks like there isn't.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: Our -- our question this hour is, what does it say about the U.S. economy when 30-year-old men are making less money than their fathers did? That's something that's never happened in this country before.

Michael writes from Florida: "It says corporate America tricked the 30-somethings into believing the employee could trust the company to treat them fairly, if only they abandoned those evil unions that took their father's dues, while providing nothing in return, you know, like health care, pensions, et cetera."

Ron in San Francisco: "It says that all the happy talk about the economy is just vapid noise designed to distract and reelect. The Republican reallocation of resources started during my father's time. And that's when things began to go south. Essentially, that was when the New Deal was replaced with the raw deal."

Janet in Washington: "It means that their 28-year-old wives are working to supplement their incomes, whether they want to or not, while making the children latchkey kids with little parental involvement, because the adults are dead on their feet, just trying to keep a roof over their heads."

Puddy in North Carolina -- last name couldn't be Tat -- "The continuing shift of the middle class to mediocrity, overtaxation, absurd health care costs, home prices, trade deficits, and corporate sellouts going overseas. How we have hung in as well as we have is certainly no thanks to our leaders."

Phil in Arizona: "People are making less, and it's their own fault for continuing to vote in politicians who have sold out to big business. We need an anti-incumbent party."

Dale in Philadelphia: "Today's 30-year-old gets lower wages because, when you call customer service for an American company, you get someone working for pennies in India, because our president wants guest workers here, rather than paying U.S. citizens a living wage, and because Detroit has people in foreign countries assembling U.S. cars for slave wages. Should I go on? America is broken. And nobody in Washington gives a damn."

And, finally, Joseph in New York writes: "Obviously, it means the economy has never been as good as it is now, thanks to George W. Bush. The studies that say otherwise have obviously been engineered by Bush- bashers. Trickle-down is working. That's why your leg feels wet" -- Wolf.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack, for that.

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