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Top U.S. Commander in Iraq Casts Doubt on White House Timeline; Ohio Governor Seeks Reassurance From Bush Before Sending National Guard to Iraq

Aired May 31, 2007 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, identity revealed -- we now know who is behind an international tuberculosis scare. We also are learning new details of how he slipped back across the border undetected.

Also this hour, a top U.S. commander in Iraq casting new doubt on the White House timeline for determining whether the troop increase in Iraq is actually working.

And a frustrated governor seeking reassurance directly from President Bush before sending more National Guard troops to Iraq.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in the in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The twists and turns keep coming in today in the case of Andrew Speaker. He's the Atlanta man who's triggered an international health scare by globe trotting while infected with a rare form of tuberculosis. And now there's a truly stunning new family connection.

Let's bring back CNN's Mary Snow.

She's watching this story for us -- Mary, what's the latest?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this stunning new twist is that the patient's father-in-law is a microbiologist for the CDC's division of tuberculosis elimination.


SNOW (voice-over): The T.B. patient who flew on transatlantic flights against the government's wishes is someone familiar with rules. He's a personal injury lawyer. Law enforcement and medical sources identify the patient as 31-year-old Andrew Speaker. And in a strange coincidence, Speaker's father-in-law works at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta researching tuberculosis.

Dr. Robert Cooksey tells CNN he was not involved in the decisions his son-in-law made to traveling to Europe. Cooksey says he never had T.B. and his son-in-law's T.B. did not originate from himself or the CDC's labs, which operate under the highest levels of biosecurity. Speaker is now under going tests for his rare drug-resistant form of T.B. at a specialized medical center in Denver.

As for how he contracted T.B....

DR. GWEN HUITT, NATIONAL JEWISH MEDICAL CENTER: It appears from the history that he most likely acquired this particular strain of tuberculosis from another person, somewhere, somehow.

SNOW: Meanwhile, passengers who shared flights with Speaker want to know if they've been infected.

Beth Hawkins was on the same Air France Flight from Atlanta to Paris as Speaker. The CDC is recommending that passengers be tested for T.B. which requires an initial test and a follow-up eight weeks later.

BETH HAWKINS, PASSENGER ON SPEAKER'S FLIGHT: If by chance we did get infected, it's possible that it could show up negative tomorrow because the incubation period is so long.

SNOW: Health officials say they advised Speaker not to travel, but the T.B. patient went ahead with his wedding and honeymoon plans.

Mark Hill was also on the Air France Flight.

MARK HILL, PASSENGER ON SPEAKER'S FLIGHT: If he was told definitely that that could be a problem for other passengers, then I think it was somewhat irresponsible for him to get on that flight and endanger people like myself.


SNOW: And Mark Hill, the passenger you just saw there, also told CNN that he thinks Speaker owes an apology to people who could have been infected.

The CDC is still working to contact airline passengers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What are doctors saying, Mary, about how this -- how all of this was spread or how tuberculosis would necessarily, potentially, at least, be spread?

SNOW: Well, the doctors in Denver, where Speaker currently is, say that people can actually inhale the bacteria. But the body, as it's supposed to do, can kill that bacteria, particularly if the immune system is strong. Doctors have been saying that they do not believe that Speaker is highly contagious.

BLITZER: All right, Mary, thanks.

And even though the Centers for Disease Control is asking all passengers to get tested for T.B. only a small number on the planes carrying Andrew Speaker could be at risk of infection.

Take a closer look. Only those seated a couple of rows in front or in back of the tuberculosis carrier may be affected. You see them here in yellow. Experts say that's because T.B. bacteria are pretty heavy and can't travel necessarily all that far.

That's not so for an illness like SARS or measles or the flu. For instance, check out the green rows that light up. That's because these viruses are contained in smaller particles and therefore are much more easily airborne.

Health investigators were looking for him. Alerts had been posted around the world.

So how did Andrew Speaker slip through everyone's fingers, even at the U.S./Canadian border?

Let's bring in our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve.

She's watching this story for us -- Jeanne, based on all your reporting, what happened?

JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Canadian authorities now tell CNN they were not informed about Andrew Speaker and his illness until almost 12 hours after he had crossed the border into the U.S.

And it now appears that human error may account for his entering this country undetected.


MESERVE (voice-over): Andrew Speaker and his wife arrived at the Champlain, New York border crossing on Thursday, May 24th.

According to a homeland security official, at 6:17 p.m. a Customs and Border Protection officer swiped Speaker's passport through an electronic reader and an alert displayed on the officer's computer screen.

But Speaker was not stopped. In less than two minutes, he was waved across the border.

MICHAEL CUTLER, FORMER INS AGENT: If this guy could get through, the question is who might also be able to get through, whether it's someone with a communicable disease, whether it's somebody who's wanted because of being a suspected terrorist. The system has holes in it.

MESERVE: The Centers for Disease Control had informed Customs and Border Protection on May 22nd, two days earlier, that Speaker should be stopped, isolated and public health authorities notified. The information had been put out to all ports of entry, including Champlain, and the lookout for Speaker showed up on the front line officer's computer screen instantaneously and in an obvious way, according to a homeland official.

"Even the finest and most well regarded law enforcement agencies in the world will experience human error," says the official. "Our personnel understand they have to be right 100 percent of the time."

The Champlain port of entry is the fourth busiest on the U.S./Canadian border -- processing more than 10,000 people every day. And some believe the pressure on border officers to move people and products quickly could have been a factor in this incident.


MESERVE: Senator Charles Schumer says the incident shows that border officers are understaffed and overworked along the northern border, although investigations into exactly what went wrong and why have reached no firm conclusions -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What happened to the officer that was involved in the case?

MESERVE: That officer has been placed on administrative duties while these investigations are completed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much for that.

Jeanne Meserve watching this story.

We're going to have a lot on this story coming up. We're going to be speaking with some passengers who were aboard that flight from Atlanta to Paris. And they're now being tested. A lot of worried people out there.

Jack Cafferty is in New York with The Cafferty File -- you know, a lot of aggravation and a lot of heartache out there. People are hoping thank you not affected by this. But, you know, they've got to be worried, all those hundreds of people who may have come into proximity with this guy.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know what I'm more concerned about?

Isn't that border operation part of the Department of Homeland Security?

BLITZER: That is correct.

CAFFERTY: That fine operation run by Mr. Michael Chertoff at a cost of how many billions and billions of dollars to the American taxpayer?

The same outfit, right?

BLITZER: The same. Exactly.

CAFFERTY: And some guy with highly communicable tuberculosis walks across the border no questions asked, you know -- and we've got a border with Mexico that you can cross any time you want. And -- but we're paying billions for the Department of Homeland Security.

BLITZER: And, you know... CAFFERTY: Here's a...

BLITZER: ... hold on one second, Jack, because I -- we just got a little clip from the father of this guy.

Ted Speaker, the father, just made a little statement, supporting, defending his son. I want to play it for our viewers.

CAFFERTY: All right.


TED SPEAKER, T.B. PATIENT'S FATHER: He specifically asked if he was not permitted to go. They said, no. We prefer you not to go, but we're not saying you not to go. They knew that he was getting married and they knew the arrangements.


BLITZER: That's Ted Speaker, the father of Andrew Speaker, strongly defending his son, who, even though he knew he had tuberculosis, decided he was going to go fly off to Europe.

CAFFERTY: Well, and he -- and he was told that was OK to do. And then all of a sudden everybody got hysterical and acted like he committed some crime. Not to say that he didn't act irresponsibly. He probably did and maybe he should have worn the mask. But he was told it, as I understand it, that it was permissible for him to fly, was he not?

BLITZER: Well, that's what his father says. That's what he says.

We're getting a different story from the CDC.

CAFFERTY: In the meantime, let's make sure we take a look at that budget request from the Department of Homeland Security, which is keeping us all so very safe.

President Bush is calling on 15 nations -- all top emitters of greenhouse gases -- along with the United States, to agree on a global emissions goal by the end of next year. The president's off to Germany next week for the G-8 summit and global warming, of course, is Topic A.

Bush has had pretty much a do nothing policy when it comes to climate change. He's refused to adopt the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which requires industrialized countries to reduce greenhouse gases to a certain level by 2012.

He shot down Germany's more recent idea, having goals -- goals that reach beyond that 2012 cutoff date.

But now our President Bush has decided to do something. He wants to have some meetings -- a whole bunch of meetings, a series of meetings, beginning this fall and lasting for a year-and-a-half. These meetings will give each nation the opportunity to decide how to achieve a new global emissions goal.

A year-and-a-half of meetings.

Perhaps not coincidentally, that will also be when "The Decider" leaves office, having not decided anything about global warming. And like so many other things in this man's life, it will simply be left for somebody else to clean up after he's gone.

Here's the question -- why is the United States dragging its feet when it comes to global warming?

E-mail or go to

Eighteen months more of meetings -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you very much.

Jack Cafferty will be back shortly.

Up ahead, the National Guard playing a huge role in Iraq.

But are troops being sent to war without proper training, without proper equipment?

One U.S. governor is asking the president for reassurance.

Also, a stunning revolution -- revelation, that is, in that tuberculosis health scare. The patient's father-in-law works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and now he's speaking out. You're going to find out what he's saying.

Plus, a luxury yacht -- check it out -- goes down off Miami, prompting a dramatic rescue at sea. We're going to show you how it all happened. It was all caught on tape. We'll show it to you.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: The number two U.S. commander in Iraq casting some doubts today on the White House timeline for determining whether the current troop situation in Iraq is succeeding. That would be the increase in the number of troops.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is joining us -- Barbara, what exactly is this commander suggesting right now?

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, a big suggestion, Wolf, that that September deadline may do little more than give the insurgents plenty of time to plan for more attacks.


STARR (voice-over): The number two commander in Iraq warned he may not be ready by the September deadline to say whether the U.S. troop buildup is working.

LT. GEN. RAY ODIERNO, COMMANDER, MULTI-NATIONAL CORPS, IRAQ: I have to wait and see what happens. And if I think I might need a little more time, I will give an assessment and say but I'd like to have more time. If I -- if I don't think I have -- I need more time and I can make an adequate assessment that's accurate, I will do that.

STARR: Lieutenant General Ray Odierno spent an hour telling the Pentagon press corps there are signs of progress in Iraq, but also warning...

ODIERNO: It's not enough. We still have much more to do.

STARR: He noted civilian deaths are down in Baghdad. More weapons and IEDs are being found. But sectarian violence is again on the rise, so a new strategy is unfolding. Troops will now talk to insurgents, tribal and religious leaders.

ODIERNO: And we're talking about cease-fires and maybe signing some things that say they won't conduct operations against the government of Iraq or against coalition forces.

STARR: Odierno believes 80 percent of Sunni and Shia militants could be persuaded to give up the fight, but doubts many Al Qaeda fighters would do the same.


STARR: Wolf, what about those cease-fires?

Well, General Odierno says it will all be done on a case by case basis. And, yes, as you may expect, whether those insurgents have been involved in killing U.S. troops will be a major factor for the U.S. -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So is he -- General Odierno, that is -- at odds with policy makers here in Washington, Barbara?

STARR: Well, you know, General Odierno is one of the savviest, to say the least, generals in command in Iraq in the U.S. Army at this point. What he is clearly doing is laying down a marker, saying if he is not ready to make an assessment, he won't let the politicians back him into a corner. He will say that he needs more time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr watching the story for us.

Barbara, thank you.

There's, also, amidst all of this, a new sign of growing frustration with the war in Iraq. Ohio's governor now seeking reassurance directly from President Bush before he hands over more National Guard troops.

Let's bring in our Carol Costello.

She's joining us once again. Specifically, what's the governor asking for -- Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll tell you that in just a second. But it's an interesting scenario.

What if the governor of each state said no to sending their National Guard troops to Iraq?

They could.

And while the governor of Ohio is not planning to do that, his frustration with the president is growing.


COSTELLO (voice-over): Ohio's governor, Ted Strickland, wants answers.

GOV. TED STRICKLAND (D), OHIO: Mr. President, before you send more Ohioans into the war zone, will you give us your personal assurance that they will have all the equipment they need to be as safe as possible?

COSTELLO: It's the same question contained in two letters to President Bush, one sent during one of the deadliest months for U.S. troops in Iraq.

STRICKLAND: Right now, I remain their commander-in-chief and I believe the president should be responding to my questions.

COSTELLO: That's right. The governor, as commander-in-chief of Ohio's National Guard, has the power to refuse a request from the Defense Department to make troops available. Hence the letter -- one fully supported by the Ohio National Guard, who says its soldiers don't have access to the equipment they'll actually be using in combat.

A few examples?

Up-armored Humvees, which are heavier and harder to maneuver than the vehicles soldiers train with now. Night vision goggles -- they don't have them. They don't even have M-4s, the rifles they'll use every day in Iraq. They train with M-16s.

MARK WAYDA, OHIO NATIONAL GUARD: And it's a question of confidence. You're asking people to go into very dangerous situations. We should be giving them the best opportunity to succeed and we're not doing that right now.

COSTELLO: Which takes us back to Governor Strickland's letters to President Bush.

What about them?

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not aware of the governor's letter, but we have always made it clear that nobody goes into combat without sufficient training and equipment. Period. COSTELLO: Snow says troops are trained with the proper equipment once they get to Iraq -- an answer not good enough for Ohio's governor or its National Guard.


COSTELLO: Now -- and I'm only talking hypothetically -- if any governor would refuse to send his or her troops to Iraq, the president can simply federalize the National Guard and then, of course, he would be in control -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, good reporting, Carol.

Thank you very much for that.

By the way, as of April 30th, there were almost 30,000 National Guard troops in Iraq and Afghanistan; another 22,000 members of the Reserves. Those forces serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's a total of 51,000 or so. We used to call them weekend warriors, but right now, they're working as full-time warriors -- more than full-time warriors, accounting for almost a third of the U.S. military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Coming up, hundreds of airline passengers possibly exposed to that drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis. We're going to be joined by two of them. They're fearing for their own health. We'll ask them what's going on.

Also, Google debuting a new mapping feature.

But could it be putting our privacy at risk?

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Carol Costello once again monitoring some other stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

We've got you working hard -- Carol.

COSTELLO: You do. I've got a couple more things to tell you about.

The Arkansas U.S. attorney who was a lightning rod for the investigation into the controversial firing of federal prosecutors has resigned. Tim Griffin has quit.

His predecessor, Bud Cummins, was one of the eight U.S. attorneys dismissed last year. Justice Department officials first said it was because of performance and then they later admitted to letting him go to make room for Griffin, who used to work for the White House adviser, Karl Rove. News now that could impact small business. The Internal Revenue Service is giving businesses across the country a double scam alert. The agency says those sending out false e-mails could silently take over your hard drives. The e-mails contain IRS logos and notify the recipient of bogus IRS action. They also contain links that release a paralyzing type of program called a Trojan horse. Investigators say leave the e-mail unopened and stay away from those links.

And experts blame a bloated trade deficit for the slowest quarterly economic growth in the United States more than four years. The Commerce Department revised its first quarter reading on the gross domestic product to an annual rate of just .6 of a percent. That is a big loss of momentum from the 2.5 percent pace logged in the final quarter of 2006.

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

BLITZER: Thanks, Carol, very much.

And coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the shocking connection between that tuberculosis patient at the center of an international scare and the Centers for Disease Control. We're going to tell you about a very strange family tie.

And we'll also hear from the patient's father and father-in-law. They're speaking out publicly right now.

Also, I'll be speaking with two people who were on the same flight as that man with T.B.

How concerned are they right now about their health?

Stay with us.



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

Happening now, we're getting more today from Iraq's finance minister about the abduction of those five British men this week in Baghdad. He says kidnappers posed as government workers on official business when they simply overpowered guards in the Ministry bidding. The kidnappers are suspected of being followers of the anti-American slight cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr.

And from the U.S. and NATO today, confirmation that all seven aboard were killed when a Chinook U.S. Army helicopter went down last night in Southern Afghanistan. Five were Americans, one British, one Canadian. Officials say it looks like the chopper was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade.

And the man accused of fatally poisoning the former Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko, last year is blaming British intelligence. The man told reporters in Moscow he didn't do it. He's speculating the ex- KGB agent was eliminated when his work for British Special Services got out of hand.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in the in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's get some more now on our top story.

New details emerging about the man at the center of that international tuberculosis scare. His name, Andrew Speaker, and it includes this shocking development -- his new father-in-law works -- works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Rusty Dornin is joining live from Atlanta, where the CDC is headquartered.

What's his role there, the father-in-law in all of this, in the CDC?

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Perhaps the ultimate irony, Wolf.

Dr. Robert Cooksey is a microbiologist in the division for tuberculosis elimination.

We went to his Atlanta home today. He refused to answer any questions.

But he did read a statement to reporters.

Let's listen.


ROBERT COOKSEY, SPEAKER'S FATHER-IN-LAW: First and foremost, I am concerned about the health and well-being of my son-in-law, and family, as well as the passengers on the affected flights. I am the father-in-law of Andrew Speaker, and I do work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

I have worked at CDC for 32 years. I am a research microbiologist in CDC's Division of Tuberculosis Elimination, and my work does involve working with a wide range of organisms, including TB.

As a research microbiologist, my laboratory work involves identifying characteristics and features of bacteria. As part of my job, I am regularly tested for TB. I do not have TB nor have I ever had TB. My son-in-law's TB did not originate from myself or the CDC labs which operate under the highest levels of bio-security.

I wasn't involved in any decisions my son-in-law made regarding his travel, nor did I ever act as a CDC official or in an official CDC capacity with respect to any of the events of the past weeks. As a parent, frequent traveler, and biologist, I well appreciate the potential harm that can be caused by diseases like TB. I would never knowingly put my daughter, friends or anyone else at risk from such a disease.

I would ask the media to respect my privacy, and that of my family, and I will be respectfully declining all media requests other than reading this prepared statement.

My thoughts and focus over the next few months will be with my family, and we are hopeful that Andrew will have a fast and successful recovery.

And all I can add to that is, please try to refrain from uninformed anchor desk chit-chat about this. There's so many factors involved. Please not try to hype this, because it's a very complicated situation, and speculation will not do anyone any good.

And that's all I have.


DORNIN: Dr. Cooksey did tell reporters earlier that he gave some fatherly advice to Andrew Speaker concerning his condition, but it's not clear when. It's not clear whether Andrew Speaker told his father-in-law two days before he went to Europe that doctors here in Atlanta had told him not to travel, and that he indeed did have at least then multiple drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a coincidence. What a situation that is.

Rusty, thanks very much. I know you are watching this story for us.

And only within the past few minutes, Andrew Speaker's father has also gone public, defending his son and the trip he took. Here's what he told our affiliate, WSB, in Atlanta.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your family has been dealing with this for months.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you ever told to wear a mask around your son before he left for Europe?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ever told you were at any risk?

SPEAKER: No. As a matter of fact, they gave me a test -- negative. They gave my whole family a test -- negative.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they had told your son not to go because he would be a threat to other people, what would he have done?

SPEAKER: He would have not have gone. The way he's being shown and spoken about on TV is like a terrorist traveling around the world, escaping authorities. This is blown out of proportion immensely.


BLITZER: Passengers on Andrew Speaker's flights are now faced with the prospect of exposure to tuberculosis. One can only imagine what they are going through right now.

Two people were on one of those flights, the flights from Atlanta to Paris. Joining us, Jason Vik and Laney Wiggins. They're on the phone.

Thanks very much for coming in.

Jason, let me start with you. Do you want to react, first of all, what we just heard, the father of Andrew Speaker saying, strongly defending his son's behavior in deciding to make that transatlantic journey?

JASON VIK, ON FLIGHT WITH SPEAKER: Sure. You know, and it's a fatherly point of view. You can certainly understand.

You know, the fact that if he knew he had any form of tuberculosis which is transmittable, I don't think you need a doctor to tell you, you shouldn't be flying, you know, especially without a mask. So, you know, I can understand his worry for his son. I don't think this needs to get blown out of proportion. But I definitely think, you know, under the circumstances that we all -- we all know that he acted irresponsibly by getting on the flight, and especially flying home, you know, with the excuse that he wanted better medical treatment from the U.S.

BLITZER: And potentially exposing a lot of other passengers to tuberculosis.

VIK: Exactly.

BLITZER: Laney, you were on this flight, as well, and now this incredibly -- I guess unbelievable development that his father-in-law -- he got married in Greece, he took that flight to Europe to get married, but his new father-in-law actually works at the CDC, and he works in tuberculosis research.

When you heard that, what did you think?

LANEY WIGGINS, ON FLIGHT WITH SPEAKER: Well, it was surprising to hear that he worked in the tuberculosis part of CDC. It was -- I was surprised that with someone who has family ties to someone who works at the CDC with tuberculosis that he would travel, because whether -- it doesn't matter what kind of tuberculosis you have. It can be transmitted. And, like, I'm glad that his family has not tested positive yet, and they are very fortunate for that. But that doesn't mean that someone with, you know, a disease, or condition that weakens their immune system, that doesn't mean that they're not going to get it, just because Mr. Speaker's family didn't get it.

So I think...

BLITZER: You were on -- let me bring back Jason for a moment.

Jason, you were on that flight, you have now been tested. I assume it's negative, but there's an incubation process that has to go forward.

How worried are you right now? What have you been told by your doctors?

VIK: I'm not too worried. You know, from everything -- a lot of what my doctor knows is with the health department and CDC has told him. And, you know, now I'm kind of, you know -- CDC is -- they've not been very organized in the way they've handled the situation. And so I'm starting to wonder about how -- you know, how useful this information I'm getting is.

You know, unfortunately, for us, even if we test negative, the bad part is that we're going to have to continue to get tested. You know, there's like an eight-week period where I have to go back if it's negative. And then if it's negative again, we go back in another eight weeks.

You know, and this is going to go long, because the incubation period can be years. So, this guy literally, by sitting on a plane with 487 passengers on my flight, literally has caused us to make a life change for the next so many years, just by having to get tested so often, you know, just because the incubation period can be years. You know?

BLITZER: And Laney, I want you to weigh in as well. How worried are you? Because this is a really agonizing situation you are going through.

WIGGINS: I'm not necessarily worried about my health. I think that -- I really think that I'm going to be OK.

I haven't gotten my test results back. I won't get them back until tomorrow. But I do believe that I'm going to be OK.

It's just -- what worries me the most is that he was put on a no- fly list, he flew to Canada, he entered the United States, and was not caught. That's worrying, because how many other people have done that? How many other people could do that? And what threat does that bring to us as American citizens? It's scary.

BLITZER: It's scary, indeed.

Laney Wiggins, Jason Vik, I want to thank both of you. Let's hope all those tests come back negative, not only for both of you, but for all those other people he came in contact with aboard those flights and elsewhere.

What a story this has been. Thanks very much. Up ahead, amazing pictures of a yacht in distress. On board, a family of six, including an 8-month-old baby. We're going to show you what happens.

Also, politics retail style. Our Candy Crowley takes us to New Hampshire, where getting to the White House -- often, at least, means meeting one voter at a time. But is something missing?

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


BLITZER: The race for the White House running full speed ahead earlier than ever before for the candidates on the campaign trail. That means more attention from the news media, but less chance to really press the flesh.

Let's go to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's in Manchester, New Hampshire, right now.

Are you seeing this on the ground because of this accelerated timeline, Candy?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You are seeing a difference, Wolf.

You know, New Hampshire is known as a retail politicking state. That is, the vote is won handshake by handshake, conversation by conversation. But more and more as you travel through this state, what you see is wholesale politics.


CROWLEY (voice over): The other day, Barack Obama went to Dartmouth. Several thousand people showed up.



CROWLEY: Tuesday, Hillary Clinton took a stroll down Main Street in Nashua. Really, she's in there.

What with the early intensity on the campaign trail and marking (ph) names on the roster, retail politicking. The pride and power of New Hampshire ain't always what it used to be. So much so, that Obama is planning some spontaneity.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Probably what we're going to be doing is more off-the-record stops that aren't scheduled, so that I can just hop into a diner and sit down at the counter and start having conversations.

CROWLEY: Others have resorted to invitation-only house parties and privately-sponsored "meet the candidate" events. KEVIN LANDRIGAN, "NASHUA TELEGRAPH": Candidates and campaigns really have to work to bring an old-style New Hampshire feel to it. It can happen, but it doesn't happen automatically anymore.

CROWLEY: It used to be a guy running for president could stop by a place like the Brick Store (ph) or Harvey's Bakery and have a bona fide political conversation. Over the years, it' has become, well, a zoo. A photo-op of maximum coverage and minimum contact.

(on camera): So, it's a fake quaint?

LANDRIGAN: Yes, a virtual retail event.

CROWLEY (voice over): Real retail still happens. It can be found most consistently with candidates who don't draw the mega crowds. "Jimmy who?" became President Jimmy Carter through retail campaigning.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It really is a way in which the press contest, the people contest. And we test our metal.

I'm Senator Biden. I'm one of the 800 candidates running for president.

CROWLEY: Retail is where hope lies.


CROWLEY: As for those rock star candidates who have trouble keeping their crowds small, as Barack Obama put it, it's a high-class problem to have -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So what can they do to get around this problem right now?

CROWLEY: Well, you heard Obama say, you know, I think we're going to have to plan some off-the-record things so I can just walk into a diner without 200 people showing up because they heard about it, or all of us showing up, which also obviously adds to the mix.

The other thing that's happening is that businesses are sponsoring these sort of "meet the candidate" times, so that the candidate can come in and be with the smaller crowd and have that kind of give and take that is impossible when 3,000 people show up. And so, when they have these smaller crowds inside some sort of business, they can kind of focus their attention on a small group of people.

So, they are getting around it. But as you know, as time goes forward, it's only going to get more intense, making it pretty hard to do, that kind of retail politicking, the old-fashioned kind that so many people are used to here in New Hampshire.

BLITZER: Candy, thanks very much.

Candy's on the scene in New Hampshire already. We're going to be heading up there shortly ourselves.

Let's check out another related subject. One candidate read a book with a very familiar theme, while another read a book about political rivals.

The Associated Press asked the presidential candidates their latest choices in fiction. Last hour, we hold you what the Republicans were reading. Now it's the Democrats' turn.

Let's take a closer look. And we'll start with Senator Barack Obama.

He read Marilynne Robinson's book "Gilead," similar to his own book, "Dreams From My Father". This book includes a meditation on fathers and sons.

John Edwards, let's talk a little bit about him. He read "Exile" by Richard North Patterson. In it, a lawyer defends a Palestinian client against charges she conspired to assassinate an Israeli leader.

Hillary Clinton -- Hillary Clinton's last book was the nonfiction "Team of Rivals" by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It details President Abraham Lincoln picking three political rivals to serve in his cabinet.

And when New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was asked his last work of fiction, the former Energy secretary said it was the Bush administration's current energy plan. He's got a sense of humor, as well.

Don't forget, we're gearing up for our own big debates in New Hampshire. CNN, WMUR, the "New Hampshire Union Leader," we're sponsoring back-to-back debates starting this weekend.

The Democrats square off Sunday, June 7th, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. The Republicans go head to head Tuesday, June 5th. Next Tuesday, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

We'll have two hours for each side, uninterrupted by commercials. You are going to want to check it out.

And still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, a luxury yacht goes down off Miami beach, and it's all captured on video. We're going to tell you what happened.

And later, Google's mapping magic zooming in closer than ever. But here's the question: Is it too close for comfort?

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



BLITZER: Off Miami Beach, a frightening experience for six people aboard a luxury yacht. They are OK, but the vessel sank. And the entire disaster was captured on videotape.

The harrowing details now from CNN National Correspondent Susan Candiotti -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they went out for a morning cruise that turned out to be the trip of their lives.


CANDIOTTI (voice over): Imagine seeing your 65-foot yacht called Imagination about to disappear beneath the sea. A family of six was aboard this luxury boat when it started taking on water in the engine room. The captain called for help.

CAPTAIN: Mayday! Mayday!

COAST GUARD: What is the nature of your distress? Over.

CAPTAIN: The engine it taking on water. We're taking on water.

CANDIOTTI: They didn't have to wait long. A Coast Guard cutter arrived within about 20 minutes. Everyone, including an 8-month-old baby, already had lifejackets on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was concerned for the baby. The baby. We just made it on time before it went down.

CANDIOTTI: The family, including a couple in their 60s, was moved from the sinking ship to the Coast Guard cutter. As it slipped deeper and deeper into rough seas with waves of up to seven feet, debris from the yacht scattered around the ocean.

The Imagination was about 25 miles offshore from downtown Miami when it got into trouble. The rescue boaters weren't the only ones picked up by that same Coast Guard cutter. Already aboard, about a dozen migrants intercepted at sea. They all had a ringside seat for this.

The dramatic finale, as the bow of the boat disappeared from view.


CANDIOTTI: The Coast Guard says everyone is OK. A salvage company will figure out whether it can retrieve imagination. It's in about 1,000 feet of water.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Susan. Thanks very much.

Happily, they all made it out.

Up next, why is the U.S. dragging its feet when it comes to global warming? That's Jack Cafferty's question. He's back with your e-mail right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Does Google's new mapping tool that lets you zoom into the street level invade your privacy?

Let's go to Abbi Tatton.

How much detail do actually we see in this new tool, Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, a lot. You can zoom in and read street signs and license plates. The images that were taken over the last year so detailed, you can inspect even the produce at this grocery store.

Right now, we're virtually navigating through San Francisco. It's one of the five cities where Google's street view maps are now available.

This is taking planning trips online to a new level. But how much detail is too much?

Zooming through the streets, I was able in one virtual tour to find this guy standing in front of his -- in front of his garage -- I'm sorry about the image that's on there right now, but you can see exactly what's on his shelves. And blogs are collecting images that could security -- personal security concerns and privacy concerns.

Sunbathers, and a guy walking into an adult bookstore.

Google says it only features imagery taken on public property. It's no different from what any person can see walking down the street, and that users can flag images they deem inappropriate -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Abbi. Thanks very much.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York.

It's amazing what this new technology does, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Indeed, it is. Maybe we can get Google to monitor the Mexican border.

The question this hour is: Why is the U.S. dragging its feet when it comes to global warming?

Jenny in New York, "Bush is dragging his feet because, just like the Iraq war, he wants to leave it up to future presidents. He's never been held responsible for anything in his life. Why should he start now?"

Barry in California, "Dumb question, Jack. You know corporate interests are the only interests served by the Bush administration. They filled the campaign chest with money. We gave them a war to profit from. They were inserted into key jobs in the EPA and other agencies to gut the effectiveness and power of the government to do anything about global warming."

Alex in Wisconsin, "Contrary to Al Gore's convenient propaganda, there's a lot of scientific evidence against manmade global warming. We're rightfully dragging our feet because the enormous cost of going green doesn't actually result in significant emission reductions. This whole global warming catastrophe is for the Democrats what the war on terror is for the Republicans: a means to push policy."

J.W. in Atlanta, "The solutions are going to cost money. It takes cash to retool, re-engineer, pay carbon fees, et cetera. The controllers of our nation, those who have control of the money and thus own the politicians, need time to figure out how to pass this on to the American taxpayer."

Mary Ann in Oregon, "Because Bush doesn't want his oil buddies to have to spend any of their profits on emissions control and responsibility for the environment."

Carl in Pennsylvania, "The same reason my uncles all have black lung disease... greed."

And David in Texas, "Politicians are in the pockets of the oil companies. If the polar ice caps melt, Washington, D.C., is one of the cities that will be flooded. The politicians in Washington won't get global warming until the Potomac River is six feet deep down Pennsylvania Avenue."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to, where we post more of them, along with video clips of "The Cafferty File" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack, very much.

We'll be back here in one hour, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. A lot more going on.

In the meantime, let's go to "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT". Lou is standing by in New York.


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