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Reaction to Bloomberg's Decision to Abandon the GOP. Latest Developments in Gaza
Aired June 20, 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, the fall out from Michael Bloomberg's stunning decision to abandon the Republican Party. And that's fuelling speculation he may have an eye on the White House. You're going to hear what he's been saying today and what others think he's really saying.
President Bush says destroying human life in hopes of saving human life crosses a moral line, so he's vetoing the embryonic stem cell bill. I'll speak with House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel about the president's actions.
And a tough week for the tough-talking former mayor of New York.
What's next for Rudy Giuliani now that a key Iowa adviser has a new White House job and now that a former campaign official is facing cocaine charges and 20 years, potentially, in prison?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Right now, many people are asking if no really means no. New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, says he's not running for president. But one day after the Republican mayor announced a surprising political switch to become an Independent, many people are wondering -- and they're wondering out loud -- if Bloomberg is really positioning himself for something bigger.
Let's turn to CNN's Mary Snow.
She's watching all of this unfold in New York -- what's been the reaction, Mary, to Bloomberg's announcement?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, the fact that he says he has no intention of becoming a candidate isn't stopping at all the speculation about 2008. And at the very least, many people believe that he is testing the waters.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
SNOW (voice-over): Newly freed from his Republican Party ties, many are asking if this is a sign that New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg is getting more serious about a run for president as an Independent candidate. But Bloomberg insists he is not in the market for the top job at the White House.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: My intention is to be mayor for the next 925 days.
SNOW: Not everyone is buying it.
ED KOCH (D), FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR: I have no doubt but that Mike Bloomberg will run for president.
SNOW: Why does former New York City Mayor Ed Koch believe that?
He says he's struck by the intensity of Bloomberg's involvement in issues stretching beyond New York. Bloomberg has been tackling global warming. He's led the nation's mayors in a crackdown on illegal guns and has been outspoken on immigration. On the 2008 race, Bloomberg says the more people running for office, the better, but says many challenges aren't being addressed.
BLOOMBERG: I'm particularly upset that the big issues of the time keep getting pushed to the back and we focus on small things that probably only inside the beltway are important.
SNOW: It's that talk of being the Washington outsider that continues fuelling speculation of a presidential run.
BLOOMBERG: More than ever, Washington is sinking into a swamp of dysfunction.
SNOW: Bloomberg's personal fortune has also fed talk of a possible run. He's estimated to be worth at least $5 billion. But running as a third party candidate creates major hurdles.
Take Ross Perot. He was the most popular recent third party candidate, winning 19 percent of the vote in 1992. But he won no electoral votes. And that, say some political observers, will be a big deciding factor for Bloomberg.
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: If he thinks he could do well in the vote, but not win the electoral college, I don't think he'll spend that kind of money. I think he'll go and become a great philanthropist.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SNOW: And then there's the question, if Bloomberg ran, would it be seen as a betrayal to Rudy Giuliani?
Giuliani gave Bloomberg a key endorsement in 2001 to succeed him as mayor.
Now, Bloomberg had been, at the time, a Democrat. But the field was so crowded in 2001, he registered as Republican to enter the mayoral race.
Now, Giuliani today said he was disappointed that Bloomberg left the Republican Party -- Wolf.
So what is he saying today about his decision to switch, Mary? SNOW: Well, he's saying that because he's now an Independent that it will give him more flexibility to address big issues such as gun control. But he continues to insist that he didn't do it as a way to enter the 2008 race.
KING: All right, we'll continue to monitor his words and his actions very, very closely, Mary.
Thanks very much.
How many people have actually heard of Michael Bloomberg?
A Pew voters' survey says that 65 percent of Americans know who the New York City mayor is. That's more than have heard of some of the presidential candidates -- the candidates who are actually running officially. But that same poll says just 9 percent of those who have heard of Michael Bloomberg say that there's a good chance they'd actually vote for him. More than half of those polled say Bloomberg has no chance of getting their vote.
If Bloomberg does run, he'd be running against history. Third party presidential candidates rarely win much electoral support. Remember, the Electoral College elects the president and a candidate must win the majority of 270 electoral votes.
Back in 1912, former Republican President Theodore Roosevelt only got 88 electoral votes when he ran in the Progressive Party.
In 1948, South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond left the Democratic Party to run for president, winning 39 electoral votes.
And in 1968, Alabama Governor George Wallace won 36 electoral votes as "an American Independent."
In some cases, the third party candidate may win many popular votes, but pick up mow electoral votes.
Remember, in 1980, John Anderson actually won nearly six million votes; Ross Perot, nearly 20 million votes in 1992; and Ralph Nader, nearly three million votes in the year 2000. Non---e of them got any electoral votes, but some of them, according to a lot of people, may actually have been spoilers in those races.
In the Middle East right now, violent clashes are morphing into a war of words. In a speech today, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, called Hamas -- and I'm quoting now -- "murderous terrorists." Abbas was referring to what he called an attempted coup by Hamas, with the goal of a Hamas state in Gaza. Abbas also accused Hamas of planning to assassinate him last month in Gaza.
CNN's Ben Wedeman has been following this unfolding situation for months and has this report.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK, this is the first time we go back into Gaza since January, when we interviewed the Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniya. We haven't gone back because of the kidnapping of Alan Johnston on the 12th of March and certainly because of the insane factional fighting that took place in Gaza.
Now we're going back. It's a completely different place.
(voice-over): How different becomes obvious from the moment we pass through the gate, finding dozens of Fatah loyalists desperate to leave Gaza. Among them, Bilal Jaradan.
"Things here are very bad," he tells me. "We could be killed at any moment, either by Hamas or by the Israelis."
Many of these people hope Israel will open the gates and let them go to safer ground in the West Bank. But Israel is only letting in those in need of urgent medical care. Fitam Ahmed (ph) and her children, including her 4-month-old baby, have been waiting four days to leave.
"There's garbage, flies and rats here," she says. She doesn't know how much longer she can stay in limbo.
Up above, looters taking apart the passageway piece by piece, while Jerusalem bureau chief Kevin Flower gets harassed by kids out of control until a local comes to his assistance.
(on camera): As you can see, Ares is a mess. There aren't hundreds of people here, but there are dozens, many of whom have been waiting at this crossing for four or five, six days.
(voice-over): It's both hard to get in and hard to get out of Gaza.
Ben Wedeman, CNN, at the Ares crossing.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more on this story coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The former prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, will be joining us live in THE SITUATION ROOM.
There's another important story we're following, though, right now. President Bush vetoing legislation to expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Congressional Democrats wrote the legislation only moments ago. The president explained his reasoning behind his veto.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical. And it is not the only option before us. We're already seeing remarkable advances in science and therapeutic uses of stem cells drawn from adults and children in the blood from umbilical cords with no harm to the donor. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Only the third time the president has actually used his veto since taking office. Many Democrats are blasting the decision.
Coming up, I'll speak with one of them, Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel.
Let's check in with Jack Cafferty, though, right now for The Cafferty File -- hi, Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, THE CAFFERTY FILE: Wolf, for the second time in a month, the Bush administration has scaled back its plans for stricter border security because the government cannot process passport applications fast enough to allow the security to be implemented on time. The Department of Homeland Security and the State Department said today that a requirement for U.S. citizens to show passports at land crossings into the U.S. from Canada and Mexico will now not go into effect until the summer of 2008.
These new requirements, which were a result of the 9/11 Commission recommendations, were supposed to be in place by next January. But because the wait for passports has grown to more than three months, there's no way. Instead, officials say, there will be a preliminary phase. Starting January 31st, Americans and Canadians will have to show some kind of government issued I.D. -- photo I.D. -- along with proof of citizenship. Currently, U.S. residents don't have to show anything when entering the country by land from either Canada or Mexico.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff called the delay "a hiccup." As recently as February, Chertoff said this program was proceeding "flawlessly."
It's one or the other.
So here's the question -- is it a good idea for the Bush administration to further delay tighter border security on the Mexican and Canadian borders?
E-mail your thoughts on that to email@example.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile.
It's a hiccup -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Maybe it's a flawless hiccup.
CAFFERTY: It could be a flawless hiccup.
BLITZER: That's right
Let's see what...
CAFFERTY: I hadn't thought of it that way.
BLITZER: Maybe. CAFFERTY: You're right.
BLITZER: It's possible.
Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, he says "the American people will not be fooled." He's Democratic Congressman Rahm Emanuel and he's blasting the president's decision to veto the embryonic stem cell bill. I'll be speaking with Congressman Emanuel. He's standing by live on Capitol Hill.
Also, Republicans versus Republicans -- some conservative talk radio figures are blasting some of the people they've long supported. You may be surprised to learn why.
And his key Iowa adviser has a new White House job and a former campaign official facing some cocaine charges and years in prison.
Amid all of these problems, what's next for Rudy Giuliani?
All that coming up, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's get more now on our top stories -- the president's decision today to veto that embryonic stem cell bill. Many Democrats and Republicans are blasting the decision, including my next guest, Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel, who's joining us now from Capitol Hill.
Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.
REP. RAHM EMANUEL, (D), ILLINOIS: Thank you Wolf.
BLITZER: You can criticize the president.
But do you have enough votes in the House of Representatives to override his veto?
EMANUEL: No, we don't. But we do have the American peoples' backing. In this debate about promising new research, that's the most important thing. And, you know, the president's veto, in my view, stands in direct contrast to 60 years ago, when we were searching for a vaccine for polio. In 1942, we started the research and by 1952 we had a vaccine. Nobody took a political posture. We let scientific research go forward and we cured a major illness that was plaguing America. And to me, that's what should be the model.
And I would just say, thank god 60 years ago this crowd wasn't around.
BLITZER: But if you can't override the veto, it's going to stand, obviously.
EMANUEL: Well, we will continue to try. We picked up votes since the last time he vetoed stem cell and we'll continue to do it. Obviously, he's not going to change. And, you know, when he did do his executive order today, Wolf, what you saw was a person who was really -- had a sense that he was in the wrong political position.
You know, the problem is with those symbolic executive orders is that when there's no new money, no new doctors, no new research, there will be no new breakthroughs.
BLITZER: Do you...
EMANUEL: So it's a symbolic gesture and it's empty gesture.
BLITZER: The president has joined forces with a lot of Democrats, including Ted Kennedy in the Senate, a lot of Democrats in the House, to pass immigration -- comprehensive immigration reform.
BLITZER: Assuming it gets through the Senate -- and there's a chance it will get through the Senate -- is it going to get through the House of Representatives?
EMANUEL: Well, first of all, as you saw a week ago, there's a chance it doesn't get through the Senate. Now, that's a...
BLITZER: But let's say it does get through the Senate.
EMANUEL: Right. Well, that's a hypothetical. But we'll take that hypothetical.
At that point, the president of the United States -- and he knows this and his administration knows this -- has to pull together 60 Republican votes for that legislation. And...
BLITZER: Is that because you don't have enough Democrats who are going to support it?
EMANUEL: No. Well, first of all, it has to be bipartisan. Something this big on this cultural magnitude has to be bipartisan.
Here are the Democratic principles. We're a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. And any legislation we produce...
BLITZER: Well, let me ask you this...
EMANUEL: ... has to reflect those two principles.
BLITZER: ... if it's that important, why not just pass it by one vote if it's going to really change the immigration policy in this country and strengthen security and at the same time allow immigrants -- illegal immigrants to become legal residents?
EMANUEL: Well, Wolf, first of all, let's do -- let's do a couple of things. I'll do the legislative strategy, you do the TV part.
On the legislative strategy, you cannot produce a piece of legislation like this that's not bipartisan. If you go through history -- Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, civil rights, welfare reform -- they require big bipartisan majorities. It is all we're asking for, for the president to produce for his own legislation, is 60 Republican votes, the Republican House conference. If it does that, he'll have the votes to pass.
If it doesn't, the president will not succeed.
He needs that out of his own party and he would not sign a bill with anything less than that, because it will only represent a Democratic bill...
BLITZER: Let me...
EMANUEL: And he wouldn't sign that.
BLITZER: Let me move on to that NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll that came out last week that asked about Congress' job approval rating, a Democratic controlled Congress. Only 23 percent of the public believe Congress is doing a good job right now. That's even worse than the president's job approval number.
Why is it so bad?
EMANUEL: Well, first of all, you know, I don't want to get into the specifics, but I wouldn't compare an institution versus an individual. Mainly, the American people are unhappy with the direction of the country overall. And so everybody is going to be painted with that.
Second is they are very happy with the things that we have done -- just like you mentioned on stem cell; just like -- you haven't mentioned it -- but our passage of the minimum wage; just like what we've done on a balanced budget; the largest increase in veteran's health care since the creation of the V.A. system and, also, the largest increase in college education...
BLITZER: But why is...
EMANUEL: ... so -- no, no...
BLITZER: Why does only 23 percent of the public think you're doing a good job?
EMANUEL: Right. And they think the individuals that they have -- and the Congress has to do a better job of getting things done. There's no doubt about it. And it's a wake up call to everybody in Washington that we have to do a better job of getting things done and getting them to the president's desk and eventually, unlike stem cell research, where he vetoes progress, is he signs into law, against his will, as we forced him, a minimum wage -- that increased the minimum wage.
Those are the things the American people want to see. They also want to see a new direction to the Iraq policy, which is permeating the entire political spectrum and actually makes people -- and I understand why they're upset with Washington, because they don't see any progress on a policy that is -- and the president's outlined -- of more money, more troops, more time and more of the same. BLITZER: Rahm Emanuel is one of the Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives. Congressman, thanks for coming in.
EMANUEL: Thank you Wolf.
BLITZER: And a quick programming note. Today is World Refugee Day. In our next hour, I'll be speaking with the actress and UNICEF ambassador, Lucy Liu. She shares what she's learned on her recent mission to one country where the need is especially great.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUCY LIU, UNICEF AMBASSADOR: Unfortunately, all of the reports that I read were actually worse on the ground and in person than -- than on paper. And I'm telling you right now, that the situation there is so devastating and the lives there have been so shattered, to the point where people have lost hope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: My full interview with Lucy Liu, that's coming up in the next hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Still to come, some devastating effects of global warming that may not have been imagined.
And a rising political star is caught in a cocaine scandal. His indictment could impact a major presidential candidate. We're going to have the fallout from what's going on today.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Our Carol Costello is monitoring the wires. She's keeping on eye on all of the video feeds coming in from around the world.
She's joining us now with a closer look at some other incoming stories making news -- hi, Carol.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Hello to all of you.
More attacks today on mosques in Iraq. Militants blew up three Sunni mosques south of Baghdad. The attacks were apparently revenge strikes for yesterday's suicide truck bombing at a Shiite mosque in Baghdad. That bombing killed at least 87 people and wounded more than 200 others. Today's bombings caused no casualties because no prayers were going on inside the mosques at the time. New information about how the South Carolina warehouse fire that killed nine firefighters may have spread. "The Post & Courier" of Charleston says that flames, apparently from an outdoor trash bin, swept into the warehouse when a door blew open. The assistant fire chief tells the paper firefighters couldn't re-close the door. He says they started bringing in hoses and were spread out in teams when the roof collapsed. Arson is not suspected.
The presidents of dozens of liberal arts colleges say they will no longer participate in "U.S. News & World Report's" annual rankings of colleges. They made the announcement at an annual meeting of the Annapolis Group. That's a loose association of liberal arts colleges. An official from Sarah Lawrence College calls the rankings "a collegiate beauty contest that's not a valid basis for judging the quality of education."
Members of the group plan to develop their own system of comparing schools.
That's a look at the headlines right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks, Carol, for that.
We'll check back with you shortly.
Up next, Rudy Giuliani has had a rather rough week, from the Iraq Study Group controversy to the loss of two top advisers. Can he recover?
Also, immigration reform making big waves between talk radio and the Republicans.
Dana Bash watching this story for us.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Happening now, former President Jimmy Carter weighing in on the Middle East crisis. He's telling Washington not to take sides with the feuding Palestinians. And former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- he's standing by. He'll join us live for an interview here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A crowded field of candidates putting a strain on the Secret Service. Our John King has some dramatic pictures to show us, how the agency is preparing to handle the work load.
Also, Republicans versus Republicans -- you're going to find out why some conservative radio talk show hosts are now blasting some old allies.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A rising political star with the right pedigree. But now South Carolina Treasurer Thomas Ravenel is caught up in a cocaine scandal that could end his career and actually put him in jail. His indictment could also impact Rudy Giuliani. Ravenel was a state chairman of Giuliani's presidential campaign.
Let's turn to rusty Dornin.
She's watching the story for us in South Carolina.
How likely is this scandal -- how likely will it impact Rudy Giuliani's campaign?
RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you said, Thomas Ravenel was a rising star here in South Carolina, but considered by some to be a maverick. Now his indictment may disappoint more than just voters here.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
THOMAS RAVENEL, FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA STATE TREASURER: It's with great honor, a privilege and joy that I introduce to you...
DORNIN (voice-over): Thomas Ravenel raised eyebrows when he signed on as campaign chairman for Rudy Giuliani in a state as ultra conservative as South Carolina. This week, a bigger shock. The 44- year-old state treasurer was indicted on a charge of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute.
Law enforcement officials allege that the millionaire real estate developer was buying cocaine for himself and his friends, even as he campaigned for treasurer.
South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford suspended Ravenel from his state post and Giuliani's campaign immediately announced that he had resigned.
Will there be a fallout here for Giuliani?
Long time political columnist Lee Bandy says South Carolina Republicans may object more to Giuliani's choices on social issues than his choice of campaign chairman.
LEE BANDY, COLUMNIST, "THE STATE": Ravenel's indictment may have some impact on the -- on the campaign, on Rudy's campaign. But, again, I don't think it's going to have that much of an impact. I really don't.
DORNIN: Giuliani has done well in South Carolina polls so far, a surprise to some observers. In Columbia, South Carolina's state capital, the headlines are blaring about the criminal case.
At the Sunset Restaurant, there's not much table banter here about the impact on Giuliani's campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It shouldn't affect my decision at all.
DORNIN (on camera): Would it affect your opinion of Giuliani?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not really.
DORNIN: Would you still -- would you vote for Giuliani?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a possibility.
DORNIN (voice-over): But for South Carolinian Marion Shapiro (ph), it's a deal-breaker.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Perception is everything, and I think it will hurt him. If you run with the dogs, you may be a dog.
DORNIN: Repeated calls to Ravenel's attorney have gone unanswered. Giuliani, at a campaign stop in Iowa, says he doesn't know much about the case, but that campaign did respond by removing Ravenel and replacing him with Barry Wynn. Wynn is a former GOP chairman here in South Carolina -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Rusty Dornin, who is in South Carolina for us, thank you, Rusty.
In addition to losing his South Carolina campaign chairman to this drug indictment, Rudy Giuliani also has lost a key Iowa adviser to the White House yesterday.
Joining us now to talk a little bit more about that, the Ravenel fallout, our chief national correspondent, John King.
What do you make of this Ravenel development in South Carolina, the impact on Giuliani?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a big challenge for the campaign from a structural standpoint.
They lost their Iowa chairman, Jim Nussle, the former congressman this week. He's joining the Bush administration. Now they lose their chairman in South Carolina, Thomas Ravenel. So, the team has to reassess in both places.
In South Carolina, the Giuliani campaign is saying, well, he wasn't really doing much for us. But, Wolf, in the South Carolina debate just a few weeks back, it was Thomas Ravenel the Giuliani team was taking through the spin room, saying, interview him. Interview him. He's a big supporter here.
So, he was a bigger player in their campaign than they are saying today.
But, as Rusty just mentioned, Barry Wynn is a former state chairman. He's a very impressive organizer. He knows the state very well. So, they are recovering on that front. Mark Sanford is a Republican governor. His campaign manager is meeting with the senior Giuliani staff today and over the next several days to recraft their South Carolina plan.
And they're doing exactly the same thing in Iowa. Mike DuHaime, the campaign manager and other top political directors from the campaign are in Iowa this week, along with Rudy Giuliani there today, essentially meeting with people out there, saying, what do we need to do to get the campaign in better shape here in the state of Iowa?
KING: So, in both Iowa and South Carolina, challenges -- they say they will get over them.
BLITZER: And there's been other embarrassments involving his involvement or non-involvement in the Iraq Study Group. Tell our viewers about that.
KING: This one, potentially, is much more interesting and have much more impact, because it is about Rudy Giuliani, not about somebody associated with his campaign.
He was on the Iraq Study Group at first, the big panel that, of course, made the recommendations to the president, chaired by former Secretary of State Jim Baker. He wasn't coming to the meetings.
And we're told -- "Newsday" reported this first, and we are told this is true -- that Jim Baker, at one point, said to him, look, you have to make the meetings, or you can't be on the panel. Rudy Giuliani decided to get out.
One of the reasons was because he had contractual obligations, he says, to give a number of paid speeches. Makes quite a bit of money off paid speeches. His campaign also says he was worried, because he was running for president, this would all get to be viewed as too politically.
But look for that to come up in a future debate, when Rudy Giuliani is talking about his leadership role in the war on terror, for somebody to turn and say, you had a chance to make an impact. When the country needed help debating what to do next in Iraq, you decided to make money giving speeches instead. That will become a campaign issue.
BLITZER: That could be embarrassing.
And, very briefly, Fred Thompson, how is that falling out? How is that impacting the likelihood, the near certainty, he will be a Republican presidential candidate?
KING: Well, look at the polls. So, you know Fred Thompson is doing very well in the polls before he even gets into the race. And he's taken some of the star appeal, if you will, that had been Rudy Giuliani's in the race so far. I spoke to a Giuliani aide just a few minutes ago. And they said, you know, we're going have a debate in Iowa pretty soon. We expect Fred Thompson to be there. We look forward to it.
So, they will get a chance to go mano a mano soon enough.
BLITZER: Thanks, John, very much.
John King and Rusty Dornin, by the way, are part of the best political team on television.
And, remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can check out our Political Ticker at CNN.com/ticker.
Coming up: Senator Trent Lott being bombarded with angry phone calls. Guess who's upset with him right now?
Hillary Clinton was booed last year at the Take Back America event. How did she do today? We will discuss that and a lot more in our "Strategy Session."
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Right now, some conservatives who have long supported Republicans are actually lashing out at some of them. They're very angry over compromise proposals over immigration reform. And many of them are taking their anger to the airwaves.
Let's go to our congressional correspondent Dana Bash. She's watching all of this on Capitol Hill.
Specifically, Dana, it involves some conservative radio talk show hosts and Senator Trent Lott, the number-two Republican in the Senate.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
You know, these days, if you see Trent Lott in the hallway here in the Capitol and ask him a question, he will stop. He will take his time and give you a rather lengthy answer. Well, it seems that an off-the-cuff remark he made on immigration in one of those gaggles with reporters here on Capitol Hill has caused conservative fury.
BASH (voice-over): You might call this Senate office ground zero of the internal Republican war over immigration.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Lott's office.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Lott's office.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Lott's office. BASH: GOP Senator Trent Lott is getting bombarded with angry calls spurred by fellow conservatives.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW")
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: How are we going to deal with Trent Lott? What are we going to do about him?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BASH: Talk radio hosts are lashing out at Lott for calling them a problem in the immigration debate that we -- quote -- "have to deal with."
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "THE SAVAGE NATION")
MICHAEL SAVAGE, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Trent Lott saying today that talk radio is running America and we have to deal with that problem is gangsterism. It sounds like something out of "The Sopranos."
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BASH: His jab at talk radio hosts for railing against immigration was just one example of an increasingly outspoken Trent Lott.
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY WHIP: Are we men or mice? Are we going to slither away from this issue and hope for some epiphany to happen?
BASH: Lott was thrown out as majority leader four-and-a-half years ago...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOTT: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: ... after making what appeared to be a racially insensitive remark.
Now, with his resurrection as the number-two Senate Republican, colleagues say he feels more free to speak out on divisive issues like immigration.
DAVID CRANE, FORMER AIDE TO SENATOR TRENT LOTT: Anyone who knows Senator Lott can recognize that he feels somewhat liberated to win back, if you will, in many ways, the -- the support of his Republican peers and to ascend back into leadership. He's in a different place than other people are right now.
BASH: Just like other Republicans who support an immigration compromise, he's getting attacked back home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
NARRATOR: Why is Senator Trent Lott selling out Mississippi in favor of illegal aliens?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: But he's fighting back, colleagues say, to make himself the focus of conservative ire, instead of his vulnerable GOP friends.
LOTT: I would say to my constituents, do you have no faith in me, after 35 years, that I'm -- that I'm just going to buy a pig in a poke here?
BASH: Now, obviously, Lott would prefer not to be taking harpoons from conservatives on anything, especially immigration, but it is a role that he seems to be comfortable with. That's according to some of his colleagues here on Capitol Hill.
And we're told that, in private, not just in public, but, in private, he does make the case in these heated discussions, Republican discussions, that his fellow Republicans need to figure out a way to pass immigration reform -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Dana, thank you very much.
Dana is watching this story for us.
As we have said, today is World Refugee Day. Millions of people desperately need shelter, food, and water. But another problem also is impacting refugees.
Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr explains -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the U.S. military often helps refugees around the world. But the need for help may only grow in the years ahead. And the reason may surprise you.
STARR (voice-over): South Asia, rising sea levels -- millions living along the coast must move inland -- in the Middle East, growing water shortages, another generation of refugees on the move -- North Africa, drought, crop failures and famine. Refugees escape and fill Europe.
Many experts predict, disasters like these can be expected as a result of global warming. But it's more than humanitarian and refugee crises. For the U.S. military, it could also mean war.
SHERRI GOODMAN, GENERAL COUNSEL, CNA CORPORATION: The instability that's likely to be aggravated by climate change becomes a petri dish in -- for extremism and terrorism and those who would wish ill upon our own country. STARR: It's one reason the U.S. military has a new four-star command for Africa, having troops ready to help the most vulnerable, even in Darfur, if it came to that, but also ready to hunt down al Qaeda in places like Somalia, where governments have collapsed.
Sherri Goodman has overseen a study on the threat posed by global warming. Now Congress has ordered the intelligence community to assess the security threat from having millions of displaced persons and nations potentially fight over water, land, and food.
GOODMAN: The combination of sea level rise, increased extreme weather events, droughts, floods, melting glaciers, melting Arctic and Antarctic ice will make it more difficult in already complicated regions of the world.
STARR: The U.S. is not immune. Goodman points out that drought in the Southwest and Mexico will make the immigration problem only deepen on the border.
STARR: Experts agree, the U.S. military really remains the only organization capable of the large-scale humanitarian relief efforts the years ahead may require -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara Starr joining us from the Pentagon -- Barbara, thanks.
And coming up in our next hour, Lucy Liu on her own mission to draw attention to the desperate plight of refugees in Congo.
One person, by the way, can certainly make a difference. By logging on to CNN.com/impact, you can learn how you can help to be part of the solution. Impacting your world is only a click away at CNN.com/impact. Do it. Do it now.
Up next in our "Strategy Session": Senator Clinton was talking tough to President Bush at an anti-war forum earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He thinks that he can get any kind of authority through the Congress. I think that he's mistaken.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: But was she any better received this year than at least year's event? We're watching this story.
Michael Bloomberg, also, if he ran for president, could he win, or would he play the role of the party -- party spoiler?
All that coming up -- J.C. Watts and Bill Press, they're standing by live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Michael Bloomberg out of the GOP, fueling speculation of an independent bid for the White House. If he runs, which party has the most to lose?
Plus: a new Iowa poll that has some surprises for Republicans and shows just how close the race is among Democrats.
Joining us now, Bill Press, the radio talk show host, and J.C. Watts, our political analyst and former Republican congressman.
If he runs, Michael Bloomberg, Bill, who do you -- first of all, do you think he can win?
BILL PRESS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I don't think he can win, but I think we ought to start spelling Bloomberg N-A-D-E-R. I think he would be the spoiler of 2008. I think...
BLITZER: You think he would hurt the Democrats more than the Republicans?
PRESS: I think he would definitely hurt the Democrats. I keep hearing, you know, how could Democrats lose in 2008? Everything is so bad right now for the Republican Party. The way they can lose, I believe, in 2008, Michael Bloomberg with a third party.
BLITZER: If he runs, J.C., can he win?
J.C. WATTS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, I would say I would probably agree with Bill. I would think it would be pretty tough.
However, I think there is a mood out there in the country, I think, in some corners of the Republican Party and some corners of the Democrat Party, that I think he would be a somewhat attractive candidate. Can he win? I still think it's tough. But I do...
BLITZER: Who loses the most if he runs, the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate?
WATTS: Well, I think they both lose. The answer I just gave, I...
BLITZER: You think he would take equal number of votes away from both of them?
WATTS: Well, I think Michael Bloomberg, or someone like him, could be the first independent candidate that could get, you know, 20, 25 percent of the vote. I really think it's that type of uneasiness out there in the country.
BLITZER: Sort of a pox on both of your houses.
WATTS: That's right. That's right.
PRESS: But, you know, he -- Bloomberg is more of a Democrat. He was a Democrat.
PRESS: And he's more of a Democrat, I think, than a Republican.
Plus, Democrats tend to be unhappier with their party. And a lot of the Democrats are unhappy today, because they say, we put the Democrats in control of Congress -- you just talked to Rahm Emanuel about this -- and they didn't stop the war yet, you know?
And, so, they see a Bloomberg, and they might be tempted to go in that direction.
BLITZER: She was -- Hillary Clinton was at that Take Back America event. And, at least one little point, she got a little bit of heckling.
In their straw poll, by the way, Barack Obama came out with 29 percent, John Edwards, 26 percent, Hillary Clinton, 17 percent. This is a very anti-war group out there, a very liberal group, largely Democratic.
I want to play a clip of how she was received last year, and then it will follow with a clip of how she was received this year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 2006)
CLINTON: Nor do I think it is smart strategy to set a date certain. I do not agree that that is in the best interests of our troops or our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I love coming here every year.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CLINTON: I see the signs, "Lead us out of Iraq now." That is what we're trying to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think? Does she have a problem with the liberal base of her own party?
PRESS: Wolf, I think, with Hillary Clinton, she will always have a problem with the far left, if you will, of the Democratic Party. She could there today and said, I want to impeach George W. Bush tomorrow, and somebody would have booed her. But she did a lot better this year than she did last year. Most of her speech was wildly received today, very, very positive.
It was only at the end, when she got to Iraq, that a group of people protested. But, generally, she was well-received. I don't think this hurt her at all today.
BLITZER: Do you think it hurt her?
WATTS: Well, I don't.
I think Senator Clinton has done a masterful job of taking a liberal position on the war, not a far-left position on the war. And I think that's going to be the magic, or somewhat the magic, of her staying where she is, not to allow the -- the anti-war crowd to pull her into a far-left position, a John Edwards position, on the war.
BLITZER: Here's a new poll in Iowa, the first caucus state, a Mason-Dixon poll. Hillary Clinton is at 22 percent, John Edwards at 21 percent, Barack Obama at 18 percent. But look at this, 27 percent still undecided. This is a real horse race in Iowa.
PRESS: Yes. I was surprised by those numbers, Wolf. And I think it's very impressive that Hillary is running that well in Iowa. She's not spent anywhere near the time in Iowa that John Edwards -- John and Elizabeth Edwards have basically moved to Des Moines.
And, until now, he's been ahead, comfortably, in all the polls. I think it really shows how she's -- her campaign is -- is catching on.
BLITZER: In the same poll, among Republicans, J.C., look at this, this Mason-Dixon poll. George Romney -- excuse me.
BLITZER: Mitt Romney -- George Romney was his father -- Mitt Romney 25 percent. And look at this, Fred Thompson, not even an official candidate, yet comes in second with 17 percent. Giuliani is at 15 percent, undecided at 21 percent.
I guess the biggest surprise there -- Romney spent a lot of time, a lot of money in Iowa -- that Fred Thompson is doing well as he already is.
WATTS: Well, Mitt would, I think, being the front-runner there, would have to think, well, I have spent all this money. I have spent all this time. I have got some organization, and I'm only eight points ahead of someone that hadn't announced.
But, Wolf, again, I think, on the Republican side, you know, Fred Thompson, when he gets in, you know, people are going to go after him. They're going to try to drag his numbers down. I still think it's -- it's anybody's race on the Republican side. I do think John McCain has been hurt by the immigration issue. But, you know, Fred Thompson has been around long enough. He will get comfortable and think that those numbers are real.
BLITZER: Bill, we have got to leave it there, unfortunately.
BLITZER: Hold that thought. You will tell me during the break.
PRESS: Next time.
BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much.
Still to come: Barack Obama ring tones are coming to a cell phone near you. But will mobile technology impact the race for the White House?
And the actress Lucy Liu says she's witnessed some of the worst violence she's ever seen, intolerable situation she says you need to know about. Lucy Liu, a special UNICEF ambassador, she will be here in THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about some the world's refugees and her cause.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The presidential primaries top our "Political Radar" today.
Illinois became the latest state to join the February 5 bandwagon, when that state's governor signed a bill into law moving the Illinois primary to the so-called Super-Duper Tuesday. As many as 25 states could hold their primaries that day, including delegate-rich California, New York, and New Jersey, now Illinois as well.
And it's not every day that two of New York's biggest media rivals find anything in common, but check out the covers of today's "New York Post" and "Daily News." Both tabloids found the Clinton spoof on the series-ending scene "The Sopranos" too hard to resist.
Barack Obama may be coming to a cell phone near you. Obama is the latest presidential candidate to use text-messaging as part of the campaign.
Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner.
What exactly is the senator planning on doing?
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, Wolf, his campaign is offering a text-messaging service that will update you on events in your area and let you know about important appearances. But what they're also offering you is wallpaper for your cell happen and downloadable ring tones, like this one.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hi, everybody. This is Barack Obama.
We can have universal health care in this country. We can do that.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SCHECHNER: These ring tones are all musical remixes of Barack Obama's policies and some former speeches, like the one he gave at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
Now, he's not the first Democratic candidate to offer text- messaging service. We saw John Edwards launch his last December, and Senator Clinton rolled her messaging service out last month.
But this is the first time we're seeing things like wallpaper and ring tones to be downloaded. The campaign says, while these might appear to -- excuse me -- appeal to younger voters, they really would like everyone to sign up for the service.
We haven't seen anything like this on the Republican side yet, but we are seeing former Senator Fred Thompson use Twitter.com, the mobile messaging service, to connect with his supporters. His latest message on Twitter says that he is smoking cigars in London -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jacki, thank you.
Let's go up to New York and Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Twitter.com.
BLITZER: Who would have thought?
CAFFERTY: I missed that. I -- you suppose any of them will send out those little postcards through the mail that say, please vote for me? You remember those.
BLITZER: Doesn't work anymore.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour: Is it a good idea for the Bush administration to delay tighter border security on the Mexican and Canadian borders?
Dan in California: "What is this border security you speak of? You're joking, right? At this very moment, I have five laborers working in my yard. You should see the stellar job they're doing. I hired all of them in the Home Depot parking lot in broad daylight this morning. And not a single one of them speaks a word of English."
Margaret in Tennessee: "No, Jack, it's not a good idea for Bush to delay securing our border. Our border should have been secured in 1986, and it wasn't. It shouldn't definitely have been secured on September 12, and it wasn't. And now it's a ploy to pass this horrendous amnesty bill, and the border still won't be secured."
Noel writes: "Hey, I live in Arizona. In the next 20 years, non- Mexicans will be a minority. The borders need to be closed today, or we can look forward to a terrorist army strolling into California, Arizona, and Texas, while we still continue to talk about homeland security."
Casper, California: "My father used to say frequently, damn fools go to work for the government, or working for the government makes damn fools out of people. I don't know which one is true. Well, certainly, the inability of the government to meet its own deadline on passports to return to this country helps to prove my dad was right."
K.P. in San Francisco: "The passport problem is just a delaying tactic. What is good for corporate America is good for the Bush administration. Who cares about the war on terror? It's just a bumper sticker anyway. Sadly, any terrorists that want to be in this country are already here. They come in with the illegal aliens. Who is going to stop them?"
And Mike in Florida writes: "Jack, sure, that idea ranks right up there with his amnesty bill, as far as making sense. How much longer is he going to wait, after seeing the suicide bomber graduation film? The terrorists will head our way" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you.
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