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THE SITUATION ROOM

Schneider examines the latest poll numbers that show dramatically lower support for the war in Iraq. Quijano reports the latest on the attempt to pass the immigration reform bill.

Aired June 26, 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: Thanks very much, guys.
Happening right now, sinking fast -- our brand new poll drives home Americans' disapproval of the Iraq War and of President Bush. We're going to tell you just how low the numbers go.

Also this hour, an influential Republican breaks with Mr. Bush over Iraq.

Is Senator Richard Lugar's criticism a watershed in the anti-war movement?

I'll ask one of his colleagues, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Also, Rudy Giuliani on Pat Robertson's home turf. The Republican presidential candidate presses on with his uphill fight for support from the Christian right.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in the in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up first this hour, a powerful one-two punch to President Bush and his Iraq policies. Our just released CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows his approval rating has fallen back to its all time low point of only 32 percent.

Iraq is clearly pulling Mr. Bush down more than ever. Public support for the war has sunk to an unprecedented low point in our new poll.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, has been poring over the numbers -- Bill, why is the public support for the war sinking?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, now we're finding that even Republican support for the war is beginning to waiver.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): President Bush's Iraq troop build-up is in place.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY WHIP: The final surge just was completed about in the last 10 days.

SCHNEIDER: What happens now?

LOTT: Come September, we'll have to see how they're doing and we'll have to make an assessment.

SCHNEIDER: The public is already making an assessment, and it's not good. In the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, 69 percent of Americans believe things are going badly in Iraq. Public support for the war has reached a new low -- 30 percent. Two thirds of Americans are opposed. Most Americans no longer believe U.S. action in Iraq is morally justified.

When Congress voted in April to impose a timetable for withdrawal, only two Republicans in the House and two in the Senate voted for the bill. Two hundred and forty Republicans voted against timetables.

We are beginning to see some cracks in the Republican wall of support.

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R-IA), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I speak to my fellow senators when I say that the president is not the only American leader who will have to make adjustments to his or her thinking.

SCHNEIDER: Senator Lugar's assessment?

LUGAR: Our focus on Iraq has diverted us from opportunities to change the world in directions that strengthen our national security.

SCHNEIDER: The Senate Democratic leader said Lugar's remarks may be turning point, depending on whether more Republicans start following Lugar's lead.

Are they?

Their constituents seem to be.

Among Democrats over the last four months, opposition to the war has been nearly unanimous -- over 90 percent.

About two thirds of Independents have also held steady against the war.

This month, anti-war sentiment among Republicans suddenly increased -- 38 percent now say they oppose the war.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Sixty-three percent of Americans are ready to withdraw at least some troops from Iraq. Forty-two percent of Republicans agree -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider with the latest numbers.

Here's how President Bush's all time low approval rating compares to those of his predecessors.

Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan never fell as far in our CNN or Gallup polls. Their lowest approval ratings were 37 percent and 35 percent respectively.

But the president's father fared worse than his son. At rock bottom, only 29 percent of Americans approved of the way George Herbert Walker Bush did his job.

Some other modern presidents also saw their poll numbers plummet into the 20s. At their low points, Jimmy Carter's approval rating was 28; Richard Nixon's was 24; and Harry Truman's was lowest of all, at only 22 percent.

At least one thing is going President Bush's way today. The Senate immigration reform bill survived a showdown test vote. Supporters managed to get the 60 votes they needed to keep the compromise alive. But the battle is by no means over yet. Opponents still are trying to kill the controversial centerpiece of the legislation -- a pathway to citizenship for some 12 million illegal immigrants that critics dismiss as mere amnesty. The measure also would create a temporary worker program. Critics fear it might drive down wages. Others are raising red flags that provisions to strengthen border security, simply aren't tough enough.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Elaine Quijano.

She's watching all of this. I assume, Elaine, the president's going to keep on fighting until the bitter end?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. The president expected to continue to be very active on this issue, Wolf.

As you know, he's been making calls. He's expected to continue to do so and be very hands-on.

Now earlier today, here on the White House campus, President Bush made remarks before a friendly audience of immigration reform supporters and he reiterated his backing of the compromise bill that was crafted in the Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you dislike the status quo on immigration, then you ought to be supporting a comprehensive approach to making sure this system works. And it's a practical approach. The Senate has worked very hard to craft a comprehensive bill. And a good piece of legislation like this and a difficult piece of legislation like this, one side doesn't get everything they want. It's a -- it's a careful compromise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUIJANO: Next up for the White House, officials here are focusing on the next step. That is defeating so-called poison pills or amendments that are aimed at destroying and killing the bill altogether. Now, the White House is hoping that this legislation can be pushed through in the Senate before the Fourth of July recess -- Wolf.

BLITZER: If it is -- if it does manage to get through the Senate in the coming days -- and that's a huge, huge if right now -- what are the prospects it will eventually pass in the House?

QUIJANO: Well, that's, of course, another big battle that is looming, as you know. And already there are signs of trouble ahead in the House. After the weekly closed door meeting of House Republicans, House Minority Leader John Boehner said it is quite clear to him that there is a large number of Republicans in the House who have serious concerns about this Senate bill.

Now, the White House, of course, anticipating that it's going to be a tough fight ahead. But officials continue to say that they are viewing this, really, as one battle at a time. But, again, Wolf, over on the House side, it's another story altogether -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Elaine Quijano reporting for us from the White House.

Thanks very much.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty.

He's watching all of this unfold in New York -- hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How are you doing?

You know, the problem is the federal government doesn't have any credibility on the issue of illegal immigration. They don't enforce the laws. They don't secure the border. They don't do anything about employers who hire illegal aliens. And now they're trying to shove this thing with the price tag of, what, $2.5 trillion down the citizens' throats.

And the citizens are going, you know, we've seen the dog and pony show before. You guys aren't genuine, you don't do what you say you're going to do and we're not going for it. And it ain't going to pass.

Anyway, there are victims of the war in Iraq -- I digress -- victims of the war in Iraq that we don't hear so often. I'm talking about children.

"The Washington Post" reports that psychiatrists, teachers, social workers in Baghdad and in Jordan say this war is taking an immense and largely unnoticed psychological toll on kids. One of the country's few child psychiatrists says the generation to come will be more violent than they were under Saddam Hussein because of this war.

Consider this. The United Nations says that since the U.S. invasion in Iraq, four million Iraqis have fled their homes. There's only 25 million people in the whole country. Half of those fleeing are kids. Some youngsters are being killed in places like school playgrounds, soccer fields. They're being kidnapped and held for ransom. Tens of thousands of them are simply left behind as orphans. The World Health Organization did a survey last year of children aged three to 10 in Baghdad. Forty-seven percent of these kids say they witnessed a major traumatic event during the last two years, and 14 percent of that group showed symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Another study in Mosul -- 30 percent of the kids showing signs of PTSD.

One of the psychiatrists who spoke to "The Post," says that many of the children suffer from anxiety, depression, bed wetting and recurring nightmares. And, oh, by the way, to treat all these problems, there are just 60 psychiatrists left in the entire nation of Iraq.

So here's the question -- what will the future hold for the next generation of Iraqis?

E-mail us, caffertyfile@cnn.com, or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile.

Kids, I mean, how tragic -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And it's one of the horrible parts of this war. So many of the professionals, especially doctors and dentists and psychiatrists, they've simply fled whether to Syria or Jordan...

CAFFERTY: Sure.

BLITZER: ... or anyplace they can get out, because it's so dangerous to be there right now.

CAFFERTY: Yes. The entire intellectual class of the country is disappearing, whether it's be doctors, teachers, whoever. They're all gone. The people who are left are the people who had no chance nor choice, no -- no means to escape the violence. And a lot of those are kids.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

We're going to come back to you soon.

Coming up, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has some choice words for Vice President Dick Cheney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DW), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He has total access to every single, solitary secret in the federal government.

Why -- who died and left him boss?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Senator Biden lets loose about Cheney's claim that he's not in the executive branch. And the Democrat also has plenty to say about Senator Dick Lugar's defection on Iraq. My interview with Joe Biden -- that's coming up next.

Plus, is Rudy Giuliani finding any converts to his campaign within the religious right?

And is he getting help from the Reverend Pat Robertson?

And another presidential hopeful joins the ad war. We're going to tell you where Senator Barack Obama hopes to make inroads on the airwaves.

Stay with us.

You're in the in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Senator Richard Lugar's sharp turn against President Bush's war policy is being weighed by his colleagues right now, including those on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Lugar is the panel's ranking Republican. He's a former chairman, as well.

And joining us now, Democratic Senator Joe Biden, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, a Democratic presidential candidate.

Senator, thanks for coming in.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DW), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Happy to be with you.

BLITZER: I'm going to play a little clip that what your colleague, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, the former chairman, Richard Lugar, said last night.

BIDEN: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LUGAR: The United States has violated some basic national security precepts during our military engagement in Iraq. We have overestimated what the military can achieve. We have set goals that are unrealistic and we have inadequately factored in the broader regional consequences of our actions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, some have suggested that Lugar's decision to depart from the president's strategy represents some sort of watershed.

What do you think?

BIDEN: I think it does. It does. Lugar is the most respected Republican in the area of foreign policy. His departure from the president's position is one he's long held in my private discussions with him. But him going public with it is a big, big deal.

BLITZER: Why do you think he went public now?

BIDEN: Because I think he sees us careening off a cliff here. If you notice, everything he said in that speech is stuff you and I have talked about for some time. It's not -- it's that he has held, in my view, these deep-seated concerns.

Look, before he went to war, Dick Lugar and I wrote a report and we were on your show, called "The Decade After," pointing out we would not be greeted with open arms and we needed considerably more military to do what we were going to do. And so Dick Lugar has been consistent in his -- in his skepticism, but he is a loyal Republican. He tried very hard to give the president every opportunity to make his plan work, which I don't believe Dick agreed with from the beginning. And now he's -- my guess -- I talked to him. My instinct tells me it's enough is enough.

BLITZER: You spoke to him since the speech?

BIDEN: I spoke to him this morning, yes.

BLITZER: And -- and can you give us a little sense of that conversation?

BIDEN: Well, I called him to thank him for making the speech. I think it's significant. And I also called to tell him -- which will probably get me in trouble -- but I called to tell him if the president is really willing to make a change in course, I'll jump in the tank. I will be part of an effort to get us out of this mess if he needs some bipartisan help to do it.

BLITZER: So you'd like nothing better than to work with Senator Lugar and other Republicans to forge a new strategy...

BIDEN: Absolutely, positively.

BLITZER: ... that would result in what?

BIDEN: Result in, first of all, saving American lives. Dick Lugar went through this whole explanation and he essentially said, Wolf, what Carl Levin and I have been pushing -- you need a fundamental change in strategy. Get out of the civil war. Train the Iraqi forces. Prevent Al Qaeda from the occupying territory. Draw down troops immediately. You don't need 160,000 troops to do those missions. And move to bring the international community and the neighbors in, something we've been talking about publicly, with a detailed plan, for the last year-and-a-half.

BLITZER: You don't think the president is doing that now?

BIDEN: Oh, I know he's not doing it. The president has no -- it's an absolute abject failure, his policy. Abject failure. There is no possibility that his proposal was going to work from the beginning, from the beginning.

If you noticed, he had -- most everybody he offered the Joint Chiefs of Staff to left. They didn't want any part of being part of this policy.

And so Dick Lugar, I think, has said what I believe all but a dozen Republicans feel in the Senate -- enough, Mr. President. Stop. Get our troops out of Iraq (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: Your -- your friend Chuck Hagel has been saying it for some time.

BIDEN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: ... Gordon Smith of Oregon.

A lot of people are looking at John Warner now, the former Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, the ranking member. He's been critical in recent months, but he certainly hasn't gone as far as Senator Lugar.

BIDEN: I'm hoping John will, because I believe in John's heart -- it's presumptuous for me to say -- he's as openly skeptical of the president's position, and I think privately thinks it's not at all workable. And the combination of John Warner and Dick Lugar could do a great national service at this point by giving other Republicans who are less consequential cover to do what I believe they know they should do.

BLITZER: A few weeks back, you were on ABC, on "This Week." And you said absolutely, positively, unquestionably when you were asked if the votes by Senator Clinton and Senator Obama in favor of a timeline without funding the troops would put the troops at greater risk.

I wonder if you still stand by that.

BIDEN: Of course, I stand by that. I never back away from what I say. The fact of the matter is I don't think that's how they thought about it. You all guys love me to get in and be critical of them. I don't think they focused on what I focused on.

What I focused on was the absolute knowledge that the $3.5 billion in that bill to begin to build these MRAP vehicles that caused -- that would save up to 80 percent of the casualties that we're now suffering in these -- in these vehicles they're now riding in would be delayed somewhere between six weeks and six months.

How many Americans die in the meantime?

So when you ask me, do I believe, I know -- I know had we delayed that vote, we would have delayed the construction of these mine- resistant vehicles and 70 percent of these deaths, 70 percent of injuries are being caused by roadside bombs.

BLITZER: Does the vice president, Dick Cheney, have a point when he says that he's also the president of your body, the U.S. Senate, and, as a result, he's not necessarily bound by the decisions, the regulations of the executive branch of the U.S. government?

BIDEN: Wolf, I have a bad habit, as you know -- we've known each other a long time and we're just getting to the quick of it here.

Look, he's got all this secret information. He has total access to every single solitary secret in the federal government. Why -- who died and left him boss?

Who -- no matter what construct you come up with, why is he not responsible for being accountable to how he handles that information?

And this ridiculous construct, this constitutional web he's weaving that he is president of the Senate, he's not a -- look, if he's not Rahm Emanuel has a bill. If he's not a member of the executive branch, good. Eliminate his salary. Take away his house. You know, let him, you know, work on...

BLITZER: You'd support that?

BIDEN: Oh, sure I would. Look, this guy is becoming absolutely -- look, what's -- the part that bothers me the most, Wolf, is not these cockamamie ideas he comes up. They're damaging America. The policy prescriptions he has been in charge of, the way he has had this web of control over the president's policy related to national security has fundamentally damaged American interests. This is more than an academic constitutional exercise.

BLITZER:

Thanks for coming in, Senator Biden.

BIDEN: Thank you.

Appreciate it.

Thanks.

BLITZER: And still ahead, are other Republicans following Senator Richard Lugar's lead and turning against the president on Iraq?

We're going to have a live report from Capitol Hill.

Plus, the mystery of a Web site called Hillaryis44.org.

Why are bloggers trying to figure out who's behind it?

And a new bid to keep Lewis "Scooter" Libby out of jail in the CIA leak case. There are new developments. We'll share them with you.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Carol Costello is on assignment out in Ohio. She's going to be joining us shortly.

Brianna Keilar is monitoring stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now from around the world -- Brianna, what do you have? BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, many people are worried that jobs are hard to get, so their confidence in the economy has dropped. That's according to the New York-based Conference Board. It says consumer confidence dropped from its reading in May, slumping to its lowest level since August of last year. Experts say more people are worried about finding jobs.

Lewis "Scooter" Libby hopes he won't have to spend any time behind bars. His attorneys have filed an emergency motion asking the court to keep him out of prison pending the appeal of his convictions in the CIA leak case. The three judge panel could rule on the request at any moment. You may recall after Libby's conviction, the judge in the criminal trial ordered him to report to prison as soon as officials figure out where he'll serve his 30 month sentence.

And near Atlanta, police say a pro-wrestler strangled his wife on Friday, suffocated his 7-year-old son a day or two later, then hanged himself on a piece of exercise equipment soon after that. Chris Benoit was a 40-year-old wrestler, nicknamed "the rabid wolverine." Today, officials say they find it bizarre that he would kill his wife and son at different times over the weekend then apparently stay in the house with the bodies. Officials are continuing to investigate -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a horrific story that is.

Thanks, Brianna.

We'll check back with you shortly.

Up next, when Senator Richard Lugar talks foreign policy, other U.S. senators listen.

Are any of them following his example right now and speaking out against the war in Iraq?

And is this the beginning of a Republican Party defection on the war?

We'll go live to Capitol Hill in a moment.

And Rudy Giuliani seeks the embrace of Christian conservatives despite his moderate views on social issues.

Is the Reverend Pat Robertson praying for him?

Stay with us.

You're in the in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now, nature strikes fear and fury in California. Crews hoping desperately to try to beat back that fire near Lake Tahoe. It's already destroyed hundreds of homes and is threatening to burn down about 1,000 others. We'll go there shortly. From prime minister to prime player in the pursuit of peace, it's Tony Blair's last day on the job. We'll take a closer look at his next job, as a special envoy for the Middle East.

And she's for, he's against. Elizabeth Edwards says she supports gay marriage. But her husband, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, does not. And you might not believe how John Edwards says he found out.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in the in THE SITUATION ROOM.

There's more dramatic evidence today of the tide turning sharply against the Iraq War and against the president. As we reported, Senator Richard Lugar, the influential former chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, is now urging Mr. Bush to change course in Iraq -- and I'm quoting now -- "very soon."

Let's bring in our Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. Dana is watching this story for us.

Is the defection by Richard Lugar opening up a floodgate?

In other words, are other Republicans about to follow his lead?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we do have another development on that front. Another Republican Senator, Wolf, is breaking ranks with the White House today on Iraq.

Ohio GOP Senator George Voinovich sent this letter to the president just a short while ago, making clear in this letter and with a detailed plan how he wants Mr. Bush to change course now in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Ohio Republican George Voinovich has a new Iraq proposal he calls plan E, E for exit from Iraq.

Voinovich is presenting to the president what he says is a -- quote -- "comprehensive plan that will allow us to withdraw from Iraq in a reasonable way, rather than continuing to do what we're doing now."

His proposal to bring troops home, which he says was months in the making, is a new GOP defection on the war, coming right on the heels of this late-night bombshell dropped by Republican Richard Lugar, suggesting the president's strategy for more troops in Iraq has failed.

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R), INDIANA: In my judgment, the cost and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved. Persisting indefinitely with the surge strategy will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our vital interests over the long term.

BASH: The Senate's top Democrat jumped on Lugar's declaration as a pivotal moment.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I believe that Senator Lugar's words yesterday could be remembered as a turning point in this intractable civil war in Iraq.

BASH: But Republican reaction to Lugar's comments, all the buzz in the halls of Congress, was mixed. GOP Senator John Warner, a longtime critic of the president's Iraq policy, hailed Lugar for his comments, calling it a harbinger for more GOP votes next month to change course in Iraq.

But some supporters of the president's plan for more troops in Iraq were unmoved, saying the strategy needs more time -- Senator Lindsey Graham telling reporters, "As much as I respect Senator Lugar, I think it's unfair to the troops in the field to say the surge is not working."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Both Senators Lugar and Voinovich told us today, what they're trying to do by coming out with these plans to bring -- bring troops home from Iraq is to try to get the president's attention, Wolf, to try to convince him that he and his top aides need to sit down, and they need to come up with a plan to start bringing troops home, too -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, did Senator Lugar speak with the White House?

BASH: Yes. Senator Lugar said that he did get a call today, after his speech last night, from the White House, and that they are going to send National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, maybe others, to come and have a conversation with him, probably here on the Hill this week about his plan and about his defection from the president.

BLITZER: Thanks, Dana, very much.

In order to become president, sometimes, you need to face some tough crowds. That's what Rudy Giuliani did today. The Republican presidential candidate gave a speech before an audience that does not necessarily agree with a lot of his views.

Let's go to our chief national correspondent, John King. He's joining us from Virginia Beach in Virginia.

John, the -- Giuliani, how was he received at the Reverend Pat Robertson's Regent University, where you are right now?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's quite interesting, Wolf, because there are still so many Republicans who think that social conservatives, like here in a place at Regent University or like in Iowa, in South Carolina, will ultimately bring the high-flying Giuliani presidential campaign back to earth.

The mayor's visit here today, though, is yet another day in his effort to prove them wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAT ROBERTSON, HOST, "THE 700 CLUB": Thank you very much.

KING: As introductions go, hard to top.

ROBERTSON: He may one day become not New York's mayor, but America's leader. So, it's a great pleasure to welcome a dear friend and a great leader.

KING: And, so, the stage was set, former New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani, a supporter of abortion rights, introduced by a friend, who just happens to be a founding father of the anti-abortion religious right.

(APPLAUSE)

RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not going to give a political speech.

KING: Of course it was a political speech, but, strikingly, not one direct mention of abortion, this as close as he came:

GIULIANI: Don't expect you are going to agree with me on everything, because that would be unrealistic.

KING: It was a deliberate choice, visiting a Christian conservative campus to make his case that leadership and tough talk about fighting terrorism and illegal immigration matter as much, if not more, to most Republican voters as the moral and social issues that have often defined past GOP primary battles.

GIULIANI: And, if this is a one-issue election, it's about remaining on offense against terrorists.

KING: The luncheon was part of the university's series on executive leadership. And Giuliani told reporters, raising abortion would have been out of place.

GIULIANI: It was a decision to make a speech on leadership. And I have done it 400 times, and I have never mentioned abortion before. So, it would actually have been a conscious decision to go out of my way to mention it.

KING: Giuliani has made his support of abortion rights the centerpiece of some recent speeches, in part, to overcome criticism that his early campaign answers on the issue were inconsistent or confusing.

But advisers like Ed Goeas say, his persistent strength in the polls is proof most voters who oppose abortion rights are nonetheless open to voting for Rudy Giuliani.

ED GOEAS, GIULIANI CAMPAIGN POLLSTER: You have about 65 to 75 percent of those primary voters are pro-life, but our own polling has come in around 20, 21 percent are we call pro-life jailbreakers. KING: Chuck Slemp is the Regent student body president and an active College Republican. He opposes abortion, but is considering backing Giuliani and says his conversations on this conservative campus leave him convinced he has plenty of company.

CHUCK SLEMP, REGENT UNIVERSITY STUDENT BODY PRESIDENT: We have got look at the whole broad picture and pragmatically say, can this individual win in the presidential race?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Now, as for the sometimes controversial Robertson, he says he bonded with Giuliani on a flight back to the States from Israel several years ago, and also because of their shared battle with prostate cancer.

He is now neutral in the 2008 presidential race, Wolf, but he is on record in the past saying he thinks Giuliani would make a great president.

BLITZER: So, how do you explain, or at least experts explain, given his views on some of the social issues, like his support for abortion rights, that he does have this kind of support among the social conservatives?

KING: Depends on who you ask. If you ask the competing campaigns, especially the candidates that are anti-abortion, they say that Rudy Giuliani is still living off his high name recognition after 9/11, his celebrity star power. And, as we get closer to the caucuses and the primaries, and people learn more about his positions, that those conservatives will peel away.

If you ask his campaign -- I specifically brought this up with his pollster, Ed Goeas -- he says that Giuliani is different, because voters saw him for those six, eight, 10 days after 9/11. They saw him every day. They built up a reservoir of like and trust, and, therefore, because they like him so much and they trust him so much, it's much harder for people to criticize him and that people are much more open to having disagreements with him, because they give him so much credit, Wolf, on the threshold issue of leadership.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, John King, reporting for us from Virginia beach.

John King and Dana Bash, as you know, are part of the best political team on television.

Remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can always check out our Political Ticker at CNN.com/ticker.

And this note: The next presidential debate to be featured here on CNN will take place on July 23. We're teaming up with YouTube. It will be the first debate where all of you can submit your questions to the candidates online.

Coming up: a first for presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama. We're going to show you the kickoff ad of his campaign and the surprising person featured in it.

And we're tracing the source of some mysterious pro-Hillary Clinton Web site with a quirky name.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A first today for Senator Barack Obama. He's joining the campaign ad wars.

Tom Foreman is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's following all the action.

So, where are these Obama commercials going?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Hawkeye State. Iowa, as you know, even with all these states pushing their primaries way up, almost half of them with early primaries now, the Iowa caucuses still an important kickoff to the presidential primary season.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OBAMA CAMPAIGN AD)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Barack Obama, and I approve this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN (voice-over): Obama's out today with his first two campaign commercials. They tell the story of his career before he came to Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OBAMA CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR: After college, Barack Obama signed on as a community organizer for local churches.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: In a nod toward bipartisanship, one of the ads features glowing words from a Republican.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OBAMA CAMPAIGN AD)

KIRK DILLARD (R), ILLINOIS STATE SENATOR: Republican legislators respected Senator Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: That's state Senator Kirk Dillard. He worked alongside Obama in the Illinois State Senate. And, even though Dillard is supporting John McCain for president, he agreed to take part in Obama's commercial.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, EDWARDS CAMPAIGN AD)

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's time for the president of the United States to ask Americans to be patriotic about something other than war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Among other Democratic hopefuls, John Edwards is putting up his first ads in another crucial state, New Hampshire. Last month, Edwards ran commercials in Iowa. Chris Dodd has also advertised in both states. And Bill Richardson came up with some clever commercials, poking fun at his resume.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, RICHARDSON CAMPAIGN AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fourteen years in Congress, U.N. ambassador, secretary of energy, governor of New Mexico, negotiated with dictators in Iraq, North Korea, Cuba, Zaire, Nigeria, Yugoslavia, Kenya, got a cease-fire in Darfur, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize four times.

So, what makes you think you can be president?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Those commercials ran in Iowa and may have helped him make modest gains in the polls there.

Among Republicans, Mitt Romney seems to be the big winner so far. He spent nearly $4 million to blanket Iowa and New Hampshire with ads.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Romney's strategy in the early stage is to get out of the gate early and define himself before his opponents do. So far, he's been successful.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Romney is now on top in our latest poll in New Hampshire. And he's also number one in the most recent poll we have seen in Iowa. Now, I'm not saying his commercials are the reason, but it certainly seems they have helped.

And you, of course, can help yourself to a big helping of "Raw Politics" every night on "A.C. 360."

BLITZER: Probably can't -- probably can't hurt, so -- but it probably is helping.

FOREMAN: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

FOREMAN: You got that kind of money...

BLITZER: Yes.

FOREMAN: ... to get the ads out there, come on. He's one of those guys who needs to let people know who he is, because, in the East, people know him a lot, but you have got to spread it out across the country. That's what he's doing.

BLITZER: Thanks, Tom, very much.

An anonymous pro-Hillary Clinton Web site that spends much of its time slamming Barack Obama is raising some eyebrows online. Now bloggers are asking, who is behind the Web site that is called HillaryIs44.org?

Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

Abbi, what do we know about this Web site?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, that number refers to the next presidency that's up for grabs. And we know that whoever is behind this site certainly likes Hillary, feelings not reserved for Barack Obama.

In page after pink page on this relatively new site, Barack Obama is attacked for what they call his dirty politics, all the while inviting confidential tips to be sent via e-mail.

So, who's behind it? Well, that's what bloggers have been trying to find out, intrigued by the level of detail and work on this site. What we do know is that, from online records, it was registered anonymously in March, and the site links to Hillary Clinton's contribution page, all the while saying, though, that it has nothing to do with any official Hillary Clinton organization.

Hillary Clinton's Internet director, Peter Daou, says today that the campaign has nothing to do with this Web site. So, what clues can we glean? Well, the site's author or authors seem to write about women's issues a lot, vigorously promoting a Young Women for Hillary event in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.

And, from the photos on the page, you can guess that the author or authors was probably in the crowd. More than that, though, it still remains a mystery that bloggers are trying to get to the bottom of. E-mails today to the e-mail account on the site were not returned -- Wolf.

BLITZER: If you get an answer to that mystery, let us know, Abbi.

TATTON: We will let you know.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

Up next: He has wide respect among his peers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LUGAR: A course change should happen now, while there is still some possibility of constructing a sustainable, bipartisan strategy in Iraq. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So, now that Republican Senator Richard Lugar has that to say about what should happen in Iraq, might his fellow Republicans agree? We will talk about that in our "Strategy Session."

And, if it acts like a candidate, is it a candidate? Republican Senator -- former Senator, that is, Fred Thompson, making some of the same moves the actual presidential candidates are making. We are going to tell you what they are today.

Stay with us. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This is just coming in to CNN.

The former deputy interior secretary has just been sentenced to 10 months in prison in the Abramoff scandal. J. Steven Griles is the highest ranking Bush administration official convicted in that investigation. He pleaded guilty to obstructing justice and now gets 10 months in prison. We will stay on top of this story for you.

In today's "Strategy Session": Senator Richard Lugar's surprising and stinging critique of the war in Iraq. The Republican now says the U.S. has violated some national security precepts in Iraq. Might other Republicans secretly feel the same thing?

Joining us now, our CNN political analyst Donna Brazile. She's a Democratic strategist. And Terry Jeffrey, he's editor at large of "Human Events."

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

Terry, let me start with you. How big of a deal is Senator Lugar's decision to criticize the president's strategy?

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, "HUMAN EVENTS": Well, I think it's a very big thing, Wolf.

Senator Lugar's speech was very thoughtful. It very systematically analyzes the situation in Iraq, as well as the political situation in the United States. He comes to the conclusion, if the president doesn't change his policy now and try and find bipartisan ground with Democrats in Congress, which I note Senator Biden was suggesting earlier on this program, we may be a situation where we have a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq after the '08 election, where many U.S. interests are seriously harmed. He is suggesting an alternative course.

BLITZER: And the day after Lugar did it last night, George Voinovich, another Republican from Ohio, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, also distanced himself from the strategy, ignoring appeals, if you will, from the White House: Give it a chance to work, at least until September. These two senators are now saying, this doesn't work, and there's not a -- there's no point in waiting until September. American lives are at stake.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: They're absolutely right.

Look, last week, we heard several of the generals in Iraq said that, in September, they provide set a snapshot. What Richard Lugar did last night was a profile in courage. He got up on the floor. It was a very honest critique of our situation in Iraq. He laid out America's national security interests, to prevent Iraq from becoming a haven for terrorists, to prevent Iraq's civil war from spreading to the region, to stop Iran from its influence in the region, and rebuilding America's vital interests in the region.

It was a very good speech. I -- I advise people to look at it, Republicans and Democrats, and come up with a strategy now.

JEFFREY: And, also, a point the senator makes is, the president has a very narrow window politically in -- able to move from this strategy to a bipartisan strategy that can protect our interests in Iraq, because we are heading into a presidential campaign, where, the senator suggests, there's going to be a temptation for demagoguery on both sides, to play the war issue to their political advantage and the disadvantage of the country.

So, I think the president ought to listen to what Senator Lugar is saying.

BLITZER: Here's some new numbers in our new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll. And you can see the deterioration of support for the war.

Back in March of 2003, when the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein's regime, 72 percent of the American people told us they supported the war. It's now gone steadily down to only 30 percent right now.

And I assume that explains why President Bush's job approval numbers -- take a look at this -- tying its all-time low in our CNN poll. Only 32 percent of the American public approves of the job he's doing.

I assume so much of that disapproval is the result of the war in Iraq.

BRAZILE: And it's his credibility. The president said back in January, we need benchmarks. When the Democrats gave him benchmarks, he said, we don't need benchmarks.

So, the president has no credibility when it comes to the war on Iraq, the war on terrorism, or even domestic issues. That's why it's a time for a change of course. And that's what Richard Lugar is calling for.

JEFFREY: And those poll numbers are also the reason there's such temptation for demagoguery as we move closer and closer to the '08 election.

As Senator Lugar points out, there are serious interests at stake for the United States in the Middle East. We can't get away from them. And we need a strategy that will optimize our interests there. And we can't do that by having a precipitous withdrawal after the '08 election.

BLITZER: The president made another appeal today to get comprehensive immigration reform passed in the Senate this week.

Let's play a little clip of what the president said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Senate has worked very hard to craft a comprehensive bill. In a good piece of legislation like this, in a difficult piece of legislation like this, you -- one side doesn't get everything they want. It's a careful compromise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, they got a -- got through a major hurdle today, in allowing the debate to go forward this week.

You think it's going to pass this week in the Senate?

BRAZILE: Twenty-four amendments, Wolf, that's a lot of amendments. That's a lot of poison pills to add to or detract from the current compromise. I don't know. I give it 50/50.

BLITZER: What do you think?

JEFFREY: I think it has a chance of passing in the Senate. It will then go into a fierce battle in the United States House of Representatives. Every day the battle goes on is a disaster for the president of the United States.

That 30 percent of the people in this who still support the president, Wolf, are the ones who are behind him on his Iraq policy. Those same conservatives hate his immigration proposal. They think he's not telling the truth when he says this is not an amnesty. They do not believe he has tried to secure the borders of the United States. They do not believe he's tried to enforce the immigration laws in the country.

So, the president is about to go into a pitched political battle with the one-third of the American people who actually still support him.

BRAZILE: At least he's showing leadership on a tough issue. And that's something he hasn't always done.

JEFFREY: He's profoundly wrong on this issue, also.

(LAUGHTER) BLITZER: But Donna points out, he's got the guts to stick with it.

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

BLITZER: He's determined. We will see what happens in the Senate, and, then, if it gets through the Senate, what happens in the House. Guys, thanks very much, Donna and Terry, for coming in.

Still to come: What will the future hold for the next generation of Iraqis? Jack Cafferty standing by with your e-mail.

Plus: Was presidential candidate John Edwards really surprised to find out that his wife supports legalizing same-sex marriage?

And the CIA takes the wraps off some decades-old secret records, the family jewels, as they're called. It isn't pretty. Stunning details now revealed for the first time, you will hear about them, see them right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Fred Thompson tops our "Political Radar" today.

The probable presidential candidate is back in his home state of Tennessee, checking out possible campaign office space. Tonight, the former senator from Tennessee heads to what's being called a big-bucks fund-raiser. Reports today say Thompson has also hired a top Republican operative in the crucial early state of Iowa.

Thompson's also defending his past. While he likes to paint himself as a Washington outsider, Thompson earned more than $1 million lobbying the federal government for more than 20 years. He tells the Associated Press that lobbying is an important part of his life because, he says, the government has its hand in everything.

Rudy Giuliani is reaffirming his ties to a prominent South Carolina family. Giuliani released a list of regional chairmen who will support his campaign. And on that list is Arthur Ravenel Jr. He's a former congressman and supporter of flying the Confederate Flag in the statehouse grounds in South Carolina. He's also the father of Thomas Ravenel, who, until last week, was South Carolina's treasurer and chairman of Giuliani's campaign in the Palmetto State. Ravenel stepped down from both jobs after he was indicted on federal cocaine charges.

Remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can always check out our Political Ticker at CNN.com/ticker.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Am I still part of the best political team on television?

BLITZER: You are, absolutely. CAFFERTY: I just wanted to check. You haven't said that lately.

BLITZER: No, Jack Cafferty, part of the best political team on television.

CAFFERTY: I feel better now.

The question this hour is: What will the future hold for the next generation of Iraqis? A report done on the terrible impact of this war on that nation's children.

Richard writes: "We should put President Bush on a plane and drop him in the middle of the Iraq, or fly every single Iraqi child to the White House, so he can see their faces, hear their cries, and be as haunted by them as he should be. What a travesty. Of course, the powerful never consider the meek or the weak or the innocent when they plot their games of war and profit."

Mary in Tennessee: "The next generation of today's children in Iraq will hate the next generation of Americans, our innocent children of today. George W. Bush hasn't captured bin Laden, but he's created thousands that will replace him for decades."

Wanda in Arlee, Montana.

I got it, Wanda.

"Jack, Jack, Jack, when will you learn? We don't care about children, unless they're unborn American embryonic blastocysts. The fewer cells, the more we care."

Jim in North Carolina: "Iraq's next generation will be as bad or worse off as the generation of Germans between World Wars I and II. Another despotic leader blaming, in this case, Americans for all their ills will have no trouble attracting followers, as Hitler did in Germany."

Robert in Florida writes: "Sadly, the future of this generation of Iraqis will be a nightmare, literally. Their every waking thought will be of the destruction of their country, images of friends and relatives being killed up close or blown to bloody bits by terrorists, insurgents, and American forces, their economy and infrastructure in ruins, along with any hopes of living a normal life, i.e., getting a job, raising a family, or feeling secure about their own safety, a very sad picture, indeed."

And Bryan in Vancouver: "All those kids having their brains scrambled by mindless violence. I hope the oil was worth it" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

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