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Security Measures Mark Holiday

Aired July 4, 2007 - 17:00   ET


Happening now, the threat of terror passing a shadow over Independence Day. High profile security measures in place across the country. But we found serious gaps right here in the Capitol.

Also, a possible presidential campaign shake-up.

Will we see another third party bid and is the country ready to embrace an Independent candidate?

We'll ask the man who played that role in 2000, Ralph Nader.

And the political future of L.A.'s mayor in doubt after he admits to an extramarital affair.

Can he survive a city hall scandal?

Wolf Blitzer is off.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Stepped up security across the country as Americans celebrate the Fourth of July, just days after those failed car bombings in Britain. But despite high profile anti-terror tactics, some serious security gaps remain.

CNN homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, joining us live now -- Jeanne, what kind of security measures are being used in place to prevent the kinds of things we saw in the U.K.?

JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, of course, saw Suzanne, the backdrop for tonight's festivities is not just monuments and skylines, but London and Glasgow.


MESERVE: (voice-over): A platoon of tow trucks patrols the streets of Washington to hoist and haul any vehicles violating security restrictions.

CHIEF CATHY LANIER, D.C. POLICE: We are going to be very diligent about keeping vehicles moving and keeping parking-restricted areas free of vehicle traffic and parked vehicles.

MESERVE: The worry? Car bombs like those in the United Kingdom. In New York City, there were more vehicle searches and in some communities law enforcement asked business to help.

JOSEPH PERSICHINI, FBI: If they see individuals buying large amounts of propane or filling up containers of gasoline, again, bring that to our attention.

MESERVE: But there are still vulnerabilities.

PHIL KIVER, WASHINGTON AREA RESIDENT: And basically, right up to the front door.

MESERVE: Phil Kiver says a misplaced barrier at D.C.'s Union Station leaves room for a car or truck packed with explosives to pull up right to the front door.

KIVER: I told Amtrak police about the issue. They said talk to the Park Service. I told D.C. Metro. They said talk to Amtrak. I talked to the private security firm here at Union Station and they said speak to the management company. You know, I'm getting the basic runaround.

MESERVE: He says he even approached a member of a TSA VIPER team deployed specifically to keep the station safe over the holiday.

KIVER: I spoke to a federal air marshal yesterday in the Metro station and he told me to send an e-mail. He didn't say who to send it to, just send an e-mail. Thanks for your concern. And he looked entirely too busy talking to a very attractive young lady.


MESERVE: Officials have repeatedly asked the public to report anything specific.

But after his experience, Kiver asked, is anyone going to be listening -- Suzanne, back to you.

MALVEAUX: Sure, Jeanne.

Do we know if there are any specific threats for the -- for the holiday today?

Any kind of idea of whether or not we can expect something?

MESERVE: Officials are still saying no specific and credible threat associated with the July 4th holiday. They are urging the public to go out and enjoy themselves, but keep their eyes open -- Suzanne.


Thank you so much, Jeanne.

Have a great holiday. MESERVE: Thanks.

MALVEAUX: And stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

President Bush urging patience with the war in Iraq on this Fourth of July. He paid tribute to U.S. forces serving there in a speech at a West Virginia Air National Guard base.

Mr. Bush warned against what he called a premature withdrawal of U.S. forces, saying the troop increase he ordered needs time to work.


GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We sent reinforcements to help the Iraqis secure their neighborhoods and go after the terrorists and insurgents and militias that are inciting sectarian violence and help get the capital under control. It's a tough fight. But I wouldn't have asked those troops to go into harm's way if the fight was not essential to the security of the United States of America.


MALVEAUX: Our own CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is embedded with U.S. troops south of Baghdad.

FREDERICK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, no Fourth of July holiday feeling here at Forward Operating Base Kalzoo (ph) near Iskandariyah, Iraq.

There's a lot of anti-insurgent activity going on here. And, in fact, early this morning, I was able to go on one operation seeking out a known IED cell.


LT. JASON DUPIUS: So tonight, high risk for small arms fire, dismount IEDs.

PLEITGEN: (voice-over): For Lieutenant Jason Dupius (ph), this Fourth of July begins long before dawn, with a briefing for a dangerous mission in a rural area south of Baghdad -- a raid in a neighborhood where only a few days before, Dupius' platoon found IEDs and bomb making components, a neighborhood they know is hostile to American forces.

(on camera): What's the most dangerous thing here for you guys here?

DUPIUS: Dismounted IEDs. Yes, that's it.


DUPIUS: There's no armor around you, you know, as your body armor so, you know, fragmentation can cause the most bodily harm. PLEITGEN: (voice-over): No Independence Day celebrations for these soldiers. To them, they say, the Fourth of July is just another day, with another combat mission. And Dupius' main goal is bringing all his men back alive.

This unit, like so many others in Iraq, is stepping up operations as a result of the U.S. troop increase, the so-called surge, trying to disrupt insurgent activities around Baghdad, operations the commanding general says are key to success.

MAJ. GEN. RICK LYNCH, U.S. ARMY: It has to be a long-term game. It's got to be clear and hold and build. And the only people who can do the hold piece are the Iraqi security forces. It has to happen.

PLEITGEN: Jason Dupuis and his men wrap up their mission at the crack of dawn. They haven't found any new IEDs this time.

Back at base, Dupius shows me what he says he's fighting for -- his wife Tamra (ph), five months pregnant.

DUPIUS: Here's his head right here, OK?

There's his spine.

Read one, you ready?

PLEITGEN: On Independence Day, especially, Dupius says, he's proud to serve his country here in Iraq. But he also says the Fourth of July is another day gone by, another day he gets closer to seeing his family again.


PLEITGEN: And a lot of these soldiers say things like photos, things like e-mails and also telephone calls are so important, especially on a day like this Fourth of July, just to keep in touch with their families. And that keeps them so much more motivated to keep fighting this war -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you.

Frederik Pleitgen.

A four month nightmare is finally over for British journalist Alan Johnston of the BBC. He was released 114 days after he was abducted in Gaza by a group called the Army of Islam. Johnston talked about his ordeal at the British consulate in Jerusalem.


ALAN JOHNSTON, FREED BBC JOURNALIST: The last 16 weeks, of course, just the very worst you can imagine of my life. It was like being buried alive, really, removed -- removed from the world and occasionally terrifying. You were in the hands of people who were dangerous and unpredictable and always frightening in that you didn't know when it might end. And after two months, three months, you think, why might I not be here in nine months, 18 months, or longer?

And every kidnap victim, I'm sure, worries like that. It's -- the psychological pressures and stresses are absolutely huge. And it's a huge battle to keep your mind in the right place and stay healthy in every way you can. And just the most unimaginable relief that it's -- it's finally over.


MALVEAUX: Hamas, which took control over Gaza last month, said freeing Johnston was a top priority. Hamas sources tells CNN they were just moments away from an assault on the kidnappers' hideout when another militant faction interceded and diffused the standoff.

Up ahead, he made the wrong choices, but may have done it in the right place. Find out why some say L.A.'s mayor might survive the scandal over his extramarital affair.

Also, a key player in Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign slapped with a lawsuit. We'll have details of the very serious allegations against him.

What impact might they have on the candidate?

Plus, he was the Independent candidate some say turned the 2000 election. We'll talk to Ralph Nader about an outsider in '08.

Stay with us.



MALVEAUX: The political future of L.A.'s mayor in doubt after he admitted to an extramarital affair. But some say he may survive this city hall scandal.

CNN's Jason Carroll is following all the twists and turns of this story -- Jason, what has happened now?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, another political scandal in California.

When a Telemundo news anchor read the story about Los Angeles's mayor getting a divorce, she wasn't revealing the whole story. That's because the reason for the mayor's divorce was her.


CARROLL: (voice-over): She is Mirthala Salinas, a journalist for a Spanish language TV station, who, at one point, covered politics in Los Angeles. And he is Antonio Villaraigosa, L.A.'s mayor. They're the characters in a story of an affair no longer being kept secret. MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA (D), LOS ANGELES: It's true. I have a relationship with Miss. Salinas. And I take full responsibility for my actions.

CARROLL: The media began raising questions about Villaraigosa's marriage in January, when he stopped wearing his wedding ring. Then, last month, he announced he and his wife Corina were breaking up. And this week, both the mayor and Salinas acknowledged they were having a relationship.

Salinas told the Associated Press: "While we are both public figures, I hope that everyone can understand and respect my desire to maintain my privacy."

Salinas works for Telemundo. A network spokesman says they won't comment on personal matters.

MANUEL ABUD, TELEMUNDO: There is only one thing that matters to us, and that's our credibility, our connection with her audience. Our credibility is our most important asset.

CARROLL: Villaraigosa doesn't believe this personal matter will affect his ability to be mayor.

VILLARAIGOSA: I don't believe that the details of my personal life are relevant to my job as mayor.

CARROLL: A number of political figures have had affairs and have gone on to successes. New York's former mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, for example, now presidential candidate.


Will there be repercussions?

I'm not sure.

I doubt it because, first of all, he's not up for reelection until 2009, which is two years away. Second of all, if he runs for governor, that would be in 2010. There's a lot of time between now and then.

CARROLL: In a city where the private lives of public figures often become tabloid news, Angelinos have mixed views.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think it's anybody's business, really. You know, that's his private life. It should remain private.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's an image to the public. So, I mean, doing those -- he shouldn't be doing -- doing those things. It just doesn't look right.


CARROLL: Telemundo says Salinas stopped reporting on politics last August. Salinas will continue to work at Telemundo as a correspondent, but will not cover city hall -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Well, Jason, do you think the story will still have legs weeks from now or?

CARROLL: Well, you know, I'm from Los Angeles. You know, Angelinos tend to be pretty forgiving. You look at what happened to San Francisco's mayor. He had similar personal problems. San Jose's mayor, the same situation. They seem to be doing okay. So it looks like, you know, based on what I've seen in the past, Villaraigosa might be all right.


CARROLL: We'll see.

MALVEAUX: And we'll see.


Thanks, Jason.

And there are some very serious allegations being made against a key member of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign, a man by the name of Mark Penn.

CNN's Brian Todd joining us now live -- Brian, what is Mark Penn being accused of?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, let's establish who he is.

Mark Penn runs a very powerful consulting firm, a company that's now accused by a former partner of electronic eavesdropping. This lawsuit threatens the image of a man known for being cautious and who has a long history with the Clintons.


TODD: (voice-over): He's seen as indispensable to Hillary Clinton's campaign, was a long time pollster and consultant for Bill Clinton. Now, Mrs. Clinton's chief strategist, Mark Penn, is embroiled in a potentially damaging distraction -- a charge that Penn's firm hacked into e-mails on a former partner's personal Blackberry and Penn approved of it.

It's all laid out in lawsuit documents obtained by CNN from an attorney for the former partner, Mitchell Markel. He claims Penn's firm violated federal wiretapping laws.

MICHAEL SHEAR, "WASHINGTON POST": That can only, you know, reflect poorly on Senator Clinton, especially if, you know, if it were to be, you know, determined that Mr. Penn did know something, did perhaps do something that he shouldn't have done. Having said that, you know, let's face it, this is not an allegation against Senator Clinton. TODD: The Clinton campaign is not accused of wrongdoing. When contacted by CNN, a spokesperson for Penn's company denied violating wiretapping laws, saying the Blackberry in question belonged to Penn's firm, not Markel.

But Markel's suit is the ultimate in chutzpah -- a publicity stunt.

Penn's firm had already sued Markel, claiming Markel tried to steal some of Penn's major clients, like the National Hockey League, Estee Lauder and the makers of Blackberry "while he was still in employ and then in violation of his agreement not to solicit firm clients."

Markel's attorney denies that.

Analysts say this is reflective of a business that is intensely competitive.

JOHN MERCURIO, "THE HOTLINE": No, I mean there's -- there's sort of very cutthroat competition going on within the parties, within the consulting firms, between these -- between these firms to try to get the best candidates.


TODD: Now, although Hillary Clinton's campaign is, again, not accused of wrongdoing in this case, we did try to contact the campaign for comment on Mark Penn's legal situation. We have not yet heard back.

Mitchell Markel's attorney says he does not have any political candidates as clients right now and does not represent the National Hockey League, Estee Lauder or the makers of Blackberry -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Very interesting.

Thank you.

Brian Todd.

And coming up, the National Mall in Washington being evacuated. We are following this story.

Plus, a former controversy put to rest. We'll show you how a new law is being used to honor those killed in the war on terror.

Plus, former presidential candidate Ralph Nader -- find out his take on a possible independent White House bid by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Stay with us.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MALVEAUX: This just in. We want to take you to the National Mall here in Washington, where there is an evacuation that is underway.

Our own CNN Jeanne Meserve following the situation.

Why have they evacuated the area?

MESERVE: Suzanne, let me emphasize, this is not terror related. This is weather related. The Washington region has been under the threat of tornados and hailstorms this afternoon. And things have taken such a turn that the U.S. Park Service has made the decision that people should get off the National Mall.

And so they have closed the checkpoints which people had to pass through to get onto the Mall. And they've advised people who are there to get off, to find shelter.

There are some designated museums around the Mall which will be open. People can go there for shelter.

If you look at a picture of the Mall, you can see that the population around the Washington Monument has decreased considerably. It doesn't appear that anybody has any sort -- is any sort of state of panic about this. They are moving slowly and methodically out of harm's way just in case that storm should, indeed, break out.

And I'll tell you, it was ominous enough that we made the decision to come indoors. It is not looking good.

MALVEAUX: A good decision, Jeanne.

I don't know if you know this yet, but do we know if the fireworks are going to be cancelled or any of the celebrations or too soon to say?

MESERVE: I do not know that. The fireworks were scheduled to start at 9:10 tonight. We don't know yet how the weather is going to affect that.


Thanks, Jeanne.

Stay safe.

Inside, I want to now go to Reynolds Wolf at the Severe Weather Center -- Reynolds, what are we seeing in Washington?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, what we see right now is Washington, D.C. and a good part of the Northeast is actually under a tornado watch this time.

But as we focus in on the District of Columbia, as well as surrounding areas, we do have a tornado watch that's now -- or, rather, a tornado warning that is in effect for Howard County up in Maryland. We're going to zoom in on that spot, not too far from Baltimore, the possible tornado. The storm is rotating. It is about 10 miles to the south of Columbia and just to the west of Severn and north of Laurel.

Meanwhile, as we head back to D.C. itself, not a whole lot of activity in the -- actually, inside the Beltway. However, farther back out to the West and to the north of Manassas, we are seeing some strong storms develop. No tornados with these storms, but they have been rotating. They may possibly produce tornados, certainly some damaging wind, large hail and heavy rainfall. So certainly areas of concern for us.

And as we get more information, we'll certainly pass that on to you.

But this area, this big cluster we have, moving eastward into the D.C. area within 20 to 30 minutes.

MALVEAUX: And, Reynolds, do we have any idea how long this is going to last, the severe weather?

WOLF: A very good question. Usually these severe weather events really begin to accelerate -- they begin to increase in intensity between the hours of 3:00 p.m. And 6:00 p.m. I would say as the sun sets, a lot of this instability will be dying out. So around 8:00 p.m. 9:00 p.m. it should be a much better situation.


Thanks, Reynolds.

WOLF: You bet.

MALVEAUX: Coming up, will Ralph Nader make another run for the White House?

Wolf Blitzer will ask him in a one-on-one interview.

Plus, made in China -- but is it safe?

We'll show you what some call the country's appalling food standards.

Stay with us.




Happening now, a new study suggests that woozy feeling after a long flight may not be jet lag, but rather altitude sickness. Researchers say flying more than three hours in cabins where pressure equals 8,000 feet above sea level can cause nausea, impaired coordination, headaches and other altitude-related symptoms.

And what's it like teeing off for the top ranked golfer on Earth?

Former President George Bush found out today. He swung the first club in the Earl Woods Memorial Pro-Am in Bethesda, Maryland. Tiger Woods hosts the July 4th event named in honor of his late father and American soldiers.

I'm saw Suzanne Malveaux in for Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

There is a new law in effect this Independence Day that gives state governors the power to lower U.S. flags at government buildings in honor of fallen service members. That law the work of a Michigan Congressman who was irked by the uneven honors given some of his constituents who died in Iraq.

CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, joining us live -- Jamie McIntyre, what is the story behind this new law?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, you know, it's a simple gesture with a profound meaning. But in this case, it took an act of Congress to get it right.


MCINTYRE: (voice-over): Like many laws, the new regulation governing the lowering of flags to half staff was inspired by someone seeing a wrong and trying to right it. Officially, it's called the Army Specialist Joseph P. Micks Federal Flag Code Amendment, named for a Michigan soldier killed in Iraq last summer whose family's experience spurred their Congressman into action.

REP. BART STUPAK (D), MICHIGAN: Joe came from Rapp River (ph), a very, very small community. His funeral was in another community nearby. So they would leave the family and go to this other community for the funeral. And one flag at a federal post office was up, the other one was down. One was up, one's down. This building over here, foreign service, up, down.

Everyone is saying what's going on?

We all know this.

Why can't we honor this?

MCINTYRE: What was going on is that technically the state governor did not have the authority to order flags lowered at federal buildings. Stupak wrote the White House for an executive order to fix the problem, but getting no response, he pushed a bill through Congress.

President Bush signed it into law Friday.

STUPAK: We have so many of these young men and women, unfortunately, who are losing their lives in Iraq. And the least we should be able to do is just honor the wishes of the state to honor that family, that one day and lower our flag to half stuff.

MCINTYRE: Congressman's Stupak's next crusade is a law requiring the U.S. military to fly the bodies of fallen troops to the airport closest to their homes -- again, inspired by the ordeal of a family who had to drive hundreds of miles through a snowstorm to pick up their son's body.

STUPAK: To have them drive three or four hours to see the remains of their son put in a hearse and you can follow the hearse back to your hometown?

That doesn't make sense.

MCINTYRE: As with the flag lowering legislation, Stupak argues it's the very least that should be done for someone who has given a life in service to the country.


MCINTYRE: But unlike the change in the flag code, which could be accomplished with the stroke of a pen, the proposal to transport the remains of fallen soldiers to the nearest civilian airport to their home requires resources. But Congressman Stupak argues it's an act of compassion the nation can easily afford -- and, Suzanne, it's hard to argue with that.


It sure is.

Jason -- thank you, Jamie.

And while governors can order U.S. flags lowered in their states, only the president can order the honor nationwide. President Bush has exercised the authority 15 times -- seven times for the deaths of former presidents, Supreme Court Justices, and members of Congress, and eight times for notable figures, including Coretta Scott King and the tragedies like the massacre at Virginia Tech.

Now to Lisa Goddard, who is on the National Mall in Washington, where those evacuations are underway -- Lisa, what do you have?

LISA GODDARD, CNN RADIO CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, hundreds of people moving away from the National Mall now. Most of them trying to figure out if they should stay or go. There's a very light rain, a dark sky. You hear the police sirens behind me. That is a large number of police cars that look like they're moving into position to help people move off of the Mall.

The only complaints I hear, honestly, Suzanne, people are confused because they're being asked just to move to the other side of Constitution Avenue. So really just moving a few hundred feet. They're asking, why, if we couldn't stand on the Mall can we now stand just a few hundred feet away?

a large number of police cars that look like they're moving into position to help people move off of the Mall. The only complaints I hear, honestly, are people are confused because they're being asked just to move to the other side of Constitution Avenue. So really just moving a few hundred feet. They're asking, why if we couldn't stand on the Mall can we now stand just a few hundred feet away?

But clearly, police here are trying to move as many people away from the heart of the city as possible. We've also learned in the past few minutes that the concert planned for tonight has now been postponed. We don't know if that's to a different time this evening or to a different date. Obviously it seems officials are still making decisions as this goes on. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: And Lisa, that concert connected to the fireworks, do we know if the fireworks are still is going to be displayed?

GODDARD: No word on that yet. I'll tell you, in years past, I've sat through vicious thunderstorms here on the Mall on the Fourth of July, and I know that officials generally like to wait as long as they can and try and hope they can get the fireworks in, if possible. We haven't received official word on any fireworks decision yet.

MALVEAUX: We're hearing that perhaps the fireworks are still going to take place. I've also been in that position as well, bad weather before on the Fourth of July. How seriously are people taking this warning here?

GODDARD: I think Washingtonians known they've gone to follow anything the police tell them to do. But it doesn't look like anyone is really feeling threatened by an impending tornado. It feels like people are just following directions and moving along as they're being told.

MALVEAUX: Things look fairly calm out there. Is that pretty much the feeling?

GODDARD: That's the exactly the feeling. In fact, people are now starting to spread out their picnic blankets on new locations on the other side of Capital Mall. A lot of people milling around, waiting to make decisions. I did see initially a large group head off towards Union Station, to the subway, and potentially home. But it looks like most people are staying in the area, milling around and hoping that they can get back to the Mall sometime soon.

MALVEAUX: OK, Lisa, stay safe now.

GODDARD: All right.

MALVEAUX: He is considered by many to have been the spoiler in the 2000 presidential race. And the notion of another White House run by Ralph Nader may cause consternation among candidates. CNN's Wolf Blitzer recently asked him the big question.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Are you running for president?

RALPH NADER, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Too early to say. And the reason why I say that is it's too early. The others are getting in the race because they've got to raise hundreds of millions of dollars. We've got to raise thousands of volunteers. And unless we have a lot of volunteers to overcome the Democrats' prospective efforts to get us off the ballot, you can't run.

BLITZER: You certainly at least have been saying things over the past day or two that would suggest you're giving this really serious thought, that in 2008 once again you're going to be a candidate for president.

NADER: Well, there's serious issues they're not addressing. They still don't do anything about ...

BLITZER: When you say they, who are you talking about?

NADER: Both parties.

BLITZER: The Democrats and the Republicans.

NADER: They're not cleaning up the political system, the election rackets and the monies involved. They haven't touched the horrendous tax system. The military budget is out of control, waste, fraud, abuse, documented by their own congressional investigations, the GAO and Pentagon audits.

They're thumbing their nose at the workers. Look, this is a 60th anniversary of the worst law, the Taft Hartley Law, shackling American labor, and the Democrats will not make an event out of it.

BLITZER: But you heard the Democrat debate, the one we did in New Hampshire, the Republican debate that followed. If you listened carefully, not even all that carefully, there were significant differences between the Democrats and the Republicans as to how to end the war in Iraq, on health care, on tax cuts, on whether gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military.

There were two very different positions. When you say there are no real differences between Democrats and Republicans, there are significant differences.

NADER: There are significant differences but not enough because there's a whole spectrum of issues, like who's making solar energy conversion as a national mission in our country? Gore is talking about it, but -- they're tiptoeing here and there and they're avoiding some very important issues that we call concentration of power issues. Giant corporations have absolutely too much power in this country. And they have too much power to abandon this country with their factories and with their jobs.

BLITZER: If Michael Bloomberg ran as a third-party candidate, would that satisfy you? Would you step aside?

NADER: That would make it very interesting.

BLITZER: Why do you like him so much?

NADER: One, he will turn into a three-way race, clearly, even more than Perot. Number two, he has a spectrum of issues coming from the New York City background and experience and managerial experience that the other two can't match. I mean, I don't think we'd have is the post-Katrina situation if we had some sort of managerial competence running the federal government.

BLITZER: And his business background, you like that?

NADER: Yeah. I was in Bloomberg News getting interviewed and he called me over, before he ...

BLITZER: When was this?

NADER: This was before he announced for mayor.

BLITZER: This was years ago.

NADER: Yeah. And he said, you know, I just want to tell you tomorrow I'm going down and switching my registration from Democrat to Republican. I said, he's running for mayor. He now has switched it from Republican to independent. He is seriously considering it. He looks at the field. He's not impressed. A lot of the Republicans, they're all pro-war. This country is not going to even come close to electing a pro-war Republican. And he's saying, look, this could be a three-way race. My prediction is that he's going to go in -- he doesn't have to go in early because he has so much money. He could go in late.

BLITZER: He could go in and get on all the ballots.


BLITZER: And if he does, that would reduce the incentive for you to get in.

NADER: It would make it all the more interesting. Then it wouldn't just be a two-party elected ...

BLITZER: And that would reduce your incentive.

NADER: No, no. It would make it more interesting because it would open up to the American people more voices, more choices.

BLITZER: I'm a little confused. If Bloomberg runs as a third- party candidate, will Ralph Nader, that would be you, will you run as a fourth-party candidate?

NADER: I said before it's too early to say.

BLITZER: But ... NADER: But in answer to your ...

BLITZER: Does the Bloomberg decision affect your decision?

NADER: It makes it more interesting and more useful. You know why? Because you reduce the political bigotry against a small party candidate because you have a three-way race, it's more mixed, more diverse and there will be otherwise preoccupied, shall we say, with Michael Bloomberg.

BLITZER: As much as you say you like some of the things he stands for, even if he ran, you might still run anyhow.


BLITZER: I want to be very clear on that.

NADER: But I haven't made the decision at all. I said, you can't run a locomotive without fuel. The fuel are pro bono lawyers and thousands of volunteers to overcome the Democratic move to get us off the ballot. It's a big issue.

BLITZER: I saw this quote the other day. I want to make sure it accurately conveys your attitude towards Senator Clinton, Senator Hillary Clinton. "If Senator John F. Kennedy's best-selling book 'Profiles in Courage' was updated, nothing Hillary Clinton has done in the Congress would come close to being a footnote." Is that an accurate quote?

NADER: Yes, it is.

BLITZER: You don't like her.

NADER: It isn't a matter of liking her. It is a matter -- She has great name recognition, she has got a terrific political machine. She's not using her political capital to shift power, to challenge abuses of power. Done nothing on the bloated, wasteful Pentagon budget. She is on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Nothing on these huge subsidies going to corporations. She hasn't even done anything for the ghettos in terms of the serious economic exploitation in the inner city. Not to mention asbestos and lead in children's bodies. I mean, she knows all about this.

BLITZER: But you know Republicans would be salivating if you decided to jump in because they feel, correctly or incorrectly, you would be taking votes away from a Democratic candidate.

NADER: Well, that's because they are themselves inhibited. If they saw what we were doing, they'd say, let's grab some of these issues ourselves like a real living wage, an authentic health insurance plan, a real reform of the tax system, public funding of public campaigns. You know, public transit.

There are a thousand issues that they're shying away from because they're dialing for the same corporate dollars as the Republicans are dialing for. By the way, it's amazing how they never look at my critique of Bush in 2000 and 2004.

BLITZER: You were very critical of Bush.

NADER: Very.

BLITZER: To this day, it's something you've had to live with since the Florida recount down in 2000, Ralph Nader effectively got George W. Bush elected president.

NADER: Factual errors. You see, it's the dynamic before Election Day you have to look at, pushing Gore to more progressive positions. Actually got his more votes. Twenty five percent of my votes, according to the Democratic exit poll, would have gone to Bush. I was very, very critical of Bush. I think Gore won.

And by the way, I've spoken to him. I think he knows he won in Florida and it was taken from him, from Tallahassee to the Supreme Court, before, during and after Election Day. Let's get over that. Because we all have equal right to run for election. We're either all spoilers of one another, trying to get votes from one another, or none of us are spoilers.

Let's go to the American people with so many wonderful solutions to the problems that are on the self that are not being deployed on the ground.

BLITZER: Ralph Nader, thanks for coming in.

NADER: Thanks, Wolf.


MALVEAUX: And up ahead -- dangerous and tainted products entering the United States from China. Is china doing anything to stop it? Our John Vause is in Beijing.

Also, the latest 24-hour news channel is in Iran and is broadcasting in English. But what is being said? Zain Verjee takes a look, next. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: What better time than the Fourth of July to stage a campaign surge in a key state? Several candidates are doing it in Iowa today, including Senator Clinton, accompanying by her husband, Bill. CNN's senior political analyst Candy Crowley is following the Clinton campaign, comes to us from Waterloo, Iowa. You just don't get a break. They're all over of the place today.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And I want to tell you Iowa is a very big state. Takes a lot to get from one place to another. Yes, we are in Waterloo. And what's interesting here, Suzanne is, you take a backyard barbecues, flags, fireworks, Iowa has all the same elements of a Fourth of July anyplace else and one additional one ...


CROWLEY (voice-over): It's the Fourth of July, and this is Iowa. You know what that means.


CROWLEY: Candidates on parade. Make that candidates and their spouses.


CROWLEY: Bill Clinton is an uncomfortable fit in the role of second fiddle. Still, he has played it well over the past three days in Iowa with his wife, the presidential candidate.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Wouldn't you like to be free of George Bush and Dick Cheney?

CROWLEY: His part is to say supportive things and get off the stage. He has been pretty much substance free, but he is still a huge draw. And together they stole the headlines though they were far from alone. From Clear Lake to Oskaloosa, Pella to Waterloo, Iowa is awash with parades and presidential candidates.

It's a big state but a small world so nobody was that surprised when Mitt Romney showed up to march the same parade as the Clintons.

Downstate, Barack Obama and family filled the holiday gripping, grinning, and suggesting that the Clintons are yesterday's news. "We're more interested in looking forward, not backward," he told the Associate Press. Barack sees himself, not Hillary, as the agent of change.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Can't just be a slogan. Change has to be something that is demonstrated day to day, on an ongoing basis.

CROWLEY: At the other end of the presidential tier, Chris Dodd is on a river to river trip, busing it from the Mississippi to the Missouri. And Joe Biden was on schedule for a parade, a picnic and house party. They run on the politics of hope.

SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But I believe I will win in Iowa because I believe Iowans have not even begun to make up their mind.

CROWLEY: It is, after all, only the Fourth of July.


CROWLEY (on camera): Still, time is a-wasting, though it is only the Fourth of July, in August, there is a very important straw poll and the truth is, while many of the caucus goers may not yet have made up their minds, they are pretty much beginning to zero in on candidates. Those caucuses, Suzanne, are only six months away.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Candy.

Now to Reynolds Wolf in Atlanta with a severe weather report. I understand you have an update, Reynolds.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. We still have a tornado warning, in fact, this time for Fairfax County in Northern Virginia. This is what we're talking about, we've got Washington, DC, farther out to the west, south of Chantilly, we have a rotating thunderstorm, a supercell, no confirmed visualization of a tornado at this time, but it is spawning a tornado warning because of its rotation.

It is certainly bringing some heavy rain, damaging wind, large hail and possible tornados. And the latest we have from the National Weather service is we have the City of Fairfax, City of Falls Church, all of Fairfax county included in the warning.

A couple of places that we're really concerned about, Oakton, Burke, Merrifield, the I-66 and I-495 interchange, Vienna, Tyson's Corner, Annandale, and the I-395 and I-495 Interchange as well as Springfield. If you happen to be in any of those locations, you want to take cover immediately. Not five minutes from now, immediately. You want to get to the lowest floor of whatever building you might be in, away from interior walls and windows. Certainly the place you want to be.

That's what we're going to keep the eye on, all of the DC area, much of Northern Virginia under that tornado watch in effect until 10:00 Eastern Time. Back to you.

MALVEAUX: Thanks for the warning, Reynolds.

WOLF: You bet.

MALVEAUX: And up ahead -- from kibble to catfish, big questions raised about China's food processing standards. The country says it's making some changes. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: A new 24-hour global news channel is up and running. It originates in Iran and comes to its viewers in English. CNN's State Department correspondent Zain Verjee joining us now. Tell us all about this. What is this about?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, Iran wants to basically hit back at western influence so it's doing battle on the air.


VERJEE (voice-over): In three, two, one. This is Press TV, the latest horse in a crowded race for viewers. It wants to compete with CNN and the BBC. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming to you live from the Iranian capital.

VERJEE: Twenty-four hours a day in English on satellite and online. According to its Web site, the goal is to break the global media stranglehold of western outlets and show what Press TV says is the other side of the story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Innocent Iraqis are increasingly the victims of U.S. raids.

VERJEE: The Iranian government is bankrolling the news network. Amid great fanfare, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad launched the channel saying, "Today, media is the number one tool for world dominance."

Some see it as a ploy by Iran to grab a megaphone.

STEPHEN HESS, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: It's a propaganda tool, yes, of course. That's why most of these countries suddenly spend an incredibly amount of money.

VERJEE: Press TV of says it has correspondents around the world, including three in the United States. One of them is based in Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike Kellerman (ph), Press TV, Washington.

VERJEE: The channel takes off as Iran comes under international pressure over its controversial nuclear program and faces new sanctions. A State Department spokesman issued a statement to CNN saying, "It is doubtful if viewers around the world are interested in Iranian propaganda," adding, "We hope the regime in Iran guarantees freedom of the press within Iran."

Media analysts say, sure, it's interesting to hear directly from other countries, like Iran, but Americans won't tune in.

HESS: Of course the history of government-sponsored stations is that it's so boring, it's so predictable.


VERJEE (on camera): A Press TV producer based in New York says that channel is not about propaganda, adding that they're all journalists, just aiming to be fair. The producer also says they hope that this channel helps bridge the gap between the Middle East and the U.S. and says it could even help the U.S.-Iran relationship. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: So, Zain, are we expecting to see this air in the United States?

VERJEE: Well, if you have a satellite dish and you subscribe to a package that has Press TV, yeah, you can watch it. But al-Jazeera International itself hasn't been able to get on U.S. cable TV channels so it actually seems pretty unlikely that an Iranian channel, owned by a government that's hostile to the U.S., would get a slot on your TV. Interestingly, though, Suzanne, an official with Press TV is quoted as saying that more than 3 million people, half of them from the united states, have visited Press TV's Web site over the last six months.


MALVEAUX: And very interesting. Thanks, Zain.

VERJEE: Thanks.

MALVEAUX: In the wake of the U.K. terror plot, Europe may now outlaw Web sites that instruct users how to make bombs. Let's bring in Abbi Tatton. Abbi, how easy is it to find bomb instructions online?

ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, a few Web searches, you'll find pages and even video on how to make crude bombs from small explosives to larger bombs that terrorists have been using in Iraq.

Well, the European Union's justice commissioner yesterday cited the frequency with which these kind of Web sites appear in proposing to criminalize uploading this kind of information on how to make a bomb onto the Internet, saying that people should not be free to put this kind of information online.

But tackling this kind of information as it comes from all over the world is potentially a huge task, and the commissioner gave few details of how this might come about if the proposals going ahead, saying only that they would have to monitor the Web and also work with Internet service providers overseas, outside the E.U. to close certain sites. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: And Abbi, what is the law here in the United States? Is it illegal to upload these type of instructions?

TATTON: Well, there isn't a law that specifically deals with uploading this kind of bomb-making instructions onto the Internet. However, there is a federal law that prohibits teaching someone how to make explosives with the intent of a violent crime. And that law has been used, though sparingly, in cases involving the Internet. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you very much, Abbi.

And up next -- a Chinese dissident blows the cover on what he calls his country's appalling food standards. Now an international call for action. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: China may be cracking down on potential poisons in toothpaste. State run media reports the country is developing quote "strict certification and evaluation procedures for its oral care products." The move comes after several countries stopped imports of Chinese toothpaste that's said to contain a common chemical in antifreeze. In light of U.S. alerts on everything from pet food to fish, toothpaste from China is just the tip of the iceberg. CNN's John Vause is in Beijing.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, critics say the bottom line comes down to this, if it comes from China and the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.


VAUSE (voice-over): So could you eat pork from pigs force-fed wastewater? Drink milk from cows given so many antibiotics it's impossible to make yogurt from their milk? How about a serving of lard made from sewage? Because all of that and more has been on China's menu in recent months.

Zhou Qin is a dissident writer who has researched this country's appalling food standards.

"The threat is so much more serious than people could ever imagine," he told me.

He says many farmers and producers are continually finding new and dangerous ways to cut costs.

"China has low labor costs but you can work out how low the price should be. Businessmen should know something is wrong if the product is cheaper than it should be."

Last week, the U.S. banned four types the fish and shrimp from China because inspectors found traces of cancer-causing chemicals and antibiotics, including malactite (ph) green, which helps fish survive in polluted overcrowded fisheries. It's still being used despite being banned here five years ago. While in the U.S., it was banned 24 years ago.

SALLY GREENBERG, CONSUMER'S UNION: We have no real sense of the regulatory infrastructure in China, which probably is about 100 years behind where we are in the United States.

VAUSE: It's not just food. Consumer alerts have been issued for products from toxic toothpaste to lead-painted toys. So far this year, 60 percent of all recalled consumer products in the U.S. have come from China.

The government here blames media hype. "Consumers shouldn't be scared of Chinese products," he says. "They should have a reputation of being good quality, cheap, and safe."


VAUSE (on camera): Well, one out of three isn't bad. No one ever said Chinese goods weren't cheap. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Thank you, John Vause.

We are here every weekday afternoon from 4:00 to 6:00 Eastern and we're back on the air in the 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, just one hour from now. Until then, I'm Malveaux in THE SITUATION ROOM.

LOU DOBBS TONIGHT starts in a moment but a first check of the news with Christine Romans in New York.