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Koch examines the significance of a federal appeals court decision to dismiss a legal challenge to the Bush administration's wiretapping program. Schneider explains why Republican senators are breaking with the president of his Iraq strategy

Aired July 6, 2007 - 16:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, HOST: Happening now, a win for the Bush White House in the legal fight over domestic spying.
What does it mean for the president and his warrantless wiretap program?

Also this hour, embattled over Iraq -- it is no coincidence that some GOP senators up next for re-election are wavering about the war.

And Democrats battle for the support of black voters.

In New Orleans, are Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama playing up themes African-Americans want to hear?

Woman Blitzer is off today.

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

First this hour, a federal appeals court decides to throw out a lawsuit challenging the Bush administration's domestic spying program. In a 2-1 vote, the panel ruled the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups did not have the legal right to file a suit in the first place. It is a technicality, but it is still a victory for the White House -- at least for now.

Let's bring in our own Kathleen Koch at the White House -- Kathleen, obviously, this has been a back and forth with the Bush administration.

What does this latest development mean?

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, the plaintiffs in the case, the ACLU, they say that this means that if the White House chose to, it could actually resume monitoring the e-mails and the international phone calls of Americans without any sort of court oversight.

Now, after the blistering Congressional criticism of the program, the White House in January said that while the program would continue, that any wiretapping would only take place with the -- if it were overseen by a special federal intelligence court. And since today's ruling came down, the White House has not expressed any desire to change that. The only reaction right now coming from Spokesman Tony Fratto in a statement saying: "We have always believed that the district court's decision declaring the terrorist surveillance program unconstitutional was wrongly decided. We are pleased to know that the court of appeals has ordered the plaintiffs' case dismissed."

But certainly, as you said, Suzanne, a victory for the White House and a nice 61st birthday present for the president.

MALVEAUX: And I imagine, Kathleen, that Democrats must be chomping at the bit to respond or criticize this -- this court decision?

KOCH: You're right on target with that, Suzanne.

Less than two hours after this ruling came down, a very tough response from the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy. That committee still investigating what went on with this program.

And he, in response, in a statement said: "The court's decision is a disappointing one that was not made on the merits of the case, yet closed the courthouse doors to resolving it. I hope the Bush administration will finally require the information requested by Congress regarding the constitutional and legal questions about the program so those of us who represent the American people can get to the bottom of that of what happened and why."

And that, Suzanne, is a reference to subpoenas that Congress has issued for e-mails and other documents supporting the Bush administration's legal standing for this program.

MALVEAUX: And, obviously, Kathleen, that is ongoing battle with the White House.

KOCH: Quite so.


MALVEAUX: Thank you very much.

KOCH: You bet.

MALVEAUX: Kathleen Koch.

A White House spokesman today is calling a GOP senator's push for a new Iraq strategy dangerous. Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico broke ranks with the president yesterday, saying he wants to set U.S. troops on a path towards coming home.

Domenici is the latest in a series of Republicans to express concerns about the administration's war policy.

Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider -- Bill, are we seeing, perhaps, a trend here now?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And it has something to do with senators being up for re-election next year.


SCHNEIDER: (voice-over): To paraphrase Dr. Samuel Johnson, the prospect of having to face the voters, like the prospect of being hanged, concentrates the mind wonderfully. Twenty-one Republican senators have to face the voters next year. Notice what some of them have been doing this year.

January -- John Warner introduces a resolution opposing President Bush's troop buildup in Iraq.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R-VA), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Mr. President, do you need 21,500 additional men and women of the armed forces in this conflict?

SCHNEIDER: Virginia is a red state, but Warner knows what happened to his Republican colleague, George Allen, last year.

February -- Susan Collins of Maine and Norm Coleman of Minnesota vote for the resolution -- both blue state Republicans.

March -- Gordon Smith of Oregon -- a blue state -- votes for a resolution calling for a troop redeployment. Smith had broken with the president in December.

SEN. GORDON SMITH (R), OREGON: I am looking for answers, but the current course is unacceptable to this U.S. senator.

SCHNEIDER: April -- Chuck Hagel votes for a war spending bill with a timetable for troop withdrawal. Nebraska is a staunchly Republican state. But Hagel says about President Bush --

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: He's lost a third of the Republican base on this issue.

SCHNEIDER: June -- Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and John Sununu of New Hampshire co-sponsor a bill to adopt the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group.

July -- Pete Domenici of New Mexico -- a swing state -- speaks out.

SEN. PETE DOMENICI (R), NEW MEXICO: But I am calling for a new strategy that will move our troops out of combat operations and on the path to continuing home.

SCHNEIDER: Domenici recounted what he was told by a constituent who lost his son in Iraq.

DOMENICI: "Now, I'm speaking for me, his father," said he. "I'm asking you if you couldn't do a little extra, a little more, to see if you can't get the troops back. Mine is dead, but I would surely hope that you would listen to me and try to get them back -- the rest of them back sooner."


SCHNEIDER: A lot of senators are home this week talking to their constituents. And a lot of them may be hearing the same thing -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Well, Bill, what about those red state Democrats?

They're going, home, as well. They're up for re-election.

Are they taking an opposite view now?

SCHNEIDER: Well, there are only six red state Democrats in the Senate up next year and with one exception, none of them has broken with the Democratic Party or supported President Bush on the war this year. The exception, back in March, Mark Pryor of Arkansas voted against the resolution that called for troop redeployment -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK, thanks, Bill Schneider.

And Jack Cafferty is off today.

Coming up, Republican presidential candidate and Congressman Tom Tancredo.

Did the death of the Senate immigration reform bill take the steam out of his big issue?

And later, Democratic presidential candidate Mike Gravel -- how does he respond to another U.S. commander's warning that a quick withdrawal from Iraq would mean a mess?

Plus, he is the darling of conservatives.

But would former senator and possible presidential candidate Fred Thompson live up to the expectations of the right?



MALVEAUX: Now that the most recent change for immigration reform has died an ugly death, some wonder whether or not there will be another plan.

Joining me to talk about that is Republican presidential candidate Congressman Tom Tancredo.

Thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: I want to start off here, obviously, this is the centerpiece of your campaign. But you still have a system here. You've got 12 million illegal immigrants, a system you say is broken. President Bush says he is not offering any more legislation. Secretary of homeland security, Michael Chertoff, says the same thing. So what is your Plan B here?

REP. TOM TANCREDO (R), COLORADO: Try to get them to do their job. I know it's going to be tough, but that's exactly what Plan B is. You know, it's true that that died a, I think, glorious death in the Senate. I was -- I couldn't tell you how happy I was to see that happen. But it did not solve the problem. It simply didn't exacerbate it, because it -- because it died.

But now we still have the problem that you described.

So what are we going to do about it?

Well, on Tuesday, we're going to announce something ourselves that we can do a little bit in terms of legislation. But primarily, it is this -- Mr. President, Mr. Secretary of homeland security, do your job. Do what you were elected to do, Mr. President. And do what you were hired to do, Mr. Secretary. Secure those borders. Go after the people who are here illegally, especially people who are hiring people who are here illegally.

If you do those two things, we will have this problem solved. They don't want to solve it. That's the problem and it's been the problem. And we won't get it solved until there's a new president. Because no matter how much, in terms of legislation, we pass, if you don't have a president who is willing to actually enforce the law, you're not going to solve the problem.

MALVEAUX: Now, Congressman, you made a direct appeal, rather, to the president and the secretary of homeland security. But with all due respect, I spoke with Congressman Duncan Hunter, who did exactly the same thing. He told me just a few days ago -- I want you to take a listen to what he said to me and how the president responded.


DUNCAN HUNTER (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I informed him the other day there was only 13 miles. He expressed surprise at that. I told him I would get the exact square -- the exact footage back to him.


MALVEAUX: So he says not only was the president not aware of the border security situation and the fencing, but he also says he did not get any assurances from the president that he was going to improve border security.

So what does your appeal today accomplish?

TANCREDO: Well, what can I do but continue to ask?

What other -- you know, until I am elected president or somebody is elected who actually will do the job, what are we going to do?

Can you go on your knees to the White House and stand out or kneel out in front of the gate with your hands folded, begging the president to enforce the law?

MALVEAUX: Well, are you saying --

TANCREDO: I mean --

MALVEAUX: -- are you saying --

TANCREDO: I mean how many alternatives do we have?

MALVEAUX: Are you saying you have no faith in this president, in this White House to actually secure the borders?

TANCREDO: None whatsoever.


TANCREDO: None whatsoever.

MALVEAUX: So what responsibility do you and the party have for -- for killing that immigration reform bill if there is no other alternative?

What do you do?

TANCREDO: Well, what do you want to do?

The immigration reform bill -- believe me, you've got to put that in quotation marks, because that was -- there was no reform in that bill. It was an amnesty bill. It would have only made the situation worse.

Thank god we were able to kill it.

But now, of course, we've got to put a lot -- I mean, it's myself, it's everybody else that we can possibly gather together to put pressure on the White House. Maybe it's going to be doing things in appropriations bills.

But as I say, unless you have an executive branch willing to actually uphold their responsibility under the law, under the constitution, then, you know, you've got to wait for the next executive. I mean it's tough, but that's where we are.

MALVEAUX: Well, Congressman, while we're waiting for the next executive, there are some in your party who say that this has done more harm than good. I want to read to you this from the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, saying: "If the Republican Party doesn't understand that you have to be more careful of focusing on the problem without blaming a certain sector of society, they're going to be really hurting in the upcoming election among Hispanics."

There are some Republican Hispanic leaders here who are saying that essentially you are losing their support for 2008 because of this immigration debacle.

TANCREDO: Well, let me tell you, if anybody out there is identifying Hispanics as the only source of the problem, then they should be widely disparaged and somebody should call them on it, because, of course, they're not.

I'm talking about the problems with illegal immigration. Interestingly, most about 45 percent, not most. But about 45 percent of all the people who are presently in this country illegally did not come across that southern border necessarily. They came into --

MALVEAUX: But, Congressman --

TANCREDO: They came into the country with a visa and simply overstayed. They're not primarily Hispanics. The problem isn't primarily Hispanic.

MALVEAUX: But how do --

TANCREDO: It is illegal immigration.

MALVEAUX: How do you address the Republicans within your own party, the Hispanics, who are concerned that you've alienated that group?

TANCREDO: I say to every single person in this country, including Hispanics in my party, that what we are doing is for America and that certainly I have -- I hear from literally thousands of Hispanic- Americans who support everything we're doing. So they -- we should not consider that, you know, when we hear from certain -- one part of that particular group or another, that they speak for everybody. Because I guarantee you, there are millions of Hispanic-Americans who believe entirely in the rule of law and in the security of that border and of this nation. And I hear from them.

So I don't buy this junk about, you know, if you say something about immigration, you're immediately going to alienate Hispanics. I know far too many who believe in every single word I'm saying.

MALVEAUX: We'll have to leave it at that.

Congressman Tancredo, thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM today.

TANCREDO: It's a pleasure.

MALVEAUX: Thank you.

And in just a few moments, we'll talk about pressing problems the nation faces with a Democratic presidential candidate. Former senator Mike Gravel of Alaska will be joining me.

And as Republicans grapple with problems within the party, some conservatives see Fred Thompson as an answer to their prayers.

But does the prospective presidential candidate actually have the right stuff to satisfy them?

Well, here's our CNN's Joe Johns. (BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): He's the latest, hottest newcomer to the Republican race for president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is an honor to shake your hand.

JOHNS: He hasn't formally announced.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Welcome to New Hampshire.

JOHNS: And some supporters really are jumping the gun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is President Thompson.

JOHNS: But Fred Thompson certainly is acting as though it's only a matter of time before he makes his decision.

FRED THOMPSON (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: I plan on seeing a whole lot more of you, how about that?

JOHNS: Some Republicans want Thompson in just to give GOP primary voters more choice. But for others --

THOMPSON: And the Senate --

JOHNS: -- the former U.S. senator from Tennessee, who later starred in "Law and Order," may be the closest thing in the field to a Ronald Reagan conservative.

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: What Republicans are generally looking for are two things. One, somebody who they believe will be protective of Republican ideals as they see them. And, two, somebody who can win.

JOHNS: So is Thompson really Mr. Conservative?

BRUCE BARTLETT, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Up until now, people have really just sort of assumed that he's a Reaganite conservative. But that's partly because he hasn't expressed himself on a lot of issues and so people can assume the best.

THOMPSON: By both parties --

JOHNS: In the Senate, Thompson usually did vote with conservatives. But not on every issue.


JOHNS: He voted against one of two impeachment articles against President Clinton.


JOHNS: And there's this he was a key supporter of the McCain- Feingold Campaign Reform Act. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fred Thompson is not pro-life.

JOHNS: And his views are abortion a red flag for some social conservatives. Running on YouTube is this clip from a Senate debate in 1994.


THOMPSON: I do not believe that the federal government ought to be involved in that process.


JOHNS: Two years later, he wrote the same thing in a Christian Coalition survey. But anti-abortion groups are quick to point out that once in the Senate, Thompson usually voted their way.

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: I think values voters have a lot of comfort on where he stands on that particular issue.

JOHNS: As for McCain-Feingold, Thompson has changed his tune.

THOMPSON: So Congress ought to go back and amend the campaign finance reform bill.

JOHNS: Will all of this satisfy conservatives?

PERKINS: I've kind of learned from my wife. When it comes to politics, I kind of do -- do it the way she does her shopping. I just kind of look and I don't buy until I find exactly what I want.

JOHNS: Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


MALVEAUX: Rudy Giuliani says he'll "pray to god" that rehab is able to help one of his former staffers who is facing a federal cocaine charge and 20 years in prison. Today in South Carolina, lawyers for Thomas Ravenel entered a not guilty plea to that cocaine charge. Officials say the former South Carolina state treasurer is accused of sharing cocaine with friends, but not selling it.

Right now Ravenel is being treated in rehab. During a visit today to South Carolina, Giuliani had this to say about the man who was chairman of his presidential campaign in that state.


RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know the history of the Ravenel family. He volunteered to do this and we accepted it and, you know, I wish him the best. I hope --

QUESTION: Did you personally meet with him?

GIULIANI: Oh, sure. I met with him several times. He seemed like a terrific young star, a guy who was going to be headed to the very top in South Carolina. He won the race for treasurer. So the only thing you can say about a personal tragedy like this is you pray.


MALVEAUX: Giuliani added he hopes his former staffer is eventually able to put this episode behind him.

And still ahead, new concerns about a U.S. connection to the doctors arrested in the U.K. car bomb plot.

And what do John McCain and John Edwards have in common?

Donna Brazile and Amy Holmes will have the answer to that, and it isn't pretty.

That's coming up in our Strategy Session.



MALVEAUX: Carol Costello is off today.

Zain Verjee joining us now with a closer look at other incoming stories that are making news -- Zain, what are you following?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, there are fears that two of the doctors arrested in the car bombings plot in Britain may have hoped to practice medicine here in the U.S. A source tells CNN the two suspects contacted a Philadelphia-based organization that certifies foreign doctors to practice in the U.S. The source says there's no evidence the suspects tried to get into the country and that none of the eight doctors detained in the plot has ever visited the U.S.

The words are frightening: "Goldman Sachs hundreds will die. We are inside. You cannot stop us." Those chilling words on letters sent to 20 newspapers across the country. The FBI is investigating. Goldman Sachs is one of the world's top investment banks, with offices in 46 cities around the world, including New York. The company says it's in close contact with the FBI.

The job market hums along. Today the government reports that employers added 132,000 jobs to payrolls in June. The Labor Department also says there are few signs that the slowdown in the housing market hurt hiring. The June reading is better than the 125,000 jobs forecast by some economists -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Zain, thanks so much.

And up next, Hillary Clinton versus Barack Obama in New Orleans. They are vying for African-American votes against the backdrop of music and Katrina recovery.

And Democratic presidential candidate Mike Gravel wants to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq now.

But he is worried about dire new warnings from top military commanders?

I'll ask him up ahead, here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: Happening now -- "It would be a mess." Those are the exact words one top U.S. military commander used when asked, "What would happen if the troop buildup plan in Iraq ends early?"

Also, a gathering storm inside the National Hurricane Center. A controversy is brewing and some of the director's employees want him out. We'll hear what he has to say about that.

And fears over the safety of Chinese products.

What does one well-known consumer advocate think?

Well, I'll ask former presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

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

The presidential campaign trail is making its way through New Orleans today. The top two Democratic contenders are there to show their support for a city rebuilding from hurricane Katrina. And they're also there to reach out to a key part of their party -- African-American voters.

Our T.J. Holmes is in New Orleans -- T.J.?

T.J. HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, the Essence Music Festival is one of the top black culture events in this country. So it shouldn't be a surprise to anybody that Clinton and Obama showed up.


HOLMES: (voice-over): It's long been a mix of great music and serious efforts towards social change. This year, the Essence Music Festival is back in New Orleans after a year away due to hurricane Katrina. And this year, it's mixing music with presidential politics.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: If all of you are ready to not just rebuild New Orleans, but rebuild the New Orleans all across America, on the South Side of Chicago and in New York City and in Los Angeles and in Houston, all across America, I am absolutely convinced that we will not just win an election this time out, but more importantly, we are going to transform a country.

HOLMES: Barack Obama took center stage at the festival Thursday night, followed just hours ago by Hillary Clinton.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I believe it is an American responsibility to rebuild New Orleans, not just one of Louisiana and New Orleans, but all of us working together.

HOLMES: John Edwards isn't here, but he kicked off his presidential campaign in The Crescent City.

JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm here in New Orleans to -- and in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans -- to announce that I'm a candidate for the presidency of the United States.

HOLMES: Why all the attention to New Orleans?

It's because the city's plight has become a national story line and because Katrina had a devastating effect on the city's black community. Black voters are crucial to the Democratic Party.

KEATING HOLLAND, CNN POLLING DIRECTOR: Roughly nine in 10 blacks vote Democratic. That makes them the most reliable voting bloc for the Democratic Party in this country.

T. HOLMES: And they will play an important role in picking the next Democratic presidential nominee, especially in South Carolina and Florida, two early primary states. Senators Clinton and Obama are neck and neck among black voters in the most recent polls. But it's still very early, and many voters haven't made up their minds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not feeling that either candidate would be, at this point, that much of a difference.


T. HOLMES: And you can expect the attention by the candidates to continue -- next up for most of the presidential candidates, Detroit and the NAACP Convention -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, T.J.

And now more on the Democrats and their primary issues.

Joining us now in THE SITUATION ROOM, presidential candidate and former Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska.

Thank you for joining us here.

MIKE GRAVEL (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Suzanne, thank you for having me.

MALVEAUX: We appreciate that.

I want to start off by talking about Iraq. Obviously, you have stated a very strong position to get U.S. troops out now.

I want to play for you a top commander, a bite, and what he said from Baghdad earlier this morning.


MAJOR GENERAL RICK LYNCH, U.S. MILITARY COMMAND IN BAGHDAD SENIOR SPOKESMAN, U.S. ARMY: If those surge forces go away, that capability goes away. And the Iraqi security forces aren't ready yet to do that. So now what you're going to find -- if you did that -- is you would find the enemy regaining ground, reestablishing a sanctuary, building more IEDs, carrying those IEDs in Baghdad and the violence would escalate. It'd be a mess.


MALVEAUX: Senator, he says it would be a mess. There are a lot of generals, commanders on the ground who are saying, it's not a good idea here to pull out those U.S. troops now.

Does his opinion have any weight in persuading you?

GRAVEL: Not in the slightest. In fact, he's dead wrong.

He's assuming that it's all going to turn bad. The reason why it's bad is because we have troops there and generals like that are trying to -- here, stop and think. He's saying that the Iraqis, their security forces, they're never going to be ready. They're just never going to be ready.

These people have been around a lot longer than we have. We should get our troops out, and you will find that Iran will help us end the civil war. And so will Saudi Arabia.

Stop and think. Americans forget that Iran helped us get rid of the Taliban in Afghanistan initially, and were rewarded by George Bush calling them the axis of evil.

No, these military, they're generals. And I will tell you what. I'm very distressed over the fact -- and there will be some changes when I become president -- I'm distressed over the fact that have we got a bunch of yes-generals that are out there sucking up to the White House.

What we need are some independent generals -- and I know some -- that say we should get out. Just much as this person is saying we should stay there, I have got generals that will say we should get out, and they have got three and four stars.

MALVEAUX: Clearly, the president is saying that this is the policy. These guys are in line with the commander in chief here.

Are you saying that they just don't -- that they're lying to the American people?

GRAVEL: I'm saying that they are sucking up to the White House, pure and simple.

And what I want is, when I'm president, I want generals that will speak their mind. He's absolutely carrying the tone and the words of George Bush. And it's real simple. Here, stop and think of this, Suzanne. Eighty percent of the people in Iraq want us out of there. Who the heck are we to say we're going to stay there because some general thinks it's OK?

MALVEAUX: Let's talk about what reports have shown out of the London terror plot just recently.

They have shown that some of these doctors, these suspected terrorists, were trained by al Qaeda inside of Iraq, and that what is happening is, you have al Qaeda inside that country training and exporting terrorists with the capability to go to Europe, to go to the United States.

How do you argue to pull out U.S. troops now, when you literally have that country becoming a breeding ground for terrorists?

GRAVEL: Well, stop and think, Suzanne. We made it a breeding ground. The al Qaeda was not there until we went there. And, so, when you say it's a breeding ground, they're already breeding, and we got all our troops there. So...

MALVEAUX: So, what -- how do you stop the breeding?

GRAVEL: ... what is the answer?

MALVEAUX: How do you stop it?

GRAVEL: Well, you stop the breeding by turning around and getting our combat troops out of there.

And we can go after al Qaeda. In fact, you will be very surprised that you will find the insurgents on the Sunni and Shia side, they will be killing al Qaeda people, because these al Qaedas are foreigners, and they do not discriminate against who they kill, as long as they can create havoc inside of Iraq.

So, you want to solve this problem? Turn around, get American troops out, bring in the efforts of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Russia, Japan, China. They will all come in and help stabilize the area. But you can't do that until we get our troops out of there and get that general home.

MALVEAUX: Now, you have been very critical of your own party. You have said that you're not convinced that the Democrats are going to get the president's seat here, because they have not dealt strong enough in pulling out troops when it comes to Iraq. Have you seen any leadership from the Democratic candidates -- the presidential candidates so far?

GRAVEL: None at all.

Stop and think. They could turn around in the -- they're in the Senate right now. They have got the power. I don't have any power. I'm not there. Had I been there, I would have filibustered the resolution back in 2002.

But I'm not there. They are there. And they could take command and show some leadership. And we could end this -- our involvement in the war by Labor Day, and have all American troops home by Christmas. We could do that, if we had some leadership in the Congress.

I have given them a plan, a piece of legislation to introduce, and the tactics to employ to create a confrontation between the executive and the Congress, and to let the people weigh in. And you will see what will happen.

MALVEAUX: Very quickly, I want you to give us a report card, some grades, on the Democratic leadership.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, what kind of job do you think she's doing, A through F?

GRAVEL: I would say -- A through F? A C-minus.

MALVEAUX: C-minus?

GRAVEL: On the war. On the war.

MALVEAUX: On the war, specifically?

GRAVEL: Right.

MALVEAUX: And what about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid?

GRAVEL: C-minus.

MALVEAUX: C-minus.

And what do you -- what do you give your...

GRAVEL: And an F -- and an F for the four senators in the Senate who could influence Pelosi and Reid to bring forth the tactics to end our involvement by Labor Day. They get an F.

MALVEAUX: Who are those?

GRAVEL: That would be Hillary Clinton, Senator Clinton, Senator Obama, and Senator Biden, and Senator Dodd.

MALVEAUX: Thank you so much, Senator Gravel. Appreciate your time here on THE SITUATION ROOM.

And the next presidential debate will be on July 23 in Charleston, South Carolina. CNN is teaming up with YouTube. It will be the first debate where all of you can submit your questions to the candidates online.

And coming up: Al Gore's Live Earth extravaganza, how will it be different than other big-name global concerts?

And the pyramids get some new competition. We will look at the controversy surrounding the New Seven Wonders of the World.



MALVEAUX: Al Gore is about to make another big splash in his campaign against global warming. His dream of a worldwide concert to protect the Earth becomes a reality tomorrow. Will it rank up there with other star-studded concerts for charitable causes?

Well, here's CNN's Jason Carroll.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Live Earth, a 24- hour concert, 100 acts in cities across the globe.


CARROLL: Former Vice President Al Gore developed the idea to help protect the planet. Over the past few decades, there have been several global concerts with different causes, all with the same basic goal, raise money. Not this time.


GORE: It's actually not designed to raise money. It's designed to raise awareness and to spread word about the solutions.


CARROLL: Organizers won't put a dollar amount on expected money raised. Profit will go to Gore's Alliance For Climate Protection, a nonprofit he founded to help reduce global warming. Gore hopes the music will inspire people to go to the Live Earth Web site and follow the seven-point pledge, which includes fighting pollution and planting new trees.

Critics say, Live Earth's goals are too vague.

EVAN SERPICK, "ROLLING STONE": I think it is pretty ambiguous. I think they -- could have done a much better job, much earlier on, being very clear about hard goals.

CARROLL: Bob Geldof, the man behind two global concerts for poverty, is quoted as calling Live Earth a hollow spectacle.

But, even with profits, getting the money to those in need can be challenging. In 2005, Live 8 hoped to influence world leaders to commit more money to poverty. Those leaders committed $50 billion by 2010. But at least one watchdog group says they are not on track.

On the other hand, the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971 to date has raised $15 million. According to UNICEF, 87 cents of each dollar went to children in Bangladesh.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Concerts really do make a difference.

CARROLL (on camera): Performers such as Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson, The Police, and Bon Jovi will all be here at Giants Stadium to perform. We're told that all the performers are lending their talents free of charge.

Jason Carroll, CNN, East Rutherford, New Jersey. (END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And up next in the "Strategy Session": Vice President Gore joins the chorus of criticism of President Bush's decision to commute Scooter Libby's sentence.


GORE: I didn't think he would do it the way he did it, the day that he was supposed to start serving his sentence. I just thought that it was the wrong thing.


MALVEAUX: But, according to a new poll, Democrats aren't alone in their doubt about President Bush's action.

And two presidential campaigns are shaking up their staffs. But is it too little, too late? All that with Donna Brazile and Amy Holmes coming up in our "Strategy Session" -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: For John McCain's presidential campaign, it may be even more bad news. A candidate considered a long shot for the White House actually has more cash on hand than McCain does. Republican Congressman Ron Paul has $2.4 million on hand, after raising that same amount in the second quarter. He raised most of it online. McCain has just $2 million on hand.

Now, joining me for today's "Strategy Session," our CNN political analyst and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, and Republican strategist Amy Holmes.

Thank you so much for joining us here.

What do you make of this? I mean, McCain must be in pretty bad shape here, when you have got Ron Paul, a long shot by any poll, by any measure, who jumps ahead.

AMY HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think there's no question that the McCain campaign is struggling, but reports of its demise are greatly exaggerated.

Just this week, Mike Murphy had an op-ed in "The Los Angeles Times" pointing out that most primary voters in both parties don't make their decision until right up to that decision-making time. We remember John Kerry was behind. He came in to win Iowa. So, McCain, he is definitely hurting, but he -- he still has a chance there.

MALVEAUX: Well, let's hear -- let's get another op-ed opinion here, this from "The Des Moines Register."

It says: "The changes leave in place seven McCain aides in Iowa. McCain spokesman Danny Diaz says the senator remains committed to competing in Iowa."

No previous caucus winner has cut his staff so deeply and gone on to win.

Donna, this does not sound like a campaign that's ready to make a comeback or a turnaround.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I once managed a campaign that had to cut its staff, move its headquarters down to Nashville, Tennessee, reduce the number of consultants. So, I sympathize with John McCain's campaign manager at this point.

On the other hand, this is a very crucial quarter coming up, the beginning of Labor Day, the traditional time that you really begin the march to the primaries. So, the McCain campaign really needs a message. And I think, after the Iraq war has gone sour on him, the immigration debate went down in flames, John McCain really needs a message in order to get some momentum.

MALVEAUX: And let's...


MALVEAUX: Go ahead, Amy.

A. HOLMES: I was going to say, I think that's right. And let's remember that, in the second quarter, he was trying to raise money among Republican faithfuls, when he's championing an immigration bill that was hugely unpopular with Republicans and the general public.

MALVEAUX: Well, let's talk about somebody else who also seems to be in trouble at this point in Iowa. And that is John Edwards.

This from the Associated Press: "John Edwards is reshuffling the ranks of his top staff. The changes come after a disappointing fund- raising quarter for Edwards and some ongoing communications challenges. Edwards raised just over $9 million from April through June, much less than rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama."

Is it time for the Edwards camp to face a reality here that may not -- that may be rather bad news?

BRAZILE: Well, I think they have to do a real complete reassessment of their campaign. John Edwards started off with a lot of momentum. He's leading -- or, in some polls, he's leading in some of the early states.

But he really needs to get his campaign back into groove. His money is coming in by drips and drabs. He needs a little bit more money. Although his campaign said that they only need $40 million to compete in the first couple of states, I believe that he will need a lot more, given the amount of money that both Mrs. Clinton, as well as Mr. Obama have.

MALVEAUX: If you were his adviser, what would you tell him?

A. HOLMES: I would tell him to get excited about running for president.

I mean, he's still hanging in there in Iowa, but there's no fire in the belly. He has not conveyed this optimism and this charisma. You see it with Barack Obama with the huge crowds that are surrounding him, Hillary Clinton in the money and the support that she's getting.

It seems like he's been limping along in this campaign. And, if he wants to be the president of the United States, he needs to step it up.


MALVEAUX: But there are some polls which show that he is doing relatively well in New Hampshire and Iowa.

A. HOLMES: Well, he's hanging in there. We were talking about that. Some polls show him up in Iowa. Some polls show him down. But, if he's going to get that momentum, he has to grab it. And the time is now.

BRAZILE: He's a very strong candidate with a great deal of credentials. I love his message about two Americas. But it's time we talk about his message, and not his head -- haircut.

I'm sick of his haircut. Look, if I can get a $400 haircut, I would go out and get one.


BRAZILE: But, as you can tell, I prefer to pay 25 bucks.


MALVEAUX: We all get our hair cut from the same place.



MALVEAUX: Let's start off here -- I want to turn the corner here to the Scooter Libby clemency debate. Obviously, it's still going on.

We heard from Hillary Clinton, who weighed in, saying that the Bush administration believes it's above the law. And then we also heard from Press Secretary Tony Snow, obviously, the White House jumping in. They feel it is beneficial to keep this fight going to really get their base fired up.

But this is what voters are saying about this issue. Approving the Libby commutation -- do you approve? You have all adults approve, 31 percent; disapprove, 64 percent. That would be voters, 26 percent, as well as disapprove, 69 percent.

And I believe we have a poll that actually shows that independents are more angry about what the president has done than the Democrats. Doesn't it ultimately hurt the Republicans, Amy?

A. HOLMES: I think this is a losing issue for both sides. And I think that both sides want to get past it.

This isn't great for Democrats. There's a number that Democrats should be paying a lot more attention to. And that's only 14 percent of the public has any confidence in this Congress. If President -- if President Bush's numbers are below freezing, Democrats are in an advanced stage of frostbite here.

And dwelling on the Scooter Libby issue just tells people outside of the beltway that nothing's getting done; it's a partisan food fight. And they want the legislators to legislate.

MALVEAUX: But the voters are angry. They're angry at this president for what he has done. Had do the Republicans -- if you're advising them, how do they get over that?

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, this president campaigned on restoring honor and dignity to the White House.

He also said, soon after this leak story began, that he would get to the bottom of it and fire someone. And the president has done a complete right turn, and decided to commute this sentence. So, the American people are right to be angry with the president over this.

MALVEAUX: What does he do now?

BRAZILE: What he -- well, he should allow Congress...

MALVEAUX: What does the White House do?

BRAZILE: Well, Congress -- this week, John Conyers, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, will hold an investigation. There was an investigation soon after Bill Clinton pardoned Marc Rich.

A. HOLMES: You know, Donna, I -- really, I honestly believe...

BRAZILE: And they should.

A. HOLMES: ... if Democrats go down this road, they are going to get dragged into a partisan ditch. The American people don't want yet another investigation.

BRAZILE: They are doing their job. They are doing their job. We had six years of capitulation. Now we have a year of oversight and accountability.

MALVEAUX: I have got to -- I have got to leave it at that.

Donna Brazile, Amy Holmes...

BRAZILE: Happy Friday.

MALVEAUX: Happy Friday. Thanks to both of you. And still to come: Rudy Giuliani's ex-top cop. Is Bernie Kerik a drag on his presidential campaign? Kerik speaks out.

And consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader on the dirty secrets about food and other products from China.



MALVEAUX: Anticipation is building for 7/7/07. It's tomorrow's date. And it seems like a fitting time for the unveiling of the New Seven Wonders of the World. But the global competition is steeped in controversy.

Here's CNN's Michael Holmes.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Are the ancient wonders of the world too ancient? More than 2,000 years after the Greeks named the Seven Wonders, seven new ones are set to be revealed.

Twenty finalists, ranging from India's 17th century monument to love, the Taj Mahal, to Paris' 19th century Eiffel Tower, have drawn more than 90 million Internet votes in one of the largest polls ever conducted. July 7, 7/7/07, will conclude the multiyear media campaign instigated by Swiss businessman Bernard Weber.

BERNARD WEBER, FOUNDER, NEW 7 WONDERS: This is the first time we have the opportunity to have a global vote, and, by the way, also to invite children. This is the first time children can vote. And they vote out of passion, not out of nationalism. So, this is the first- time opportunity.

And I think we should seize that opportunity, so that everybody can decide what the New Seven Wonders should be.

M. HOLMES: The star-studded event, called the New Seven Wonders of the World, will feature performances by Jennifer Lopez and Chaka Khan, and will be hosted by Hollywood's Hilary Swank and Ben Kingsley. Contenders includes well-known greats like the Colosseum in Rome, Machu Picchu in Peru, Christ the Redeemer Rio de Janeiro, the Great Wall of China, and the giant stone statutes on Chile's Easter island.

Even national figures like Brazil's president, Lula da Silva, and Jordan's Queen Rania are promoting their country's hopefuls. But the new wonders campaign is not universally recognized. The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, identifies world heritage sites, but claims there is no link whatsoever with the New Seven Wonders of the World campaign.

Egypt has also taken exception. According to Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, the Great Pyramids of Giza should be above competition and remain the world's only surviving ancient wonder.

Following the Egyptian protests, organizers assured the pyramids' honorary status, in addition to the seven new wonders. For the remaining contenders, there's no way to prevent online voters from casting multiple ballots. The new list will capture opinions of those with access to the Internet and those who vote often.

Michael Holmes, CNN.


MALVEAUX: So, can you name the original seven ancient wonders of the world? One only still exists. That is the Egyptian pyramids. The others were the Lighthouse of Alexandria, also in Egypt. It was a beacon to sailors and once the tallest building on Earth.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, near what is now Baghdad, were known for their amazing fruit, flowers, waterfalls, and exotic animals. The Temple of Artemis and the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus were built in what is modern-day Turkey. One honored the goddess of hunting. The other was the burial place of an ancient king. And the Statue of Zeus at Olympia and the Colossus of Rhodes, a tribute to the sun god Helios, had their homes in ancient Greece.

And Democratic presidential candidate Chris Dodd is adding some star power and music to his campaign swing through Iowa today. Singer-songwriter Paul Simon is stumping with Dodd. And they have been friends for about 25 years. Simon performed at a stop in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

Let's take a listen.




MALVEAUX: Chris Dodd broadcast the Paul Simon concert on his campaign Web site.

Well, let's now bring in our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner.

Jacki, sounds pretty cool. What are you seeing online?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: It does sound cool. And you can hear it again tonight at 6:30, when Paul Simon plays again from Sioux City, Iowa.

Chris Dodd is streaming this live on his Web site. It's part of a new project he's called DTV. There are four channels. One of them streams live at least three hours a day from the campaign trail or campaign headquarters. This is the first time we're seeing one of the presidential candidates consistently use live video on a regular basis, though it's not the first time we're seeing the '08 candidates use this behind-the-scenes strategy.

For example, we saw John Edwards show us his 54th birthday celebration. We have seen Senator Barack Obama walking for change. And, this week, Senator Clinton's campaign launched their HillCam to show Bill and Hillary on the trail in Iowa.

The Democrats are much better, at this point, of using this Web video than their Republican counterparts, with the exception of Mitt Romney, who has Mitt TV, some 129 videos uploaded so far.

But what are you going to get from these videos, Suzanne? Well, you're not going to get a lot that you don't see elsewhere, because they are produced by the campaigns, after all.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you, Jacki.