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U.S. Commanders on the Ground Warn Against Withdrawing U.S. Troops from Iraq. Updates on the Latest Fighting in Iraq

Aired July 6, 2007 - 17:00   ET


JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: For example, we saw John Edwards show us his 54th birthday celebration. We've seen Senator Barack Obama walking for change. And this week, Senator Clinton's campaign launched their Hill cam to show Bill and Hillary on the trail in Iowa.
The Democrats are much better, at this point, at 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.


Thank you, Jacki.


Happening now, a top U.S. commander in Iraq responding to growing frustration in Washington makes an urgent plea and issues a dire warning.

Also, health officials in one state taking dramatic action as concern grows over the safety of Chinese products, now blamed for dozens of deaths. We'll talk about it with consumer advocate and former presidential candidate, Ralph Nader.

And the growing storm inside the National Hurricane Center. Top forecasters joining a mutiny against the director.

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

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

Demands for results in Iraq are growing louder in Washington and commanders on the ground are responding with pleas for more time and blunt predictions of what will happen if they don't get it.

Let's go straight to CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie, what are the commanders telling you today?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, despite the fact there's debate here in Washington about whether there should be a change of course in Iraq, for U.S. commanders on the ground there, it's full speed ahead.


MCINTYRE: (voice-over): Ask Major General Rick Lynch what will happen if the so-called surge is cut short and he'll mince no words.

MAJ. GEN. RICK LYNCH, U.S. ARMY: It would be a mess, Jamie. It would be a mess.

MCINTYRE: Lynch and his counterpart to the north, Major General Benjamin Mixon, are showing a united front in calling for more time to build on successful operations like this one.


MCINTYRE: U.S. paratroopers on a nighttime air assault clear and destroy three Al Qaeda safe houses near Iskandariyah.

LYNCH: We need these surge forces. They came in for a reason. They're being used for the reason they came in. It's going to take some time to mature the situation. Over time, we can turn the area over to Iraqi security forces and then we'll be ready to do something that looks like a withdrawal. But that's not going to happen any time soon.

MCINTYRE: That's not what many members of Congress want to hear, including a growing number of disenchanted Republicans. And they're not likely to be cheered by the Pentagon's latest quarterly Iraq progress report, due out in a week. It will show a mixed bag of small successes, tempered by big problems, especially the lack of Iraqi political reconciliation.

ANTHONY CORDESMAN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: The truth is that September is too soon. An honest assessment of the Iraqi police, of the Iraqi Army, tells you that if you wish to really make this work, you have to be patient enough to at least test this well into 2008.


MCINTYRE: So, Suzanne, what's shaping up here is a real disconnect between what's been dubbed "the Washington clock," under which there is growing pressure to come up with a strategy to bring troops home, and "the so-called Baghdad clock," which U.S. commanders say will require much more time to ensure success -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Jamie, why do you think that the commanders are coming out with these statements now? Do you think it's simply floating a trial balloon, preparing the American people for the assessment in September that this is what they're going to present to the American people?

MCINTYRE: Well, the sense I get is that they do believe that they're -- they are finally making some real progress in Iraq and they're concerned that the rug is going to be pulled out from under them just when they think they may have hit on a strategy that's working because of the impatience back here in the U.S.


Jamie, thank you so much.

Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.

And as the tug of war over what to do about U.S. troops drags on, it has been another dangerous, deadly day in Iraq.

CNN's Hala Gorani is in Baghdad.

HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, seven people were killed across the country today. There's been some heavy fighting between the Mahdi Militia of the radical Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, and Iraqi security forces, especially in the southern part of the country.

Now, 60 miles south of Baghdad, in Hillah, a car bomb killed four people. This fighting between the Mahdi Militia, which is U.S. says is supported by Iran, and Iraqi security forces has been intensifying in recent months.

Also, an American soldier was announced dead today. He died of wounds suffered yesterday, according to the U.S. military. That brings to 15 the number of U.S. troops that have been killed in Iraq since the beginning of the month of July. And this comes within the crucial American strategy of increasing the number of boots on the ground to try to pacify volatile regions where the insurgency is vibrant, such as Diyala Province north and east of Baghdad -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you.

Hala Gorani in Baghdad.

And there is evidence of what appears to be another attempt to assassinate Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf. And it is raising new concern about a nuclear armed nation that is also a key U.S. ally in the fight against Al Qaeda.

CNN's Brian Todd joins us live now -- Brian, what can you tell us about this latest incident?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, Pakistani officials are downplaying what happened outside a military airstrip near Islamabad. But we're getting indications this incident may have been more serious than they're letting on.


TODD: (voice-over): A U.S. official with knowledge of the situation tells CNN this is evidence of a possible assassination attempt against Pakistan's president. Anti-aircraft and machine guns with expended rounds nearby, recovered near the runway where Pervez Musharraf's plane took off.

But Pakistani officials won't go that far. MAHMUD DURRANI, PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Maybe it was a message they were trying to give and -- but the president was safe and his aircraft was not fired on. That's the main thing.

TODD: Still, Musharraf has escaped at least two other attempts on his life -- bombings targeting his motorcade. He's also fighting on his own turf against Islamic militants, like the deadly standoff at the Red Mosque. He's dealing with upheaval over his removal of the supreme court's chief justice. And the question persists -- is this key U.S. ally presiding over imminent catastrophe in the war on terror?

DEREK CHOLLET, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: We seem to be careening from crisis to crisis and we're only one event away from it being a major challenge for the United States. And that would have implications both for the stability of South Asia, as well as our fight against al Qaeda.

TODD: One major worry -- Musharraf's authority over a nuclear weapons arsenal. A U.S. official tells CNN the Pakistani military has firm control of the arsenal and no matter who is head of state, those weapons will be safeguarded.

One analyst finds no comfort in that.

FRANK GAFFNEY, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: If, in fact, the military is, at best, penetrated by and, at worst, actively engaged with Islamo-fascists, that's a very worrying thing right now, let alone what happens if Musharraf finally does get killed.

TODD: But the Pakistani ambassador bluntly dismissed that fear.

DURRANI: I -- I hate to use this word, but this is crap. This is crap. Pakistan's military is not infiltrated by extremists. If you look at the leadership of the military, I can count on three stars -- two stars -- not a single one who's got that kind of extremist tendencies.


TODD: But there is also concern over who comes after Musharraf. Analysts tell us he has not groomed a successor. But the Pakistani ambassador says a system is in place for legislators to choose a successor and then for elections -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: But, Brian, even their democratic process has a pretty spotty record in Pakistan.

TODD: Right. Over nearly 30 years they haven't had a scheduled democratic transition of power. They've had military dictators and even when prime ministers took power, they did so after their predecessors were either tossed out of office for various reasons or died while in office.

MALVEAUX: Brian, a concern.

Thank you so much.

Brian Todd.

And up ahead, a growing storm at the National Hurricane Center. We'll have details of calls by some of the country's top forecasters for their boss to go.

Also, are food products from China safe to eat and what can the U.S. government do to protect you?

I'll ask consumer advocate Ralph Nader.

And find out why extra-marital affairs aren't what they used to be, at least for some politicians.

Stay with us.



MALVEAUX: We are in the thick of the Atlantic hurricane season. But the biggest storm seems to be building at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Staffers there have released a petition calling for a new director and the current boss is under heavy fire from higher ups.

Our CNN's John Zarrella is in Miami -- and, John, how are they taking the heat here, the director?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, you know, the timing for all this could not be worse. The heart of the hurricane season kicks in just about a month. But already there is a swirl of turmoil surrounding the new director, Bill Proenza. And it is very unclear tonight whether he will be able to keep his job.


ZARRELLA: (voice-over): A day after half his staff called for his resignation, the director of the National Hurricane Center, Bill Proenza, said he was leaving that door open.

BILL PROENZA, HURRICANE CENTER DIRECTOR: I work for the American people.

ZARRELLA: (on camera): Are you telling me you're not retiring? PROENZA: Well, whatever is in their best interests I will do. And if it involves me moving on, I will do so when the time comes. I will do it smoothly. And I will do it genuinely.

ZARRELLA: Like the gathering storm, the conditions inside the National Hurricane Center have deteriorated rapidly. Twenty-three staff members, including four senior hurricane forecasters, signed a petition Thursday saying the center needs a new director as quickly as possible. They charge Proenza has lobbied for the wrong priorities, he doesn't ask for their input and to do their jobs effectively, they need teamwork and a sense of family. JAMES FRANKLIN, SENIOR HURRICANE FORECASTER: He's destroying that. He's destroying that. He's divided the staff. And -- and it's hard to know how we're going to be able to come together with him here.

ZARRELLA: The problems began for Proenza when he publicly criticized his Washington bosses at NOAA, the parent agency, for spending money on NOAA's 200th anniversary and taking money away from hurricane research. Then he said little was being done to replace an aging satellite critical, he claims, to forecasting.

Proenza makes no apologies.

PROENZA: But when I'm asked, I've got to answer honestly and sincerely. And I feel that it is part of my responsibilities. I work for the American people.

ZARRELLA: This past Monday, investigators came from Washington to evaluate what was going on at the Center and what needed to be done.


ZARRELLA: The report by this team of investigators is due out on July 20. But we have heard today from our sources in Washington that this team of investigators is now, Suzanne, coming back to Miami this coming Monday -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So, John, does the director have any support left at all now?

Who are his supporters?

ZARRELLA: There are some within the Hurricane Center here behind me that do support him quietly, not publicly. And there are some politicians who have supported him over the QuikSCAT issue.

But -- that's that satellite that he has asked to be replaced. But they are not getting involved in these other issues involving his personnel -- Suzanne.


John Zarrella, thank you, in Miami.

Now to this seemingly endless heat wave that we have in the West, where temperatures are expected to soar as high as 120 degrees today. Power grids are being pushed to the limit and people are getting stark warnings about the danger.

Our CNN's Kara Finnstrom is in Palm Springs, California -- and, Kara, boy, how are folks coping there?

How are you doing?

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're doing pretty good. Actually, we're in a place where there's a lot of mist in the area. We've been keeping our eye on a thermometer. That mist is playing a little bit with our temperatures. But it says right now that it's 110 degrees. That's hot enough, and hot enough for people throughout the Palm Springs day -- area all day long, many of them coming out here to try and beat the heat. Their main mission, to stay cool.

Now, park organizers say they want people to have fun out here today. But they are concerned about people overdoing it. They've got some emergency crews on standby in case anyone does get overheated. They say on a normal day here, they'll usually have a couple people who suffer from heat exhaustion. So they've also set up some shelters here. They have water ready and are encouraging everyone just to kind of pace themselves and to be careful today as they're out here cooling off. Across the state, actually, a number of cooling centers have been set up, as well, to help people who might not have air conditioning at home or may just need a break from the heat.

We have been getting word that we're on the edge of a cool down. And everyone vie spoken with out here today, Suzanne, says they are more than ready for that.

MALVEAUX: Kara Finnstrom, thank you so much.

Stay cool.

I know what it's like to -- to cover those hot weather stories.

Thanks again, Kara.

And still to come, another warning about a product manufactured in China, this time affecting Massachusetts. We'll talk about the growing controversy over Chinese standards with one of this country's best known consumer advocates, Ralph Nader.

But up next, fighting a major killer in Africa. First Lady Laura Bush gets as firsthand look at programs aimed at malaria.


MALVEAUX: While the AIDS epidemic takes center stage in the world's focus to eradicate disease in Africa, it is actually malaria that is the number one killer for some African nations. This treatable disease takes the lives of more than one million people each year on that continent. Twice as many people are dying from it than a generation ago.

But stopping its spread may be simple.

On my trip with the first lady to Africa, Mrs. Bush promoted Americans' efforts to stamp out the disease.


MALVEAUX: (voice-over): In Africa, malaria kills one child every 30 seconds. Malaria is a highly preventable and treatable disease, eradicated in the United States 50 years ago, but still ravaging Africa today. The United States is leading the international effort to stop it.

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: This five year program has one goal -- eliminating malaria in Africa.

MALVEAUX: First Lady Laura Bush traveled to Zambia, a country where 40 percent of its people have malaria.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The toll of malaria is even more tragic because the disease itself is highly treatable and preventable.

MALVEAUX: Two years ago, her husband, President Bush, launched the malaria initiative -- a five year, $1.2 billion program to combat the disease in 15 of the hardest hit African nations.

Zambia is one of them. The first lady and health advocates are promoting a simple solution to stop the spread by providing insecticide treated bed nets to families to protect them from the mosquitoes that carry the disease.

L. BUSH: Through the Zambian Partnership, 500,000 mosquito nets will be distributed to the country's most vulnerable households before the next malaria season in November.

MALVEAUX: The campaign to provide and distribute $10 bed nets has become a cause celebre. Compared to other charitable works, this one is relatively non-controversial and produces quick, tangible results.

MELINDA DOOLITTLE, "AMERICAN IDOL" FINALIST (SINGING): When we've been there 10,000 years --

MALVEAUX: American idol finalist Melinda Doolittle joined the first lady to promote the campaign.

DOOLITTLE: In America, you kind of get detached from just seeing what is really going on in the world today, you know.

And malaria is such a devastating disease. And I wouldn't have even really known that had I not been able to experience things like this firsthand.

MALVEAUX: The anti-malaria campaign also promotes expanding spraying people's homes with insecticide and providing anti-malaria drugs to pregnant women and those living with the disease.


MALVEAUX: Well, we are already seeing some tangible results. The Zanzibar Islands off the East Coast of Tanzania report that malaria cases during first nine months of last year dropped by a stunning 87 percent. But historians warn that there are big problems at work that undermine the progress in fighting malaria, namely civil wars, unstable government and massive migration of refugees.

Now, a century ago, malaria was prevalent in the United States, particularly in and around Washington, D.C. It was the invention of the window and screened porch that really helped eradicate the disease in this country.

Malaria is the number one killer of children under five in Africa. A network known as Malaria No More is spearheading an effort to provide lifesaving bed nets and other interventions for families with needs. If you want to help in the fight against malaria, go to Ten dollars buys a bed net, delivers it and educates a family on its proper use.

And Zain Verjee is monitoring stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Zain, what are you keeping an eye on?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, federal investigators back today at the Virginia property owned until recently by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick. The probe centers around allegations of dog fighting at the site. Today's search is the fourth, beginning with an April raid, when 66 dogs, mostly pit bulls, were seized, along with equipment commonly used in dog fighting. To date, Vick hasn't been charged.

Now, here's something, Suzanne, that you don't see every day -- a giant wall of sand. This sandstorm broke out in northwest China's Gansu Province on Thursday. It lasted about an hour-and-a-half. It formed a thick cloud of sand that engulfed a building. It was accompanied by strong winds and heavy rain.

The AK-47 is 60. More than 100 million of the world's most popular assault rifle have been manufactured since production began back in 1947. Its 87-year-old Russian designer, Mikhail Kalashnikov, was honored today at the Moscow ceremony marking the 60 year milestone of his invention. Kalashnikov says he doesn't really lose sleep over the bloodshed rendered by the rifle that bears his name. It's the politicians, he says, who are to blame for failing to come to any agreement and resorting to violence.

And that, Suzanne, I guess you haven't really seen this kind of sight on your way into work any of these days. It is a pretty odd sight for morning rush hour motorists that cruise the highway near Lancaster, California. There you see a black bear that found itself stranded atop a power pole. Dozens of drivers just stopped and stared. California fish and game officials suspect that he came down from nearby mountains. Well, if you're wondering what happened, the bear, Suzanne, eventually just came down the pole himself and went on his merry way.

MALVEAUX: Zain, you're right, I did not see a bear on my way to work here in Washington, D.C.

That is wild.

VERJEE: What road are you taking?

MALVEAUX: It's wild -- yes, obviously. Not the same one as you.

Thank you so much. Zain Verjee.


MALVEAUX: And coming up, food standards some call appalling. We'll show you why there is growing concern over this China syndrome and what's being done to protect you from dangerous products.

Plus, L.A.'s mayor caught up in a public affair. But he's not the first. We'll show you how other politicians have fared after their affairs.

Stay with us.




Happening now, the Bush administration wins a legal victory. A federal appeals court in Washington today dismissed an ACLU lawsuit challenging the National Security Agency's domestic spying program. The panel says the plaintiffs could not show that they had been targeted by the NSA.

And a grim milestone in the Afghanistan conflict. According to the "Los Angeles Times," new independent tallies show that U.S. and NATO forces killed more civilians than insurgents did in the first half of the year. The toll is blamed for growing disillusionment among the afghan people.

And an oil change for Burger King. The fast foot chain says it is switching to trans fat free cooking oil at all its restaurants. The change is expected to be complete by the end of 2008.

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

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

Health officials in Massachusetts are warning the public they are against using any toothpaste made in China. Some brands have been found to contain a toxic chemical used in antifreeze and officials in Panama blame the Chinese toothpaste for 83 deaths in that country.

That is just the latest example of what some call China's appalling product standards, especially when it comes to food.

CNN's John Vause has more from 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.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 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.

And there is new fallout to the uproar. A Utah company that makes nutritional supplements says it will now label its products China-free. Officials with Food for Health International say they want consumers to know none of the ingredients they use come from China.

And for more on the growing concern over the safety of Chinese products we are joined by consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nadir. Thank you so much for joining us here on THE SITUATION ROOM. You've heard the reports coming from Massachusetts, from Utah, here. If you're a consumer you're going to the supermarket and want to buy a tube of toothpaste, what should you look for? What do you need to know?

RALPH NADER, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You look for the company that produces it and the closer the food is that's produced to where you consume it, the more you're going to be able to rely it especially since the producers, these farmer and market producers are going to have to face up directly.

They are not seven, eight, 10,000 miles away. The goods are flooding in from China. And a lot of them are coming from tremendously contaminated and toxified areas in the eastern part of China, farm-fed fish, for example, lead contaminated toys, you've got tires, up to a million tires are defective in terms of spread -- tread separation on the highways.

So it has got to be President Bush. He has got to start paying attention. Defending Americans here at home. Not being bogged down in the quagmire in Iraq. That's one of the prices of the Iraq War.

And Congress has got to beef up the inspections and the budgets of the Food and Drug Administration. You know the Food and Drug Administration's budget is one-third of an aircraft carrier. It's one third. It's $1.5 billion to defend 300 million American consumers and all the food and all the drugs produced here and pouring in from abroad. We've got to become more community self-reliant in our country. Got to produce more of what we consume so we can keep an eye out on it.

MALVEAUX: So Mr. Nader, if you are in the supermarket ...


MALVEAUX: ... do you need to look at a product and see -- does it have to be China-free? Are you looking for specific ingredients here? What do consumers need to do?

NADER: I'm looking for the enforcement of the 2002 country of origin law that Congress passed was obstructed by these big giant U.S. food processors that are bringing in all kinds of additives and all kinds of food from apple juice to sweeteners from China. We've got a law on the books that is not being enforced for fruits and vegetables so people can go into the supermarket and see the country of origin. It's been on the books for five years. Neither President Bush nor the members of Congress with a very few exception are saying let's enforce it.

MALVEAUX: Are there any products that can be trusted for China? Can China be trusted to put out safe products, do you feel?

NADER: Well certainly the ones that aren't vulnerable to environmental poisons and contamination that by the Chinese government's own admission is swarming all over china. That means textiles, hardware, electronics, things like that. But even toys have been coming in with lead-based coating and that's not safe for children. But when it comes to things you drink, things you eat, thinks you take in terms of medicines, all kind of additives. Watch out. The safeguards are not there. No matter what the Chinese say. No matter what the bureaucrats in Washington say.

You've got to all yell out to the Congress where the change can start. Start yelling out to your senators and representatives and demand that the country of origin labeling is on those products in your supermarket.

MALVEAUX: And how do you respond to the consumers who say look, we can't afford some of these American-made products here. Obviously the China products are much cheaper.

NADER: Well, in some cases they are cheaper but they are also more hazardous. And in other cases they are not cheaper.

For example for a $1.50 a day workers in Vietnam and Indonesia are building these Nike shoes. You see a real cheap Nike shoe around.

What happens is they import these cheaply produced products but the retailers and importers are making huge profits and soaking up that difference. They are not passing it on to the consumer in all too many instances.

Besides, can't we produce our own apple juice? Eighty percent of toys are coming in from China. Huge imports of apple juice coming in from china. If you saw where those apples are grown, there is tremendous air and water pollution.

Chemical residues, contamination, illegal pesticide by U.S. standards. It's only going to get worse unless we wake up. Yell at Congress, demand the law be enforced, beef up the customs inspectors. I don't think on percent of the imports in this country are being inspected by the U.S. government. That's a disgrace. Far too much money is going into more and more mass weapon systems. We don't need that kind of huge weapon systems with no more Soviet Union. We need to defend the health and safety of the American people here at home.

MALVEAUX: Mr. Nader, thank you so much for your views here on THE SITUATION ROOM.

NADER: You're welcome.

MALVEAUX: And Ralph Nader has a new book out called "The 17 Traditions" about the life lessons he learned growing up and how they apply to the world today. Thanks again to Ralph Nader.

And up ahead the mayor of Los Angeles touched by scandal. He's just the latest mayor to have very public marital troubles. We'll talk about it next with a long-time political observer.

Also now is your chance to cast your vote for the top seven new wonders of the world. Our Abbi Tatton is ahead to tell you about the candidates and how you can vote. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: City halls in California's two main cities rocked by scandals as the mayors admit to having affairs. San Francisco's Mayor Gavin Newsom with the wife of a top aide and now the Los Angeles mayor with a TV news reporter.

So what is the fall-out for these two men who have been seen as rising stars in the Democratic Party? Well joining us now with some answers, Phil Bronstein, of course executive editor of the "San Francisco Chronicle."

You've been following many stories in the area and do you think here we have seen now that the television reporter, a leave of absence, does it look like she is paying for the affair?

PHIL BRONSTEIN, "SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE": Well, I think to some extent she is paying for the affair. I think it was Abe Rosenthal, the legendary editor of the "New York Times" who said I don't care if my reporters are sleeping with elephants as long as they are not covering the circus. Of course, the quote was much saltier than that but we can't say it on TV.

MALVEAUX: We get it.

BRONSTEIN: But she was reporting on somebody she was having an affair with and she was reporting about the demise of his marriage. So I think that's a pretty standard conflict of interest problem. Not even a perception of a conflict but a real conflict. In terms of whether the politicians are paying.

Well, let's see, you've got Rudy Giuliani who had some of that problems himself. He's the frontrunner in the Republican presidential race. You had Gavin Newsom here in San Francisco and he wasn't just sleeping with the wife of a colleague and a friend but the wife herself was working for him at the time. His poll ratings are still very high. And so I think Villaraigosa is probably going to be in the same position. Voters are very forgiving about personal problems.

MALVEAUX: Now what about his platform, however? Obviously he ran a family man here, somewhat of a conservative social platform. How does that square with the residents, the voters in Los Angeles.

BRONSTEIN: Well, see, that's a bigger problem because it seems to me after watching this for many years, you said long-time political observer. On this stuff I feel like a voyeur but you watch it long enough and you see the voters are very forgiving, lying, cheating, stealing, that's OK. Hypocrisy is not OK. I think voters start thinking twice when hypocrisy is involved. That may be the case with Villaraigosa. And it may be the one thing that can hurt him.

MALVEAUX: Do you think they are more forgiving of the man who cheats on his wife or perhaps the other woman?

BRONSTEIN: Well, I don't know what do you think if Hillary Clinton had cheated on Bill would she be a frontrunner in the Democratic campaign? I think there's a long history in this country and there's a long tradition whether we like the tradition or not where men do -- are judged slightly different standard than women but now we've got female presidential -- serious presidential candidate we'll see if that changes.

MALVEAUX: But you've got the San Francisco mayor and now the Los Angeles mayor. What is going on in California?

BRONSTEIN: Well you think it's something in our water?

MALVEAUX: You tell me.

BRONSTEIN: What about Rudy Giuliani. What about John F. Kennedy? What about - you can go back to Jefferson and look at politicians.

MALVEAUX: Let's go back to Gary Hart. Why do you suppose it was his demise? Do we have a new standard now?

BRONSTEIN: Well, I think Gary Hart basically invited coverage, come catch me and they did. And it was kind of a silly thing for him to do. I think from that moment on I don't know fit was that particular moment that certainly helped evolve into a moment where a candidate's personal life was really part of the picture for the press.

Also I think you pointed out that Villaraigosa has a platform that involves I'm a family man, I think when members of the religious right, for instance, get involved in sexual scandals, again, we get into the issue of hypocrisy, so I think there's much more scrutiny these days. There were previous presidents, previous mayors, previous governors who had very scandalous lives but never got busted by the press. And so clearly there was a standard that what is personal stayed personal and that standard has changed.

MALVEAUX: Well, sure, the Los Angeles mayor, he has national ambitions. Do you think that is basically undermined and has it dimmed his bright star?

BRONSTEIN: Well, I don't know. Let's look at -- We'll call the Bill Clinton standard. Bill Clinton is not running for president. His wife is but she is dragging him out as the star attraction. And there are a lot of people say if he ran was able to run for a third term he would win. So I think it didn't really hurt him very much. It's unlikely to hurt either of these candidates.

MALVEAUX: So last question here, what do you think is the bottom line? How are each of the individuals going to fare? Let's take the television reporter. It looks like her career, it looks like she is suffering.

BRONSTEIN: Well, she is now I think on suspension. We don't know with pay or without pay. The TV station is not saying much. The NBC code of ethics which I think the TV station falls under is a little unclear on this subject. So but she is going to get hit for this or her bosses will get hit for it. In terms of the politicians, as we said, I don't think there's going to be a whole lot of fallout.

MALVEAUX: OK. Well, Phil, I know you'll be keeping an eye on it. So thank you so much again.

BRONSTEIN: You're welcome.

MALVEAUX: Phil Bronstein.

And up ahead, they were heroes of 9/11 driven apart by scandal. Will New York's scandal-plagued former police commissioner hurt Rudy Giuliani's presidential bid.

Also the move to name the new seven wonders of the world coming to a climax. Our Internet reporters will show you the situation online. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: Most people would do everything they could to help a friend who is running for president but one man who calls himself a friend to Rudy Giuliani says he will stay away from him. A scandal- plagued associate who suggests he's a drag to Giuliani's candidacy.

Our CNN's Mary Snow is in New York and Mary, the former New York City police commissioner Bernie Kerik is now speaking out.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is, Suzanne. He's talking about his fall from grace and whether he thinks he will damage Rudy Giuliani's bid to seek the Republican presidential nomination.




SNOW (voice-over): Rudy Giuliani and Bernard Kerik on better terms.

KERIK: And that's the actual swearing in ceremony. Becoming the police commissioner. Probably sort of the pinnacle of my career.

SNOW: After the pinnacle came the downfall for Bernard Kerik. He is estranged from his former boss and friend Rudy Giuliani who rose to national recognition after September 11. Kerik was sent to Iraq to help train a police force there which led to him being nominated to become homeland security director in 2004. That is when the trouble started. He withdrew the nomination citing immigration status over a nanny as the reason why but that was overshadowed by reports of questionable business dealings.

Giuliani continues to face questions about his judgment for recommending Kerik for the job.

GIULIANI: Recommending him, it was a mistake. I made a mistake. SNOW: Now Kerik is the subject of a federal investigation related to alleged tax evasion and eavesdropping. Last year pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors of accepting tens of thousands of dollars in gifts as a city official.

KERIK: I don't think I will come between him and the presidency but I understand the distance. It has to happen.

SNOW: Kerik says the distance is his new reality.

KERIK: It does bother me at times. I'm not going to say it doesn't. But you know I understand it. You know sometimes I sit back and think about it and it hurts and it's painful.

SNOW: The unraveling of Kerik's past led to damaging claims including one that he was having an affair in an apartment near Ground Zero that was supposed to be for rescue workers. I asked him about that

KERIK: I don't want to regurgitate old allegations and accusations. The only thing I'll say is the apartment was not for rescue workers at Ground Zero. That's all I'll say. And leave it at that.

SNOW: Kerik has been watching the presidential race from the sidelines saying he supports his former boss.

KERIK: You know, if I say anything good about him, it's an issue. If I say anything bad about him it's an issue. And the same with me. So the best thing to do is keep our distance.

SNOW (on camera): You mention it is an issue if you say anything about him. So my question to you is why now are you talking?

KERIK: You know, well, for one thing this article came out.

SNOW (voice-over): :The article is a profile in "Best Life" magazine detailing Kerik's security work for the Jordanian government as well as his job to reform prisons there. It's part of his push forward to a new life but can't seem to completely leave his past.


SNOW (on camera): And now Kerik waits for the outcome of the federal investigation. His lawyer says he rejected a plea offer earlier this year because wasn't going to plead guilty to something didn't do and that he's ready to address any charges that are brought. We did contact the Giuliani camp. They declined comment.


MALVEAUX: So if he's awaiting the outcome of a federal investigation why is he speaking out now?

SNOW: Well you know I asked him that and he admits that his name will probably come up and come up again in the campaign. He says that he's speaking out because this article on his project in Jordan was going to go forward whether or not he spoke. And he decided that he was going to talk.

MALVEAUX: OK. Mary, thank you so much.

The finishing touches are being put on another global warming brainchild of former Vice President Al Gore. Eight cities around the world participate this weekend with arena-sized concert. Three other locations will offer smaller events. CNN entertainment correspondent Brooke Anderson has those details.

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Suzanne, Live Earth is a very ambitious global event to raise awareness about climate change. All seven continents will be hosting concerts tomorrow.

Environmentalist and former Vice President Al Gore, of course, is leading this charge. He's behind this entire effort. He was actually here at Giants Stadium earlier today touring the facilities. Walking around the stage and he also held a brief press conference where he said that in the near future the next generation will ask one of two questions about the environment and the actions that people too or didn't take.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: Either they will ask what in the world were they thinking? How could they have sat on their hands and done nothing or they will ask another question. And the one I want them to ask is this, how did they get their act together? How did they find the uncommon moral courage to come together and rise to meet a moral challenge that so many said was impossible to solve?


ANDERSON: Gore and the organizers of Live Earth have been adamant this is not just an enormous pop concert it's about raising awareness and it's not so much about raising money although the profit from the ticket sales will go to the Alliance for Climate Protection, it's a nonprofit that Gore founded to combat global warming.

About 150 artists total will be performing. And the organizers are projecting and hoping that the events reach 2 billion people worldwide. Suzanne, back to you.

MALVEAUX: Okay. Brooke Anderson thanks so much.

And up next the new Seven Wonders of the World. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends at the Associated Press. Pictures likely to be in your newspaper tomorrow.

In the Philippines students clash with riot police during a protest against a new anti-terror law.

In India, Tibetan children perform an a traditional dance during a celebration for the Dalai Lama's 72nd birthday.

In Roswell, New Mexico, two people dressed as aliens posed as a photograph during the UFO festival.

And in Pamplona, Spain, a man leaps from a fountain during the San Fermin (ph) Fiesta.

And that's this hours "Hot Shots", pictures often worth a thousand words.

Millions of people worldwide are right now voting on which landmarks will be named the new Seven Wonders of the World. The online pole is just hours away from closing. Now let's bring in our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton. Abbi, I've got to ask you what is wrong with the old Seven Wonders of the World?

ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not so much, Suzanne, that there is anything wrong with them but as you mentioned earlier, only one of them that still survives. The Pyramids and they have been given a special elevated status in the Internet-based voting that's been going on for over a year on the new Seven Wonders of the World. It's closing in just a couple of hours. Twenty sites short-listed.

And last month we had a peek into the rankings, which were doing well, the Great Wall of China, Peru's Macchu Picchu, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, they were all amongar the front runners.

The only U.S. site, the Statue of Liberty was trailing. But the organizers say the rankings have been changing all the time especially at this late stage.

This was all the brainchild of a Swiss businessman, a private initiative. Something that United Nations has emphasized as they distance themselves from it saying it's nothing to do with them and reflects only the opinions of people with Internet access. That UNESCO has its own list of world heritage sites, 851 of them.

But private initiative or not the site's been doing very well. The organizers say there have more than 90 million votes. The voting stops tonight at 8:00 p.m. So you can vote on the Web site, that's if you can get on to it. It's been heavily trafficked all day. The announcement on the new Seven Wonders will be made tomorrow in Lisbon, Portugal. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Great. Looking forward to it. Thanks, Abbi.

And we're here every weekday afternoon from 4:00 to 6:00 Eastern and we're back on the air at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. That's just one hour from now. Until then, I'm Suzanne Malveaux in for Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. LOU DOBBS is up next.