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Deadlock After All-Nighter: No Senate Progress on Iraq; Chasing Osama bin Laden; NYC Security Cash Crunch
Aired July 18, 2007 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A deadlock after the all-nighter. Senate Democrats failing to force a pullout from Iraq. I'll ask Democrat Chuck Schumer and Republican Mitch McConnell where the political fight goes from here.
Also, voters in a leadoff primary state grow more sour on the war and on President Bush. We're going to show you some brand new poll numbers being released this hour and the possible impact on the race to 2008.
And Elizabeth Edwards in the spotlight again. Is John Edwards' outspoken wife helping or hurting her husband's presidential campaign?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
About 24 hours after the cots were rolled out, the Senate is right back where it started in the battle over the Iraq war. But the all-night session was quite a show, complete with pizza breaks and catnaps, as well as impassioned debate.
Finally this morning, Democrats lost a procedural vote on a bill that would have brought U.S. Troops home from Iraq by April 30th. The vote was 52-47, short of the 60 votes needed to end the debate on the bill. Four Republicans voted with Democrats to move the measure forward.
Our congressional correspondent, Andrea Koppel, is joining us. She's watching all of this.
It was quite a spectacle, Andrea.
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was, indeed, Wolf. And, you know, even though the debate-a-thon did take a break of sorts between the hours of midnight and 5:00, and that there were no votes that were held between then, and that allowed lawmakers to catch a few hours of sleep, that didn't stop a number of key lawmakers from going to the floor in the wee hours to make their case.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the clerk will call the roll.
KOPPEL (voice over): With roll-away cots and plenty of pizza to keep them near the Senate floor around the clock, the rare all-nighter for senators used to prime time to face cameras in the wee hours. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... as we go from speaker to speaker, as we are at 10 minutes of 3:00 in the morning.
KOPPEL: Some Republicans dressed down for the event dismissed it as political theater.
SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R), OHIO: It's being politicized. And what we should be doing is figuring out, how do we work together to come up with something that's really going to be meaningful and make a difference?
KOPPEL: Still, Democrats did succeed in convincing four Republicans -- Gordon Smith, Chuck Hagel, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins -- to join them in trying to force President Bush to withdraw most U.S. combat troops by spring. But Collins, who like Smith and Hagel is up for reelection next year, made clear she was turned off by the late-night theatrics.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: It's been disappointing to hear rhetoric that is clearly intended to score political points, just as, Madam President, it's disappointing to hear the president be so inflexible in his approach.
KOPPEL: The Democrats' strategy for months now, to force anxious Republicans to cast vote after vote on Iraq policy and break with an increasingly unpopular president. Democrats said even though they failed to override the Republican filibuster today, despite an all- night effort, they had no regrets.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: We spent two days showing America that we're not going to back down, we're going to continue to fight. How could we possibly shrink from this fight? He could be possibly try to avoid this fight?
KOPPEL: And the fight is certainly far from over. Shortly after, as expected, Democrats failed to break that Republican filibuster, the Democratic leader, Harry Reid, announced that he was temporarily suspending debate. He was going to be pulling the underlying defense bill until Republicans agreed to that simple up-or- down vote on that amendment, the Reed-Levin amendment to bring U.S. troops home by next spring.
And Wolf, that bill also included things like a pay raise for U.S. troops. And it's unclear when Senator Reid will bring it back to the floor -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So, when all is said and done, given all this flurry of activity over the past few days, is there anything substantive likely to happen as far as the war in Iraq is concerned before that mid- September report that the president has promised from General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker?
KOPPEL: I put that very question to Senator Reid, and he is keeping his cards very close to his vest. He said it's really up to the Republicans whether they're going to allow that up-or-down vote. But in point of fact, Wolf, Democrats also know the longer that they draw this out, the better their chances of picking off more Republicans.
You've got the long August recess coming up. Then, as you said, you've got the Petraeus report. And even Republicans admit that they may be changing their minds after they hear that report -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll have to watch every step of the way.
Andrea, thanks very much.
The White House today says it will push Pakistan to get tougher in fighting al Qaeda. A new government intelligence reports shows Osama bin Laden's terrorist network has gained strength and has become entrenched in the northwestern part of Pakistan. It's a new frustration for President Bush, nearly six years after he vowed to capture bin Laden, dead or alive.
Our White House correspondent, Ed Henry< is watching all of this.
What's the current administration position as far as the hunt for bin Laden, Ed, is concerned?
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's interesting. The president's approach has been evolving.
As you noted, first it was that bin Laden was wanted dead or alive. Then the president said that the war on terror is bigger than any one man. These days, the White House acknowledges that al Qaeda is strong again, raising question about whether Mr. Bush took his eyes off the terror group by invading Iraq.
HENRY (voice over): Four days after 9/11, the president huddled at Camp David with his war cabinet and issued a warning to Osama bin Laden.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will find those who did it. We will smoke them out of their holes.
HENRY: Within a month, the president launched a war with Afghanistan and boasted al Qaeda and the Taliban regime were on the run.
BUSH: We will make it more difficult for the terror network to train new recruits and coordinate their evil plans.
HENRY: March 2002, just six months after vowing he'd get bin Laden, the president said he wasn't so focused on the terrorist anymore.
BUSH: His network is -- his host government has been destroyed. So I don't know where he is, not -- you know, I just don't spend that much time on him.
HARRIS: Later in 2002, the CIA learned bin Laden was not in contact with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee, even though the president was making a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda as he built the case for war.
BUSH: We've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases.
HENRY: In early 2003, the CIA warned Mr. Bush an invasion of Iraq could give al Qaeda new opportunities to expand its influence, which has turned out to be true, based on a new national intelligence estimate. The president ignored the CIA's warning, but is now trying to use the threat from Al Qaeda in Iraq, which didn't exist before the war, as a reason to keep U.S. troops there.
BUSH: To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we are ready would be dangerous for Iraq, for the region, and for the United States. It would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda.
HENRY: Now, retired general David Grange backs the president on that point, saying it's better to stay in Iraq where so many jihadists have assembled and the U.S. has a license to capture and kill as many extremists as possible. Obviously, many Democrats, some Republicans as well on Capitol Hill, disagree, saying it's time to pull out of Iraq and instead refocus on other hot spots like Pakistan -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed, as you've reported, the president was warned about the possibility of emboldening al Qaeda before he launched the invasion against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
What does he say about that now?
HENRY: Well, it's interesting. I actually put that question directly to the president in the Rose Garden when he had a press conference back in May. Here's how he answered it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Ed, going into Iraq, we were warned about a lot of things. Some of which happened, some of which didn't happen. And obviously I made a decision as consequential as that. I weighed the risks and rewards of any decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, the president is obviously right on the general point of the intelligence. There were a lot of things flying around.
What's interesting is the president did listen to the CIA and other intelligence agencies when they said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He did not listen on the potential threat from Al Qaeda in Iraq -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Henry, a good report.
Thanks very much for that.
The White House press secretary, Tony Snow, now says he used what he's calling "a dumb line" -- that's a direct quote -- a dumb line in commenting on the month-long vacation Iraqi lawmakers plan on taking in August. Last week, Tony Snow that it's 130 degrees in Baghdad in August, suggesting the administration was resigned to Iraqi leaders taking the month off.
Today, Tony Snow tried to set the record straight. He says the White House expects the Iraqi leadership to continue working at all times. He's acknowledging now that Americans don't like the imagery of U.S. forces sweltering in the heat while Iraqi lawmakers are on vacation.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's in New York with "The Cafferty File".
As he now says, that was a pretty dumb line. And I was pretty surprised when Tony Snow said it, because he's basically a pretty smart guy.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, yes. If you reined in all the dumb lines in Washington, D.C., the town would be silent.
The thing that bothers me is, you know, we talked about this plan of the Iraqi parliament to take the month of August probably a couple of months ago on "The Cafferty File," and the people who watch this program were instantaneously outraged at the idea. I mean, right now, they wrote and said this is hogwash, they ought to be working, our troops are going to be working, what the hell's going on?
It's taken the people in Washington, D.C. -- i.e., Tony Snow -- and the folks in the administration up until now to acknowledge that perhaps it doesn't look just right to have this government that we're trying to prop up go on vacation for the entire month of August while our military continues to swelter in that heat? It's outrageous.
BLITZER: Especially when you think about the fact that that parliament building is air-conditioned.
CAFFERTY: Yes, well it just -- the whole thing just smells. It just wreaks. And the thing that's most noxious about it all is that we've got the spokesman for the president now backing up saying, you know, I misspoke, maybe it doesn't look just right, maybe it's not a good idea.
I mean, what does it take for these people to get some of this stuff?
I'm going to use up all my time here, plus I'm starting to get aggravated. The Army wants to teach all of its soldiers how to recognize the signs of brain injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is not a bad idea considering up to 20 percent of the troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan exhibit these symptoms. A program is getting under way today meant to educate more than one million soldiers within 90 days. It includes those here at home, those deployed overseas, active-duty soldiers, Army Reserve, Army National Guard. They're also reaching out to the families of our service people.
The goal is to combat a stigma in the military that those who try to get help for mental problems will be seen as weak and that it will hurt their military careers. The program insists the opposite is true, that it's a sign of personal courage to step forward and try to get help.
Officials hope the program will make soldiers more likely to report cases of stress and brain injury, and that they'll be more comfortable getting help for problems like nightmares, flashbacks and emotional withdrawal.
So here's the question.
What is the significance of the Army training more than a million soldiers how to recognize the symptoms of brain injury and stress disorder?
E-mail us your thoughts on that to email@example.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jack. Thank you.
Coming up, Senator Chuck Schumer accuses the Department of Homeland Security of playing politics in doling out cash. I'll ask him about his frustrations and whether the Democrats' all-nighter on Iraq was purely theater.
And the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, he's standing by to join us live with his take on the sleepover and the four Republicans who broke ranks with him and the president.
And later, John McCain sticks to his guns on Iraq even while his presidential campaign is reeling. We'll weigh the fallout in our "Strategy Session".
All that coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: While senators have literally been sleeping -- losing some sleep, that is, over the war in Iraq, a leading Democrat also is worrying about a nightmare scenario: New York City attacked again by al Qaeda but short of homeland security funds to deal with it.
BLITZER: And joining us now, Democratic senator Chuck Schumer of New York.
I know you're concerned, Senator Schumer, that the Department of Homeland Security is not blocking out enough funds for New York City, but in the numbers just released by our math they're getting -- New York City is getting a 7.7 percent increase over last year's blocked grants.
What's wrong with that?
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Well, the bottom line is we go up from 17.5 percent to 17.9 percent of the total pie. When you look at the number of times New York is mentioned by terrorists, it's a lot more than that.
Cities like Phoenix and San Diego, which got double the money, are never mentioned at all. And two years ago, we got $205 million, which was 25 percent of the money, which is what everyone regarded as fair.
The secretary of Homeland Security continues to play politics with these grants. They spread them out over the whole country. That gives them more political benefit. But it's the wrong thing.
And it's ironic on the day when the intelligence estimates say that al Qaeda is more of a danger and al Qaeda's constantly focused on New York, we get such a low percentage of the money.
SCHUMER: In an administration...
BLITZER: Senator, I was going to say, I didn't see any specific references to New York City in that latest declassified national intelligence estimate.
BLITZER: What I did see were arguments that al Qaeda is very adaptable and that they're always looking for potentially new vulnerable targets. So maybe Phoenix was not a target at one point. Presumably, people in Phoenix could worry they might be a target if al Qaeda fears New York is, for example, too secure.
SCHUMER: Well, the bottom line is that New York is mentioned probably more than half the times. We don't get 50 percent of the money. We don't expect to. But given the fact that the terrorists focus on New York, given that the one al Qaeda attack has hit New York, given that the plots that have been unfolded, more than half of them -- sorry. Given that the plots that have been uncovered, more than half of them have been focused on New York, shows you that a 17.9 percent of the total pie is not fair.
And if I believed that the Homeland Security Department sat down and gave out the money based on the threats to each of the areas, I'd say fine. But I don't think they do. I think it's far too political and has been under Secretary Chertoff. BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about the all-nighter that occurred on the Senate floor. You failed in getting the required 60 votes to stop the debate. Another setback in terms of getting a specific timeline.
I want you to listen to what John McCain said as part of this debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Nothing we have done for the last 24 hours will have changed any facts on the ground in Iraq or made the outcome of the war any more or less important to the security of our country. The stakes in this war remain as high today as they were yesterday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Was it just political theater that you were engaged in?
SCHUMER: Absolutely not. Our goal is to get 60 votes. And there are a good number of Republican senators who go home to their districts, to their states, and they say, I'm for change. And then they come back here and vote to continue the present policy, which their own constituencies reject by overwhelming numbers.
The all-night session for the first time focused attention on the senators. In the past, while people have known Congress has been unable to do anything, this session, with so much attention focused on it and with the lines clearly drawn, showed who was for change and who was against change. And it's going to help us get to the 60 votes, I think, as early as September.
These senators who were back in their own states saying they wanted change and then voted no on the Levin-Reed resolution are going to feel a lot of heat. And that's part of the political process.
BLITZER: I've heard -- Senator, I've heard some Republicans and Democrats, Lamar Alexander, Ken Salazar of Colorado -- he's a Democrat, Lamar Alexander a Republican of Tennessee -- say, you know, you could get 70 senators to support their legislation, which would endorse the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group and show that there is a bipartisan willingness to work on the situation in Iraq in the U.S. Senate.
Are you ready to join forces with this bipartisan group and pass that legislation?
SCHUMER: Well, Ken Salazar voted for this legislation as well, the one that was defeated. It's the -- let me say that again. Ken Salazar voted for the Levin-Reed resolution as well, and it's the only one that's teeth.
The president doesn't need any more advice. He's getting advice from the American people, from the Congress. Everyone knows how we all feel. The question is, can we force the president to change course? And the only resolution that actually did that was the Levin-Reed resolution. And so we're going to stick with...
BLITZER: But Senator, the president rejected a lot of those recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. If you were to pass legislation, 70 senators supporting his legislation, that would send a pretty powerful signal.
SCHUMER: Well, you know, the president's received lots of powerful signals and he's impervious to them. We're not -- we're no longer at the stage where we send signals.
As young men and women are dying, as terrorism increases, as we're focused on a -- on policing a civil war, which makes no sense, it's time to bring about real change. And we are very happy with what happened, because it's really for the first time shining the spotlight on those 10 or 12 Republican senators who say they want change but don't vote for it.
They're not going to be able to do that much longer. And when we bring back this resolution again, I think you're going to see us close to the 60 votes, if not over it.
BLITZER: Senator, we've got to leave it there. Thanks very much for joining us.
SCHUMER: Thanks, Wolf. Nice to talk to you.
BLITZER: And still ahead, the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, he'll give us his take on the Iraq all-nighter. Why he failed in part to entirely keep all the members of his party in line.
And John Edwards says he can't and won't control what his wife Elizabeth says. We're going to tell you what the outspoken would-be first lady is saying and doing right now.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Up next, the Iraqi parliament set to go on vacation all next month. I'll ask the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, why Americans should be patient about the war when Iraqi leaders are bolting.
And presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani in the YouTube spotlight with a question for voters.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Happening now, military officials say they've nabbed a man who was a go-between for Al Qaeda in Iraq and Osama bin Laden. He's now being interrogated. Is he giving up details about the terror network?
We'll be on top of this story.
And looking for bodies and clues to what caused a plane to crash in Brazil. Officials are pulling the dead from the smoldering wreckage, and there are now having questions about a recently repaired runway.
And a star football player accused of running a ring pitting dogs against each other in a bloody fight to the death. Atlanta Falcon Michael Vick allegedly participated in the killing of some dogs who weren't vicious enough. Will this sink his career?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
In Iraq, violence continues, seemingly without end. A press report shows the Iraqi government is not meeting important political benchmarks, and, yet, Iraqi lawmakers intend to keep their plans to go on a one-month vacation. That's causing some outrage here in the United States.
Joining us now to talk about this and what's happened on the Senate floor over the past couple days is the Senate minority leader, the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.
Senator, thanks very much for coming in.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Good afternoon.
BLITZER: I assume you're outraged that, while U.S. troops are -- 150,000, almost 160,000, are walking around in 130-degree temperature, with ammunition and 60 pounds of equipment, the Iraqi parliament next month is going to go on vacation.
MCCONNELL: Yes. I mean, what can you say about the Iraqi government? It's been a huge disappointment, no question about it. I think there's broad bipartisan agreement in the Senate that we are deeply disappointed in the Iraqi government.
Having said that, it was elected by the Iraqi people. It is the legitimate government of that country. And it's something you have to work with. I mean, I do think that the surge is going well. General Petraeus is making a lot of headway. We hear a lot of good reports, including the fact that a high-ranked al Qaeda person was apprehended yesterday.
So, on the military side, I think things are improving. On the political side, it's pretty embarrassing.
BLITZER: It is embarrassing, especially if you read that interim report that was released just the other day. As far as some of the most difficult political issues, they have to -- take the Iraqis themselves, for example, disbanding these various militias that are run amuck, if you will, whether Sunni, Shia or Kurdish militias. They have done virtually nothing to deal with that.
They still can't come up with a plan to distribute their oil wealth, which is significant. They -- they haven't any made plans for constitutional reform or elections, local elections, in the various provinces. And they're going on vacation.
MCCONNELL: Your question envisions my answer. Yes, I -- I agree with all of that criticism. I just said a minute ago, and I will say again, I think the Iraqi government has been an embarrassment and an extraordinary disappointment.
BLITZER: Well, here's the question, Senator, because it's a very important political question. And you have been outspoken -- and I have interviewed you several times in recent weeks -- in your criticism.
How worried are you that the American public is going to get fed up with the Iraqis, because they're not stepping up to the plate, and as -- and what little support is left for this war could evaporate even more quickly?
MCCONNELL: Well, it's important to remember why we're there. We're not there to -- to protect the Iraqi government. We're there to protect the United States.
I mean, Wolf, it's my view, I really think not in dispute by careful observers, that, as a result of going on offense in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, we haven't been attacked again here at home. This was not an act of compassion on our part. It was an act of striking out against our enemies, who hate us, who hate the Israelis.
Al Qaeda is clearly in Iraq. They were in Afghanistan. They're our enemies. These are the kind of people that attacked us on 9/11. We're after them. We're after them because it's in our own best interests to go after them where they are, so we don't have to deal with them in places like Washington and New York again in the future.
BLITZER: You lost four Republican senators today in this -- in this vote. The Democrats say they're going to keep on plugging, keep on pushing. They're going to hope that more Republicans will vote. There are a whole bunch of others who are on the fence, if you will, right now. They're critical of the president's strategy, but they're not yet ready to vote with the Democrats, including some influential members like John Warner, Richard Lugar, among others.
Here's the question to you, as the Republican leader in the Senate. How much more time do you have before you see more significant defections? Dick Durbin says he thinks there will be more by September.
MCCONNELL: Well, actually, we have lost up to seven Republicans on Iraq amendments before, so four was not unanticipated. It shows little or no slippage.
I think Republicans, by and large, are comfortable with waiting until September, when we have the Petraeus-Crocker report. We passed the troop supplemental bill just a -- a while back, funding the surge through the end of the September.
I think most of our people, the Republicans in the Senate, feel, give it a chance. We have already paid for the surge. Give our soldiers a chance to succeed. We will wait until the report in September.
BLITZER: And, at that point, you have suggested that, irrespective of any report that comes out, you suspect the president is going to have to rethink his strategy.
MCCONNELL: Well, I think the president is going to be -- the president's views are going to be determined by the report.
We're all anxiously awaiting what General Petraeus has to say to get a sense of how well this military effort is going, how much it is settling down the -- the country. And the facts are not irrelevant to most Republicans.
I think many of my Democratic friends have already made up their mind. They don't care what the facts are. They want to get us out of there immediately, no matter what the consequences. I think most Republicans are interested in the facts. And they trust General Petraeus. We confirmed him 81-0 for this mission. We're anxious to wait until September and hear what he has to say.
BLITZER: Senator McConnell, thanks for coming in.
MCCONNELL: Thank you.
BLITZER: And still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM: President Bush's approval rating falls to a new low in a crucial political battleground state. We have some new poll numbers just coming in. How might that affect the candidates who want his job?
And she's a warm and sympathetic figure, but Elizabeth Edwards isn't shy about speaking her mind. We are going to take a closer look at her starring role in her husband's presidential campaign.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Elizabeth Edwards is back in the spotlight today, after causing somewhat of a controversy earlier in the week.
Let's go to CNN's Tom Foreman. He's following this story for us.
Tell us what Elizabeth Edwards is up to right now.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it doesn't appear that her well-publicized health problems are slowing her down one bit, even as she struggles with them. She's the star of a new campaign commercial out today in a crucial primary state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, EDWARDS CAMPAIGN AD)
ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS: I have been blessed for the last 30 years to be married to the most optimistic person that I have ever met.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN (voice-over): Elizabeth Edwards touting her husband for president in a new campaign ad now running in New Hampshire. For her, it's another moment in the spotlight.
Earlier this week, she fired away at Hillary Clinton, telling the online magazine "Salon" that: "Sometimes, you feel you have to behave as a man and not talk about women's issues. I'm sympathetic. She wants to be the commander in chief, but she's just not as vocal a women's advocate as I want to see. John is."
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Despite her battle with cancer, Elizabeth Edwards refuses to be a shrinking violet. This was definitely a shot across Hillary Clinton's bow. And there's no question that Elizabeth is her husband's best political asset, especially when it comes to women.
FOREMAN: And here's why. Our most recent national poll of Democratic women finds Hillary Clinton far ahead of John Edwards. This isn't the first time camp Edwards has gone after camp Clinton. Last October, Mrs. Edwards compared herself to Mrs. Clinton, saying: "We both went to law school and married other lawyers. But, after that, we made other choices. I think my choices have made me happier. I think I'm more joyful than she is."
Edwards quickly called Clinton to apologize. She's also speaking out without telling her husband. Edwards got into an on-air battle with conservative pundit Ann Coulter after Coulter criticized her husband.
E. EDWARDS: I didn't talk to John about calling Ann Coulter. I got on the phone when I was watching her.
FOREMAN: And, last month, Mrs. Edwards surprised her husband by publicly splitting with him in support of gay marriage.
JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I didn't know, but nothing Elizabeth says surprises me.
J. EDWARDS: You can't control what she says, nor would I never want to. That's one of the great things about her.
(END VIDEOTAPE) FOREMAN: As long as she keeps grabbing headlines and making people pay attention, he may not want to control anything she says. So, don't expect Elizabeth Edwards to slow down or to keep quiet any time soon. She's getting headlines. And every campaign out there wants those right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: She's an outspoken woman, indeed. Thanks very much for that, Tom -- Tom Foreman reporting for us.
In many presidential campaigns, candidates point out all they have in common with the person who's president and a member of their party. But how much of that is happening right now with the Republican contenders?
Let's go to our CNN political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's watching the story for us.
How big of a role will President Bush play in 2008?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, many Republicans are hoping the president really will be a lame duck and that his influence will be limited.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): President Bush says he isn't giving a lot of attention to politics right now.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I looked in the mirror and made decisions based upon principle, not based upon politics.
SCHNEIDER: Easy if him to say. He's not on the ballot next year. But a lot of Republicans will be. Look at New Hampshire, which has become a battleground state. Last year, Democrats made a clean sweep in New Hampshire. They took both of the state's House seats away from Republicans. The New Hampshire legislature went Democratic for the first time since the 19th century.
Are there any Republicans left?
PAUL MANUEL, NEW HAMPSHIRE INSTITUTE OF POLITICS: And we still have two Republican senators, of course. One of them is up next year. And the Democrats already are starting to mention his role in supporting the Iraq war to see whether or not that can that can -- that can hurt him in the general -- in the election next year.
SCHNEIDER: President Bush's job rating in New Hampshire has fallen to 24 percent, according to the CNN/WMUR poll, a new low, also a new low in public support for the war in Iraq. After the all-night session, both Republican senators voted not to allow debate on a bill that would get American combat troops out of Iraq by next spring. Sixty-one percent of New Hampshire voters support such a withdrawal.
In the face of numbers like that, what can Republicans do? They can turn against the president on Iraq. And they can hope that voters will spread the blame.
MANUEL: Remember that Democrats in 2008, they will be very different than in 2006. They have been -- they would have been in power for two years. And, so, shouldn't some of the responsibility go to them as well?
SCHNEIDER: That's one reason why Senate Democrats held that all- night session to debate the Iraq measure. They want to show voters that Democrats are doing all they can and Republicans are the ones blocking efforts to end the war -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. And, as low as Bush's approval numbers are, very often, the American public evening thinks less of the U.S. Congress. I think that's been reflected in a lot of the recent polls as well.
SCHNEIDER: Also true.
BLITZER: Bill, thanks very much.
It's Rudy Giuliani's turn to be in the YouTube spotlight. It's where presidential candidates use online video to ask voters a question.
Let's go to our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner.
So, what is Giuliani asking, Jacki?
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, it's like the old saying. But enough about me. What do you think of me?
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would love to have your ideas, your thoughts about our 12 commitments, the things you can see that we should add to it, the improvements, the -- whatever you have. Just please contact us at Rudys12Commitments.com.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHECHNER: Now, Giuliani is asking people to go to this Web site, Rudys12Commitments.com. But it's tough to weigh in on any of them, because there's only three of the 12 that have been detailed so far. The campaign says that they plan to roll out these details one by one over the course of the next month. This spotlight on YouTube lasts a week.
Now, the Giuliani campaign has been less interactive than some of the other campaigns when it comes their online strategy. TechPresident, one of the Web site that helps analyze how the candidates are using the Internet, compares this Giuliani YouTube spotlight video to a late-night infomercial, says that it misses the point of the whole YouTube back-and-forth conversation.
The Giuliani campaign, though, this may not make much of a difference when it comes to the -- the details of this campaign, because, frankly, he's number one in the national polls right now among Republican contenders, and he did raise more money than the other Republican candidates in the second quarter -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks for that, Jacki Schechner.
Up next, in our "Strategy Session": They debated all night long.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Nothing we have done for the last 24 hours will have changed any facts on the ground in Iraq or made the outcome of the war any more or less important to the security of our country.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: We spent two days showing America that we're not going to back down. We're going to continue to fight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: But did the senators actually accomplish anything?
Also, a conservative voice comparing Rudy Giuliani to Richard Nixon, is that a compliment or a criticism?
All that, Tony Coelho, Dick Armey, they're standing by in our "Strategy Session" -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Senator John McCain is talking like a man who will be comfortable with whatever happens to him. The Republican presidential candidate says he will accept the public's judgment of his positions.
Joining us now for our "Strategy Session," former Democratic Congressman Tony Coelho and former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
Did this all-nighter in the U.S. Senate, did it accomplish, really, when all was said and done, anything?
TONY COELHO, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, I think, what it does, it sets the stage.
I mean, I think people look for finite results. But I think what's important for the Democrats, at least, and those who want something to happen on the war, it sets the stage. Up until now, people have thought that the Democrats couldn't get anything done. What they were trying to do last night was sort of set the blame as to why they couldn't get anything done. I don't know that it got through last night, but at least it started to get through.
BLITZER: They didn't get the votes to pass the legislation. They missed that 60-vote mark necessary to -- to break that filibuster, which is preventing continuing the debate, if you will. But -- but did they score points with the American public and, in the process, undermine, politically, Republicans?
DICK ARMEY, FORMER REPUBLICAN HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, my own view is, it was a political exercise. And they probably achieved their political objectives.
They have a great deal of anger on their left that they're not doing enough. And I think that -- so, all right, we stayed up all night. We talked about it.
You know what? One thing about liberals, they tickle me half to death, is having a dialogue is taken as action on the left. So, they will say, we had an all-night dialogue.
BLITZER: So, you're saying they appeased the left.
BLITZER: But did they also embarrass the Republicans?
ARMEY: I think, to some extent, that they -- they emphasized, with some Republicans, that they have got a tough situation that's getting tougher. So, I -- I believe they fulfilled their political objectives.
COELHO: But I think -- I think, also, Dick, the thing is, is that there's 61 percent of the people who want something to happen. So, it's not just the Democrats' left. It's 61 percent of the American people.
And I think it's more than politics, Wolf. I think that, when you start to see today what you're seeing, more and more young men and women dying, but also more and more young men and women coming back from Iraq who are disabled, and all the problems with the head injuries and -- and all of these things that are happening, you in the media are covering these things more now.
And, so, these severe injuries -- and it's happening in these small Midwest towns. Those are real human stories. People are reacting to those now.
BLITZER: And they're heartbreaking stories, a lot of those stories. I think all of us acknowledge that.
I want you to listen to Senator McCain. I think all of us agree this is a man of principle. He's not backing away at all from his stance.
Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: The public's judgment of me, I will know soon enough. I will accept it, as I must. But whether it is favorable or unforgiving, I will stand where I stand and take comfort from my confidence that I took my responsibilities to my country seriously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: How do you interpret that? What is the -- between the lines, what is he saying?
ARMEY: You know, again, I think he's basically recognizing, one, the dilemma that his campaign is in, and, two, reiterating his confidence that he's his own man doing his own thing on his own terms. I think he's trying to return to Straight Talk Express a little bit, as perhaps maybe an effort to -- trying get his cart out of the ditch.
But the -- the thing that I watched that bothered me, there are things that must be accomplished. I mean, you can be the person that most wants everybody out of Iraq. I'm not so sure you wouldn't put me in that camp. But there are things that must be accomplished, as a matter of our responsibility now that we're there, now that the situation is, as it were, what we created it to be. We have got to insulate Iraq, for example, against Iranian intrusions. These things must be done.
BLITZER: And the other point that, Congressman Coelho, that a lot of people make, not only Republicans, that, while al Qaeda may not have been in Iraq when Saddam Hussein ruled that country, they're certainly there right now and have -- I don't know what kind of relationship they have with the real al Qaeda in northwest Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan, but there is an organization called al Qaeda in Iraq that clearly does operate in Iraq right now.
COELHO: Well, I think that's a legitimate issue and a legitimate concern.
But let's go back to John McCain for a minute. I mean, I think what John is trying to do right now is, he's trying to reestablish his credentials as an individual. I -- I have a high regard, high respect for him. He's a very sincere, principled individual. And I think this presidential campaign was destroying some of that.
He wants to go back to that. Win or lose, he wants to go back to where he is as an individual. This is helping him do that. And I think that's a recognition. And I think that...
BLITZER: And, as tough as the political situation is...
COELHO: That's right.
BLITZER: ... for him right now, remember, this is a guy who spent five or six years at a POW... COELHO: Six years. Six years.
BLITZER: ... prison in Vietnam. so, he's had it a lot rougher in his life.
BLITZER: Let me read to you a line from Michael Gerson's column in "The Washington Post." He's a former speechwriter for President Bush.
He writes this: "With the same rootless confidence that causes people to ignore hurricane warnings, many social conservatives remain in denial about Rudy Giuliani's chances of winning the Republican nomination."
Does he have a point here that social conservatives, who oppose abortion, gay marriage, gay rights, if you will, that they're living in denial as far as Rudy Giuliani is concerned, because of his basically liberal stance on a lot of those social issues?
ARMEY: I don't know. It's an interesting thing for me to watch. I said several months ago that he could not, with his position on abortion, for example, win a Republican primary.
I believe that Rudy Giuliani will not win this primary. I think he has things that are appealing to a lot of people, but I don't think he can capture the vote of that critical Republican base that, quite frankly, the social conservatives might be very content to even stay home if they don't find a choice that really warms their heart, because their heart is what matters when they cast their vote.
BLITZER: Dick -- Dick Armey, we have got to leave it there.
Tony Coelho, I know you had a thought. Save it for the next time.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
COELHO: I want Giuliani.
BLITZER: Still to come: soldiers on alert for brain injury and stress disorder -- Jack Cafferty standing by with your e-mail on that question.
Also, I will ask House Democrat Jane Harman how far she's willing to go to bring the troops home from Iraq.
And, later, Barack Obama's presidential campaign will get some help from one of America's richest and most famous celebrities. We will tell you what's going on, on that front.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's go back to Jack Cafferty in New York for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the question this hour is: What is the significance of the Army training more than a million soldiers on how to recognize the symptoms of brain injury and stress disorder?
Ross writes from San Antonio: "Here's the problem. The military is discharging those who have post-traumatic stress disorder, and I'm sure some with brain injuries, as well, they're called personality disorders. Would you tell anyone your problems if you were going to be discharged as a personality disorder, with no benefits of assistance? The answer is no. It's career suicide."
Edward is a member of the Army Corps of Engineers: "It's taken way too long to recognize and admit the existence of this problem. I say this from personal experience. I am still fighting my own demons, with very little understanding from my peers."
Wendy writes: "Of course soldiers should be taught the symptoms, but it is not up to them or their families to self-diagnose. It should be required that all military returning from active duty see behavioral health professionals on a regular basis. They shouldn't have to decide whether or not to see someone, as, regardless of the rhetoric, it will be seen as a sign of weakness by members of the military, and they will not go."
John in California: "Service men and women who want to get into law enforcement when they get out of the service better stay away from any mental illness issues. Same goes for anyone who want to buy, own, or carry a gun. Stigma or not, by whatever the name, such treatment impairs your future. And that's a fact."
Eric writes from Toronto: "Jack, all this means is that the veterans will have a clearer understanding of what the VA and the Pentagon are ignoring."
And David in Denton, Texas: "Jack, it took me 15 years, two failed marriages, 3 DWIs, and thoughts of suicide before I found the Veterans Outreach Program. I didn't have a clue what was wrong with me. Nothing, I mean nothing, is too good for our troops. They deserve everything and more we can help them with."
Amen, David -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Double amen from me as well.
Thank you very much, Jack Cafferty.
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