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House Democrats Set Stage for Constitutional Showdown; New Warnings About Airline Security

Aired July 25, 2007 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou.
Happening now -- two White House insiders accused of contempt. House Democrats set the stage for a new constitutional showdown. The battle over fired federal prosecutors is getting even uglier.

Plus, startling warnings about airline security. Terrorists may be practicing new attacks right now. Tonight, the evidence and the danger.

And if your friends are fat, heads up. A new study says you're at greater risk for packing on the pounds.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up first tonight, contempt on Capitol Hill. The targets, President Bush's chief of staff and his former White House legal counsel. Both Josh Bolten and Harriet Miers now are a step closer to being held in contempt of Congress.

The House Judiciary Committee voted today to recommend that punishment, and here is why. Miers and Bolten refuse to comply with subpoenas into the investigation the firings of those eight federal prosecutors. They also refuse to testify before the panel or produce commanded documents.

The White House calls it a fishing expedition. House Democrats call it their last resort.


REP. JOHN CONYERS (D), JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN: What I am not open to is accepting a take it or leave it offer, which would not allow us access to the information we need.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: In our view, this is pathetic. What you have right now is partisanship on Capitol Hill that quite often boils down to insults, insinuations, inquisitions and investigations.


Let's turn to our congressional correspondent Dana Bash -- pretty dramatic stuff from the Democrats, Dana. DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And the Democrats are essentially saying, Wolf, that they believe Bush officials broke the law during this fired federal prosecutors controversy, but they really can't prove it unless they get documents and testimony that the White House won't give them.

But there is also some symbolism here. Democrats say they were voted into the majority in order to hold the White House more accountable, and they essentially are trying to prove it in a not so subtle way, that they actually have this power, and they're not afraid to use it, Wolf.

BLITZER: For a second, Dana, I want to go to our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. There is pretty angry reaction from White House officials today, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, really, the message and the tone from the White House, Wolf, is very clear, and that is, bring it on. They are totally invigorated about this confrontation. They are not going to let Miers, as well as Bolten actually testify before Congress.

They say it is based on principle here, that the president's conversations with his advisers must be protected. But, Wolf, as we know, they are also trying to gauge and get an upper hand on this debate. That is why they are trying to portray Congress as being unreasonable, engage in this political theater. As we know, there is brinksmanship on both sides -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, it passed the House committee along strict partisan lines. It now goes to the full House. Assuming it passes, the full House, what happens then?

BASH: Well, let's walk through it because there are some potential interesting twists and turns. In fact, let's put it up on the wall. First, the House speaker would send it to the Justice Department to prosecute in federal court, but that would mean the administration would be prosecuting itself.

The Justice Department is already saying they are not going to do that, so the question is then what would happen? Well I talked to some Democrat lawyers here today and they say that Congress has several options.

One of those options, Wolf, is for the House to actually hold its own trial here at the Capitol, to hold Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten in contempt of Congress -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana Bash reporting for us, Suzanne Malveaux at the White House, thanks to both of you.

Josh Bolten and Harriet Miers both have long-standing ties to the Bush family. Miers teamed up with then Governor-elect Bush in 1994, first serving as the general counsel for his transition team. In 2001, she followed him to the White House, serving in several jobs before becoming his chief legal counsel. 2005, the president tapped Miers for the U.S. Supreme Court, but he later withdrew what turned tout be a controversial nomination.

Josh Bolten first worked for the president's father back in 1989 in the U.S. Trade Representative's Office. The current president recruited Bolten from Goldman Sachs for the 2000 presidential campaign. Bolten rose through the ranks in the Bush White House, becoming budget director, then in 2006, the chief of staff, replacing Andy Card.

New concerns tonight after suspicious materials were seized at the nation's airports. Federal authorities have warned local police across the country to be on the alert for possible practice runs by terrorists training to strike in America.

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's over at Reagan National Airport here in Washington. What is raising the alarm, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, some very dangerous looking objects that turned up at checkpoints like this one, objects that terrorists could have used to test the detection and response capability at America's airports.


TODD (voice-over): U.S. officials say these items, blocks of cheese inside bags, two found with an electrical switch, wires and batteries, may be a dry run for a terrorist attack. The objects, discovered in checked or carry-on bags at four U.S. airports this past year.

RAFI RON, AIRPORT SECURITY CONSULTANT: I think that they were testing our detectives' capability.

TODD: CNN has learned investigations are ongoing. But at this time...

CHARLES ALLEN, DHS ASST. SECRETARY FOR INTEL: At this time, we cannot attribute terrorist intent to this.

TODD: Which raises questions about the timing, the leak of the security alert comes hours after President Bush's speech mentioning al Qaeda 95 times.


TODD: And two weeks after this warning from the homeland security secretary.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: All of these things give me a, kind of a gut feeling that we are in a period of increased vulnerability.

TODD: But behind the scenes, the Transportation Security Administration is said to be furious with this leak, which was meant for law enforcement ears only. Aviation security expert Peter Goelz says this isn't about political cover, but... PETER GOELZ, AVIATION SECURITY CONSULTANT: You don't want to be accused of not connecting the dots, and at the same time, you've got to keep a certain level of confidentiality so that your intelligence is useful and effective.


TODD: In fact, just posing the question about political cover got us an emotional response from a homeland security official who says that mere suggestion is totally off base -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Were the individuals associated with these items U.S. citizens, Brian?

TODD: In three out of the four cases, Wolf, they were U.S. citizens. In the fourth case, U.S. officials are being very tight- lipped about that. They have made no arrests in these cases yet.

BLITZER: Brian Todd over at Reagan National for us watching this story.

Before past attacks, terrorists have gone on dry runs. U.S. authorities say terrorists practiced a mock attack while riding the London subway in the month before the July 2005 bombings. In 1994, the convicted terrorist Ramzi Yousef carried out a dry run for that foiled operation Bojinka, the simultaneous bombing of airliners over the Pacific.

And the practice run, by the way, a time bomb was left under a passenger's seat and it later exploded, killing a man. And then in 2001, the 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta rehearsed his plan aboard airliners and determined he could, in fact, bring box cutters on board.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty in New York with "The Cafferty File". That's pretty scary stuff all around if you think about Mohamed Atta, rehearsing, bringing box cutters on board.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, that was -- yes, that was scary, and, that turned out to be horrible. That was also what, five and a half years ago, and they've been trying to keep us pretty scared ever since, and that's not to suggest we shouldn't be alert, et cetera, but I'm getting tired of being told to be afraid.

It sounds like some of Russia's young people could use a history lesson. Listen to this. This is a little scary. There's a new poll in Russia, done by a nongovernmental outfit called the Yuri Levada Center. It shows that fully half of all 16 to 19-year-olds in the survey think that Joseph Stalin was a wise leader.

That would be the same Soviet dictator who built a system of terror and repression unlike any the world had ever seen. Tens of millions of people died or were killed under Stalin's rule. But today's Russian kids apparently think he was OK.

Fifty-four percent of Russia's youth say Stalin did more good than bad. Forty-six percent disagree with the statement that Stalin was a cruel tyrant. And 40 percent say that Stalin's role in the repression was exaggerated. Maybe these numbers give us an indication as to how the Russians ended up with a guy like Vladimir Putin at the controls -- he, of course, being a former member of the KGB.

Not suggesting Putin is like Stalin, but backgrounds not dissimilar. Here is the question. Where is Russia headed if half of today's young people ages 16 to 19 think that Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was a wise leader? E-mail or go to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That nationalist strain in Russia, you know, it's a really powerful strain. I've seen it myself over the years there. They remember the good old days when they were a super power.

CAFFERTY: Well plus you have to remember, when the economists were running that place, there was a lot of revisionist history written, and a lot of the textbooks that were used to teach Russian young people, and perhaps for that matter still are, were rewritten to portray the Nazi leadership as guys with halos over their heads.

BLITZER: I've read about that. Jack, thanks very much.

A presidential fight that pits Hillary Clinton against Barack Obama...


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is not that you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are. I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes.


BLITZER: The fight over when and how to meet with dictators -- a reality check on who has the right stuff on the world stage.

Also contagious obesity; find out how your best friend can actually help make you fat -- startlingly new research on the influence of loved ones.

And he's chasing down the home run record and now the slugger Barry Bonds staring down new allegations tonight of steroid use.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The gloves are off. Two Democratic presidential candidates -- the front-runners are jabbing at each other in a verbal slug fest, using words like irresponsible and naive. It began between Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, just after our CNN YouTube debate. And it is not letting up as they continue to spar over the issue of dealing with the world's dictators. Let's go to our State Department correspondent Zain Verjee. She's watching this for us. Pinpoint, Zain, the nature of this dispute.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, if you were elected president, would you just come out of the gate and meet with leaders the U.S. doesn't like?


VERJEE (voice-over): Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, countries the U.S. calls rogues.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually answer the questions that are posted to you tonight.

VERJEE: Senator Barack Obama says if he was president he would meet their leaders in his first year without preconditions.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I think that it is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them.

VERJEE: Senator Hillary Clinton says, not so fast.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes.

VERJEE: After CNN's YouTube debate, the sparks flew. Clinton called Obama's response irresponsible and naive. But Obama says pushing for diplomacy doesn't mean he would invite them over for coffee. Still, is talking to leaders the U.S. doesn't care for naive or practical foreign policy?

CHARLES KUPCHAN, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Talking face to face with a head of state, even if that state is a rogue nation, doesn't mean that you give any ground. It is simply a way of opening the corridors of communication.

VERJEE: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright flew to Pyongyang and met North Korea's leader Kim Jong Il. Wendy Sherman, a top adviser to Albright and a Clinton supporter, says engage, but lay the groundwork first.

WENDY SHERMAN, THE ALBRIGHT GROUP: We have to all be for engagement, but how one engages matters a great deal, whether you ever get to success.


VERJEE: Wolf, on this very specific question meet with these leaders immediately and with no preconditions, foreign policy experts we talked to seemed to say that Hillary Clinton was right -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And a lot of those experts are also suggesting that the Bush White House has had a change of heart in terms of reaching out, engaging with some of these enemies, if you will, or tyrants.

VERJEE: That's right. Early on, the Bush administration was reluctant to directly engage countries like Iran and North Korea, but they have reversed those policies and are directly speaking to them, given the political realities on the ground.

BLITZER: All right, Zain. Thanks very much -- Zain watching the story from the State Department.

One Web site is now asking for money to help Barack Obama get elected president. On the site you can donate money, book a star- studded cruise, even buy campaign memorabilia. But the Web site with Obama's face and name on it has not contributed one cent to his actual campaign.

Our Internet reporter Jacki Schechner is watching this for us. How is this possible, Jacki?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, Wolf, one expert tells us this appears to be legal under the First Amendment, but if you just take a look at the Web site, it seems misleading. is registered as an independent committee with the Federal Election Commission.

It is not affiliated with the Obama campaign. But the Web site says that its goal is to quote, "elect Obama" and it is raising money, $10,000, so far this year. And none of it has gone to Obama. We spoke to founder Emmett Cash (ph) today, and he says the money goes towards getting the word out about Obama, but it doesn't say anywhere on this Web site, including ads promoting a star-studded cruise possibly featuring Eartha Kitt and Maya Angelou that that is in fact the case.

We contacted Eartha Kitt's publicists today, and they say that she wasn't even invited. Cash says while he backs Obama, he has not personally contributed a dime to the campaign and up until a month ago, he says he was a registered Republican. The Obama campaign has sent Cash a letter, telling him to shut down and Cash says he may just do that.

BLITZER: So, how does one go ahead and safely contribute to a candidate online?

SCHECHNER: Well, Wolf, it's really easy. Just go to the official campaign Web site. Every candidate has one now and they all have a way to donate.

BLITZER: Just got to make sure it is the official campaign Web site...


BLITZER: ... not some phony one out there. Thanks very much for that.

Carol Costello is monitoring stories incoming to "THE SITUATION ROOM" right now from around the world. The wires, the video feeds. Carol, what's going on?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: A couple of things, Wolf. A federal judge is ordering Sudan to ante up almost $8 million and turn it over to the families of sailors killed in the 2000 al Qaeda attack on the USS Cole. The families had been seeking $105 million.

Seventeen sailors died when militants ran an explosives-laden boat into the side of the destroyer while they were dock in Yemen. The families accuse Sudan of providing support to the al Qaeda terrorists.

The Disney Company is the first major Hollywood studio to ban depictions of smoking in its movies. It says there will be no smoking in its often G-rated Disney-branded films. It also says that it will discourage smoking in films under its Touchstone and Miramax labels.

Disney chief Robert Iger made the no-smoking commitment in a letter to Congressman Edward Markey. Markey describes it as groundbreaking.

They are big. They are squiggly and they are hungry. A new study says jumbo squid are invading waters off central California and they are preying on local anchovy and other commercial fish populations. The jumbo squid used to be found only in the Pacific Ocean's warmest stretches near the Equator, but has expanded its territory over the past 16 years. Jumbo squid can grow to seven feet long and weigh more than 110 pounds, so, they eat a lot.

So much for the old saying talk is cheap. TV talk show diva Oprah Winfrey topped TV Guide's list of highest-paid television stars in the United States. According to the magazine's July 23rd edition, Winfrey earns an estimated $260 million a year. Placing a distant second with an annual income of $45 million is music producer and brutally blunt "American Idol" Judge Simon Cowell.

Wow. Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Oprah really is amazing. You got to just be in awe.

COSTELLO: Two hundred and sixty million a year.

BLITZER: That is amazing. All right, thanks very much, Carol, for that.

Up ahead, socially contagious obesity. Find out why your best friend, your best friend can actually help make you fat.

Plus, Barry Bonds the latest accusations emerging today of steroids use as he tries to break the homerun record later tonight.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: A new study shows that if your friends are obese, chances go way, way up that you will be as well. Let's turn to CNN's Mary Snow.

This new study is just coming out. Fascinating study, Mary, but tell our viewers what it is all about.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is research that could dramatically change the way you view obesity.


SNOW (voice-over): A new study says obesity is socially contagious. Researchers say if your friend becomes obese, it increases your risk of becoming obese by 57 percent.

JAMES FOWLER, UNIV. OF CALIF.-SAN DIEGO: We know for example that your genes have an impact on whether or not you are obese, but this really suggest that your social environment might matter even more.

SNOW: Researchers looked at data from more than 12,000 people and published their findings in "The New England Journal of Medicine". Doctors say behaviors like overeating can spread among friends, but friends can also affect your view of being fat.

DR. NICHOLAS CHRISTAKIS, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: So what happens is, is you look around you at the people to whom you're connected and you see that they are gaining weight, and so you start changing your ideas about what is an acceptable body size.

SNOW: But it's not just your friends who may effect your perceived body image. If your sibling is obese, your chances of being obese go up 40 percent. If your husband or wife is, it's 37 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Men are much more likely to be influenced by the weight behaviors of men to whom they are connected, whether it's their friends or their brothers, than they are to be influenced by the weight behaviors of the women to whom they are connected.


SNOW: So, the bottom-line? Researches say just as obese people can influence their friends and family, so can people who are thin. So, understanding more about how these social circles work could help reduce the obesity epidemic here in the United States -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, does it matter how far away your friends actually live?

SNOW: That is a very interesting fact, and, researchers say no. That if a friend who lives 1,000 miles away, can have a bigger impact on you than an obese neighbor who lives just right next door, so it all comes down to those with the greatest sway over you.

BLITZER: Mary Snow watching this story for us -- the report just coming out. We are going to continue to follow up on it.

Meanwhile, tonight, he's known as the prince of darkness. And he's shedding some light on why he turned against President Bush.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought he was a real Texas conservative. Turns out, he's like his grandfather, who I covered, a Connecticut liberal.


BLITZER: The conservative columnist Bob Novak, on the war, the current president, and other developments. You are going to want to see what's going on.

Plus, Iran's president says he will never, never give up his nuclear program and he effectively is telling the West, right now, to get over it.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now -- the work you see here will never stop. That explicit guarantee from the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he's telling state TV Iran will not bow to pressure to end what he calls is a peaceful nuclear program, but what many outside of Iran call a pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Smoke, fire and fear rise in Dallas -- the city's downtown area rocked by gas explosions. There were huge blasts at a business that distributes industrial gases. Fire damaged cars and shot shrapnel the size of garbage can lids onto roads. Three people are hurt. Officials blame a faulty connector.

And some Iraqi soccer fans cheering a big win don't have long to be happy. Bombings turn their joy into mourning. Two car bombs killed at least 50 people as crowds celebrated Iraq's national soccer team for winning a match, placing them in the finals for the Asian Cup.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

After almost six years, since the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. military is no closer, apparently, to capturing or killing Osama bin Laden. One big reason, he's hiding in that remote region of Pakistan along the Afghan border, which has become more of a safe haven for al Qaeda over the past year. That latest intelligence finding brought anger and frustration at a House hearing earlier today.


REP. ELLEN TAUSCHER (D), CALIFORNIA: We have watched them hop, skip and jump, pretty much with freedom and ability to reconstitute from Afghanistan to Pakistan, urban areas to south Warizistan to north Warizistan. They can move pretty much where they want in that whole entire area.


BLITZER: Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre. It's had a devastating effect on Afghanistan in the process, Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. If you are looking for evidence that al Qaeda has free range on the border region, just take a look at what U.S. commanders are facing in southern Afghanistan.

Brigadier General David Rodriguez (ph) told us today that by his count cross-border attacks are running at twice the rate of this time last year. He says the number of foreign fighters -- and you can read that as al Qaeda -- is up 50 to 60 percent. Now he does say it's been a slight dip over the past few weeks as Pakistan has begun that offensive in the region -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The whole notion of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and along the border with Pakistan over there. Last year the NIE suggested that al Qaeda was on the run. But over the past year, it seems to be getting stronger in that area.

MCINTYRE: Wolf, it's very simply, the effort that President Pervez Musharraf made to appease the Taliban in the Waziristan region has backfired as many predicted it would.

It simply gave al Qaeda breathing room, so that they are stronger now. And Musharraf has been forced to go back in after them. The assessment of U.S. intelligence officials testifying before Congress today is that no military, not the U.S., not Pakistan, can control that ungoverned area. So the goal is to neutralize it as a safe haven since it probably realistically can't be eliminated. Wolf?

BLITZER: I think the Pakistanis acknowledged themselves it was a huge, huge blunder. Thanks very much for that, Jamie.

Along with the rise in foreign fighters, there's been a sharp increase in suicide attacks in Afghanistan. Suicide bombings were once very rare in that country. Two were reported back in 2003, and there were six a year later. The number jumped to 21 in 2005, and Human Rights Watch says last year, there were 136 bombings, suicide bombings, in which more than 800 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded. U.S. military commanders expect that number of suicide attacks to rise again this year.

Members of congress and presidential candidates are calling for a troop pullout from Iraq. But "The New York Times" this week reported that the command in Baghdad has actually drawn up a plan for a significant American role over the next two years in Iraq. I spoke about that with Major General Benjamin Mixon, the U.S. commander in northern Iraq, and I asked him about that strategy.


GEN. BENJAMIN MIXON, U.S. ARMY: Well, those plans are being worked by General Petraeus and his staff, but as I look at my area, I certainly can see that we will need some level of troop presence well into 2009. The numbers will depend on the situation.


BLITZER: There are new questions also today about how far the Iraq war will drag down President Bush's poll numbers. His 32 percent approval rating in our latest survey still is 10 points higher than Harry Truman's all-time low of 22 percent.

In 1952, Truman took a hit over the Korean War and firing of General Douglas MacArthur. The Vietnam War didn't help Richard Nixon, but Watergate is what dragged his job approval number down to 24 percent back in 1974. And the energy crisis in the Iran hostage crisis yanked Jimmy Carter's approval rating down to 28 percent back in the late 1970s.

He's known as the prince of darkness. Conservative and controversial, the political columnist Bob Novak has been covering Washington for half a century. His new book about those 50 years is called, what else? "The Prince of Darkness." Bob Novak joined me here in THE SITUATION ROOM and offered some surprises, especially on Iraq.


BLITZER: You were really opposed to this war in Iraq from the very start, and that put you on the outs, as far as some of those inside the Bush administration.

BOB NOVAK, JOURNALIST: Including George W. Bush. I tell in the book how he had me in with a bunch of other conservative journalists just before his 2003 State of the Union. He said he hadn't made up his mind whether to go to war. I knew he had made up his mind. I thought it was a mistake. And I wrote it, and somehow, Wolf, I haven't been invited back.

BLITZER: Why did you know that this was a mistake, and they thought it was a great idea?

NOVAK: Well, just reading -- I didn't have my own intelligence agency. But just talking to the inspectors and people who had been on the spot.

I was sure, I was positive he doesn't have any weapons of mass destruction, but I also knew from my reporting that this was -- these were people, very difficult, and would be very difficult to govern that country without a dictator like Saddam Hussein.

BLITZER: Your subtitle is "50 years reporting in Washington." You've covered a lot of presidents. You covered Nixon, for example. In the book, you say "he was a poor president, a bad man who inflicted grave damage on his party and his country." Give us your report card, your ranking of the current president, President Bush.

NOVAK: I think he's mediocre. I think he's very disappointing. I don't think he's a bad man, as Nixon is. I think he means well. Made a terrible mistake on Iraq.

But I thought he was the first conservative Bush. I thought he was a real Texas conservative. Turns out he's like his grandfather, who I covered, a Connecticut liberal. And what he is, he's played in all these spending programs, so, I think he's -- he's been a failure as a president, because he hasn't done a thing I think every great president has to do, and that's lead his party.

BLITZER: Here is another line from page seven, Karl Rove. "Karl Rove and I had grown close since he began plotting Bush's path to the White House as early as 1995. In four decades in talking to presidential aides, I never had enjoyed such a good source inside the White House."

Even though the president didn't like your thoughts on Iraq, did he stay a good source, Karl Rove?

NOVAK: He did, until the Valerie Plame case, when it was developed, and, of course, he revealed it, that he had been -- I had regarded him as one of my confirming sources. And because of the legal troubles, he was afraid he was going to be indicted. He cut off all relations with me. We're talking again. It's not like it used to be.


BLITZER: Bob Novak speaking with me earlier.

In the race for the White House, a new link to cycling star Lance Armstrong. Find out what he's doing to put cancer research right at the top of the political agenda.

Also, they saw the nightmare conditions over at the Walter Reed Army Hospital here in Washington. Now, they are demanding big changes in the way America treats its wounded warriors. Former Senator Bob Dole and Former Health Secretary Donna Shalala in THE SITUATION ROOM tonight. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Tonight, the mold, the mess, the terrible conditions revealed at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center here in Washington, sparking a new call to action. A presidential commission is urging broad changes in veterans care to give American's wounded warriors the treatment they deserve, and that they respect.

On the list of improvements right now, and we're watching several of them, strengthening support for the families of wounded troops. A new system to quickly share patient information between the Pentagon and the Veterans Administration, and recruiting first-rate professionals to the staff of Walter Reed. The former Senator Bob Dole, the former health secretary Donna Shalala co-chaired the commission.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: There are a lot of presidential commissions. They come up with all sorts of great ideas, and then they sort of wind up on a shelf someplace.

What makes you believe, Senator Dole, this one is going to be any different?

BOB DOLE, FORMER SENATOR: Well, I can't say -- I can't with 100 percent assurance, but we kept the number of recommendations very small, I might say at the insistence and the right direction by Secretary Shalala.

So, we're not talking about a couple hundred recommendations.

BLITZER: What is it going to cost, Secretary Shalala, to implement all these recommendations?

DONNA SHALALA, FORMER HEALTH SECRETARY: Well, it's not very expensive, actually.

The Congress has been talking about spending billions of dollars on recommendations. These will cost about a half-billion dollars. Most of them can be implemented by the executive itself, by DOD and the VA.

BLITZER: Senator Dole, you speak with some personal knowledge about the treatment of the wounded warriors. As all of our viewers remember, you were severely injured during World War II. You spent a long time in a hospital.

What personal assurance do you have that the -- the -- the shoddy conditions we all saw at Walter Reed that generated your commission, that we will never have to deal with that kind of situation again? Speak from the heart.

DOLE: Yes. Yes.

Well, I think, generally, those were, you know, Wolf, facility- related, but it did affect outpatient care. It was devastating. It never should have happened. It was disgraceful. And some people paid a price for it, as they should have.

BLITZER: Well, let me interrupt, Senator Dole.

Are -- are these guys and gals who come back severely injured, as you did during World War II, after World War II...

DOLE: Yes.

BLITZER: ... are they getting better treatment today, whether bureaucratic, administrative, actual medical treatment, than -- than you got when you came back?

DOLE: Well, I think -- well, I don't remember everything that happened.

I think the big answer is yes, because so many more survive now because of the -- the care they get starting right at the battlefield to the field hospital, all the way back, say, to Walter Reed Hospital.


BLITZER: Bob Dole and Donna Shalala speaking with me earlier.

Cancer survivor and cycling star Lance Armstrong is being featured in a new race, the race for the White House.

Our Tom Foreman is here to explain what's going on. He was with John Edwards today. What is going on?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this is that time of year when all the candidates want great photo ops. Today, they all had a chance, but the one that grabbed it was John Edwards.


JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I only kept up with Lance when he decided it was OK for me to keep up with him.

FOREMAN (voice-over): One is the seven-time winner of the tour de France. The other is running his own race, right now for the White House. But both have cancer in common. Lance Armstrong's a testicular cancer survivor and John Edwards' wife Elizabeth is battling breast cancer. And today in Iowa, they briefly teamed up.

EDWARDS: Well, Lance is a friend of ours, and I spent a fair amount of time with Lance working on cancer.

FOREMAN: Armstrong is holding cancer forums in Iowa next month, and many of the presidential candidates are expected to show up.

ARMSTRONG: The immediate goal is in, you know, really from today to the election time. For me, personally, to make sure that, whatever candidate, whatever candidates we have now, and ultimately, the two that want to be president, discuss the number one killer in this country.

FOREMAN: This week, Armstrong is biking in an annual bike ride across Iowa, and he invited the candidates to join him. Edwards took Armstrong up on his offer, and the two rode together for about 12 miles. The former senator from North Carolina wears one of Armstrong's Livestrong yellow arm bands, which help raise money to battle cancer. But politics may not be the only reason behind today's encounter.

EDWARDS: He invited us, we wanted to be here. And my kids wanted to see him, too.


FOREMAN: For all of the goofiness and opportunism you see come out of a political year, the big campaign underway, it's also nice to see a nice cause supported. And I'm sure we will see Lance Armstrong throughout this entire election process. And I bet a lot of other candidates will wind up standing next to him as well. BLITZER: I don't know how many other candidates are in excellent shape like John Edwards. He looked pretty good out there.

FOREMAN: You notice I said standing next to him, not keeping up with him.

BLITZER: That's pressure. All right, Tom, thanks very much.

According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 10 million Americans are living with cancer. Cancer is expected to kill almost 560,000 people this year in this country, more than 1,500 people a day.

But more people are beating cancer. The five year survival rate, dramatically up to 66 percent, that's a 15 percent increase in 30 years. Last year, the government's National Cancer Institute spent almost $5 billion on cancer research.

Still ahead tonight, Barry Bonds. He's trying to break the home run record later tonight. And now, a chemist is speaking out, the latest to accuse him of steroid use.

And rough and tumble concert. A pop diva takes a dive, and asks fans to keep it under wraps. We'll tell what's going on, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds keeps inching towards that golden number, 756, breaking Hank Aaron's long-standing career home run record.

But the controversy around Bonds and his major league feat just isn't going away tonight. Let's bring in Carol Costello, she's watching this. There's a late-breaking development. Someone is talking about Barry Bonds.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yet another person is talking about Barry Bonds and steroids. This time, it's the guy that created the Clear. It seems every time Bonds takes another swing, someone else sings.


COSTELLO (voice-over): The latest to unload on Bonds, chemist Patrick Arnold, who reportedly created the Clear, a previously undetectable steroid. Arnold worked for Victor Conte, who owned Balco, the San Francisco lab that provided professional athletes with steroids. Arnold told HBO Sports he believes Bonds was using the Clear in 2001 when he hit a record-breaking 73 home runs.

PATRICK ARNOLD, CHEMIST: I never met Barry Bonds, I never talked to him on the phone. All I ever use was Victor telling me how great Barry is doing, how Barry's on the program. And his reaction time is better than ever, he feels great. BOB COSTAS, JOURNALIST: When Conte told you that Barry is on the program, was there any doubt in your mind that that meant he was taking steroids of some kind?

ARNOLD: I have a very strong feeling about it since he was on the program, and, like everyone else, the program consisted of the Clear.

COSTELLO: Both Conte and Arnold went to prison for conspiring to distribute illegal steroids to athletes. Conte disputes Arnold's story, saying "The program I created for Barry had nothing to do with the Clear or any other anabolic steroids."

And it's been widely reported Bonds told a grand jury, he never knowingly used steroids. As for what he said publicly...

BARRY BONDS, BASEBALL PLAYER: That's just you guys talking, that's all it is, just media conversation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, they're the ones investigating.

BONDS: Well, that's all right, though. Let them investigate.

COSTELLO: And there are no eyewitness accounts that as we know of to dispute Bonds.

MELISSA SEGURA, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: And that's sort of been the entire situation with Barry Bonds all along, is it's always been, we hear, but we have never seen.


COSTELLO: That certainly is true. But just take a look behind me at all of the people who have uttered Barry Bonds and steroids in the same breath. Take a look at them. Seven of them have served time or nearly did.

BLITZER: Why is this chemist speaking out now?

COSTELLO: That's really a great question. And the answer is not clear. But what's so intriguing about this is Arnold, according to the "New York Times" is under no obligation whatsoever to name names. In other words, he had nothing at all to gain by talking to HBO.

BLITZER: What a story. All right, we'll continue to watch it with you, Carol. Thanks very much.

Fair or not. Some of the suspicion of Barry Bonds is rooted in the fact that he's one of those rare athletes who's actually gotten better and bigger with age.

The Giants' equipment manager says Bonds hat and shirt sizes have expanded dramatically since joining the team back in 1993. And get this. Even his feet have grown from size 10.5 when he started out to size 13. And a quick check of the numbers shows that as from 1986 to 1996, his first 10 years in the league, Bonds hit a home run once every 16 or so times at bat. From '97 on, he hit one every 10 times at bat. Bonds turned 43 yesterday.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York for "The Cafferty File." You know, a lot of people are going to wonder, if he breaks Hank Aaron's record, if he had a little extra help.

CAFFERTY: A lot of people think he probably did, and the other part of that is, nobody ever questioned the integrity or honesty of Hank Aaron while he was setting that record.

BLITZER: No, I don't think he had any extra help, Hank Aaron.

CAFFERTY: No. Classy guy top to bottom. Can't say the same for Barry Bonds.

Where is Russia headed, Wolf, if half of today's Russian youth between 16-and-19 think that Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin was a wise leader? Some non-governmental outfit in Russia did a poll, that's what they came up with.

Arthur writes from New Jersey: "After all, the Russian history books correctly report that Stalin's Soviet Union did defeat the Germans and expel Hitler's army from their homeland. Wonder what American 16-to-19-year-olds think of Franklin Roosevelt?"

Gary in Texas: "What may be even more to the point, how many young Americans in that age bracket even know who Stalin even was?"

Thomas in Florida: "All over the U.S. and Latin America, they are wearing Che T-shirts. The ignorance of youth and misguided ideals."

Alberta: "We're seeing the generation of Russians that have forgotten the horrors of communism, but are hearing stories of when their country was a world power. In a few years, they're taking the reins of that country, and their nuclear weapons."

A in Decatur, Georgia: "Russia's headed back to second tier status. Thank goodness only 28 percent of Americans support a dictatorship."

Terry in Arizona: "Hey Jack, it sounds like you think American kids would be able to answer the question any differently. I'd be willing to bet that a hefty percentage of our own high school students wouldn't even be able to I.D. Joe Stalin in a line-up, even if he were standing in between Lindsay Lohan and Dick Cheney."

I could pick him out.

And Loren writes from Watertown, New York: "We'll deal with those resurgent, pesky Stalinist Ruskies as soon as we're done with those perky al Qaeda in Iraqis and then those pesky mullahs in Iranskis. We'll not rest till the pests are gone-ski." If you didn't see your e-mail here, go to We post more of them online, along with video clips of "The Cafferty File," and that's it-sky, Wolf-sky.

BLITZER: Loren in Watertown, New York, upstate New York, north of Syracuse, a nice place. She's got a good sense of humor.

CAFFERTY: And she stays out of Buffalo, you'll notice.

BLITZER: Notice, she's in Watertown, not in Buffalo.

A pop star takes the fall, and asks concert-goers not to post it on YouTube. Jeanne Moos on the not-so-secret stage dive. You'll want to see this. Stay with us. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Take a look at some of the hot shots coming in from the "Associated Press."

In Washington State, a Native American elder beats a drum during a tribal canoe journey.

In Green Bay, Wisconsin, a Packers fan wearing a so-called cheesehead sits in the stands during the football team's annual shareholders meeting.

And on the West Bank, an Israeli police officer detains a right- wing activist who tried to build an illegal outpost next to a Jewish settlement.

And in Texas, children are splashed by passing cars after a rainstorm.

Some of this hour's hot shots, pictures often worth a thousand words.

The rise and fall of a Grammy-winning singer on a concert stage, and her plea that her fans not put it out for you to see. Our Jeanne Moos has a look at this most unusual story.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When's the last time you fell on your face? Or on your butt or off a stage.

KELSEY GRAMMER, ACTOR: Pretending I was a U.N. interpreter. Oh, good lord. Oh, damn.

MOOS: It's bad enough when you're Kelsey Grammer. But imagine when a diva takes a dive in front of fans, many armed with cameras. That's what happened to Beyonce.

A spokesperson said her hem got caught in her shoe, and the moment was caught on YouTube, even though fans shooting home video of the Orlando, Florida, concert reported that Beyonce asked good naturedly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If anyone of you got video of that, please don't put it on YouTube.

MOOS: Fat chance. And from YouTube, it spread. Next thing you know, Beyonce is the No. 1 video on, knocking giant tumor out of the top spot. And it takes a lot to dislodge a 33-pound tumor.

Much was made of the fact that Beyonce bounced back. Her hair bounced even more. Fans posted praise like, "takes a licking and keeps on ticking."

If you think we're reveling in Beyonce's misery, we're kind compared to the news anchor who couldn't stop laughing over a model that fell.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You try walking in those shoes.

MOOS: But hey, plenty of falling news people get plastered on YouTube.


MOOS: Covering storms or stomping grapes.


MOOS: But don't believe every journalistic misstep you see on the Web.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last night, there was a robbery at about 3:30 in the morning.

MOOS: Apparently Chuck Storm is just a character dreamed up by the creator of this Web site. But Chuck Storm isn't so far from the reality of Al Roker.

AL ROKER, JOURNALIST: Right about now, I -- oh!

MOOS: Al is featured on a Web site called You have to love their logo. And as if falling weren't bad enough, there are all those slow-motion replays. Cheer up, Beyonce, at least you didn't end up like Carrie Bradshaw.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my god, she's fashion roadkill.

MOOS: It's not how far you fall, it's how fast you recover. And who says gallantry is dead? To the rescue. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Leave it to Jeanne Moos for those kinds of reports.

We're here in THE SITUATION ROOM every weekday afternoon from 4- to-6 p.m. Eastern, back for another hour at 7 p.m. Eastern. Tomorrow, Fidel Castro out sick for a year. Will he actually show up for Cuba's Revolution Day celebrations, or is he off the public stage for good? Tomorrow, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Till then, thanks for watching. Let's go to "PAULA ZAHN NOW." Paula?