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THE SITUATION ROOM
Chief Justice Rushed to Hospital; FBI, IRS Search Alaska Senator's Home
Aired July 30, 2007 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Lou.
Happening now -- breaking news, the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts, rushed to a hospital after a fall at his vacation home in Maine. He suffered a seizure after being hit in the head. We're going to be updating you on what's going on, on this important story.
Also more breaking news, U.S. Senator Ted Stevens, the target now of a raid by federal agents, a government source says both the FBI and the IRS are searching his home.
And $20 billion worth of weapons for Saudi Arabia, the Bush administration says that could help defend against Iran and al Qaeda. Critics want to know which side the Saudis are on.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Tonight, we start with breaking news. The chief justice, John Roberts, is in a hospital after he suffered a seizure. That seizure caused him to fall at his home on an island off Maine and then be rushed to a local hospital.
CNN's Jeanne Meserve has been covering the story. Jeanne, for our viewers who are just tuning in right now tell us what we know.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have just gotten fresh information, a statement from the Supreme Court which says that he suffered a fall after suffering what doctors describe as a benign idiopathic seizure. He experienced minor scrapes in the fall, but chief justice is fully recovered from the incident. He was taken to the Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockport, Maine, and according to the Supreme Court statement, he underwent a thorough neurological evaluation which revealed no cause for concern.
But the statement says he will remain overnight at the medical center as a precaution. It also mentions that the supreme -- chief justice had experienced a similar episode in 1993, an unexplained seizure. Friends have told CNN, friends of the chief justice, have told CNN that he made a full recovery from that after a period of rest.
BLITZER: We're going to be speaking with the neurosurgeon in a moment. But let's just get it straight. In '93 he has a seizure, apparently no additional seizures until now, this afternoon. He's vacationing in Maine. He has a seizure. He falls. He hits his head and clearly he's rushed to the hospital. Basically, that's the story. We don't know how serious of a condition it is right now.
MESERVE: Well, I can just tell you what this statement says, which says he is fully recovered from the incident and it says that the neurological evaluation revealed no cause for concern. They have described him throughout the afternoon as being alert and conscious. What the long-term implications may be of this, I'm not a medical expert, can't tell you.
BLITZER: All right. Let's speak with a medical expert, Jeanne, thanks very much.
Katrina Firlik is joining us on the phone from Greenwich, Connecticut. She's a neurosurgeon. Katrina, thanks very much for helping us understand. A benign idiopathic seizure, what does that mean?
DR. KATRINA FIRLIK, NEUROSURGEON (via phone): Well idiopathic, what means that there's no known cause. Meaning that it's a scan was performed. There's no tumor. There's no bleeding that's in the brain as a cause of the seizure. Really no cause is known.
BLITZER: What are the potential causes of such a seizure?
FIRLIK: Well, what's frustrating is that we often don't find out the reason, if a detailed MRI is done and it looks normal, then we don't really know what -- what the cause is. But I'm sure that he will get extensive neurological follow-up and probably have another EEG or brain-wave test, to look into things further.
BLITZER: Because if he had a seizure in '93, I assume at that point they did all the major tests. They couldn't find anything. I don't know why they can say he's in no danger right now if they just discovered that he's had another seizure. And I'm sure they haven't done all the follow-up tests that you as a neurosurgeon would want to start doing right now.
FIRLIK: Right, well, I'm sure they were thorough back in '93 and I'm sure they'll do all the same tests now. But there certainly will likely be a period of observation and further testing. And if it's an isolated seizure, there may be no untoward event.
BLITZER: Well, what would you do? And I know he's not your patient, Dr. Firlik, but let's say someone came to you, had a seizure in '93, nothing until now, 2007, yet another seizure. What kind of tests would you start doing? What would you do? How long of a process would you go through to try to determine what the cause is?
FIRLIK: Well, first an MRI scan would be key, a very detailed high-quality MRI just to look for anything, whether it's a benign tumor or a small area of bleeding or a small stroke. And an MRI is very good at picking up those sorts of abnormalities. Also, EEG testing, which is brain-wave testing would be critical. And he may end up having more than one of those brain-wave tests just to look for any underlying abnormalities in the electrical activity of his brain. BLITZER: Because in this particular case the Supreme Court says he had the seizure first and then he fell as a result of the seizure. I want to make it clear that he didn't fall first and then have a seizure. The seizure caused the fall.
FIRLIK: Yes. And that's frequently a -- you know, unclear in many cases. But it sounds like this was a witnessed event.
BLITZER: Is this a long process now that he's going to have to start going through these tests to make sure that there's not a huge problem that doctors at least so far have not determined?
FIRLIK: Well, if his MRI scan truly is negative, then that, you know, that is a real, you know, gives us a real sigh of relief that there's nothing major going on. You know, whether it's a tumor or bleeding, that sort of thing. Anything life threatening would be ruled out with an MRI scan. And then it's just up to his neurologist to do careful follow-up and to make a decision whether any other testing or medication would be required.
BLITZER: Dr. Firlik, if you could stand by for a moment. I want to bring in Jeffrey Toobin, our senior legal analyst, who has done a lot of work covering the U.S. Supreme Court. I know you're looking into this story, Jeffrey. This is a significant development. But give us some perspective.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first, from a historical perspective, there have been 43 presidents of the United States and only 17 chief justices of the United States. So, that gives you an idea of how important a position this is. What makes this especially shocking is that of the nine justices, John Roberts is the youngest.
He's 52 years old, 35 years younger than John Paul Stevens, the senior in age member of the court. So to say that a health problem in John Roberts is a surprise is really an understatement. Of course, I have no more idea of how serious it is than anyone else. But, certainly it's a huge shock. And that's all we can say at this point.
BLITZER: And you've been speaking with sources of yours close to the Supreme Court. What are they saying to you, Jeff?
TOOBIN: Well, I think everybody's in shock mostly because he's so young and vigorous and, also, because there is this general ignorance about the health of the justices. You may remember that just in the past few months we learned that Justice Rehnquist, before he was chief justice, had a very serious mental problem with the addiction to prescription drugs that no one knew about at the time. And that was around 1980, while he was still an associate justice of the court.
There is no legal requirement for the justices of the Supreme Court to disclose anything about their health. And some have used that as an opportunity to keep very serious things secret. Here, we don't know how much there is to know and how much we will know. But it's basically up to John Roberts himself how much to disclose. And we'll find out how much we learn.
BLITZER: Jeff Toobin, thanks very much. I want you to stand by, because I know you're getting more information. Dr. Firlik, I want to just ask you a quick question. In your experience, someone who has a seizure in '93 and then these many years later has another seizure, is it something that might never happen again, likely to happen from time to time? Give us a little sense of perspective of how worried we should be about the chief justice.
FIRLIK: Well, I think it's too early to say, because we don't have all the details, you know, whether he's taking a new medication, whether this could be a side effect of something else going on. That's unclear to me. So I can't comment on what, you know, two isolated seizures mean.
Certainly it sounds like, like I said before, there's nothing life threatening to worry about, but you know what caused the seizure. Whether it is truly just idiopathic or no known cause I suppose something to be confirmed.
BLITZER: Dr. Firlik, thanks very much for joining us. Katrina Firlik is a neurosurgeon joining us from Greenwich, Connecticut. Jeff Toobin also watching this story for us, a very important story, the chief justice of the United States in a hospital now after suffering a seizure, then falling. He's recuperating right now, but he's about to begin some major tests to try to determine what is the source of these seizures.
There's another breaking news story we're going to be following in a moment. A raid reportedly under way in Alaska. U.S. Senator Ted Stevens' home now being raided by both the IRS and the FBI. We're going to get to that shortly because we're collecting some new information on that.
Want to go to Jack Cafferty, though. He's in New York. He's got "The Cafferty File." You know, two breaking stories like this, the chief justice and Ted Stevens' home being raided. A lot of our viewers remember Ted Stevens, the longtime senator from Alaska. He's the one who sponsored that so-called bridge to nowhere, pork-barrel spending as they call it, earmarks. But his home is being raided now by the FBI and the IRS, according to The Associated Press.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it will be interesting to find out what they're looking for and if they find what they're looking for. As far as the Supreme Court justices, I didn't realize, until Jeff just reported it, that they are allowed to keep their medical conditions private, if they so wish. I -- I don't know if that's a great idea or not.
I mean if Dick Cheney gets a new pacemaker or President Bush gets a colonoscopy, it gets covered top to bottom, pardon -- no pun intended by the news media, but because there is so little reporting done on the justices of the Supreme Court and you could make the argument that that's the most powerful and maybe even if the most important branch of the three branches of government, we don't know how healthy these people are. Whether they are concealing something that could affect the way they execute their responsibilities on the bench. I don't know if that bears looking at or not, but it kind of worries me. There was reference made to somebody who had an addiction that nobody knew about.
Anyway, back to the breaking news in a moment. First, it looks like an overwhelming majority of Americans wouldn't mind trading in some privacy for safety. A new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll shows 71 percent of the people surveyed say they support the increased use of surveillance cameras. Twenty-five percent oppose it. Pardon me.
The highest levels of support come among seniors, Republicans, women, college graduates and whites. A network of surveillance cameras in London known as the ring of steel has been credited with helping in the capture of terror suspects including those accused of those car bombings this summer. New York is going to have a similar system soon.
It will include the first phase 100 new surveillance cameras in downtown Manhattan. Those will be up and running by the end of the year and eventually 3,000 cameras deployed around Manhattan by 2010. Other cities like Chicago and Baltimore are planning to expand their surveillance systems as well.
Critics like the ACLU, as you might expect, say these things invade privacy and could be used to track the movements of innocent people. Here's the question then.
Would you support the increased use of surveillance cameras in America cities? E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much. Jack will be back with us shortly.
We're staying on top of the breaking news. The chief justice of the United States, John Roberts, suffering a seizure, then falling. He's rushed to a hospital. We'll update you on what we're getting on that.
Also -- more breaking news. A U.S. senator's home now the focus of a federal raid according to The Associated Press. Why are government agents searching the Alaska home of Senator Ted Stevens?
Plus, a massive arms sale planned for the Middle East including missiles and guided bombs and other equipment for Saudi Arabia. Are those weapons going into the right hands?
And Hillary Clinton's cleavage, the fashion review that's become a political football.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN BREAKING NEWS.
BLITZER: In case you're just joining us, the breaking news comes from the U.S. Supreme Court; the chief justice, John Roberts, suffered a seizure today while on vacation in Maine. He's been taken to a local hospital. He's expected to stay overnight according to the Supreme Court and local fire officials. We're getting more information on what's going on. We're going to update you on that shortly, also more breaking news coming up, but concerning another powerful Washington figure.
In Girdwood, Alaska, federal agents are raiding the home of U.S. Senator Ted Stevens. The FBI has just confirmed that this raid involving FBI agents, IRS agents, underway at the home of this U.S. senator from Alaska. CNN's Joe Johns has been covering this senator for a long time. What are you learning, Joe?
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we know there's been an investigation for some time into allegations of corruption involving politicians in Alaska. Senator Ted Stevens' public career has spanned quite a long time. Now, we know that there is this investigation going on as well as a raid apparently on the house of Senator Ted Stevens in Alaska. It would, of course, be a new development.
We've known for some time that an investigation has been underway. It has at least touched the son of Senator Stevens, Ben, the former president of the Alaska State Senate as well as some of Senator Stevens' friends and now the home in Girdwood as well. Back in the year 2000, Senator Stevens and his wife did some renovations on the home, doubling the interior space of what can only be described as a modest house. "The Anchorage Daily News" reported recently that federal investigators have interviewed at least one contractor and requested records on the project.
The issue that's been aired publicly has to do with an oil services company in Alaska called VECO and whether VECO helped hire people to do the work on the Stevens' home. One of the contractors even told the newspaper he submitted invoices to the oil company before sending them on to the Stevens' family. It was, we're told, the Stevens who paid the bill. So the question of course is why did an oil services company need to be notified first.
The simple explanation is that the CEO of VECO, a man named Bill Allen, is a friend of Ted Stevens and was just doing him a favor. The problem, of course, is that Allen, who apparently helped out on the Stevens' house is in serious hot water with the feds. He and VECO's former vice president, Richard Smith, recently pleaded guilty to making thousands and thousands of dollars in corrupt payments to Alaska state public officials.
Now Allen apparently is cooperating with the federal investigation to keep other members of his family out of trouble. One last thing we have to say, I talked to Senator Stevens' office today before news of the raid broke and asked them for a statement about the latest. They gave me a statement from about a week and a half ago, which says in part -- I urge Alaskans not to form conclusions based upon incomplete and sometimes incorrect reports in the media. He also said I know Alaskans are very interested in this investigation, would like to discuss these issues in great detail. But says he won't comment until the investigation is over, Wolf.
BLITZER: Joe, I want you to standby, because I want to stay on top of this breaking news for a few moments. Jeff Toobin, I want to bring him back, our senior legal analyst.
You know for the FBI and the IRS to execute a search warrant to go ahead and raid the home of a U.S. senator, someone who's been in the Senate for decades, this is a huge, huge deal. It's not something that's made very easily, Jeff. And speak as someone who used to work over at the Justice Department.
TOOBIN: Wolf, the one thing I can assure you is, the U.S. attorney in Alaska did not make this decision alone. To seek and obtain a search warrant against any member of Congress, but especially someone who has been in the U.S. Senate since 1968, is of enormous significance and it certainly had to go to the top of the Justice Department, Alberto Gonzales had to approve it or his designee, the director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, had to approve it. They would not have done -- taken such an extreme step without approval all the way up the chain of the command, and one has to conclude, without a serious reason for doing it.
BLITZER: Because we remember the raids on other lawmakers' homes, William Jefferson, a Democratic Congressman from Louisiana, what -- they found, what, $90,000 in cash in his freezer. Randy "Duke" Cunningham out in California, he's serving jail time right now. We could go down the list.
Several of these lawmakers, they were investigated. Their homes were searched. We don't know how serious this investigation is of Ted Stevens' home, but in and of itself, the decision being made to launch this kind of investigation that's actually going and execute a search warrant in Senator Stevens' home, that is something that is extraordinary, Jeff.
TOOBIN: Extraordinary, unusual, and something done only on rare occasions. Because anytime you have the executive branch investigating a member of the legislative branch of government, it raises constitutional issues. The branches are supposed to be separate and independent. Now, it is true that that doesn't mean legislators are free to break the law. So, there has to be some interplay there. But it is not a search, a prosecution is never done unless there has been great care taken in the course of the investigation.
BLITZER: And there has to be some sort of probable cause to go ahead and do such a thing. We're told, Jeff, that the search began about an hour ago. Senator Stevens is not there. No members of his family are in that home up in Alaska.
Joe Johns, a lot of our viewers will remember the bridge to nowhere. Senator Ted Stevens, a very influential member. He was the Republican chairman of the Appropriations Committee in the Senate. And he got a lot of those personal earmarks for Alaska passed. So, he's a pretty popular figure up in Alaska.
JOHNS: A very popular figure. Now, we also have to say he's never been told he's a target of any investigation, the public integrity section of the Justice Department apparently looking into this as well. He has most interestingly hired a very high-powered attorney, Brendan Sullivan, to sort of shepherd him along on this. You're right; he's an extremely popular figure in Alaska. He's done a lot for the state. The people hold him in high regard -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brendan Sullivan very well-known here in Washington. He's represented a lot of white-collar alleged criminals here in town as well over the years. Thanks very much, Joe Johns and Jeff Toobin. I'm going to have both of you stand by and continue to watch this story. Senator Ted Stevens' public service career spans 60 years.
The World War II veteran practiced law in Alaska before coming to Washington to work for President Eisenhower's administration. He was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives back in 1964. He was appointed to the U.S. Senate back in 1968 and was subsequently re- elected six times. He's the longest-serving senator in the Republican Party's history. Senator Ted Stevens, his home now being searched by the FBI and the IRS.
Still ahead tonight here in THE SITUATION ROOM -- the U.S. Army needs more people to join and they're willing to pay for it. How much will they pay? We're going to tell you. There's new information coming out tonight.
And the growing number of words over what Hillary Clinton wears. We're going to take a closer look at how many people are watching and writing about how much she actually uncovers.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: In case you're just joining us, we're following breaking news from the U.S. Supreme Court. The chief justice of the United States, John Roberts, suffered a seizure today, and then fell in his vacation home in Maine. He's been taken to a hospital, where he's expected to stay overnight. We're going to bring you more information as we get it.
Another story we're following involves Ted Stevens, the longtime Republican senator from Alaska, we've just received this statement in from Senator Stevens' office. My attorneys were advised this morning that federal agents wished to search my home in Girdwood in connection with an ongoing investigation. I continue to believe this investigation should proceed to its conclusion without any appearance that I have attempted to influence its outcome. I will continue my policy of not commenting on this investigation until it has concluded.
He goes on to say -- I know Alaskans are interested in my views on the investigation. While I understand this interest, and would like to discuss these issues in great detail, the interests of justice and our state are best served if I make my comments about federal officials -- if I -- if I -- if I make my comments after federal officials complete their work. I urge Alaskans, he says, not to form conclusions based upon incomplete and sometimes incorrect reports in the media.
The legal process should be followed to proceed so that all the facts can be established and the truth determined. Finally, he says, for over 50 years I have worked hard for Alaskans as part of our territorial state and federal government, and I will continue to do all I can to make assure that government meets our people's unique needs, that statement from Senator Ted Stevens whose home right now in Alaska is being searched by agents from the FBI and the IRS.
Massive arms deals for the Middle East, $63 billion in all. Israel and Egypt will get most of the U.S. military assistance, but missiles, ships and satellite-guided bombs are being offered for sale for Saudi Arabia and its smaller Gulf neighbors. Top officials are setting out to pay a sales call, but some are wondering whether those weapons would be going into the right hands.
Let's go to CNN's State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee -- Zain.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, for decades the U.S. has sold Saudi Arabia weapons, but now, it wants something back.
VERJEE (voice-over): The United States wants to pump in billions of dollars of weapons into the Middle East. A proposed 20 billion worth of massive firepower in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Gulf allies. That price tag could change. A deal that may have some strings attached.
The U.S. says the money is essential for stability in the region and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hopes it will help bolster forces of moderation and support a broader strategy to counter the negative influences of al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. But just a day earlier, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. told CNN Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States are hurting the U.S. effort in Iraq.
ZALMAY KHALILZAD, U.S. AMB. TO THE U.N.: At times some of them are only not helping, are doing things that undermining the efforts to make progress.
VERJEE: Other U.S. officials say these countries are funding the Sunni insurgency. But the U.S. wants to counter Iran's rising influence in the region, which is making Arab allies nervous. When Secretary Rice took office, she said promoting democracy, not arming Arab dictatorships, would stabilize the Middle East. This weapons deal appears to be an about-face.
JON ALTERMAN, CTR. FOR STRATEGIC & INT'L STUDIES: We find them reverting to the -- what they described as the failed policies of the past.
VERJEE: But the deal has to clear Congress and critics say pouring more weapons into an already explosive area could backfire.
REP. JANE HARMAN (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: But the bottom line here is, we need a more stable Middle East, not a more highly armed Middle East.
VERJEE: Two Democratic congressmen say that they're going to introduce legislation to try and block this deal, saying Saudi Arabia just hasn't done enough to fight terrorism -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Zain, a lot of our viewers will remember the Dubai Ports World deal last year, which the Bush administration supported, but was derailed in the face of a lot of opposition. Is this Saudi arms sale potentially shaping up as another Dubai Ports World arrangement?
VERJEE: Well, in spite of the fact that there is skepticism by some people in Congress, Wolf, it's not exactly the same thing. I mean, the U.S. has been selling weapons to these countries for decades. It's really not new.
Also, the U.S. needs these regional allies for help in Iraq as well as to counter what they see to be the growing threat of Iran -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Zain Verjee, reporting from the State Department. Zain, thanks very much.
The United States is by far the largest weapons dealer in the world. From 1998 to 2005, the U.S. exported $109 billion worth of weapons around the world. That according to the Congressional Research Service's latest figure. The U.K. comes in a distant second with $39 billion in worldwide weapons sales over those years. Russia comes in third with $34 billion.
The U.S. Army is stretched thin and facing new recruiting problems. But it may have come up with a solution. Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Army has been having trouble signing up new recruits. So, it has got a new idea, a $20,000 bonus if you sign up and you agree to ship out for training within 30 days. It applies not to just new recruits, but soldiers who may have gotten out of the Army and want to come back in.
The Army has been trying this out at some recruiting stations in Ohio. It has worked so well, that within the next few days, they're going to announce that the program has gone nationwide. And being the military, they have a name for it all. That $20,000 bonus, it's called the "quick shipper" bonus.
Thirty days to training, and then most likely on to Iraq or Afghanistan -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara Starr, reporting for us from the Pentagon. Thank you, Barbara.
Is the U.S. military gaining ground in Iraq? Two top analysts on U.S. military and security affairs are just back from a very brief visit to Iraq, with an upbeat report in today's New York Times. They suggested it's a war that the U.S. just might win.
BLITZER: Ken Pollack is joining us from the Brookings Institution, where he's director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy.
I read the story, the op-ed piece, that you and Michael O'Hanlon wrote in The New York Times, Ken, entitled "A War We Might Just Win." And it does paint a pretty optimistic assessment of the U.S. military strategy unfolding right now.
KENNETH POLLACK, SABAN CENTER, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Well, first things first, Wolf. Of course, Mike and I did not choose the title. We had nothing to do with it. And it's one of the first things we should say, which is Mike and I, and, also, our colleague Tony Cordesman, who all traveled together, we came back optimistic, but very guardedly optimistic.
The reason for the optimism was we did see greater progress with U.S. military forces and Iraqi military forces in their effort to restore security. I think we were all surprised by just how well things were going on that front.
BLITZER: But let me just make it clear. You disagree with the title of the op-ed piece?
POLLACK: It's not necessarily the title Mike and I would have chosen for it. But when you write for The Times, The Times gets to choose the title.
BLITZER: So they came up with the headline, "A War We Just Might Win." And you guys are going to have to live with that title, I guess, for the time being.
POLLACK: Yes. That's one of the deals when you make when you write for The Times. But, of course, you know, The Times is a great newspaper and we actually felt like they treated us well in terms of the text...
BLITZER: But just to be clear, you don't get to approve the title that they pick?
POLLACK: Correct. We don't. We have no say in it whatsoever.
BLITZER: But do you believe this is a war we just might win?
POLLACK: As we say in the piece, I don't know what victory really means. You know, if victory means that we're going to create a country like Switzerland, you know, Iraq is at least 50 or 60 years away from that. What we talk about in the piece is the possibility that progress on the security front and also some progress that we saw in terms of the local level, political and economic factors, possibly creating, very far down the road, the potential for sustainable stability. In other words, an Iraq that is not at war with itself and not at war with its neighbors.
BLITZER: You believe...
POLLACK: And, you know...
BLITZER: I've got a lot of e-mail when people heard that you were coming on the show. Do you believe that in an eight-day visit to Iraq, anyone, you or Michael O'Hanlon, Tony Cordesman, anyone can really come up with an assessment on what's unfolding right now, based on only eight days in Iraq?
POLLACK: Well, it's a lot better than not having been there at all, which is the case of many people who spout opinions about Iraq. This is also a repeat visit for me, for Tony, for Mike. We've seen this country before.
And, you know, what the visit typically does is it furnishes context to what you're reading about, what you're hearing about. You know, Mike, Tony and I, we all do this as a full-time job. We're all gathering information constantly. I have any number of Iraqi contacts, contacts in the U.S. military.
But we are careful in the piece to say, look, here's what we saw. And, obviously, there is a much bigger picture out there. But, you know, that raises the question of can anyone get a full grip on Iraq, because it is so big, the problems are so complex.
All we're doing is saying, here's what we saw and, in particular, what we saw was different from what we expected and different from what we had seen in previous trips to Iraq.
BLITZER: Was this part, though, of a U.S. military tour, if you will, that they took you around, you were escorted from location to location to location and they were the ones that took you to specific places? Or did you have the freedom to say, I want to go here, I want to go there? Who organized, in other words, the stopovers, the visits that you were having?
POLLACK: It was -- largely this was -- it was largely organized by the military. We felt that was important because right now the big story is the military story. We went specifically because we finally had a change in strategy.
And, you know, you're aware of this, Wolf. I've been on your show after all my previous trips to Iraq. Every single one of those trips, I came back more depressed and more frustrated than when I left. This is the first one that I came back actually somewhat more hopeful than when I left.
BLITZER: So would you, if you were asked by any of the Democratic presidential candidates, almost all of whom strongly are suggesting the U.S. has to get out, get out as quickly as possible, Bill Richardson saying by the end of this year -- would you be telling them to hold their fire for the time being?
POLLACK: Yes, I would. Look, the problem with getting out is that we don't know what comes after it. And we could create as many problems, if not more problems, than we solve by leaving.
Certainly, we walk away from Iraq, that solves some of our problems. But this is a -- as you well know, a very unstable and a very fragile region. And the question that we put to ourselves was, is there anything going on well in the surge? Is there enough to suggest that maybe we ought to let it run a little bit longer? But as we say at the end of the piece, we need to keep reassessing.
We have -- we saw progress in Iraq. You're hearing other people talk about progress in Iraq. But it is still very early. It is very nascent. And while the progress that we saw, in our minds, warrants continued support for the surge for some period of time, we need to keep reassessing it because it is very early and there are still there are very big obstacles out there.
BLITZER: A lot of people have suggested in recent weeks that militarily the U.S. is making some progress, moving forward in the al- Anbar province, the Diyala province. Things are happening there militarily that were unrealistic even six months ago.
The bigger question, though, is, militarily, the U.S. can win a lot of battles. But politically, does the Iraqi government have the will to end the sectarian strife, to end the civil war that's going on, to disarm the militias, to take the kind of difficult steps that are needed that will bring real stability to the country?
POLLACK: We don't know. It's one of the points that we make in the piece, Wolf. We saw very little to suggest that this leadership is ready to start making those compromises.
What we did see were local level leaders who were willing to make compromises and were actually having some success. It's why one of our recommendations, something that I and other people have been pushing for a long time, is that we need to push power away from Baghdad and push resources away from Baghdad.
Baghdad is an absolute bottleneck. It is going to take a long time to untangle the mess in Baghdad. And if we make that the be-all and end-all of Iraq, there is no way that this is going to succeed.
What you need to build on are the local level successes that are going on outside of the capital, outside of the Green Zone. That's where you do see some degree of success.
And the question mark is can we push power and resources away from Baghdad and build on that success and create something sustainable, to the point where eventually this leadership or another leadership actually comes up with the right answer?
BLITZER: Ken Pollack from the Saban Center over at the Brookings Institution. Ken, thanks very much for coming on.
POLLACK: Thank you, Wolf, for having me.
BLITZER: And two breaking news stories we're following here in Washington. The Supreme Court, this chief justice of the United States, John Roberts, he was taken to a hospital after suffering a seizure. He fell as a result of that seizure at his vacation home in Maine. We're getting new details on what's going on, especially new details of an earlier seizure he had back in 1993. We're going to update you on the condition of the Supreme Court justice.
Also, the home of Senator Ted Stevens being raided right now by both the FBI and the IRS. We'll update you on what we're getting. We're getting new information on that.
And later, the prospect of working for Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, it is out there. Check out YouTube. Send a resume, then stand in line. Jeanne Moos with a "Moost Unusual" story. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: In case you're just joining us, we've been following breaks news here in THE SITUATION ROOM, breaking news from the U.S. Supreme Court. The chief justice of the United States John Roberts, suffered a seizure today and then fell at his vacation home in Maine. He hit his head. He has been taken to a hospital. He's expected to stay there overnight according to court and local fire officials. Let's go to Dana Bash up on Capitol Hill.
Because you've been talking, Dana, to people on what's going on as well. What are you picking up?
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're picking up, Wolf, is our Jeanne Meserve has been reporting all day that John Roberts actually had a seizure in 1993, and what we're told by the man who actually chaired John Roberts' confirmation hearing two years ago is that they actually had that information during his hearing, that John Roberts, gave that information about his 1993 seizure to the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of a medical report that was given to them.
But what Senator Specter told me is that he said, "we knew, but we didn't draw a heavy breath on it." Essentially what Senator Specter and one of his aides said is that the report showed that he had a seizure in 1993 on a golf course, and immediately underwent a bunch of neurological tests and seemed fine.
And that's why the Judiciary Committee -- in fact, no one on the Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing brought it up with the senator or seemed to think it was any big deal because the tests, according to his medical report, showed that he was fine after that initial 1993 seizure -- Wolf. BLITZER: He's 52 years old, the chief justice, John Roberts. And we wish him a speedy recovery. Dana, thank you very much. I know Dana and our entire team of reporters working this story. As we get more information, we'll share it with you here on CNN.
Presidential politics is venturing into new territory all because of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's attire. Who would have thought we would ever be talking about a presidential candidates cleavage? Let's go to CNN's Carol Costello, she is watching the story for us in New York.
Why is everyone talking about this story now? Give our viewers a little sense of the background.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: You know, it's just so odd, Wolf. It was the number one story on The Washington Post Web site for a couple of days. Who knew showing a little cleavage was a woman's way to say, hey, I'm comfortable with my sexuality and my intelligence and I'm going to show it off on the Senate floor? That's either incredibly demeaning, or, as The Washington Post asserts, sassy.
COSTELLO (voice-over): The Washington Post calls it an exceptional kind of flourish. Cleavage Clinton-style on the floor of the Senate caught on C-SPAN. You might be thinking, let's not go there. But plenty have.
It started with Robin Givhan's article headlined "Hillary Clinton's Tentative Dip Into New Neckline Territory." Soon just about everyone was going there, from David Letterman...
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, THE LATE SHOW: She looks so hot everyone thought she was Senator Vitter's date.
COSTELLO: ... to YouTubers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Beautiful (INAUDIBLE) position.
COSTELLO: Get it, Hillary's bust? To Clinton's own campaign which sent an e-mail about cleavage to supporters, urging them to take a stand against The Post's "coarseness and pettiness" by giving money in whatever amount, large or small.
The Post is not apologizing.
AMY ARGETSINGER, THE WASHINGTON POST: She was taking note of the fact that Hillary Clinton has always made strategic choices, very symbolic choices about what to wear and what occasions, but this is the first time Hillary Clinton was showing cleavage.
COSTELLO: Think back to Clinton's prim headband look, to her up- to-the-chin inaugural gown to celebrate her husband's presidency, to all of those pantsuits Clinton wore campaigning. And then, cleavage. Some blog sites are eating up The Post posture, writing: "Clinton's V-neck proves everything that Hillary Clinton does is calculated and managed to derail criticism that she's acting like a man on the campaign trail."
Others are just puzzled.
ANN FRIEDMAN, EDITOR, FEMINISTING.COM: I was staring at that C- SPAN screen shot like a 13-year-old boy, like where is the cleavage? Like, I don't see it.
COSTELLO: Friedman, who writes for a feminist blog, says Givhan's article is just another example of sexualizing powerful women. She boils down Clinton's V-neck to a smart fashion choice in steamy July weather.
COSTELLO: Now keep in mind, Givhan writes for the "Style" section of The Post. And she has written about men, fashion and politics, too, criticizing Dick Cheney for wearing a fur-trimmed parka while visiting Auschwitz, and Rudy Giuliani for his comb-over.
BLITZER: As you know, Carol, though, a lot of people are making the point that is very, very different. That this is really sexism.
COSTELLO: Yes. A lot of people are saying that, but Givhan says Clinton's cleavage is news because it's out of the ordinary and says something about the way that people want to be perceived.
BLITZER: Carol Costello, thanks very much. Carol is watching that story for us.
We're standing by to get some information on the chief justice, John Roberts. There's a news conference that apparently is about to take place up in Maine, where he has been vacationing. He hit his head after suffering a seizure. We're going to update you on that as soon as we get that information.
Also, your privacy versus your safety. Jack Cafferty wants to know, would you support the increased use of surveillance cameras in American cities? Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: If you're just joining us, more on that breaking news we've been following from the Supreme Court. The chief justice, John Roberts suffered a seizure today, and then fell at his vacation home in Maine. He has been taken to a hospital. He's expected to stay there overnight. We're getting new information. A statement coming out from that hospital. As soon as we get it, we'll share it with you.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York for the "Cafferty File" -- Jack. CAFFERTY: Wolf, the question this hour is, would you support the increased use of surveillance cameras in American cities? They've had some success with these in London. The Washington Post/ABC News poll did a poll showing 70 percent of the people interviewed said yes, they would.
Ray writes from Vonore, Tennessee: "As long as it's not looking in the bedroom window, there's very little that is private anymore. There are good reasons, but once all of the privacy is given up, it will be difficult to turn back. Great care is needed to guard our basic rights.
Bob in Naperville, Illinois: "I wouldn't personally support that kind of public surveillance, but I suppose that if it were implemented, we could worry less about the terrorists. They would no longer have to hate us for our freedom once we have none left."
Jess in Loudon, Tennessee: "We're all focusing on the wrong issue here. I think the cameras serve a very good purpose, just ask the Brits. The real issue is, do you trust the people who have control of the resulting video and data? I don't."
Ann in Massachusetts writes: "I would be totally in favor of increased camera surveillance in major American cities. Britain's experience proves the value of it. It would both deter crime and make it more possible to prosecute criminals."
Wayne in Kentucky: "No, Jack, it is merely a feel-good measure. Just as more highways produce more traffic congestion, more cameras only encourage more creative approaches to nefarious activities. We still get robbed at ATMS whether there are cameras there or not."
Morley writes: "I remember walking to my hotel room after a night shift on a Detroit newspaper. I walked on the outer edge of the sidewalk next to the curb, kept on hand in my jacket pocket. I'm over six feet and 200 pounds, and that probably kept me from getting mugged. But I admit, I would have felt safer with some cameras in the neighborhood."
And Wendy writes from Hawaii: "Isn't it a bit oxymoronic to expect privacy in public places?"
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile. We post more of them online along with video clips of the "Cafferty File." -- Wolf.
CAFFERTY: Jack, thanks very much.
He's combing through applications, looking for a personal assistant, that would be Sean Combs, otherwise known as P. Diddy. Our Jeanne Moos takes a closer look at some of the interesting people who are applying. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: There's a job posted on YouTube, one person needs to have the right stuff to beat out thousands of applicants to work for Sean "Diddy" Combs. Combs went to the popular Web site to recruit a new personal assistant. And he opened up a "Moost Unusual" can of worms.
Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you want to work for this guy, better get his name straight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know I could help you, Sean "Diddy" Combs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's going on, Diddy?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello, Mr. Combs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yo, Puff! (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Diddy, Diddy, Diddy, what does Diddy wants?
MOOS: What Diddy wants is a personal assistant. But when he went on YouTube asking for online submissions...
SEAN "P. DIDDY" COMBS, RAPPER, PRODUCER: So what better job than that to have me scream at you?
MOOS: He says he got 10,000 inquiries, and more than 600 videos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, yes! Scared you, huh? Anyway, it's your boy, Ito Funbruoy (ph), AKA, Diddy's next assistant.
COMBS: Oh, my God, what have I started?
MOOS: So Diddy laid down some minimum requirements.
COMBS: Know how to read. You've got to know how to write. You've got to know how to count.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can also count in three, maybe four languages.
MOOS: Even requiring a college degree didn't slow the flow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Diddy, I'll look out for your interests.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, Mrs. Combs, he's in a meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Loyalty!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Diddy only drinks Fiji water! (expletive deleted)!
MOOS: And then there was the pair offering two-for-one look-a- likes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And trust us...
TWO UNIDENTIFIED FEMALES: We won't let you down. So pick us, please!
MOOS: Now it might be tough working for a guy who calls his line of perfume Unforgivable. But that didn't scare this woman.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I began my career as a correctional officer at the Women's State Penitentiary in Texas, so no, Diddy, I will not curl up in a ball and start crying if you raise your voice to give orders.
MOOS: And then she really learned to take orders.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I became a waitress at Red Lobster.
MOOS: There was plenty of this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have been sucking up to shamelessly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has got to find that twinkle in my eye. Diddy, I love you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't like your music and I would never carry your (expletive deleted) umbrella.
MOOS (on camera): Yes, well, before you insult the idea of holding Diddy's umbrella, consider what it did for one personal assistant who carried it.
(voice-over): After this picture went worldwide, manservant Farnsworth Bentley parlayed it into his own music career. One applicant headlined her video "Give me Da Damn Job Diddy!".
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not signing for welfare because they don't give you enough money.
MOOS: YouTubers will vote for the finalist. Then Diddy will make his pick.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You touched me so much, and if I'm your P.A., you can touch me whenever you want.
MOOS: Apparently she's an assistant producer for a British radio show.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let it do a dance you know.
MOOS: Trying to pull Diddy's leg.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ow! My back! My back!
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: And I want to go right to the spokesman for the hospital where the chief justice, John Roberts, is right now up in Maine. Here's a little bit of what we just heard from this spokesman, Christopher Burke.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER BURKE, SPOKESMAN, PENOBSCOT BAY MED. CTR.: I just want to confirm that Chief Justice Roberts did experience a fall at his home today off of Port Clyde. He suffered what doctors described as a benign idiopathic seizure. He experienced some minor scrapes and cuts from his fall.
But he is expected -- he is fully recovered from the incident. He was taken by ambulance to Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockport where he underwent a full neurological evaluation, which revealed no cause for concern.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. That statement just coming in from the hospital where the chief justice is recuperating right now. Stay with CNN throughout the night for more information on his condition.
Until then, thanks very much for watching. See you tomorrow. Let's go to "PAULA ZAHN NOW" in New York -- Paula.
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