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THE SITUATION ROOM
War on Terror: Conflicts Could Top $1 Trillion; Rumsfeld Testifies in Tillman Case; Back From Iraq: Congressman Keith Ellison Talks About Trip
Aired August 1, 2007 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Over $1 trillion, that's how much the war on terror could cost, according to a new report. The very high price to battle terrorists, and it's obviously coming out of all of our pockets.
He says there was no cover-up. Donald Rumsfeld tells what he knows about Army Ranger Pat Tillman's friendly-fire death. But the former defense secretary says his memory is fuzzy on one important detail.
And Barack Obama's warning to Pakistan. The Democratic presidential candidate says Pakistan should stop terrorists operating there or else.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Over $1 trillion, that's a thousand billion dollars. A report says the fight to catch, kill, defend against those who want to harm against the U.S. and its interest will be very costly. Most of that money, obviously, going to fight in the war in Iraq.
Let's go straight to our correspondent at the White House, Ed Henry. He's watching this.
This is a projection that's now been released over several years. A trillion dollars.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Wolf. It's through 2017.
This new report saying that the cost that has already been spent -- and it's going to double over that time period. When you account for some level of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus equipment upgrades, it's a massive sum, especially when you consider that the president's chief economic adviser, Larry Lindsey, at the beginning of the war in Iraq said it would only cost up to $200 billion. And he was shown the door.
HENRY (voice over): To portray the president as a fiscal conservative, spokesman Tony Snow says the White House will not give in to Democratic demands for an extra $22 billion in the federal budget. TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: For most Americans $22 billion is a pretty considerable chunk of change.
HENRY: Try multiplying that $22 billion by 45. That's how much the war on terror is now projected to cost, $1 trillion dollars.
In a new report, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the war in Iraq and Afghanistan have already cost $602 billion. And the report conservatively estimates the wars will cost at least another $481 billion. And maybe even more if U.S. troops stay in Iraq for a longer period, bringing the total tab to above $1 trillion.
SNOW: Well, if you take a look at what happened on September 11, 2001, it's estimated that the aftershocks of that could have cost up to $1 trillion. And we understand that there is a real commitment in the war on terror, but also, you have to think what the countervailing costs are.
HENRY: Now, I asked Tony Snow for a reasonable estimate of what he thinks the total tab could be. He said that's hard to predict because war is not neat and tidy. But, in fact, if you go back and look, it was actually the former Pentagon official, Paul Wolfowitz, who suggested it was going to be a neat and tidy cost.
He told Congress, he testified in March of 2003, that the Iraqi oil revenue could pay for the entire war in Iraq. And he added, "It doesn't have to be U.S. taxpayer money."
Obviously, Wolf, that was far off.
BLITZER: Now, this trillion dollars, clearly not all of it is going for a war on terror. Most of, in fact, is going for the war on Iraq. And there is a difference between the war on terror, the hunt for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, as opposed to what's going on, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and what has happened in Iraq which is eating up most of that money.
HENRY: Well, it depends on how you define it. Obviously, the president defines Iraq as the central front in that war on terror. And when you look at the cost, right now the war in Iraq is costing about $10 billion a month. It's about another $2 billion for Afghanistan. So the largest share of this is the war in Iraq -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much.
Ed Henry at the White House.
Donald Rumsfeld says he doesn't know of any cover-up in the Pat Tillman case, and that he would not engage in one had anyone suggested it. Suspicious lawmakers grilled the former defense secretary today, demanding to know how and when he learned about the former NFL player's death.
Let's go to our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. She's on Capitol Hill.
Dana, obviously, we hadn't heard from Rumsfeld in a long time. Somewhat of a surprise that he showed up today.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It sure was, Wolf. The committee didn't actually get confirmation that he was going to show up until 7:00 last night. But if lawmakers thought that the fiery former defense secretary would shed new light on a black spot in his tenure, they were wrong.
BASH (voice over): A familiar face returns, along with his trademark feisty rebuke of his critics.
DONALD RUMSFELD, FMR. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I know that I would not engage in a cover-up. I know that no one in the White House suggested such a thing to me. I know that the gentlemen sitting next to me our men of enormous integrity and would not participate in something like that.
BASH: It was Donald Rumsfeld's first appearance on Capitol Hill since leaving the Pentagon last year. Called to testify about when he learned that Army Ranger and NFL star Pat Tillman was killed by friendly fire, not the enemy in Afghanistan, as the military first announced.
RUMSFELD: I don't remember.
I don't recall when I was told and I don't recall who told me.
I just simply don't recollect.
BASH: He did not have many answers, and Democrats' frustrations from the Rumsfeld days came quickly rushing back.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: It does not seem credible that you didn't know this information.
BASH: Democrats said the bungled Tillman case, like the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, suggest a pattern of top Bush officials avoiding responsibility and accountability.
REP. PAUL HODES (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Do you see why some would think that in the case of both Abu Ghraib and in the Tillman investigation, there were deliberate efforts to avoid accountability? And if you see that the manner in which this serial kind of narrow investigating, never answering the questions about who at the top knew what is a problem...
RUMSFELD: Congressman, I don't, obviously, agree with your characterization of the history of this.
BASH: Now, Rumsfeld did express remorse for the pain this Tillman incident caused, especially to his family. But for the most part, Rumsfeld was vintage Rumsfeld. He answered pointed question in the same combative way he did when he was defense secretary, the same way, Wolf, that made him such a lightning rod here on Capitol Hill.
BLITZER: Did they get into other areas with the defense secretary beyond the Pat Tillman case?
BASH: You know, they really didn't. It was a little bit surprising about the fact that Democrats and Republicans had a chance to sort of go at it with their favorite punching bag, if you will, over the war in Iraq, and they didn't take that opportunity. It seems as though that Pat Tillman's family was in the room and there was enough bipartisan outrage and interest in getting to the bottom of why all this happened with this specific case that they just kept it specifically on this issue with the defense secretary and the other people on the panel.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
Thanks for that.
Thanks to Ed Henry as well.
An interview here on CNN sparked a fresh round of fighting on Capitol Hill today. A fresh round of fighting between Senator Hillary Clinton and the Pentagon.
Yesterday, the vice president, Dick Cheney, told our own Larry King he agreed with a recent letter written by Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman. That letter blasted Senator Clinton as emboldening America's enemies after Clinton asked for the administration's contingency plans for leaving Iraq.
Today, Senator Clinton wrote a blistering letter to the vice president in response. She says the vice president misrepresents her desire to get a briefing about Iraq contingency planning, saying, and I'm quoting now directly from the Clinton letter, "In fact, as a result of my inquiry, the Pentagon will be briefing the Senate Armed Services Committee on this topic, without fear that operational security will be imperiled. I have never requested operational plans. My request -- which has been honored -- is to be briefed on redeployment planning to protect the safety of our troops in what will be a dangerous and complicated series of events."
By the way, the under secretary of defense, Eric Edelman, is scheduled to appear before the Armed Services Committee tomorrow to participate in that briefing. Senator Clinton a member of that committee.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York for "The Cafferty File".
That could be lively. He is suggesting she was unpatriotic in even asking for contingency plans. How do you withdraw 160,000 U.S. troops from Iraq in a safe way to make sure that those troops are protected?
And he came back with an angry letter saying, you know, that's really, really inappropriate for you to even ask that. And then she went back and forth. Gates seemed to apologize somewhat, but yesterday, Cheney said he agreed with Eric Edelman.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, you have a short memory, Wolf. Don't you remember when it was pointed out to all of us that anybody who dare question the war in Iraq in any way was unpatriotic and an enemy sympathizer.
And the other national mantra, as displayed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- and I had forgotten how much I don't miss him -- is "I don't remember. I don't recall. I don't know."
Here's a quote. "There is a national embarrassment in the United States Attorney General's Office."
That is Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee. He's one of a group of House Democrats who are calling now for impeachment hearings against Attorney Alberto Gonzales unless he resigns or is fired by President Bush.
That's what we need are some more congressional hearings. That's when they come back from vacation, if they can work it in.
Fifteen Democrats have introduced a resolution ordering the House Judiciary Committee to investigate whether Gonzales should be impeached for his testimony last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the domestic surveillance program and about the firing of those U.S. attorneys.
See, a lot of people think Gonzales lied about this stuff. And these congressmen think that's fair grounds for impeachment hearings.
So far, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has not explicitly supported this resolution, but he said it does reflect significant sentiment in Congress and around the country. Supporters of impeachment hearings against Gonzales point out that, unlike the recent contempt of Congress charges against White House staffers, they don't need any involvement by the Justice Department for an impeachment investigation. The White House is calling the Democratic measure the partisan attack of the day.
So here is the question. Should Congress get serious about impeaching Attorney General Alberto Gonzales?
E-mail your thoughts on that to email@example.com, or go to cnn.com/cafferty file -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you.
The only Muslim in the U.S. Congress just back from a trip to Iraq. He's Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison. I'll ask him, what is his assessment of the situation of the war? What is going on? Also, the man who wants to be president and his warning for the president of Pakistan. Senator Barack Obama urges Pervez Musharraf to do more in the battle against terrorists in Pakistan or else.
And two top airlines admit to doing something that's costing all of us lots of money. Find out what that is and just what their punishment will be.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Congressman Keith Ellison is just back from a weekend trip to Iraq. The Minnesota Democrat, Congress' only Muslim lawmaker, is a vocal critic of the war in Iraq.
Congressman Ellison is joining us now from Capitol Hill.
Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.
REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: Hey, thanks, Wolf. Glad to be here.
BLITZER: All right. So what do you think? Did you come back ready to give General Petraeus a chance to see if his new strategy can work?
ELLISON: Well, I came back seeing that at least in the Al Anbar province, in the city of Ramadi, that reconstruction efforts and reconciliation efforts and working with local tribal and religious leaders can have a positive effect. That's what I came back having seen. I think that the idea -- we have to get about reconciliation, and we have to make sure that in an area where we have 50 percent unemployment, that we don't have people who are just idle and out there.
BLITZER: So it sounds -- it sounds, Congressman -- correct me if I'm wrong -- you've come back with some different views, some nuanced changes than what you went.
Is that a fair assessment?
ELLISON: Well, I'll say that I learned some things, but I'm still an opponent of this war. I don't think we should ever have invaded Iraq. But -- and I also think that it is reconciliation and reconstruction that is going to win the day and that this -- and that this militarily is really not what's going to win the day in Iraq.
So those are views I held beforehand. I was open to learning. I didn't go in there trying to prejudge the situation. But having came back, I'm convinced that working directly with local leadership, reconciliation between Shia-Sunni, between Shia-Shia, between a -- reconciliation in general is something that is really going to win the day. BLITZER: It sounds like you don't have a lot of confidence though in the Iraqi national government, the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, even as you express some greater appreciation for local leaders that that he may be able to get their act together.
ELLISON: Well, you know, I remain -- I remain skeptical. I want to see Prime Minister al-Maliki do much more in the area of reconciliation.
I actually asked a deputy prime minister specifically about the efforts toward reconciliation, and I was disappointed with his answer. I just didn't hear enough specific steps about reconciling those differences that really need to be made up if we're going to have a stable Iraq. But I remain convinced that it is the reconciliation and the reconstruction that are going to bring stability and peace in Iraq.
BLITZER: But you still want a timeline for a U.S. troop withdrawal? Would you like to see all U.S. troops out by the end of this year or April of next year? Is that still your stance?
ELLISON: Yes, it is, Wolf, because I think that there is nothing like a timeline to focus people's attention. I'm not convinced that without the pressure of a timeline, without a certain sense of urgency, that Prime Minister al-Maliki's government will do what it needs to do to reconcile the differences that are out there and that need to be healed to have a stable -- stable Iraq.
BLITZER: When you met with Iraqis, did they know you're a Muslim? And did you feel if they did that you got a different reception from some of the other members of Congress you were traveling with?
ELLISON: Well, we were well treated everywhere we went, but I will say that I did meet in the city of Ramadi with the mayor and with two religious leaders, and the religious leaders were sheikhs who have a tremendous amount of influence, who, only four months ago, were going toe to toe to kick al Qaeda out. And we did have an affinity, and it was really a wonderful opportunity to meet with them and listen to them.
They were very concerned about how al Qaeda is really damaging the reputation of Islam around the world. And this was a very important concern for them, and they expressed that to me.
BLITZER: Let me give you a chance to clarify some controversial remarks you made not that long ago, early in July, involving the Reichstag.
You said this at one event for which you later clarified and apologized and said you meant no comparison. But I want to read it to you because it's still raising some concerns.
"It's almost like the Reichstag fire, kind of reminds me of that. After the Reichstag was burned, they blamed the communists for it, and it put the leader (Hitler) of that country in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted."
The impression from that quote was that Bush, in effect, was responsible for 9/11, to create this opportunity to go in this war on terror and do whatever he wanted. And you were pretty much blasted for that. You later said you didn't mean that. But explain exactly what you did mean.
ELLISON: Well, let me say, at the time, I specifically denied any plan, Wolf. But here's the thing. You know, I chalk it up to rookie error. And I'm trying to move on from it.
Nobody always says the right thing. I didn't say the right thing at that time. And I'm trying to move on from it, Wolf.
So I appreciate you asking the question. But I'm just trying to leave that. I've said what I had to say about it, and I'm trying to move forward.
BLITZER: But I just want to be clear. You never suggested there was a Bush-led conspiracy...
ELLISON: Oh, no, I never said that.
BLITZER: ... that resulted in 9/11.
ELLISON: I never said it at the time, and I absolutely deny that now.
BLITZER: And even the comparison of Bush and Hitler, that's inappropriate. I just want to make sure you agree with that.
ELLISON: I agree. Yes, I do agree with it.
And that's not an error I will be making again. And, you know, look, you know, we're all doing the best we can and we're trying to learn from the mistakes that we make.
BLITZER: Keith Ellison has been on this program here in THE SITUATION ROOM several times since he was elected, even before he was elected to the U.S. Congress.
Thanks very much for coming in again.
ELLISON: Any time, Wolf.
BLITZER: Appreciate it. Glad you're back safe and sound from Iraq as well.
ELLISON: You bet. Have a great one.
BLITZER: Thank you.
A new poll puts Hillary Clinton way ahead of Barack Obama, but Senator Clinton is now having to deal with the dynasty issue. We're going to explain what's going on today.
Also, there's a new battle over a presidential candidate's religion.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: After one of his rivals suggested his foreign policy skills could be naive, Senator Barack Obama gives a major speech on the war on terror. He talks about how it would be handled if he were to be the president of the United States. And he has a special warning for Pakistan.
And could her name be a problem in getting her to the White House? A new poll gauges if Americans want another Clinton as president.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Happening now, the former defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, grilled about the friendly fire death of former football star Pat Tillman. Rumsfeld testified today before a congressional panel.
Car bombs -- car bomb attacks, that is, killed more than 70 people in Iraq today. And Iraq's largest Sunni-Arab political bloc announces plans to pull out of the government.
The secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, is in the Middle East. She and Israeli diplomats are working toward a political settlement on the West Bank.
Details coming up.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A man who hopes to be president has a warning for the president of Pakistan. That would be Senator Barack Obama. He says Pakistan must stop terrorists operating in their country or risk facing some serious consequences from the United States.
Joining us now, our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Candy, this after Senator Clinton, Senator Barack Obama's major rival, says -- has suggested his foreign policy skills were sort of naive.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. You know, the Obama campaign called this a comprehensive speech on terrorism, but anyone looking for the next chapter in the Clinton- Obama spat over diplomacy will be vaguely disappointed.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CROWLEY (voice over): In a muscular speech on the war against terrorism, presidential candidate Barack Obama promised U.S.-led assaults into Pakistan if necessary.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf will not act, we will.
CROWLEY: In the rarest of moments, this puts Obama basically in sync with the Bush administration and Hillary Clinton, interviewed on Urban Radio.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... if we had actionable intelligence that Osama bin Laden or other high- value targets were in Pakistan, I would ensure that they were targeted and killed or captured.
CROWLEY: Obama's speech was aimed at establishing tough-on- terrorism credentials, after a couple of rocky debate answers which critics found weak and meandering.
It also follows a week in which he and Clinton had a nasty clash over his statement that, as president, he would meet with leaders of nation like Iran and Cuba and North Korea. Clinton called Obama naive and irresponsible, saying there should be lower-level diplomacy first, to be avoid being used for propaganda.
No names mentioned today, but Obama returned to the subject.
OBAMA: It's time to turn the page on Washington's conventional wisdom that agreement must be reached before you meet, that talking to other countries is some kind of reward and that presidents can only meet with people who will tell them what they want to hear.
CROWLEY: The Obama campaign declined to call anything in the speech an attack on Clinton. Obviously, said an aide, there are some differences here.
This would include his continued discussion on congressional authorization of the war in Iraq, a vote in which Clinton was among the ayes.
OBAMA: With that vote, Congress became co-author of a catastrophic war.
CROWLEY: Obama's speech outlined a series of five diplomatic and military steps to redirect the war on terror, including taking the fight out of Iraq and putting it in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
CROWLEY: The Biden campaign called Obama a Johnny-come-lately to positions Biden has long held. The Edwards people took the occasion to call on Obama and Clinton to block the arms deal with Saudi Arabia. But, beyond Clinton's statement on Pakistan, her campaign had no comment. After all, why give Barack Obama the play when Clinton is sitting on a pretty hefty double-digit lead?
BLITZER: At least in the national polls right now.
CROWLEY: Right. Right.
BLITZER: And she's doing well, obviously, in the early states as well.
This was a very, very comprehensive speech. And he went into some significant details. But that -- and you referred to it -- that one dig at Senator Clinton, without, obviously, mentioning her name, when you mentioned that Congress became the co-author of this catastrophic war. And he also went on to say -- they actually said Congress rubber-stamped the rush to war.
As soon as I heard him say, I said to myself, well, that sounds like he is referring to one Democratic rival in particular.
CROWLEY: Yes. Well, as they said in the Obama campaign, well, there are differences here.
There doesn't seem to be a real interest on either side at this point to get back into that kind of direct warfare they had last week. But it's a long campaign.
BLITZER: And it's going to -- we're going to watch every step of the way.
Thanks, Candy, very much.
Meanwhile, some Americans seem to have a problem with the idea of Hillary Clinton becoming president, because it would mean another Clinton in the White House.
Let's go to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.
Bill, is the so-called dynasty issue a problem for Hillary Clinton?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it is on the minds of some voters. How many? There is some new evidence on that.
SCHNEIDER: The dynasty issue was brought up by a questioner from Illinois in the CNN/YouTube debate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With Bush, Clinton, and Bush again serving as the last three presidents, how would electing you, a Clinton, constitute the type of change in Washington so many people in the heartland are yearning for, and what your campaign has been talking about? SCHNEIDER: Senator Clinton started her answer with a clever quip.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think it is a problem that Bush was elected in 2000. And I...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SCHNEIDER: And then defended herself.
CLINTON: Obviously, I am running on my own merits, but I am very proud of my husband's record as president of the United States.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SCHNEIDER: Is it a problem for voters?
A new national poll asks, if Hillary Clinton were elected president, some people say this would be a problem because it would mean at least 24 years of having a member of the Clinton family or the Bush family as president. Is that a serious consideration for you in voting for president? Apparently not. Only 12 percent said it was. A majority said it was not a consideration at all.
The poll also shows Clinton with a nearly 2-1 national lead over Barack Obama. He is trying to close the gap by depicting himself as the candidate of fundamental change and Clinton as too tied to the past. But experience is her big advantage. Most Americans say Clinton's experience and competence are a positive attribute.
The public also feels more positive than negative about the fact that Bill Clinton is her husband.
SCHNEIDER: The voters clearly want change, but for a lot of voters and particularly a lot of Democrats, a change from a Bush to a Clinton is the kind of change they want -- Wolf.
BLITZER: But she's doing remarkably well in all these polls. And it's been going on like this, Bill, as you know, for months and months and months.
SCHNEIDER: Yes, that's right. She's had a steady lead. And nothing really is going to change in the Democratic race until someone can knock her off that front-runner perch.
BLITZER: And she's doing, I think, pretty impressively, at least according to all of the polls.
Thanks very much for that.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider reporting.
Bill and Candy, as all of you know, are all part of the best political team on television.
And, remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can check out our Political Ticker at CNN.com/ticker.
A new battle is brewing over a presidential candidate's religion. And one Republican candidate is calling on another to apologize. We will tell you what is going on.
And at least one poll suggests Hillary Clinton is edging ahead of Barack Obama. And we just saw that. But do the numbers reflect what is really happening in the race? We're going to talk about that more in our "Strategy Session."
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: There's a battle of sorts going on right now over a presidential candidate's religion. And it doesn't involve Mitt Romney, who is a Mormon.
Let's go to Mary Snow. She is following this story.
What religion is under fire, Mary? And which candidates are actually involved?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Catholicism is under fire. This new fight involves Republican White House hopefuls Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback. And at issue is Brownback's Catholic faith.
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R-KS), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that we are created in the image of God for a particular purpose. And I believe that with all my heart.
SNOW (voice-over): Sam Brownback is a conservative senator from Kansas and he's a convert to Catholicism. Now his religion is front and center in his bid to become president.
Brownback says a supporter of rival Republican candidate Mike Huckabee waged what he calls a prejudiced anti-Catholic e-mail campaign against him. Brownback is calling on Huckabee to apologize. The senator came under attack from an Iowa pastor who e-mailed Brownback supporters pointing out that Brownback is Catholic and that Huckabee is an evangelical Protestant and -- quote -- "one of us."
The pastor apologized yesterday, saying he never meant to sound critical of Catholics. Huckabee, who is an ordained Baptist minister, didn't apologize to Brownback.
But the former Arkansas governor did say that the e-mail was "not authorized by, disseminated by, approved by, or condoned by the campaign."
Both candidates are far down in the polls, and they're both seeking out the same social conservative voters.
STUART ROTHENBERG, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": I think there's more tension in the Republican race as Iowa approaches, the straw vote. It's not surprising that candidates are extra sensitive. And they are probably frankly trying to get some added media attention, trying to get some sympathy, trying to really boost themselves in the final few days.
SNOW: Now, this isn't the first controversy involving Brownback and religion.
Six weeks ago, Brownback apologized to Mitt Romney, this after a Brownback campaign staffer sent out an e-mail criticizing Romney's Mormon faith -- Wolf.
Mary, thanks very much -- Mary Snow reporting for us.
BLITZER: The sweeping ethics reform bill passed by the House may score points with voters, but will it score points in a fantasy Congress? The political version of fantasy football is gaining popularity online. And it offers clues into how Democrats are -- what they're doing now that they're in charge of the U.S. Congress.
Let's go to Abbi Tatton. She is watching this story for buts.
All right, I'm intrigued, Abbi. How do you score points in a fantasy Congress?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, the lawmakers actually do it for you, provided of course they actually show up and move their legislation through Congress, maybe not as exciting as a touchdown, but, still, tens of thousands of people have signed up on this site, joined one of these leagues, and formed a team, and are drafting lawmakers.
Right now -- it started last year by this group in California, a group of students. And, right now, the person raking in the most points is veteran Senator Ted Kennedy. On the House side, most frequently drafted is Texas Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee. And she has co-sponsored over 900 pieces of legislation. And that is how it all works.
If they move their legislation through the Congress, they get points, five points for introducing a piece of legislation, 50 points if the president actually signs it.
But you can also see media attention playing a role in who is hot and who is not on the site. The most frequently drafted pick overall is Barack Obama, presidential candidate. And on the other side, if you look at the people who are most frequently benched, probably due to recent negative press attention, David Vitter on that list. BLITZER: All right, maybe he's on the injured reserve list, at least for right now, if you're going to some make comparisons to football.
Thanks very much for that, Abbi, fascinating story.
Barack Obama suggests he's not naive when it comes to foreign policy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Too often since 9/11, the extremists have defined us, not the other way around. When I am president, that will change. We will author our own story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: After Hillary Clinton questioned his foreign policy skills, Barack Obama comes out with an aggressive speech on global terror.
And some liken it to putting a flag on the moon. It involves Russia, some unclaimed territory, and the potential, lots of it, for oil and gas resources.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: In a major speech today, Senator Barack Obama tries to distinguish himself as a major heavyweight. But a new poll U.S. puts him way behind Hillary Clinton, at least nationwide.
Joining us now in our "Strategy Session," Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and the editor at large of "Human Events," Terry Jeffrey.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
Let me run this little clip of Senator Barack Obama with this warning to the Pakistanis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets, and President Musharraf will not act, we will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, that's very much in line with what the president of the United States has said -- he said it to me in an interview -- what Senator Clinton says. That was not necessarily new ground, but it does show that he is firm and trying to project a tough image.
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think Senator Obama had two goals, one to show he would be tough on terror. And this is clearly -- a preemptive, non-authorized attack on Pakistan would, you know, fit that bill.
And the other thing that he tried to accomplish was to get beyond left vs. right. He wanted to shift the discussion to a new chapter, so that this is about change vs. status quo. And, in the speech, he also talked about those who supported the war, they are co-authors of the catastrophe.
BLITZER: We're going to get to that in a moment.
Whether you agree or disagree, it was a very thoughtful speech that he prepared.
TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, "HUMAN EVENTS": It was a serious speech, Wolf. I think there was a huge irony to it.
If there is any speech that any major American politician has given in the last several years that reminds me of this one, it was George Bush's second inaugural address, when he said it was the mission of the United States to end tyranny in the world and we were going to spread democracy everywhere.
At the root of President Bush's analysis of terrorism is, it's coming out of the Islamic world because of poverty and lack of democracy. What Obama said in this speech is, the United States has to spread wealth and democracy in the Islamic world to stop al Qaeda and also use military intervention. He has wholeheartedly adopted George Bush's Wilsonian foreign policy.
BLITZER: And others -- I think both of you agree, while he disagrees with the president when it comes to the war in Iraq, when it comes to the broader war on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda and the war on terror, there's a lot of common ground there.
BRAZILE: And I would think that there's a lot of common ground. You heard what Joe Biden said. You know, where have you been? You know, both Democrats and Republicans believe that we have to dry up support for terror networks across the world and also supply more support to our allies.
BLITZER: Well, he did -- he did distinguish himself, though. He did differ from Bush when it comes to fighting al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, if you will, by saying he would deploy more resources to that area and take them out of Iraq.
JEFFREY: Well, yes, here is another irony.
He correctly, I think, criticizes the president and, by inference, Senator Hillary Clinton, for not recognizing the unintended consequences of taking out Saddam and destabilizing Iraq. A lot of bad things have happened for the United States in Iraq.
But he doesn't thoroughly analyze and I think correctly judge the potential unintended consequences of destabilizing Musharraf in Pakistan. If there is one security nightmare the United States could have today, an Islamic fundamentalist regime armed with nuclear weapons.
BLITZER: Right. As bad as people suggest President Musharraf is, it could be a whole lot worse, if the Taliban or Islamic fundamentalists took charge of what is happening in Islamabad and had control over the nuclear arsenal in Pakistan. It reminds a lot of experts of, you know, they didn't like the shah of Iran, but what came after the shah of Iran certainly turned out to be worse, from the U.S. standpoint.
Here is the dig I saw that he had at Hillary Clinton in the speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Congress rubber-stamped the rush to war, giving the president the broad and open-ended authority he uses to this day. With that vote, Congress became co-author of a catastrophic war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And, of course, we all know that Hillary Clinton was part of that so-called rubber stamp.
BRAZILE: And a couple of other members who are running.
BLITZER: Biden and Dodd and Edwards, to mention three.
Look, again, part of his goal today was to shift the conversation from left vs. right to change vs. status quo. And he is saying that Hillary Clinton and all the rest are part of the status quo. He is part of change and he wants to lead a new charge.
JEFFREY: Yes, and this is another irony, because, really, Obama's opening among Democrats is to show that he is to the left of Hillary on foreign policy, he's more anti-war, he's less interventionist, that she is more like Bush.
Anybody who carefully reads this speech is going to say, except for their disagreement on Iraq, this guy, on a very deep and profound level, has adopted the president' foreign policy, moving him, I think, it's to the left of Hillary myself, but moving him closer to Bush than to Hillary Clinton.
BLITZER: It's clear he's not an isolationist. That's obvious.
JEFFREY: That's for sure.
OBAMA: No, but I think the only position that he shares with the president is...
JEFFREY: Utopian Wilsonianism.
BRAZILE: ... this so-called preemptive strike. And I don't...
JEFFREY: Thinking that is the policy and ought to be the goal of the United States, to spend money and even send men overseas in military uniform to spread democracy, create wealth...
BRAZILE: He said we would engage our allies and also ensure...
JEFFREY: If wealth and democracy were the answer to Islamic terrorism, why do we have these terrorists coming out of Britain who want to bomb planes?
BLITZER: He did say that, right after 9/11, the U.S. had a golden opportunity...
BLITZER: ... to lead the world with one voice against the bad guys, the terrorists, and Bush squandered that by invading Iraq.
JEFFREY: He may have been right, Wolf.
And here is another way where Obama is like George Bush. When George Bush ran for president in 2000, he didn't have this foreign policy. He had a more realistic foreign policy. Maybe Obama in 2002...
BLITZER: Bush opposed nation-building, as you recall.
JEFFREY: That's right. President Bush has turned around 180 degrees. I think that Obama may be doing that with this speech. I think it's not only a miscalculation. I think he's reacting to Hillary Clinton.
BLITZER: All right. Let's move on. I just want to recommend our viewers who are interested...
BLITZER: ... they should read the whole speech, because there is some real good material in there.
BLITZER: Let's take a look at this NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll that is just out.
Hillary Clinton has gone up nationwide among Democrats, from 39 percent back in June to 43 percent now. Barack Obama, from 25, he's gone down to 22 percent. Edwards is at 13. Bill Richardson is at 6 percent. The rest of the field trails.
She seems to be doing, nationally, very well. That doesn't necessarily mean a whole lot in Iowa or New Hampshire or South Carolina. But it certainly means a lot for super-duper Tuesday February 5, when you have got California and Illinois, Florida, New Jersey, a lot of big states -- and maybe New York.
Is New York on February 5?
BRAZILE: New York is moving, Alabama and a lot of the other states.
BLITZER: So, those national polls really mean a whole lot if they can get through these smaller states early on.
BRAZILE: Absolutely. She's performed well in all of the Democratic debates. And she's seen as someone with the right kind of experience to be president and also someone in command of the facts. So, she is leading now because of her experience and her confidence.
BLITZER: And these national polls, people say, well, they're not that important. Look at Iowa, New Hampshire. But they are important, given the condensed schedule this time around.
JEFFREY: Well, they also are important because, if you look at those -- those early states, Hillary is leading in a lot of them. In her weakest state, Iowa, she has even been leading in some recent polls there. If -- if she wins Iowa, if she gets to Iowa and wins that caucus, this thing is going to be over. And John Edwards has got to knock her off there for Obama to have a chance.
BRAZILE: Well, it's not over after Iowa. I think New Hampshire will have a word in, and South Carolina...
BLITZER: I think all of us agree, on February 5 -- it's over on February 5.
BRAZILE: I think so.
BLITZER: What do you think?
BLITZER: On both sides?
JEFFREY: Probably, yes.
BRAZILE: The most important thing in the poll, Wolf, however, is, 74 percent of the American people are not tired of Bush or Clinton. That was the most surprising fact in the poll.
JEFFREY: Are not tired.
BRAZILE: They are not. They don't have any Bush fatigue or Clinton fatigue.
BLITZER: All right.
Donna Brazile and Terry Jeffrey, thanks very much.
A major blow to Iraq's government -- its largest Sunni political bloc says it's pulling out of the government. And that's causing fears over what impact that will have.
Also, should Congress get serious about impeaching the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales? That is Jack Cafferty's question. Stand by for your e-mail.
We will be right back.
BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.
Villagers wade through floodwaters in northeastern India. The floods have killed 11 people and displaced more than four million.
In Sweden, firemen battle a blaze that started in the pub of this building.
The exterior radar panels are expected in northern England. These are the eyes and ears of the anti-ballistic missile system.
And, in New Delhi, a hippo yawns. Look at that -- some of this hour's "Hot Shots," pictures often worth 1,000 words.
Mitt Romney tops our "Political Radar" today. The former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential hopeful had some critical words for the administration he hopes to succeed.
Campaigning in New Hampshire today, Romney complained that the Bush White House established inefficient an Homeland Security Department. He says the Department of Homeland Security is one big bureaucracy. Romney also complains about the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina.
Democratic presidential hopeful Chris Dodd says he's got a problem with the pending purchase of "The Wall Street Journal." Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, which owns the FOX television network, the FOX News Channel, "The New York Post," many other outlets today announced it had secured an agreement to purchase Dow Jones, which is the publisher of "The Wall Street Journal."
But Dodd, the senator from Connecticut and BANKING COMMITTEE chairman, says he is worried about the consolidation of America's media. He also says he is concerned "The Wall Street Journal" won't be able to maintain editorial independence if purchased by Murdoch.
And, remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can always check out our Political Ticker at CNN.com/ticker.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" in New York.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Can they get that baby hippopotamus yawning back up again?
BLITZER: I don't know. Let's see if our techno guys, if they can find that.
CAFFERTY: Can they find it?
It just -- it reminded me of several of the candidates running for office.
BLITZER: There it is. There it is.
CAFFERTY: Can you put it up?
BLITZER: Yes, there it is. It's right next to you.
CAFFERTY: See? Yes. It looks like those debates we had the other night.
CAFFERTY: I like that picture.
CAFFERTY: The question is: Should Congress get serious about impeaching Attorney General Alberto Gonzales?
Scott writes from Arizona: "Jack, you bet we should impeach Gonzales. It should have happened before now. I'm sick of the Democrats acting like they don't have any options available to them. Start with Gonzales and send a message to Cheney and Bush that they're next."
A. in Florida writes: "Jack, we know the drill. Gonzo impeached on perjury. Bush pardons him. Back to square one until January of '09."
David in Texas: "Jack, Gonzo is a minor player and not worth the time. This country can withstand another 18 months of this administration. My question is this: Can this administration be tried for crimes after they're out of office?"
Lee in Seattle writes: "Back during the Nixon times, there was a popular bumper sticker that said, 'Throw the bums out.' Everybody knew who the bums were. Everything old is new again. 'Throw the bums out."
Milton in Pennsylvania: "How can Congress get serious about impeaching the attorney general, when they don't seem serious about anything else? They're not serious about ending the war. They're not serious about resolving the immigration problem. They're not serious about solving the problem of Social Security. I think a better question would be: Can Congress get serious about anything?"
Jerry in Austin, Texas: "I really don't want him to resign or be impeached. I want the truth to come out. How about we send him to one of our foreign jails for interrogation?"
And Brendan writes this.
I like this last letter.
"As much as I would love to see Gonzo get impeached, I believe that impeachment proceedings would be the straw that breaks the camel's back as far as Gonzales' resignation. Gonzo is a daily, almost hourly gift to us Democrats, as he constantly finds new ways to disgrace his office and embarrass his party. I will never tire of listening to Tony Snow begrudgingly confirm the administration's confidence in this small-time hustler" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you.
And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
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