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Rescue Crews Get Closer to Trapped Miners; Powell Contributes Money to John McCain's Campaign
Aired August 8, 2007 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, rescue crews are closing in on those six trapped coal miners, but what will they find when they get to them? This hour, long awaited progress as the desperate drilling goes on.
Plus, Colin Powell puts his money on John McCain's embattled presidential campaign. Could an endorsement by the former secretary of state be next?
And Hillary Clinton absorbs top new punches from her Democratic rivals. You'll want to hear what her opponents are saying about her now. Wolf Blitzer is off today, I'm Carol Costello. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
In Utah right now, crews have drilled to within about 1,000 feet of those six trapped miners. Still no word on whether they're alive two days after the mine caved in on them. And it could take another two days for rescuers to reach them. CNN's Ted Rowlands is in Huntington, Utah this afternoon. Ted, tell us the latest.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, there is good news. The delays concerning the two drilling operations, one, it was dropped by helicopter coming in from the top and one from the side, have both started. And the one from the top is making some very good progress. You mentioned more than 450 feet in at 7:00 a.m. local here. The miners are believed to be about 1,500 feet. So 1/3 of the way there. They do warn -- the company administrators, that this is a very difficult drilling technique, though. Because it's only a two- inch hole, they could literally miss where their target is by inches and not be able to establish contact. They do have another hole started, and that drilling commenced also today, which is very good news, of an eight-inch hole. That will allow them, they'll have perfect precision on that. That will allow them contact with the miners if they are alive. Still two days away from that, but for the families, that is a huge improvement. Meanwhile, the mine itself is still inaccessible for the other operation and that would be the ultimate extrication of these miners. They're saying that would be at least a week, possibly even more. But Bob Murray did have some good news. First good news in a while today in a press conference. Here's part of what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB MURRAY, CEO, MURRAY ENERGY CORP.: The major drill has now started the actual drilling. Delayed for a day because of the very steep terrain above the trapped miners. And the fact that we had to build 8,000 feet of roads to get to that location. And we worked night and day around the clock to build those roads and get that drill going.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
ROWLANDS: A huge accomplishment to get that drill going. Again, the bottom line here is these miners trapped, not sure if they're dead or alive. They do have air, but they don't know how much breathable air they have. These two holes, once they get there, will at least allow them to have communication if they're alive and air and possibly food and water as well. Carol?
COSTELLO: We're going to keep our fingers crossed. Ted Rowlands live in Huntington, Utah this afternoon.
We're just getting in a new image from CNN's i-Report of one of those trapped miners. We want to go straight to our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton. Abbi, what are you looking at?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Carol, CNN's confirmed that this is Manuel Sanchez, one of the miners, one of the six miners currently trapped. The first photo we've seen. We received it to CNN through i-Report by a family friend, sent in by Amanda Madrigal, whose father she says is also a miner in the area, knows Manuel Sanchez, and says he's currently involved in the rescue efforts. Amanda says she received a plea from Sanchez's family to keep him in thoughts and prayers as this rescue effort goes on. Again, Manuel Sanchez, one of those six trapped miners. Carol?
COSTELLO: A lot of people praying for all of them today. Thank you Abbi.
President Bush also reaching out to those most closely affected by the mine cave-in in Utah. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: This morning I spoke with Governor Huntsman of Utah. He gave me an update on the efforts to rescue the trapped miners. I told him our nation's thoughts and prayers are with the miners and their families. And that the federal government will help in anyway way we can.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: Two days after the cave-in, there still are unanswered questions about how this disaster happened and how exactly it will play out. We're joined by the former head of the federal mine safety and health administration, Davitt McAteer. Hello Davitt.
DAVITT MCATEER, MINE SAFETY INVESTIGATOR: Good afternoon.
COSTELLO: I want to go over some of what Ted Rowlands was telling us, that in two days they may be able to drill this hole and possibly get air to these miners trapped underground. In your estimation, is that feasible?
MCATEER: Yes, once the drill is established, and they've gone down and made the first 50 feet, there's a good chance then that the drill will be able to operate rather quickly and get down through the next 1,000 feet, which they need to get through. But my caution is to Mr. Murray that you're drilling a 2 1/2-inch hole and you're using a GPS satellite to set that up. You can miss the place you wanted to put it.
COSTELLO: What are the odds of them hitting exactly the right place?
MCATEER: I can't tell you what the odds are. I know that to have a -- because you have a section of coal that's left and a room that's taken out, you have roughly a 50 percent chance of getting to the place that you want to get to. Because you've got roughly a similar amount of open space and a similar amount of coal. But I can't tell you what the coordinates would -- how good the coordinates would be. It is a risk.
COSTELLO: Davitt, these men have now been trapped underground for about 60 hours. In your estimation, I mean, to your knowledge, have you ever heard of anyone surviving for that long underground?
MCATEER: There have been cases of individuals surviving that long underground in mining settings and in non-mining settings. It is not usual. It would be unusual. It's a very difficult situation that we're in.
COSTELLO: I talked to a miner --
MCATEER: Every moment.
COSTELLO: Every moment counts, of course. I was going to say I talked to a miner earlier today, he was telling me about those oxygen masks they had. He said once you put it on you have an hour to breathe and then that's it. Is that true?
MCATEER: Not quite accurate. The oxygen-generating breathing devices, SCSRS, have a capacity up to an hour under duress. So that if you're operating under duress and you're using it up quickly, it will last an hour. At rest, they -- miners have had them on for up to six to eight hours. So they can stretch them out. If you're not using it to exercise, to walk, to move around, it can last a longer time. And that's anticipated that that's happened. Also, that we anticipate that there were more than one device per miner. So that they might have had a cache of three or four or five devices, hopefully each miner would have had that. The second part of that is --
COSTELLO: Go ahead. Go ahead.
MCATEER: The second part is, remember that we are not in an explosion or post-fire situation. We are in a situation where a collapse occurs. If the miners survive that, they should be in a pocket of air that would provide them with air to breathe on a regular basis. COSTELLO: And of course, that is what everyone is praying for. Davitt McAteer, you're going to join us again at 5:00. Thanks so much.
Turning our attention to the presidential race now, Senator John McCain's campaign can use all the help it can get these days. And it looks like the former secretary of state Colin Powell is lending a hand and opening his wallet. Our White House correspondent Ed Henry has the story. Ed, what have you learned?
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Carol, CNN has just learned that Senator John McCain received a campaign contribution today from former Secretary Powell. Former secretary of state of course for this White House. A McCain spokeswomen confirming it to CNN saying quote, "The senator appreciates the support of General Powell." Now a source familiar with the contribution says it's for $2,300, the maximum an individual can give to one candidate in the primary season. It obviously hints at a likely endorsement of McCain down the road. A shot in the arm for the Arizona senator at a time, as you know, he's been beset by all of these negative stories about disappointing fundraising, the staff shake-ups, as well as all the conservative criticism of his stance on immigration reform. So while this campaign check is small, symbolically it helps McCain on two issues. Number one, national security credentials but also secondly, McCain's attempt to portray himself as an independent-minded Republican just like Powell. Carol? . COSTELLO: Oh yeah and Colin Powell is a very well-liked man in the United States still. Ed a question for you, their positions on the war, are they the same?
HENRY: Pretty similar. If you think back, both Secretary Powell and John McCain obviously supported this war at the beginning. They still do, but they both have been very critical of how the war has been managed. And the thing that has bound them together is the fact that they have a common foe. Former defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, both Powell and McCain have been very critical of how he managed the war. Carol?
COSTELLO: Ed Henry, live at the White House. Thanks.
HENRY: Thank you.
COSTELLO: Hillary Clinton has been on the cover of many magazines. One of those photos prompted one of her presidential rivals to lay into her. And it could be splitsville in California. A proposal to divide the mega state's electoral votes could cost the Democrats big time.
Also ahead, it's a gamble that even White House hopefuls seem willing to take. A debate on Spanish language TV. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
COSTELLO: The nation's largest federation of labor unions says it will hold off on endorsing a candidate in the Democratic presidential primary. The AFL-CIO hosted a candidates' forum in Chicago yesterday. But the group says there is no consensus candidate. That leaves the 55 unions in the federations free to make endorsements on their own. Mary Snow is here with more on the battle for the labor vote. Mary, this was a pretty spunky forum.
MARY SNOW: It certainly was, Carol. They really duked it out. The gloves are off, it's doubtful they'll go back on. The civility between the Democratic candidates that we witnessed at their earlier debates may be a thing of the past.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The one thing you can count on is you will never see a picture of me on the front of Fortune magazine saying I am the candidate that big corporate America is betting on.
SNOW (voice-over): John Edwards firing away at Hillary Clinton at last night's debate in front of a union crowd in Chicago. Clinton, who was on the cover of Fortune magazine last month, held her ground saying she's the best candidate to take back the White House.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That for 15 years, I have stood up against the right-wing machine and I've come out stronger. So if you want a winner who knows how to take them on, I'm your girl.
SNOW: As the senator from New York increases her lead over her rivals in most national polls, the attacks against her seem to be increasing.
CLINTON: A lot of the other campaigns have been using my name a lot.
SNOW: Also facing the heat, Barack Obama, who is second in the national polls. At issue, the senator from Illinois's tough talk to unilaterally go after Al Qaeda in Pakistan.
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I say this respectfully, my friend from Illinois here, I think it was wrong to say what he did in that matter. I think it's important for us to be very careful about the language we use.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I find it amusing that those who helped to authorize and engineer the biggest foreign policy disaster in our generation are now criticizing me for making sure that we are on the right battlefield and not the wrong battlefield in the war against terrorism.
(END OF VIDEOTAPE)
SNOW: Clinton's commanding lead in the national polls, and with the primary season just five months away, it seems the battle for the Democratic nomination will stay just that. A battle. Carol?
COSTELLO: We'll see. Mary Snow live in New York. Thanks.
The South Carolina Republican Party is set to announce tomorrow that it's moving up its primary date from early February to January 19th. Well placed South Carolina Republicans tell CNN the announcement will be made in New Hampshire. Now we're told the location was chosen to show South Carolina and New Hampshire are united in trying to preserve states' political clout. Of course New Hampshire is known for holding the nation's first primary and South Carolina holds the first southern contest. Let's bring in our senior political analyst Bill Schneider. Bill, this could really shake things up, the primary calendar, that is.
BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes it does, it sort of shakes the whole, it's like somebody stepped on the scrabble board. With South Carolina moving to the 19th, well, that was the day Nevada is supposed to have its caucuses, so they're going to have to move. They're going to announce it in New Hampshire because New Hampshire is the first primary. They're right now on the 22nd. So they're going to have to move. You know what, there aren't many dates left in January. Do they have to move this thing way into December, we don't know. New Hampshire says the secretary of state will announce the firm dates of the New Hampshire primary in September and the governor will back him up. He has the right to set that date. So everything could move into very early January or even in December. We just don't know. But at least three states are going to move, the Iowa caucuses, the New Hampshire primary and the Nevada caucuses.
COSTELLO: So it's not too early to start talking about presidential politics?
SCHNEIDER: How about on Christmas Eve? We don't know. And here's my favorite scenario, if New Hampshire moves to the first Tuesday in January that would be the 8th, because they insist on the right to be at least one week ahead of any similar event. So they could move to the 8th. Well Iowa is traditionally on the Monday evening, the week before that. Do you know what date that would be? New Year's Eve. You could have an Iowa caucus on New Year's Eve at night with a couple of hundred thousand people coming out to pick a president, many of them drunk. Maybe they'll make a better decision.
COSTELLO: I have no response to that, but I loved it. Bill Schneider thanks.
COSTELLO: You know it is perhaps a sign that this coming presidential election is far different from the last one. Tomorrow, six of the eight Democratic candidates will take part in a gay forum. The questions will be entirely devoted to gay issues. And the forum itself will be aired nationally on gay TV.
COSTELLO (voice-over): On the gay TV network logo this week, the edgy drama bad girls about a women's prison in Britain.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I come in with you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course.
COSTELLO: But Thursday night, the drama on Logo will be all about political bed fellows. Logo is televising a gay political forum featuring most of the major Democratic presidential contenders. Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd will not attend.
JOE SOLMONESE, PRES., HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: Four years ago our community was a political wedge in the elections. In this election cycle I think that anyone who uses our community as a political wedge is going to do so at their own peril.
COSTELLO: On the panel for this unusual forum, outspoken lesbian rocker Melissa Etheridge. And gay "Washington Post" editorial writer Jonathan Capehart.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, EDITORIAL WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: 14, 15, 16 minutes or so, they're going to get nothing but questions related to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community, questions that they might not be ready for.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have had more than 3,500 questions submitted on our website alone.
COSTELLO: At stake is the endorsement of the forum's sponsor, Human Rights Campaign, HRC. Which some activists consider too politically tight with the other HRC. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
ANN NORTHROP, GAY USA: They give money to the candidates, that's the whole reason they exist. They win favor in congress by supporting these politicians with donations. They are not independent people who will ask hard-hitting questions.
COSTELLO: But Congressman Barney Frank himself gay says no candidate will find the questions easy to answer.
REP. BARNEY FRANK, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: I think from people who have lived that life and who are subsequently concerned with the law, you're less likely to get horse race questions.
(END OF VIDEOTAPE)
COSTELLO: We'll see. If nothing else, Logo's gay TV forum will introduce these presidential candidates to a new political landscape. A place where even TV's conservative darling, you know the TV show "24", it will have a new president next season, actress Cherry Jones, she is a lesbian.
Is it OK to accept campaign cash from big-money lobbyists? Congress has changed the laws, but will the new rules make any difference?
Plus, Hillary Clinton charges ahead in some key battleground states. Is she stepping on Rudy Giuliani? Donna Brazile and John Feehery are standing by for our strategy session. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COSTELLO: Brianna Keilar is monitoring stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM. Brianna, what do you have?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Well Carol, the stock market has alternated between big gains and big losses recently. Today a rally, the Dow surged 153 points today. NASDAQ rose 51 points. The S&P gained 20 points.
Meanwhile, President Bush says tax cuts and spending restraints are the best ways to keep the U.S. economy in good health. He made that statement today after meeting with his top economic advisers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We have a debate here in Washington over tax cuts. Democrats in congress want to increase taxes and turn them into additional government programs, and I strongly oppose that approach. We want the people to keep more of their own money because we understand that the American economy, entrepreneurs, and small business owners are the ones who create jobs.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: President Bush urged lawmakers to complete annual spending legislation quickly and he called for the passage of outstanding free trade agreements.
And we never knew about this until today, but it turns out that President Bush was successfully treated for lime disease nearly a year ago. Today White House officials released the results of the president's annual physical exam and they say he was treated for early localized lime disease last August after developing a rash. Lime disease is a common tick-born infection which if left untreated it can cause arthritis and other problems. Carol?
COSTELLO: Well, yeah. Glad he's OK. Brianna Keilar, thanks.
A big issue in the presidential race right now also has been a big concern on Capitol Hill. As we have reported, Democratic rivals are accusing Hillary Clinton of being too cozy with lobbyists. Congress has passed new lobbying reform legislation. Our congressional correspondent Jessica Yellin is here. Jessica, is this attempt at reform actually going to make a difference?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Carol, reasonable people disagree. Democrats say it's intended to clean up the culture of corruption in Washington, but it's certainly not going to keep money out of politics.
YELLIN (voice-over): Dave Hoppe is president of one of Washington's elite lobbying firms.
Are you part of the problem with American politics?
DAVE HOPPE, LOBBYIST: I don't think so. What lobbyists do is provide information.
YELLIN: Hoppe worked for decades as a Republican aide on Capitol Hill. He says the ethics in lobbying bill is not going to send tremors through the halls of congress.
HOPPE: The job we do is not going to change fundamentally because of this.
YELLIN: The bill was pushed by Democratic leadership in response to scandals involving Jack Abramoff and Congressman Duke Cunningham and Bob Ney and outrage over figures like this. $1 billion, that's how much the health care industry spent lobbying the year of the Medicare debate.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) HOUSE SPEAKER: We will keep our promise to drain the swamp that is Washington, D.C.
YELLIN: The new rules mean no more gifts like free seats at sporting events or special golf trips. No more parties for members of congress at the political conventions. The end of affordable flights on private jets. And new public reporting requirements.
CRAIG HOLMAN, PUBLIC CITIZEN: Now the books are going to be open.
YELLIN: But there's nothing that stops corporate interests from giving millions in campaign contributions. And lawmakers can still get a free lunch as long as it's at a fundraiser.
HOPPE: It's very difficult to write these laws. It's one of those things every time you try and close something, you open something up.
(END OF VIDEOTAPE)
YELLIN: Another major change, lawmakers will now be required to disclose whether they put special spending measures called earmarks in bills. So it will now be a matter of public record whether they steered money to any special interests. Carol?
COSTELLO: Jessica Yellin, live in Washington. Thank you.
A presidential debate on Spanish language television. So where are all the candidates? A crucial voting block is up for grabs, but will the candidates actually show? We found one of those candidates ourselves, Senator Chris Dodd, who came under fire by Senator Obama in last night's debate. We'll have part of that heated exchange next.
COSTELLO: Happening now, a massive drill is smashing through solid rock in attempt to reach six trapped miners in Utah. We'll have the latest on the rescue effort. The U.S. says it has new evidence that rogue elements in Iran are providing money, training and weapons to Iraqi militants.
And lift-off is set for this evening for the space shuttle "Endeavor." A teacher astronaut will be on board. Wolf Blitzer is off today, I'm Carol Costello, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Some candidates are balking about a debate scheduled for this fall that would seem to be tailor made for winning over the critical Latino voter. CNN's Susan Candiotti has more from Miami. Susan, the planned debates on Spanish language television aren't getting a lot of takers. Why?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, who know, let's try to find out. But you know it's not that unusual for presidential candidates to hold off until they absolutely have to before committing to a presidential debate. But Latino voters are watching and waiting very closely to see who's going to show up for a first-of-its-kind political panel.
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Candidates who try mightily to speak Spanish...
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: (SPEAKING SPANISH)
CANDIOTTI: ... and those who speak it fluently...
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D-NM), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: (SPEAKING SPANISH)
CANDIOTTI: ... won't have to worry about it during Spanish language Univision network's upcoming historic presidential forum. The first ever with a simultaneous translation expected to draw a huge Spanish-speaking nationwide TV audience.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS, UNIVISION: Spanish is something that unites all Hispanics. It's a matter of pride to Latinos to have candidates address them in their own language.
CANDIOTTI: Yet, a month out, John McCain is the only double- digit GOP contender to commit, and leading Democrats Clinton, Obama and Edwards have not yet said yes. Univision's Maria Elena Salinas says no-shows do so at their own risk.
SALINAS: I think that it's possible that some voters might take that as a personal insult or might take that as a lack of interest on their part.
CANDIOTTI: A risky gamble. Traditionally, Democrats win the Latino vote, but consultants warn it cannot be taken for granted. In a recent Gallup poll, Hillary Clinton was the choice of 55 percent among Democratic Hispanics, 43 points over Barack Obama. DARIO MORENO, PROFESSOR, UNIV. OF MIAMI: Republicans aren't going to win this vote. But they can sure cut into it, if they run a correct campaign.
CANDIOTTI: Historically, Republican presidential candidates have needed at least 30 percent of the Hispanic vote to win. Republican Tom Tancredo is dead set against Univision's translated format.
REP. TOM TANCREDO (R-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We should not be doing things that encourage people to stay separate in a separate language.
CANDIOTTI: Univision says it's not about doing things separately. It's about helping voters make an educated decision -- Carol.
COSTELLO: Susan Candiotti reporting live for us today. Thank you.
Joining us now, one of the presidential candidates who has said yes to debating on Spanish language television, Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd.
Thanks for joining us, Senator.
SEN. CHRIS DODD (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Buenas tardes, Carol.
DODD: Had to get that in.
COSTELLO: I like that. I do. So you heard Susan's piece. Is it fair? You speak Spanish. Is that -- do you have an advantage over the other candidates?
DODD: Well, I don't know. I'm proud of the fact that I do. I was in the Peace Corps in Latin America, in the Dominican Republic. And I speak it fairly well. I'd be careful about saying total fluency, but I'm grateful to the people in Puerto Rico and in the Dominican Republic that helped me learn that language.
In fact, I wish we had more people in the country that spoke second languages. We talk about English being the national language, I agree with that certainly, but I think we ought to be expressing more interest in people becoming conversant in other languages as well, in the kind of world we're living in. So I look forward to it.
COSTELLO: But do you suppose that's why the other candidates aren't joining, like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama?
DODD: No, I don't know if that's the reason or not, but I would hope. And again, it's going to be simultaneous translation. And the community respects the fact that not everybody is going to speak their language, or speak it as fluently as they do. So I think it's more a question of being there to talk about the issues that are on their minds, and I think that we ought to welcome that and not shy away from it. I think it's a wonderful idea and I plan on being there.
COSTELLO: Let's talk about the forum yesterday. Because you and Barack Obama really got into it. It was a heated exchange over Pakistan. And choosing your words carefully, let's listen to a bit of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we have actionable intelligence on al Qaeda operatives, including bin Laden, and President Musharraf cannot act, then we should. Now I think that's just common sense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: OK. He says it was common sense. He also said that you didn't carefully read his speech and understand exactly what he was saying. Did you read his speech?
DODD: Yes. I saw the speech. And if you go back and read the language, all the fact-checkers have said I was right about it. He didn't say we should, he said we would. There is a big difference there. And that speech was important. And it was highly criticized and rightfully so here.
You don't, first of all, engage in hypotheticals. You don't talk about unilaterally entering an ally's country here. Musharraf, look, I've said this before, the only thing that separates us from dealing with a fundamentalist Muslim state with nuclear weapons is General Musharraf. And talking about unilaterally entering his country, not that we should talk to him. The speech says we would do it here. There is a big difference, I urge you to go back and look at the language.
COSTELLO: But what would you do. I mean, if President Musharraf can't get to those al Qaeda members and Osama bin Laden in the mountains of Pakistan, why shouldn't the United States go in and take action?
DODD: I'm not arguing about what we might do or might not do. The point is, that words matter in presidential elections and from presidents. And when you announce unilaterally on your own that what you're going to do in a hypothetical situation here, you get the kind of reaction.
There were demonstrations in Pakistan over a hypothetical question here with a presidential candidate making statements about it. That's dangerous. That shows a lack of nuance and understanding of the subtleties in conducting foreign policy.
COSTELLO: So what...
DODD: That's a very legitimate issue. COSTELLO: So what specifically would you do as president to rout out those al Qaeda militants and Osama bin Laden that have been hiding out for months, for years in the mountains of Pakistan?
DODD: Well, one of -- I'd take my troops out of Iraq and start putting them into Afghanistan where the epicenter of terrorism is from al Qaeda. That's the first thing I'd do and provide the kind of leadership in the area that would allow us to deal with that. Working with Musharraf and others as we are to some extent getting help in western Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan to deal with it.
But I wouldn't be around answering hypothetical questions here about unilaterally going in. I ask you to read the words in the speech given at the Wilson Center. It's very clear, the language there, and all of the fact-checkers since last evening.
Now Barack Obama has stepped back and last night said, should. He's moderating his speech. That's all right, if he wants to do it. But don't tell me that I've got to -- that I should -- I'm at fault for the 2002 conflict when Barack Obama in 2004 said that if he were voting today, he doesn't know how he would have voted on the Iraq resolution in 2002.
And candidly, a little more straightforwardness I think is needed at this time.
COSTELLO: Back to General Musharraf for just a second. What more should he be doing to help the United States route out these terrorists? What specifically should he be doing?
DODD: Well, I think specifically getting more help and military forces in those mountainous regions, which are very, very difficult in western Pakistan and eastern -- that's those huge mountain ranges that -- and it's very difficult terrain. He's bringing troops, I understand it, from the Indian border over to that area. We need more of that.
And obviously getting more of our own forces on the ground there. And again, I emphasize the importance here of getting our troops out of Iraq as soon as we possibly can here, allowing Iraqis to decide what kind of future they're going to have and deal with the threat that all of us have to deal with, and that is, of course, coming out of Afghanistan.
COSTELLO: A change of topic for just a second here. John Edwards has been talking about accepting money from lobbyists and special interest groups. And he has been like concentrating his efforts on Hillary Clinton. She says she's not going to do it. She's still going to accept money. How about you?
DODD: Well, I do accept, and not just from lobbyists here, but from people around the country here. I'm an advocate of public financing a campaign. That's what I've advocated for years and years. I'm deeply worried about what money means in politics at every single level here. But it's a little disingenuous here to be talking about just the Washington lobbyists, as if lobbyists from some other place are OK. But the lobbyists there are bad. It seems to me, look, everybody is accepting money from different places in order to run a campaign here.
The system is broken terribly. It's outrageous. And going back 13 or 14 years, I managed the campaign finance reform bills on the floor of the Senate, been an advocate of public financing. I would fundamentally alter this as president if I could, so we wouldn't have to have this debate about whether or not you like my lobbyists and your lobbyists. The fact of the matter is, the system isn't working well. It's dangerous and it needs to be changed.
COSTELLO: Well, it's not going to be changed soon. And I think the American people have the impression that because you accept money from these lobbyists and special interest groups, that you can't separate out your politics.
DODD: Well, I've not had that problem. I think if people look back over this, I take a back seat to no one in my determination to do everything I can to protect people, dealing with credit cards and subprime lenders, student loans. I've a long and strong record for being an advocate for consumers and people and receiving support from a long wide range of individuals and people who believe that I'm a good senator, done a good job here.
Again, I'd like to see the change -- the system changed, but the assumption, because someone receives money from a lobbyist is bad, but if you got it from the corporate executive, it's OK. I don't think that distinction really flies. It's sort of insulting to the intelligence of people to assume it's just about the money.
What did you do with your vote? How did you vote on the bankruptcy bill? What did you do about estate taxes that were coming up here? Looking at those votes and where they were may be more important to people than whether or not you got a check from a lobbyist.
COSTELLO: Senator Dodd, thanks so much for joining us this afternoon. We appreciate it.
DODD: You bet. Thank you very much, Carol.
COSTELLO: Crews are racing against time to reach six trapped miners in Utah. We'll tell you how close they are. And for the first time, we'll take you up close into the mine itself.
And is California up for grabs? We'll look at whether Republicans can benefit from a new rule. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
COSTELLO: Many voters across the country are starting to ponder their presidential choices in 2008. But a big move is afoot in just one mega-state. It could make or break the nominees in November. Let's bring back our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.
Hey, is something big happening in California?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, sure is. You should call it the California split. And it if comes off, it could doom the Democrats' chances of carrying the White House next year.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Forget the campaign. The outcome of next year's presidential election could be riding on the California split. California is reliably Democratic. Now imagine a law that would give the Republican ticket around 20 of California's 55 electoral votes? As many electoral votes as Ohio. That's exactly what would happen if a Republican-sponsored proposition goes on the state primary ballot next June and passes.
DARRY SRAGOW, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: The Republicans are doing this in California because they want a chunk of our vote, never winning the state.
SCHNEIDER: The measure would split California into 53 congressional districts. A presidential candidate would get one electoral vote for each congressional district he or she carries plus two more for carrying the state. If the law had been in effect in 2004, 22 of California's electoral votes would have gone to George W. Bush and 33 to John Kerry.
ALLEN HOFFENBLUM, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: This would all but guarantee that the Republican nominee would get 20 extra Electoral College votes, which could certainly impact the outcome of the election.
SCHNEIDER: Raw politics. Supporters say a California split would force presidential candidates to campaign in California. They say it would be fairer.
HOFFENBLUM: If 5 million Republicans decide -- or 5 million voters, I should say, decide to vote for the Republican nominee for president, why should that vote not be counted?
SCHNEIDER: Because it's not counted in other states, say Democrats.
SRAGOW: This is very fair if it's universal around the country. It is patently absurd if it only takes place in certain states.
SCHNEIDER: Actually, two other states split their electoral votes by congressional district, but they are small states, Maine and Nebraska. Could the California split pass next year? Not if Democrats rally against it.
HOFFENBLUM: The Democrats will say it's a power grab.
SCHNEIDER: Will they? SRAGOW: But I think this will be viewed as a political power grab and it won't work.
SCHNEIDER: Democrats in North Carolina, a reliable Republican state, are considering doing the same thing. But the National Democratic Party is discouraging them. It would be hard for Democrats to support this move in North Carolina where it would help them and then oppose it in California, where it would hurt them a lot more because California is a much bigger state -- Carol.
COSTELLO: God, it makes your head spin, though. Bill Schneider, thanks again.
Senator Clinton sounds more and more like a general election candidate. And a new bunch of polls shows why. But how does she pair up against Republican frontrunner Rudy Giuliani in some key battleground states? I'll talk with Donna Brazile and John Feehery right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
COSTELLO: A new presidential poll puts Hillary Clinton ahead of Rudy Giuliani in Florida, Pennsylvania, and they're tied in Ohio. And President Bush's approval rating is on the rise. Joining me in today's "Strategy Session," Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, and Republican strategist John Feehery.
Welcome to both of you, as usual.
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Always good to be here on a hot day.
COSTELLO: It's so hot. Well, another day, another debate. And yesterday was a forum. The unions held a forum for the Democratic candidates. And Hillary Clinton was sort of ignoring the other Democratic candidates and she was sort of like -- seemingly running for president. I just want to read you a quote of what she said. She said: "For 15 years I've stood up against the right-wing machine. I have come out stronger. If you want someone who knows how to take them on, I'm your girl."
It doesn't sound like she's competing against the other Democratic candidates. I mean, is she the shoo-in candidate? Has she been coronated already, John?
JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, by the Democrats, it seems so. All the polls show her way ahead. Obama keeps trying, keeps going against her on all kinds of different things, on foreign policy and lobbyists. And she keeps getting stronger. I don't know how any other Democrat can beat her right now. But I do think the Republicans have a good shot of beating her.
COSTELLO: You have said before, Donna, that Barack Obama, it's OK that he's behind, but he's way behind now. BRAZILE: Well, he has a lot of money, he has a great deal of volunteers. So I wouldn't write him off right now. Look, Hillary Clinton has done well in all of the presidential debates. She has a terrific team of people around her. She knows what to say, she's acting presidential.
And in response to a question that John Edwards put to her yesterday about lobbyists and being on the cover of Forbes -- I think it was Fortune magazine, Senator Clinton said, you know, why bother with the small stuff? Let's talk to the American people, let's tell that audience that I'm the toughest, the strongest candidate, and in fact, she said, I'm your girl.
COSTELLO: I'm your girl. That's right.
FEEHERY: She's already running like the frontrunner and she's making some mistakes, I think. Talking about how she would accept money from lobbyists I think is a mistake in this primary. It's going to come back and haunt her.
COSTELLO: Well, you say she is making mistakes, but take a look at these polls. And these are polls that compare Hillary Clinton with Rudy Giuliani. So let's go that way. Let's make believe the presidential race is being held today and it's between the two.
In Florida, this is the Quinnipiac poll, Clinton 46 percent, Giuliani 44 percent. In Ohio, the choice for president, Clinton 43 percent, Giuliani 43 percent. In Pennsylvania, Clinton 45 percent, Giuliani 44 percent. Does this beat that conventional wisdom that Hillary Clinton just can't win -- she can maybe win the Democratic nomination, but not president? But these seem to belie that.
FEEHERY: Let me say that for Republicans, they have to be delighted in these polls. The fact of the matter is that Rudy in the margin of error in all three of these states with the Republican brand being where it is, President Bush's approval ratings where they are, they've got to be delighted that they have a candidate that can compete against Hillary Clinton. I think they have one.
BRAZILE: Well, they shouldn't write home too quickly about those poll numbers, because two things are happening right now. First of all, Senator Clinton is improving her number among independents and that's a very important swing group of voters. And secondly, Republicans are warming up to Hillary Clinton.
If you saw in these polls, Senator Clinton's negative approval rating is down. She is now up 50 percent. So that says that her message is not only getting out, but people are liking her brand of leadership.
FEEHERY: But Rudy Giuliani's approval rating are at 56 percent. And his disapproval is only 26 percent. Hillary's is 45 percent. (CROSSTALK)
BRAZILE: He hasn't been on the national stage as long as Senator Clinton..
COSTELLO: But aren't her negatives starting to get better? And then you have people like Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey saying she's a formidable candidate. I mean, that means something, doesn't it?
FEEHERY: There is no doubt about this, she is a formidable candidate. I mean, and every Republican takes her extremely seriously. I think that anyone who says that she can't win, they're crazy. She can win. The question is, can we get the best candidate to try to beat her? And with our Republican brand having Giuliani in the margin of error says that she is definitely beatable.
COSTELLO: You know, we were saying that it might be reverse psychology on the Republicans' part, that they actually want to talk her up to get her in there and then they can beat her.
BRAZILE: Right. Well, I wouldn't talk up to beat her, because Senator Clinton has enormous strengths and the voters are looking for somebody with the kind of experience that she could bring to the White House. And also someone who is ready to lead the change. And again, that's where Hillary Clinton, I think, will outshine all of the Republican candidates.
COSTELLO: OK. Let's go on to another poll, because this is really interesting. This is about President Bush's job performance. And this is from USA Today. It's a Gallup poll. OK. Job approval rating, 34 percent. But that's up. I mean, for the second time that a poll was taken, his approval ratings were up. Not only that, but the support for the surge, his surge, is up as well, to 31 percent.
FEEHERY: Can you say the word Bush comeback? He's coming back.
BRAZILE: No, no, no.
BRAZILE: Just say there has been an uptick because of the so- called good news about the surge. President Bush started off this year at 37 percent. He's now at 34 percent. He has been low throughout the entire year, 62 percent of Americans think...
COSTELLO: Yes, but you used the word "good" and "surge" in the same sentence. And that...
BRAZILE: Look, we all want good news in terms of what's going on in Iraq. And perhaps the president is enjoying a little bit of good news, but what this poll also tells you is that Republicans are finally coming home. That's the good news.
FEEHERY: No, not all Democrats want this good news. Jim Clyburn said the good news in Iraq is bad news for Democrats. And you see the other thing that is going on here is Republicans are coming home because they see the Democrat Congress and they don't like it and they don't want a Democratic Congress and they certainly don't want Hillary Clinton. So you see George Bush's approval ratings coming back up.
COSTELLO: So I know you're a Republican strategist, but I'm going to ask you this question. If I'm a Democrat and these numbers continue to go up, do I back off of my anti-war rhetoric?
FEEHERY: You can't. Nancy Pelosi can't back off. Democrats can't because their left is so mobilized by getting out of the war, and I think it's going to hurt them in the long run. I really do. I think that...
BRAZILE: The American people is dictating this calendar, not Nancy Pelosi, not George Bush. The American people would like us to set a timetable to bring our troops home. I'll stick with the American people.
COSTELLO: Yes, but there is a report due to come out in September from the generals. And if that report is good, won't that mean trouble for the Democrats?
BRAZILE: Well, you know, whether it's good or bad, what the Democrats and what the American people want right now is a timetable to bring our troops home. I hope the report is good. I hope that General Petraeus can come back and say, things are going so well that our troops will be home by Christmas. But we don't know what the report will say. We'll just hope for the best.
FEEHERY: You know, one poll number I haven't seen and would love to see, I think most Americans want to see us win, they want to see us win in Iraq, not lose.
BRAZILE: The Iraqi people must want to win. Not us. The Iraqi people.
COSTELLO: That's a whole 'nother debate.
BRAZILE: That's just about reconciliation, not us winning. It's about them getting together.
COSTELLO: Donna, John, thanks. It has been fun as usual.
BRAZILE: Always hot here. COSTELLO: Always hot in the swamp at Washington.
We're standing by for another news conference on the search for those trapped miners in Utah. And for the first time, we're getting a close-up view to that caved-in mine.
And new evidence that Iran is behind attacks on troops in Iraq. That's all ahead in THE SITUATION ROOM.
COSTELLO: Some developing news just in to CNN. Let's go to Brianna Keilar in Washington to find out more.
What's up, Brianna?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, this is happening right here in Washington. Three subway stations, including the Dupont Circle station, have been shut down because a passenger reported a suspicious package on a train. This package is being described as a brown box by a Metro spokeswoman. So the train was stopped. Passenger were unloaded at Dupont and now two other stations, those two other stations on the same line are closed so that authorities can get trains turned around.
And of course, this is really bad news for commuters here, Carol, because it's right in the middle of rush hour.
COSTELLO: You're not kidding. But we hope it's nothing. Brianna Keilar, we'll check back with you. Thanks so much.
A look now at some of the most compelling video of the day. In Newberry, Michigan, an out of control forest fire is growing. It has now blackened more than 19,000 acres.
In Melbourne, Florida, two puppies that were trapped in a drainage ditch are now safe. Bystanders unsuccessfully tried to free them yesterday. Today firefighters got the puppies out using a blast of water.
And in San Francisco, the 22-year-old from New York who caught Barry Bonds' 756th home run ball is one lucky guy. Baseball memorabilia experts say the ball is worth up to half a million dollars. And he was actually wearing a Mets T-shirt. Good for him.
Whether or not you think clothes make the man or the woman, in public life, it doesn't hurt to dress for success. Esquire magazine is out with its new list of the best-dressed men in the whole world. It's packed a sports stars, businessmen, and celebrities, and some political figures made the list as well. Let's go to Abbi Tatton.
Do you have this story? Oh, I'm going to keep reading this. I'm going to spill the news for you. Coming in at number four, senator and presidential candidate, Barack Obama. Ranking number six, the new president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, known for making a unique fashion statement, is number 10. Two members of Congress also get a nod. The House minority leader, John Boehner is the 19th best-dressed man. And the Democratic Congressman Rahm Emanuel is 21st.
Which presidential candidates are getting the most buzz on the Internet? Frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani might want to watch their backs. Now let's go to CNN's Internet report, Abbi Tatton.
Abbi, which Republican candidate has the most visited Web site?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Carol, it is Texas Congressman Ron Paul, a candidate currently polling at about 2 percent nationally. But in terms of his Web site beating out the other Republicans in a recent study of one week, beating out the other Republicans.
And this is a study done by Hitwise, it monitored the Web activity of over 10 million people over a recent week, found that overall, the Democrats dominate. Barack Obama's Web site coming in first, followed by Hillary Clinton, but close behind is Ron Paul's.
Now, if you spend a lot of time online or on political Web sites, this may not come as much of a surprise. Ron Paul's Internet buzz, his online supporters are hard to ignore. His name shows up frequently in popular search terms. On YouTube he has more subscribers to his channel than any other candidate, though Barack Obama's videos are watched more.
And on his MySpace page, he has more friends there than any other candidate -- any other Republican candidate. Web-watchers explain this by his small-government, libertarian message that seems to resonate with young people and voters online -- Carol.
COSTELLO: Abbi Tatton, thanks.
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