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Bush Vistis Iraq; Hurricane Felix to Hit Central America; North Korea Sets Date for Nuclear Halt

Aired September 3, 2007 - 1900   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, President Bush making a surprise trip to the front lines in Iraq. He's touting his success by U.S. troops, but could the scene of his risky visit fall apart as soon as those troops pull out?
A monstrous storm, Hurricane Felix should hit Central America within hours. We'll have the latest forecast. Will the United States feel the effects?

And that buttery taste in your microwave popcorn may come with some serious health risks. Is it already too late for some workers at popcorn plants?

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

Right now, President Bush is traveling to Australia, but that's after he pulled off a major surprise today. With intense security and strict secrecy, he went to a place possibly too dangerous for him to go only a year or two ago. That would be Iraq's Anbar province. The president praised troops for quieting that area's killing field and he held up successes there as an example of what could happen for the rest of Iraq.

As Americans get ready for a major report on the war's progress next week, the president talked about the possibility of U.S. troops coming home, at least some of them. Our White House correspondent Ed Henry is watching the story for us. It was a very symbolic move at a minimum, the fact that the president could go to the al Anbar province.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, very symbolic and that's why my ears perked up when I heard the president sound very bullish about the possibility of starting to bring home U.S. troops, but White House officials have called me and trying to add more context to what the president meant, they say he only meant if there's continued improvement on the ground and military commanders suggest it, then he could start bringing some troops home.


HENRY (voice-over): The president's third secret trip to Iraq comes at a critical juncture, so he seized the chance to influence public opinion about the upcoming progress report on how the surge is working.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker tell me if the kind of suction we are now seeing continues, it will be possible to maintain the same level of security with fewer American forces.

HENRY: But the president still would not say how many troops would be coming home or how soon. He was even lighter on specifics when he addressed a rousing group of 600 Marines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our commander in chief, the president of the United States.


HENRY: He stuck to assaults and alliterations at a mess hall at the Al Asad Air Base in al Anbar province.

BUSH: When we begin to draw down troops from Iraq, it will be from a position of strength and success, not from a position of fear and failure.

HENRY: Air Force One landed under a shroud of secrecy in Anbar, the president skipping Baghdad, in an apparent sign of frustration with the Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki's lack of progress. Stopping in Anbar gave Mr. Bush a chance to highlight success in a province once believed to be lost, but in a briefing with the Marine cobra pilot, Mr. Bush also heard some negatives about extended troop rotations.

CAPT. LEE HEMMING, U.S. MARINE CORPS: And stress on the families year after year of only being home for five months so, it has become a little harder each time to get back in a normal routine back in the United States.

HENRY: As Air Force One waited to take him to Australia for a summit, the president mingled with Marines, his shirt soaking in Iraq's triple-digit heat.


HENRY: The White House knows that critics will try to dismiss this as one big photo op to try to prop up an unpopular war. They insist that's not the case. They say it was important and critical for the president to get an up-close look at progress on the ground, so critical they took extraordinary measures to keep this trip secret. They even had reporters turn over their Blackberries, their cell phones before they boarded Air Force One. They didn't want anyone to leak out this news before the president landed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And they managed to get it off without a hitch. Thanks very much for that. It certainly was a jaw-dropping moments for U.S. troops and the American public when the president actually showed up in the al Anbar province in Iraq, but the secrecy began, as Ed just noted, right back here in Washington. Carol Costello is working this part of the story, the top-secret nature of this trip. It's pretty extraordinary whenever, Carol, we hear these kinds of details.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Oh yes and the security provided is just extraordinary. I mean, the president pulled a fast one on most of the press leading us to believe he would be in Hawaii and he'd then fly on to Australia. But he was whisked away from the White House and he ended up, as you saw, in Iraq.


COSTELLO (voice-over): President Bush arrived in Anbar west of Baghdad on Air Force One, his usual 747 not a military plane, landing as you would at a commercial airport. Often planes flying into Baghdad use a tight corkscrew approach to land, something our Anderson Cooper experienced as he touched down in Iraq last year.


COSTELLO: The plane turned sharply spiraling downward in a tight circle to avoid taking fire, something certainly not unheard of. Just a few days ago a military transport flying out of Baghdad with four lawmakers on board came under hostile fire.

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: I looked out the window and I saw a rocket going by the window. I knew we were being fired upon, but I didn't know by what. Then I saw another one. I didn't actually see the third one, then I -- the pilots, the crew did such an outstanding job, I thought. They started rolling the plane. They fired off flares.

COSTELLO: The senator was lucky. In January of 2005, insurgents shot down a British cargo plane taking off from Baghdad airport, killing 10. But General Douglas Lute, America's war czar, says it was safe to land in Anbar in a non-military fashion, because the American military secures a 10.5-mile perimeter around the airport and it's staffed by 10,000 troops.

Still secrecy is of the utmost important. Few knew of the president's plans, not even Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, knew the president was coming.

MAJ. GEN. DONALD SHEPPERD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I've been involved in these things before and word tends to seep out at the last minute, but you don't want the wrong people to get the information, so they have planning time.

COSTELLO: The American press didn't know, either. They were told the president was scheduled to leave Washington this morning at 11:00 a.m. for Sydney, Australia, via Hawaii, but instead the Secret Service sneaked President Bush out of the White House at 7:15 p.m. Sunday. His motorcade to Andrews Air Force base looked nothing like this. Instead, the president was accompanied by one unmarked security vehicle.

At 7:42, Air Force One was towed out to the tarmac with the window shades down, presumably to prevent anyone from seeing who was on board. The plane took off when it was dark, 8:05 p.m., loaded with fuel, in order to make the 12-hour flight to Anbar direct.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COSTELLO: Interesting thing, too, the plane took off under the cover of darkness in the United States, but it landed in broad daylight in al Anbar province, perhaps highlighting how well-secured this part of Iraq has become.

BLITZER: It's interesting they didn't tell the prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Maliki, that the president of the United States was coming, because even if they might -- I'm not sure they do -- trust him, they certainly don't trust all the people around him and that word would spread very, very quickly.

COSTELLO: Fewer people that know, the better and most of the people who were told were the people that the president would be meeting with in Iraq.

BLITZER: Thanks very much -- Carol Costello reporting for us.

So what kind of message is the president trying to send with this unexpected visit to an area that's been one of the bloodiest battle grounds in Iraq?

Joining us now our correspondent in Baghdad Michael Ware -- Michael, the president simply shows up in the al Anbar province, makes the point that a couple years ago this would have been unthinkable, and I guess by implication it means things are getting better, at least where he is at the Al Asad military base.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, it was absolutely no surprise that, of all things that President Bush decided to highlight during his very secretive lightning tour here to Iraq was al Anbar province. It's been a regular war drum of success that he's been beating repeatedly in successive speeches. I mean, forget the surge, the surge militarily has achieved the things that it has and it's fallen short where it has, and the political developments that were supposed to follow through from it certainly haven't happened.

They've fallen in a disastrous heap. So the one bright shining light that the president has to show success is al Anbar province. So gee whiz, where did he go? What of course the president didn't talk about is the real nature of this success, that essentially when he says tribes, he's meaning Sunni insurgents. He's talking about, as the president said, those who fought alongside al Qaeda against us and are now fighting alongside us against al Qaeda.

Now perhaps it's not without poignancy that in Al Asad Air Base today with President Bush was the prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, someone who until recently was deeply opposed to this tribal program, fearing that this was America building Sunni militias to rival the Shia militias of Maliki's own government, so -- and to sit down with some of these tribal sheikhs with Prime Minister al-Maliki I don't think that was without meaning.

I think that essentially told Maliki, get on board with this program or get off, you're about to be steamrolled. Now, we've just come back from Anbar province, we've been with these tribal forces. We were with the Islamic Army, brigades of 1920 Revolution, former al Qaeda, they don't hide the fact that they're against Maliki, they're against his government.

They're still against the occupation, and it was patently clear that the U.S. was indeed supporting them, giving them weapons by putting them straight into police uniforms, teaching them American tactics and putting them back out on the street. So really they are doing exactly what the government fears, building anti-government forces, Wolf.

BLITZER: In a nutshell, what would happen if the U.S. decided to start pulling its Marines and soldiers out of the al Anbar province over the next few months? How would that unfold?

WARE: Well, we'd see within the province itself a consolidation of the tribal and Baathists, nationalist insurgent power, what would be interesting would be to see whether the government would attempt to make inroads to curb that consolidation. Because once they leave al Anbar, once the U.S. forces leave Iraq, I can assure you al Anbar will be one of the key battlegrounds in the civil strife that everyone is convinced will follow, and U.S. intelligence agencies constantly warn against in terms of reducing the troops.

That will be the price. So al Anbar, post-American presence in Iraq itself, post-American occupation, will be something possibly very akin to Lebanon the 1980s, and al Anbar will be bloody soil once more -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Not a pretty picture indeed. Michael Ware thanks very much.

WARE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: America's closest ally in Iraq today marked a major milestone in its draw down from a combat role. The last 500 British troops in Basra withdrew today, handing the southern city over to Iraqi forces. That leaves 5,500 British troops concentrated around a nearby air base.

They had been deployed in four provinces in the south, but the new prime minister, Gordon Brown, says they'll now play what he calls an over-watch role, ready, he says, to re-intervene if necessary. Basra is the second largest city in Iraq. It is Iraq's main port and a critical gateway for U.S. troops and supplies entering Iraq from Kuwait.

Jack Cafferty will return tomorrow. He's off today.

Coming up next, a major hurricane ready to make landfall before you wake up. We're going to tell you where Felix is right now and where it is expected to strike. It is a monster.

Also, who in President Bush's inner circle did not want Vice President Dick Cheney to be the president's running mate? A rare and candid new book about to be released with some stunning claims. We're going to share them with you.

And the stars (UNINTELLIGIBLE) hugely popular Internet video. You'll likely remember it, the music "Thriller" among others, the dancers, prisoners, and the exercise is actually reducing the amount of prison violence. Are there lessons here for the U.S.?



BLITZER: It's almost as if Hurricane Felix is taking a little bit of a breather. The category five monster has dipped to a category four, but that still means an extremely powerful storm now heading directly toward Central America, and it could get stronger.

Let's turn to our severe weather expert, our meteorologist Chad Myers at the CNN Hurricane Center. Give us the latest forecast, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN SEVERE WEATHER EXPERT: Wolf, you know what, it really did -- it got torn up in the overnight hours, and during the daylight hours today. This thing was a big, bad, 165-mile-per-hour storm this morning, now down to about 100, maybe 135, 140, even some estimates I'm thinking (UNINTELLIGIBLE) high, but whatever, still a dangerous category three high end there, maybe a small category four storm right now.

The hurricane hunter aircraft is not in it to figure out what it is exactly right now, but the latest had the winds at 135, gusting higher, moving right across from Nicaragua through Honduras, now Honduras from La Ceiba (ph), maybe into (UNINTELLIGIBLE) big town that you've heard to Juticalpa (ph), that area there, although far away from the ocean may have mudslides with this storm because of the huge amount of water and rainfall that will come down on the mountains here between Honduras and Nicaragua.

Then we move over southern Belize, pretty swampy area here, not a lot of settlement, and then back up, maybe far as the north, and what I'm a little bit worried about, Wolf, is that how close this gets to Mexico City. It still has a lot of moisture with it could we get flooding and mudslides in Mexico City. Millions and millions, tens of millions (UNINTELLIGIBLE) live around that big town -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll watch it together with you in the coming hours. Chad, thanks very much. Felix resembles another major storm that developed very quickly only a couple of years ago. In late October 2005, Wilma exploded within hours from a tropical storm to a category five hurricane. It became the most intense storm on record for the Atlantic Basin. Wilma weakened slightly as it hit Mexico, then curved back out to sea to hit Florida three days later as a category three storm. We remember that very, very well.

Some other stories we're watching, stories from around the world. North Korea marks a date on the calendar for ending its nuclear program, but is it enough to get the North Koreans off the U.S. government's terror list? Our State Department correspondent Zain Verjee joins us -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the U.S. appears to be getting a diplomatic win on its scoreboard, but it's too soon to celebrate.


VERJEE (voice-over): It's a first, in face-to-face talks with the U.S., North Korea sets a deadline to get rid of its nuclear program.

CHRISTOPHER HILL, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: The DPRK will provide a full declaration of all of their nuclear programs, and will disable their nuclear programs by the end of this year.

VERJEE: But the devil, as they say, is in the details. One giant question mark -- the U.S. says North Korea has a whole other secret nuclear program using uranium to build bombs, which it needs to scrap, but North Korea denies it even exists.

HILL: We need to pick up the pace.

VERJEE: What North Korea wants is for the U.S. to make good on promises of $1 million in aid and normal relations with the U.S. It also wants to be taken off the list of states the U.S. says sponsors terrorism. The North expects it to happen soon, but a senior State Department official says this is not imminent.

This latest step follows the shutdown of North Korea's main nuclear reactor in July, which was producing plutonium, the raw material for its nuclear bombs. The U.S. wants North Korea to follow Libya's path. Moammar Gadhafi gave up his nukes, got off the U.S. terrorism list, and is enjoying a range of economic and diplomatic rewards. Yes, Moammar Gadhafi as a role model.


VERJEE: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to be in Beijing later this year. She will be meeting with her counterparts and sitting with them across the table from the North Koreans -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain Verjee. Thank you very much.

Are there serious health risks from that buttery flavor in your microwave popcorn?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They can't breathe. I mean these are -- is a 25-year-old man who can't walk up the stairs.


BLITZER: Some workers are already feeling the effects. Should you be worried?

And God's shoulder to cry on, a new book tells about President Bush's private tears.

Plus, many of his Republican colleagues gave Senator Larry Craig the cold shoulder after his bathroom bust. Now some voters want the senator to fight back.

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


BLITZER: The senator busted in that sex sting operation in a men's room in Minneapolis is now paying a high political price. After members of his own party pushed him out, some say Senator Larry Craig should fight to clear his name. Our congressional correspondent Dana Bash is in Boise, Idaho -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a big part of Craig's problem is that none of his GOP colleagues in Washington came to his defense. Now he's getting some support, but it may be too little too late, since his constituents here in Idaho are already trying to move past the weeklong drama that engulfed this state.


Bash (voice over): Harvest Fest is a Boise Labor Day tradition. This year, the buzz here isn't so much about the local crafts. It's the rapid downfall of their senator, Larry Craig.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just want to know what the man was thinking to get himself in such a bind, is -- for a smart man, he didn't use very good judgment.

BASH: There is outrage and disappointment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a lot of empathy for the family, and I feel it's a very sad situation.

BASH: And growing resentment towards Craig's fellow Republicans in Washington who pressured him to resign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the Republican Party has a tendency to eat its own.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He should not have resigned.

BASH: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He should have fought it.

BASH (voice over): Now, after Craig stepped down in the face of no support from Senate colleagues, one is defending him. Republican Senator Arlen Specter things Craig could win a legal battle to overturn his guilty plea admitting to misconduct in a men's room.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: He's got his life on the line and 27 years in the House and Senate, and I'd like to see him fight the case because I think he could be vindicated.

BASH: But it will be very hard for Craig to clear his name legally and politically. Republican leaders eager to show voters they will no longer tolerate scandal are boasting about pushing Craig out. SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R), NEVADA: That's one of the things I'm proudest about our leadership, is the swift action, sending the signal to him that it was probably best that he resign.

BASH: One political expert in Idaho says that could backfire.

JIM WEATHERBY, BOISE STATE UNIVERSITY: In some respect they've shot themselves in the foot. It appears that compassion is not one of the family values of these Republican leaders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we'll miss him, but life goes on.


BASH: Back at the Harvest Fest, Idahoans are just glad the unexpected drama that rocked their state is coming to an end.




BASH: Craig says he won't resign until the end of the month, but it's still unclear, according to his aides, when or if he'll return to Washington to cast votes and come face-to-face with his fellow Republicans who forced him out so abruptly -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana Bash in Boise, Idaho for us. Thank you, Dana.

U.S. troops have sacrificed so much in Iraq. Can Iraq deliver on its promises?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what? I really hope to God they do, because we've spilled buckets and buckets of American blood.


BLITZER: You're going to hear from a man who fought and almost died in Iraq. He's, the author of a gritty war memoir about what it's really like for U.S. troops. You're going to want to see this.

Also, President Bush after he's president, where might he live? How much money might he make? There's a new book out with some startling claims.

And Senator Barack Obama sharpens his attack on Hillary Clinton. It is a stinging critique. He even warns of the divisive atmosphere that could demoralize the country. We'll tell you what's going on, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now -- temperatures are hovering in the triple digits across much of southern California at this hour. A week-long heat wave in the region is straining power grids to the near breaking point, leaving thousands of people without electricity.

Israel's prime minister is pledging to step up operations against Palestinian militants after a rocket landed just outside a daycare center in the Israeli town of Sderot. No one was wounded, but the blast sparked anger and outrage around Israel.

And an American held captive in Iran for eight months is on her way home. Haleh Esfandiari arrived in Vienna, Austria just a while ago. Esfandiari who has family in Iran was detained back in December.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's get back to our top story now. President Bush's secret and risky visit to a former hotbed of the Iraq insurgency. He spoke to our network pool reporter about HIS meeting with Sunni tribal leaders, former enemies of the United States, who are now helping to battle al Qaeda.

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: All I can tell you is the man said that one that he believes in democracy, and two they expect this government to adhere to the principles of the constitution that was passed, and I do, I feel very comfortable that they understand, you know, that united Iraq is in their interests. One of the things they kept talking about was Iran, and they know full well Iraqi nationalism trumps the Iranian influence, but they also know a united Iraq is necessary to deal with Iran.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened today, your experience today, what you heard, what you saw, that will fit into the September 15th report.

BUSH: The main ingredients in that report for me to report to the country will be to report what General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker report. I had a little glimpse of what they talked about. They believe that the security situation is changing quite dramatically, and they recognized as well there's more political reconciliation work to be done and they'll come and report, and I'll take their recommendations and put it into a speech to the country and explain the way forward.

BLITZER: President Bush clearly trying to send a message of success in Iraq, but any success clearly has come at a very heavy price for U.S. troops there. As an army staff sergeant, David Bellavia fought the insurgents at close range in Fallujah. His new book is entitled "House To House."

Dave, thanks very much for coming in.

DAVID BELLAVIA, AUTHOR: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: I want to talk about the book in a moment but you spent a lot of time this Fallujah, in the al-Anbar province. When you look from afar now, what's going on there, you're reading about it. I'm sure you're hearing about it from some of your buddies in the army. What do you think? Is this new strategy going to work?

BELLAVIA: Well, I'm not going to - I'm not naive enough to think that Fallujah's going to be put in a bid for the summer Olympics anytime soon. I think some people get a little carried away with what we see as security comparing it to the United States. But if you look at Anbar and if you look at where al-Anbar province was in 2004 during the battle of Fallujah, the last time I was in Anbar was in the summer of 2006, and I couldn't fly any aviation during the day and today the president of the United States took a 747 with his big presidential logo and landed it during the day in the middle of Al Asad air base. And if that doesn't speak for how far al-Anbar province has come, I really don't know what else I can say.

BLITZER: It clearly does speak at the enormous capabilities of the U.S. military, the marines and the soldiers who have been operating there. But fundamentally, do you think the Shiites and the Sunnis, who hate each other and have been at war with each other for a long time, they're really going to get together and form a cohesive national government that's going to really take charge and lead to a prosperous Iraq?

BELLAVIA: You know I really hope to God they do because we've spilled buckets and buckets of American blood. And my whole point of view is that the brothers and sisters that I lost from the First Infantry Division, you know Iraq has to mean something. Fallujah has to mean something and at this point when we're so close and we're seeing success in place like the Diyala province in the east, al-Anbar in the west, at this point when we're starting to see the pendulum turn that blood has got to stand for something, sir. And now is the time where we've just got to push the thing across the finish line.

BLITZER: The book "House To House" has been incredibly powerful imagery, details. You write about your first-person account, what you went through and many times it was hell in the battle for Fallujah and elsewhere. Let me read a paragraph. "I lunge at him, putting all my weight behind the blade. We're chin to chin now. And his sour breath it s hot on my face. His eyes swim with hate and terror. They're wide and dark and rimmed with blood. I keep my weight on the knife and push down around the wound in staccato waves, like Satan's version of CPR."

You were engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the enemy.

BELLAVIA: Absolutely. We prepare ourselves for combat, sir, physically. I don't think anyone can ever be prepared for the mental, the emotional, and in my case, the spiritual combat that you have when you're that close with the enemy. That's a situation in 2004. There's no way on earth I ever would have imagined that that could possibly happen with our laser-guided bombs, our night version, our thermals. It just goes to show you that a man who's fighting for his life, no matter what side of the fight he's on, he's going to give everything he's got. And as painful as that was to experience, it was equally as taxing to write it and to even hear it now today.

BLITZER: And it's painful to read but important to read, very powerful words.

You also write in the book about your encounters with our own intrepid correspondent Michael Ware. You came upon him at various points. He's been there for now on and off, mostly on for more than four years. Tell our viewers a little bit about your exchanges, what you saw from Michael Ware?

BELLAVIA: You know I have to tell you that as far as the gold standard of combat journalism goes today, there is no one more qualified to give his opinion. I am -- I'm awed by the bravery of Michael Ware. You have an outstanding correspondent. I won't work as his agent here, but I will tell you that I am blown away. He has almost lost his life more times than I can count.

I entered that room that I write about in "House To House," I add a couple of my army buddies who were my brothers in arms but there was one guy behind me and that was Michael Ware and he trusted me enough to enter this home with these six insurgents and I will never forget that.

BLITZER: You write this, let me read it to our viewers who know Michael Ware very well. "Ware is an authority on the enemy. He knows more about them than our own intelligence officers. I have on every word and try to remember everything he tells us. It is the best, most comprehensive discussion I've heard about the enemy since arriving in Iraq."

We can only echo those words based on his extraordinary reporting for us but leave us with a final thought, David, what you hope the reader of "House To House" will emerge with after he or she reads this book.

BELLAVIA: You know, so many of the American population right now is, if they don't have a vested interest in this fight, they really don't know how to feel about it. They don't know if this is the same combat of Iwo Jima, if this is the same sort of military struggle that we had in Korean Vietnam. And my story is so unfortunately so similar to all these other soldiers and marines' stories. What our men and women are doing every inch of success in Iraq has been bought and paid for by the blood of the real patriots and heroes and this book I hope when people read it not only can take a moment but to give that extra hug to that local hero that who comes home on their block leave and also remembers all the many thousands that we've lost.

BLITZER: Let's thank you, David Bellavia for writing this book "House to House, an Epic Memoir of War." Thanks to your service to the United States.

BELLAVIA: Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.

BLITZER: From a commander in chief in tears to inner circle conflict over Dick Cheney as a running mate, there's another new book with some fascinating revelations about President Bush. It's scheduled to be released tomorrow.

CNN's Mary Snow has a copy of the book. It's entitled "Dead Certain." Give us a little preview of what can people expect in this book, Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as you said, we were able to obtain a copy of the book a day ahead of its release. It's gaining notice for the rare access that the author had to the president, and it details what happened behind closed doors when making some key decisions.

BUSH: I believe you're looking at the next vice president of the United States.

SNOW: But one key player in then Governor Bush's inner circle didn't agree. In "Dead Certain," author Robert Draper writes that in 2000, political adviser Karl Rove did not think that Dick Cheney would be a good running mate, but that the president didn't care. Draper paraphrases Rove, "Selecting daddy's top foreign policy guy ran counter to message. It was worse than a safe pick. It was needy." And in a 2005 argument, Rove was shouted down for resisting Bush picked Harriet Meyers for the Supreme Court. The book also claims that chief justice John Roberts was the person who pushed for Meyers nomination but today the Supreme Court called that account not true. Beyond the dissent, the book details personal moments. President Bush admitting he sheds tears in private, Draper quoting the president as saying, "I've got God's shoulder to cry on and I cry a lot. I do a lot of crying in this job. I'll bet I've shed more tears than you can count, as president." Self-pity, he says, can come with the job, but that his wife Laura reminds him he chose to do this. Rare and candid insight which one historian suggests carries a motive.

ROBERT DALLEK, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: With his approval ratings so low, this may in part explain why he agreed to do these interviews and allowed this journalist to produce this book so quickly.

SNOW: After the White House, President Bush wants to build what he calls a fantastic freedom institute in Dallas, but first Draper says Mr. Bush told him he needs to replenish the old coffers, noting he can make what he calls ridiculous money on the lecture circuit saying I don't know what my dad gets but it's more than 50, 75. Clinton's making a lot of money and on Bill Clinton, the president talks about running into his predecessor at the United Nations in September of 2006. Reflecting on that, Bush tells Draper, "Six years from now, you're not going to see me hanging out in the lobby of the U.N."

Draper says for this book, he interviewed the president six times and spoke to many members of his administration, including vice president Dick Cheney and senior adviser Karl Rove. The White House has no comment on the book, CNN could not reach recently departed adviser Karl Rove for comment.


BLITZER: Bill Clinton has made millions and millions of dollars on the lecture circuit since leaving office. Thanks very much, Mary, for that. Robert Draper, by the way, will be a guest of ours tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A tough sell for candidate running for president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me ask you a question, you're here at the parade, lots of politicians here. Who's made up their mind about who they're going to vote for in January?

BLITZER: We're on the campaign trail where one major candidate is going after his front-runner rival.

And that buttery taste, why there are new health concerns about a flavoring additive in microwave popcorn.

Plus, watch this, inmates dancing to the warden's tune. Does this unusual program hold the key to ending prison violence? We're going to show you what's going on in the Philippines, the dancing inmates and more, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The presidential candidates are working for votes this Labor Day. Among republicans, Senator John McCain visited Iowa, vowing to fight for President Bush's war strategy. Mitt Romney campaigned in New Hampshire. He said Hillary Clinton could change bring change to Washington, in the form of big government and socialized medicine. And Senator Sam Brownback told a South Carolina crowd, the values he represents will play well there.

Our senior political correspondence correspondent Candy Crowley is on the campaign trail for us tonight. What are you seeing in New Hampshire, Candy, where you are?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, lots and lots of activity. As you know this is sort of a traditional day for politicians to be out, Wolf. This is not another -- this is not a time for the last day at the beach for them. It's time for another day at work. It's Labor Day. You know what that means, full throttle politics.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: How's it going, Manchester?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to a wonderful Labor Day parade.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Wow, what a great Labor Day crowd.

CROWLEY: From Iowa, to New Hampshire to Pennsylvania, much of the '08 presidential field was out holiday shopping for votes and putting a little punch in the rhetoric.

OBAMA: There are those who tout their experience working the system in Washington, but the problem is that the system in Washington isn't working for us, and it hasn't been for a very long time.

CROWLEY: He's talking about Hillary Clinton. You think she's old hat, basically?

OBAMA: No, what I think is that we've got a message that speaks to the American future.

CROWLEY: It is the fall version of summer's story. He paints her as status quo. She frames him as not ready for the job. Changes versus experience.

CLINTON: For my time in the white house and the senate, I've learned that you bring change by working the system established by our constitution, not by pretending the system doesn't exist.

CROWLEY: Also in the fray camp Edwards where aides say they're delighted Clinton is defending a system that's failed to do anything about things like health care and global warming. Edwards spent the most traditional of Labor Days in Pittsburgh picking up some big ticket endorsements, the United Mine Workers and United Steel Workers.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D): And proud to stand with these unions in the movement to build one America, where everybody has a real chance. That's the fight we're in.

CROWLEY: Of course, Labor Day isn't just a time for speeches. It's also a time for the required parade. It's also a time of hope for those politicians who haven't made much of a splash yet.

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D): So it's a pretty good run.

CROWLEY: 16 weeks until the voting begins, not long, but there is time. Let me ask you a question, you're here at the parade, lots of politicians, who has made up their mind about who they're going to vote for in January?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I haven't made up my mind yet.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's been an incredible amount of hype that comes with a presidential campaign that you can't trust.

CROWLEY: Wolf, those voters are exactly why everyone in this race from if I were on down in the polls will tell you that at this time in the last cycle, no one except for perhaps John Kerry thought he would be the nominee.


BLITZER: Good point. Thanks very much, Candy, on the scene for us in New Hampshire.

It's certainly something you don't see everyday. Prison inmates dancing like a Broadway chorus line.

And a problem with microwave popcorn. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: There's a health care concern involving microwave popcorn. Let's go back to Carol Costello. What are people worried about?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're worried about the fumes that come from the upon corn bag. I wish I could answer you specifically how it affects people. The EPA has conduct add study, but it doesn't answer that question. Americans love their microwaved popcorn, especially the butter-flavored kind, but there are questions tonight the fumes from that butter flavor could be dangerous after you pop your corn in the microwave. That butter flavor comes from the ingredient diacetyl, and it's damaged the lungs of people who work in popcorn plants.

JACKIE NOWELL, UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS: They can't breathe. I mean these are the 25-year-old man who can't walk up the stairs. It's asthma-like. It's debilitating. It does not get better with removal from the hazard.

COSTELLO: Hundreds of current and former popcorn plant workers from at least seven states have sued flavoring companies for damage to their lungs when they breathed in the fumes from diacetyl. More than 100 have settled out of court. Plant worker, Eric Peoples, was awarded $18 million in damages in 2004 for his lung damage. So why's is it still being news plants and in products consumers eat?

An unreleased EPA draft study that's been under way for years, sought to identify and quantify chemical emissions generated in the process of popping and opening a bag of microwave popcorn. But the study does not address how those chemical emissions affect your lungs.

At least one Indianapolis-based company isn't waiting for the EPA to release its final report. Pop Weaver is the first major microwave popcorn producer to remove diacetyl from its product, saying, "The flavoring has been cited as a possible source of injury to certain employees of food companies who may have inhaled large dosages of diacetyl. Since consumers are increasingly concerned about this issue, we have removed diacetyl from our flavoring." In the meantime, ConAgra Foods which makes Orville Redenbacher, and Act II microwave popcorn, says it's seen the EPA draft but won't comment on it until the final report is issued. However, it adds, "To eliminate even the perception of any concern and to provide the safest possible environment for workers who handle large quantities of diacetyl, we expect eliminate the use of added diacetyl in our products in the near future." They won't say exactly when. Connecticut state representative Rosa Delarro is asking for more tests and even asked the FDA to ban the chemical until there is some definite proof it is safe for popcorn lovers.


BLITZER: Is the FDA doing that, Carol?

COSTELLO: You would think so, but no. Only the EPA is doing any testing at all, and as I said, its study addressed the amount of fumes coming out of the microwave, not how those fumes affect your lungs. For now it's best to open that hot bag of corn and keep your nose away from the fumes.

BLITZER: Carol Costello, thanks very much.

Let's see what's coming up right at the top of the hour on "OUT IN THE OPEN." Rick Sanchez is standing by with a preview. Hi Rick.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: We have a couple cool things for you, Wolf. As a matter of fact, my producer just said we've been able to nail down an interview with one of the people who was stuck under a bridge literally getting pulled by the water. We're going to be talking to him. He's on the phone with us.

And then Sikhs wear turbans. And when they go through airports, now there's a new policy that says TSA is going to make them either take it off, pat it down, to see what's in there. They're mad about this. They're complaining it's religion versus security, and safety. It's a good argument, we're going to bring it "OUT IN THE OPEN." And we'll have it right here for you.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks, Rick. See you in a few moments.

Wouldn't you believe that hundreds of the roughest prisoners in the Philippines could be kept in line by dancing in line? Line dancing in a prison, when we come back.


BLITZER: Here's CNN's Hugh Riminton with the dancing prisoners.

HUGH RIMINTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In CEDU Detention and Rehabilitation center, every able-bodied inmate must dance. Just in case you get the wrong idea, these prisoners are in here because they're the toughest criminals in all the central Philippines. 70 percent of them are rated high-risk inmates and that means most of them are rapists or murders.

Many, however, could be innocent, still waiting for their cases to come to trial. The prison overseer rejects claims he's abusing the prisoner's rights by forcing them to dance so many hours a day.

BYRON GARCIA, CEDU PRISON OVERSEER: We have dancing but still it does not effect how they feel about themselves. They're still men. Although they dance.

RIMINTON: When Garcia took over three years ago, gangs and corrupt guards ruled this jail. Garcia sat most of the guards and ordered the prisoners, first to march and then to dance. He says there's been not a single act of violence in more than a year. Now, not guards but fellow prisoners guide the rehearsals led by an accused mass murderer. Wenjiell Resane tells me the dancing has taught him love. Back in the cell, she shares with 11 other transsexual prisoners, who has waited three years for trial on drug's charges, is enjoying her taste of stardom.

WENJIELL RESANE, INMATE (through translator): It never leaves my mind that I'm a prisoner but I'm very happy and proud of what I've done.

RIMINTON: Her co-star, a one-time professional dancer agrees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (through translator): The atmosphere has changed. We're being treated as humans. Before my son was ashamed of me. But now he tells all this schoolmates his dad is a dancer on You Tube.