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THE SITUATION ROOM
Castro: I Know the Real Truth Behind 9/11; Bush to Address Nation Tomorrow
Aired September 12, 2007 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Kitty.
Happening now Democrats launching a preemptive strike before the president's Iraq address to the nation, but can they persuade Republicans to help them force Mr. Bush's hand and speed up plans for a withdrawal?
Fidel Castro's 9/11 fantasy, the Cuban leader says he knows the real truth about the terror attacks. I'll confront the top Cuban official and ask him where Castro's conspiracy theory is coming from.
And on the Internet, they're calling it cop gone wild. Why did the police officer let loose on an unsuspecting driver, and how did it all wind up on tape?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Tonight, Democrats are rejecting President Bush's plan to bring the so-called surge troops home by next summer as too little too late. On the eve of Mr. Bush's prime time address to the nation, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, is challenging more Republicans to break with the president and force him to change the course of a long and bloody war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: The president has told us to be patient, allow this spilling of more American blood, more of our treasure.
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: In order to try to character it as a war without end is to simply to ignore two days of testimony including 11 hours yesterday in front of the United States Senate, it's just not true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's turn to our congressional correspondent, Jessica Yellin. She's on Capitol Hill watching all of this. The Democrats are scrambling right now, Jessica, to come up with a strategy on how to get a troop withdrawal timeline. What are they planning on doing?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, there are so many different options on the table, that Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, said up to six different amendments could be debated up on Iraq on the Senate floor next week. So what they're doing is they're feeling around, trying to find out which is going to be the best compromise to get the maximum number of Republicans to sign on to some plan that will force the president to do more than just draw down to pre-surge levels by next summer.
Among the options they're kicking around, one would be an amendment that would require that troops get more time between deployments in Iraq. This would indirectly force a drawdown because fewer troops would be available to serve in Iraq at any one time. Another, instead of setting a firm deadline for a full troop withdrawal, they would set what they call a goal date. They hope that could bring along more Republicans because it wouldn't be forcing the general's hand. It would be a very clear suggestion from Congress.
And still another would recommend that the Iraq Study Group plan be set into law. That would codify the Iraq Study Group's recommendations. Now in order to push Republicans to accept one of these plans, they're going so far as to tell Republicans that they're going to start calling this the Senate Republicans' war if they don't start changing their position. As you know, Democrats do risk making a compromise that goes too far to the center and they could lose some of the hard line get out of Iraq now Democrats on the left and then they still wouldn't have the votes they need to override a veto.
BLITZER: All right, those are some of the options in the Senate? What about in the House?
YELLIN: Yes, Wolf, some interesting things I'm just hearing from a House senior Democratic aide that they're thinking about asking the House to pass a bill that codifies the president's plan to go down to those pre-surge levels and call it the open ended open wallet commitment. Another is the parody amendment, which would say that every dollar spent in Iraq well we want that much spent here at home. Why should Americans lose out?
And a third more, more serious one would be some combination of readiness legislation, some element that would require the president report back to Congress in 60 days and something that would include a phased withdrawal -- all of that still being kicked around.
BLITZER: All right, lots of moving happening -- Jessica, thanks very much. Join us tomorrow night for a special expanded edition of THE SITUATION ROOM as we preview President Bush's address to the nation. Our coverage starts at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, the president's address at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
The nation the United States accuses of having the blood of U.S. troops on its hands suggests the Iraq progress report is simply theater. Iran's ambassador to Iraq spoke exclusively with CNN's Michael Ware in Baghdad.
Give us a little flavor of what's going on there. You suggested the other day that this war in Iraq seems to be emerging as almost a proxy war involving Iran and the United States.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, and it has been for some time, but now it's reaching fever pitch, Wolf. And I think if you study the testimony given over the past two days very closely, you'll see that there's certainly a rhetorical shift that is matching the military shift, away from al Qaeda to a certain degree and focusing on the main long game, which is Iran, so that's why we sat down with the Iranian ambassador.
We're one of the few people from the Western media that he ever talks to. Let me give you some of the dot (ph) points. I mean this is the drama, the great game of Iran versus America in Iraq. Following the testimony, he returns serve on behalf of Iran. He denies the allegations about arming militias and indeed counters that by saying that Iran is in possession of evidence of America arming and supporting anti-government militias fighting against the regime in Teheran.
He is talking about Kurdish separatist groups and Baluch (ph) separatist groups. He then throws down the gauntlet, says that the Americans have evidence against us. Let's hear it through official channels. Give it to the Swiss embassy in Tehran. At the same time, he says we're ready to give you our evidence of your meddling in our affairs. We'll give it to the Swiss.
It's a daring challenge. He also challenges the cornerstone of U.S. policy, engaging the Sunni tribes. He calls that bringing back the murderers of the old regime. He also says that this is weakening the Maliki government, which must remain, and he threatens any attempt to undermine the Maliki government, as we have heard U.S. politicians calling for the prime minister's removal.
He says the cost of that will be high and it will affect U.S. security. Basically he says the occupation should be over. The president's policy to bring terrorists in has worked. You're breeding them. It is now a terrorist training camp. Leave this to the region. Let Iraq arm the Iraqis, if you don't we will. Get out and let the region handle this. This is none of your business. Wolf, it is quite challenging stuff.
BLITZER: And this ambassador, the Iranian ambassador has met twice now with the U.S. ambassador, Ryan Crocker. He is going to be here in THE SITUATION ROOM later this hour. We're going to talk about Iran a little bit. But give us a sense of his mood. Is this an ambassador, a diplomat who seems to be confident, cocky, that his side in effect is winning or did he seem to be on the defensive?
WARE: Look, to use a boxing analogy, Wolf, in truth of the Iranian ambassador and the regime in Tehran in general, you cannot lay a glove on them. These are very polished, very professional, very experienced individuals backed by a very cohesive military regime. The ambassador is cool as they come.
According to an American intelligence, he's actually a senior officer in the Quds force, the very unit that the Americans claim is arming these militias. He's had previous postings in Afghanistan, where he actually helped the Americans. He has also had postings in Lebanon with close ties to Hezbollah. This is a guy who is not fazed, and as far as he and his government are concerned, they don't owe America anything. All the cards are in their hands. And they're not willing to offer America a scrap, even from the table. They think there's no interest. They're winning, and there's nothing America can do about it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Good work, as usual -- Michael Ware reporting for us from Baghdad. He gets another exclusive today.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He is in New York with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: He's the only reporter in all of the media, not just at CNN, that gets these kinds of stories. I don't see this kind of stuff anywhere else.
BLITZER: He does a really -- I haven't seen the Iranian ambassador talk to anybody else...
BLITZER: ... any other news organization, forget about print or electronic, but Michael got him.
CAFFERTY: Simply remarkable, it is just great stuff. All right, so much for winning the hearts and minds, following up on at least part of what Michael was getting at, winning the hearts and minds in part of the Muslim world.
A new poll in Pakistan shows al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is more popular than Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf. The poll was done by a group called Terror Free Tomorrow, and it shows that bin Laden gets a 46 percent approval rating compared to 38 percent for the president, Musharraf, our president, Bush, 9 percent.
The head of the group says they have conducted 23 polls all over the Muslim world. And this is the most disturbing one they have done to date. There's more here. Sixty-six percent of those polled say the U.S. is acting against Islam in the war on terror. Seventy-four percent oppose U.S. military action against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan.
And only 19 percent hold a positive opinion of the U.S. down from 46 percent in 2005, following American relief efforts after the earthquake in Pakistan. How quickly they forget. There's a small silver lining here though. Opposition leader (UNINTELLIGIBLE) has a 63 percent approval rating and 75 percent of those polled said that suicide bombings are rarely or never justified, small comfort.
Here is the question. What does it say about Pakistan if Osama bin Laden is more popular there than President Pervez Musharraf. E- mail CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It helps explain why he's been the target of several assassination attempts in his own country and also explains why the U.S. is hoping he wins, given the problems he has there. He may not be perfect, but at least he's on the U.S. side in this war on terror.
CAFFERTY: Exactly and if they had true democracy in any of those countries over there, they would all be Islamist governments. I mean look what happened when the, you know, when the Palestinians elected Hamas. I mean the religion is much stronger than the politics in that part of the world.
BLITZER: You underline a really important part in that part of the world. Jack, thanks very much.
After taking heat of Capitol Hill, the United States ambassador to Iraq says some things come with the territory.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all part of American democracy, but Baghdad has never looked so good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What would make Ambassador Ryan Crocker suggest it's better to go back to Iraq? My exclusive interview with the U.S. ambassador, that's coming up.
Fidel Castro's conspiracy theories, he says the U.S. government is not telling the truth about 9/11. Wait until you hear what Castro thinks is the truth. I'll speak to a top Cuban leader.
And caught on tape, a police officer unleashes a tirade on a driver, threatening to make up charges, even throw him in jail. It could happen to anyone. You're going to find out what the driver did about it.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton tonight are sending a powerful message to President Bush on the war in Iraq. Let's bring in our senior political Candy Crowley. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. This whole debate over the past few days seems to be having an impact on the political dynamite for the Democratic presidential candidates.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well it certainly has made them more adamant in what they have been saying previously. Look, more than 80 percent of the Democratic Party is anti-war, so it probably should come as no surprise to us that their answer to the Petraeus report is no.
CROWLEY (voice-over): Riding the wake of the Petraeus report, presidential candidate Barack Obama went to Iowa to reject its findings and push his plan to bring all combat troops home by the end of next year.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I am here to say that we have to begin to end this war now.
CROWLEY: Ditto back in Washington, where Hillary Clinton calls the Petraeus report too little too late.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. President, we don't need another mission-accomplished moment. What we need is honesty and candor. And honesty and candor that demands that you announce that you will start bringing troops home now.
CROWLEY: There is at the moment little difference between Obama and Clinton on this subject. He sells himself as the agent of change, using her original pro-war vote to frame her as part of the status quo. But the more the conversation turns to the future, the more they seem the same. Their upcoming votes on anti-war amendments may well be identical, advantage Clinton.
AMY WALTER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "HOTLINE": If you're Barack Obama and you have made your case basically on the fact that you were the first anti-war candidate. Being a senator now makes it very difficult to still be the outsider. He is going to have to go in there and yes, he can cast votes and he can make speeches and he can question Petraeus as he did yesterday, but the bottom line is he's part of the system.
CROWLEY: Both Clinton and Obama remain vulnerable at the core of the party, which is fiercely antiwar and disappointed with the Democratic Congress' inability to stop it, which is where John Edwards comes in. Trying to find running room to the left of both, Clinton and Obama, Edwards was quick to draw a bright line.
We don't need to begin to end the war now, he said in a press release. What we need to do now is actually end the war. Edwards called on both Clinton and Obama to use every tool available to change the administration's course.
CROWLEY: Similar rhetoric from Senator Dodd who accused Obama and Clinton of not going far enough and from Governor Bill Richardson, who said Obama's plan was dangerous because it left some troops in Iraq -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Candy Crowley reporting for us -- thanks, Candy, very much.
He was criticized for painting a too rosy picture of the U.S. mission in Iraq at this week's congressional hearings, so what does the nation's top diplomat in Baghdad think it will take to get democracy in Iraq solidly on track in terms of time and U.S. military commitment?
And joining us now here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the United States ambassador to Iraq, Ambassador Ryan Crocker. You have been on the hot seat these last few days, Welcome to THE SITUATION ROOM.
RYAN CROCKER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: Thanks very much for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: And I heard you say earlier you're looking forward to going back to Baghdad, which underscores that this has not necessarily been a pleasant experience here in Washington.
CROCKER: It is all part of American democracy, but Baghdad has never looked so good.
BLITZER: Let's talk about democracy. In your statement, you repeatedly said this. You said, in my view secure is stable, democratic Iraq at peace with its neighbors is attainable. And the word democratic, a real democracy in Iraq, what are we talking about, six months, six years, generations? How long is it going to take because the American people are nervous, as you understand. We know they are frustrated. How long is it going to take to achieve a secure, stable, democratic Iraq?
CROCKER: An in-state that is of a country that is stable, secure, and democratic is probably years in the making. Now that does not by any means imply that we're going to have significant numbers of troops on the ground to sustain security while they work through these things. But this is a long-term project.
BLITZER: Because the U.S., as you know, after World War II, stayed in Germany, still in Germany, still in Japan. Are we talking generations that there will have to be a U.S. military presence in Iraq?
CROCKER: Certainly not in anything like the current numbers or in the current -- with the current mission role, but it is noteworthy that Iraq's leaders at the end of August in a declaration that they produced on areas where they had agreement, also agreed that all five of them representing Iraq's three principle communities wanted to have a long-term strategic partnership with the U.S.
BLITZER: Are we talking eight to 10 years where there would be a robust military presence, at least 50,000 or maybe even 100,000 U.S. troops? Is that realistic, something Americans should assume is the case?
CROCKER: I don't think so. General Petraeus in his testimony noted that he could make plans through to next summer, July 2008, and it's just too hard at this point with all of the uncertainty to look much beyond that. I think we're just going to have to take this as it comes.
BLITZER: Ambassador Ryan Crocker speaking with me earlier right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Fidel Castro says the U.S. is not telling the whole truth about 9/11. The ailing leader says he knows what really happened. I'll ask the third highest-ranking Cuban official about Castro's conspiracy theories. And it is a hit TV show in Iran, a huge hit Iran's government has spent a lot of money on, but the main story includes something that Iran's president says never happened -- the Holocaust. We'll tell you what's going on in Iran. You'll want to see this.
Stay with us. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: The head of Mattel is promising Congress he'll make changes to improve toy safety. He and the CEO of Toys 'R' Us, among others were summoned to Capitol Hill today to help senators sort out how millions of unsafe toys could fall into children's hands. This is an important story that CNN's Brian Todd is watching. So what did they come up with, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, as usual in these situations, they came up with a lot more finger pointing.
TODD (voice-over): Millions of Chinese-made toys contaminated with dangerous lead paint on American shelves. At least one child dies after swallowing lead jewelry. Three high profile recalls this summer alone, all involving Mattel, the world's number one toy maker. Its CEO called before Congress, apologizes, but also blames Chinese subcontractors.
ROBERT ECKERT, CEO, MATTEL, INC.: Our systems were circumvented and our standards were violated.
TODD: But senators relay charges of a cynical corporate giant cutting corners.
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), DEMOCRATIC WHIP: Critics would say Mattel knew what they were doing. They were looking for the cheapest places in the world to make their toys, so they found a country with the lowest wage scale, with virtually no environmental standards and very basically no safety inspection, so why should we be surprised at the outcome?
ECKERT: To me, the issue here hasn't been where these products are made or what the rules are. Have we done everything we can to insure their safety?
TODD: Robert Eckert says Mattel is doing that; now testing the paint before and after toys are produced, placing auditors on factory floors. For some recalled toys that are choking hazards, Chinese officials blame in part, the manufacturer's design flaws, which Mattel denies. Critics also charge the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which oversees toy safety, doesn't find deficient toys until they're already on American shelves. Consumer groups say that agency doesn't have the authority or the resources.
SALLY GREENBERG, CONSUMERS UNION: They have got one person testing toys, their lab is -- looks like an old college friend's dorm room.
TODD: The result of massive budget and staff cuts. Who gets the blame for that?
JOE ENOCH, CONSUMERAFFAIRS.COM: It's all because the Bush administration has decreased their funding. And there is no doubt that right now the agency is at the lowest point it has ever been in its history.
TODD: White House officials told me it is far more complex than that, that the CPSC could never have enough money or personnel to inspect everything. He says the administration has increased that agency's funding every year and has created another import safety group to monitor these products as well -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, thank you -- Brian Todd reporting for us.
Fidel Castro says the American people were duped into believing a fallacy about 9/11. He has his own ideas. They may be strange versions of what happened. We'll speak about it. Cuba's third ranking leader joining us from Havana to discuss what's going on.
And a bitter feud between Republican presidential rivals Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney. It's getting ugly out there. One is accusing the other of engaging in smut and high-tech gutter politics.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, coastal Texas bracing for Humberto, a tropical depression emerged only this morning on the western Gulf of Mexico. It quickly became a tropical storm. Forecasters say it might even gain minimal hurricane strength before making landfall around Galveston. That is expected at midnight.
And a judge rules that a portion of the cockpit voice recorder audio from one of the ill fated planes on 9/11 can be played in court. The tape includes the final moments of United Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Now a look at some stories from around the world, Fidel Castro is joining those conspiracy theorists in alleging a cover-up about 9/11. Let's go to our Havana Bureau Chief Morgan Neill for a little closer look -- Morgan.
MORGAN NEILL, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF: Wolf, in the latest essay attributed to Fidel Castro, the ailing leaders writes that the world has been deliberately misled about just what happened on September 11th. In a somewhat rambling article Castro writes that the Pentagon was struck that day, not by an airplane, but by some kind of projectile.
Apparently unaware of or unconvinced by DNA evidence found at the site, Castro says that the passengers and the crew of that plane were never recovered. Castro also writes that the basements of the Twin Towers were filled with some 200 tons in gold bars and that shoot to kill orders had been given to stop anyone trying to go near that gold. Now Castro's comments fall a bit short of a conspiracy theory and that we're never told why the world has been misled about what happened on September 11th, only that it is so. The Cuban leader hasn't appeared in more than a year and articles like this one have become the main means to which he communicates both with the Cuban people and with the world.
BLITZER: Morgan Neil, our man in Havana, thank you very much. And earlier, I spoke with Cuba's third highest ranking official, the President of the Cuban National Assembly. I asked Ricardo Alarcon if he really believes there's a conspiracy regarding the 9/11 attacks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICARDO ALARCON, PRES., CUBAN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY: Castro was referring to various allegations by scientists, by even journalists that suggest that contradictions between the date that has been published or known about those events, the fact is that following investigation on that event as far as I know, didn't take place. Immediately after 9/11, the attention was diverted towards the international arena, unfortunately.
BLITZER: Well, let me interrupt President Alarcon. Let me interrupt. Because they did find the bodies, the DNA of the passengers from American Airlines flight 77 at the Pentagon. They did find wreckage of that American Airlines flight. That was all widely reported, and by even suggesting that there was a projectile or some sort of bomb, it's raising questions about President Fidel Castro.
And if you're standing by your president on this, it's raising questions at least in the minds of a lot of people around the world, including some who are friendly with Cuba, what is going on over there?
ALARCON: Well, again, he was referring to a comment and analysis made by others that are a fact that now have been discussed even in your country. And the basis of that would be a solo investigation. The presentation of every detained and every individual that may have been responsible by acts or by omission of what happened.
BLITZER: Because even Osama Bin Laden, in this most recent videotape that just came out the other day, he takes credit for 9/11. He says, we did it. We sent those 19 hijackers there. They have all those martyr videotapes that they have released.
Are you suggesting, and let me be precise, is President Fidel Castro suggesting that al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden are not responsible for what happened on 9/11?
ALARCON: No, he didn't say that. He didn't suggest that. It appears that this guy, Mr. Bin laden, has recognized, has said not only in the last tape, not in one area, that they were involved. But that was -- he was referring, if I am not wrong, specifically, Mr. Bin Laden, to the twin towers action or the destruction of these towers. It appears that they have recognized this group. We don't have any name for them. We don't have a way to confirm such information but it appears according to the tapes have been produced or presented.
BLITZER: Because this is going to raise questions about whether or not President Fidel Castro is really in touch with reality.
But let me move on and talk about his health right now. There have been a lot of rumors over the past weeks, especially in Miami and south Florida that he's already dead. When was the last time you personally saw President Castro?
ALARCON: The last time was in touch with him personally was more than a week ago because I traveled to Montreal and I just returned from the city. But I was in touch with him yesterday when he was working on that long article that was published today.
BLITZER: So you can say for sure he is alive. Is he making progress in his recovery? Because, as you know, we haven't seen him in a long time. How is his health right now?
ALARCON: Well, my information is that he's doing pretty well. I am not a physician, but I understand that he's going through his recovery process in the way that is normal.
BLITZER: Why not let us see him? Why not let the world get some pictures of him? What's wrong with that?
ALARCON: I think that's a private matter, if you want to be photographed or you want to appear in front of lights or if you are forced to follow a certain discipline of rehabilitation, exercise and so on. For that situation, it's better to spend more time reading and writing, as he's doing.
BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about the Cuban five. These are five Cubans who have been convicted here in the United States of conspiracy to commit espionage. They're serving long prison sentences. There's an international campaign to get them out. Danny Glover, the American actor, is now involved on behalf of their cause. We have had a debate on our program, THE SITUATION ROOM, in recent weeks, on this.
Why not let the judicial process in the U.S. continue its way? There's an appeal before the courts right now. A judge is going to make a decision in the next few months. Do you believe that they will get a fair hearing as this appeal process goes forward?
ALARCON: So far, they haven't got a fair hearing. This case was tried in Miami. Wolf, in those days, when they were discussing the venue for that trial, you were day in and day out covering the story in that very same city. Everybody saw around the world, how illegality and violence was prevailing in the world. And at the same time, the people were denied a change of venue for their trial. It was the beginning of a very clear case of miscarriage of justice and prosecutorial misconduct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Ricardo Alarcon, speaking with me from Havana earlier.
When we come back, Mitt Romney denies he's behind a website Fred Thompson is blasting as smut, but that's not resolving a brawl between two GOP presidential candidate. That's coming up.
Also, a police officer's angry roadside rant, but a driver fights right back in a surprising way. You're going to want to see what's going on right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: In the Republican presidential race, the war of words is getting louder and nastier. On one side, Mitt Romney, on the other, Fred Thompson, at the center of it all, a website accusing Thompson of being phony and a lot worse.
Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She's following this story for us. Some pretty tough and rough accusations out there, Mary.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, and also tough fighting words. And Fred Thompson has come out swinging. Mitt Romney is denouncing the attack on his rival, denying he had anything to do with it.
Republican Fred Thompson's campaign calls it smut and high tech gutter politics. They blame the Romney campaign for creating this website this stinging anti-Thompson web site, PhoneyFred, but Romney denies that telling the AP the site is juvenile and offensive. The site itself is no longer online but "The Washington Post" captured this image of it with titles such as pimp Fred, moron Fred, and playboy Fred, language that makes even seasoned political strategists bristle.
DAVID WINSTON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think it is sort of important to find out exactly where that website came from and who is responsible for it because that sort of discourse is just way beyond the pail.
SNOW: The site was linked to a person working for a Romney campaign advisor in South Carolina. The Thompson accuses the Romney campaign of what it calls a half baked cover up attempt that does not even pass the laugh test. A spokesman for Romney says, "We made it clear we did not approve of the site and asked for immediate action again to make sure it was in no way affiliated with the campaign."
LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: The internet has become the wild wild west of the America politics. You can do things on there anonymously. It's very difficult to trace.
SNOW: In this case, the Phoney Fred site was tied to this man, Wesley Donahue. Attempts to reach him were unsuccessful. He is seen here on a website linked to the South Carolina firm, Tompkins, Thompson, and Sullivan. Two of the partners work for Romney including one well known in South Carolina politics, Warren Tompkins.
SABATO: This is a hard ball player on the Republican side. He would probably embrace that title.
SNOW: Back in 2000, Tompkins worked for the Bush campaign in South Carolina. It was there where John McCain faced a smear campaign involving rumors he fathered an illegitimate black child. Media reports implicated Tompkins and Bush campaign officials but both strongly denied having anything to do with it. McCain lost the primary in that state.
Now, we tried reaching Warren Tompkins for comment on the anti- Thompson site, but we have been unsuccessful. The Associated Press quotes him though saying he knew nothing about the creation of the website, that his firm wasn't involved and that the creator acted on his own.
BLITZER: All right, Mary. Thanks very much. What a story, Mary Snow reporting from New York.
There is a new drama on television unfolding on Iran. It's set in the Holocaust in 2002. The plot is unusual enough, but where it's produced, even more startling. We're going to share this story with you.
And a traffic cop rips into a driver, threatening to bring him in on trumped up charges. How do we know? His tirade is all caught on tape. We'll share it with you. That's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Here is a story for you, a TV show in Iran that's a huge hit. Yet right now, some are questioning how it could be so popular given its subject matter and given Iran's president.
Carol Costello is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. She's joining us. This TV drama involved World War II and the Holocaust in Iran. What's going on?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I know. It's really an odd thing. I mean we've heard the president of Iran say it, the Holocaust is a myth. It's drawn condemnations from Israel, the United States, and Europe and it has damaged Iran's credibility. Oddly, a soapy TV drama could fix it all.
It's called "Zero Degree Turn" and it's as popular in Iran as "Desperate Housewives" is here. This splashy World War II drama is a love story between an Iranian Palestinian Muslim and a French Jewish woman.
Here she says, "You can't hide yourself from me, even if you can hide yourself from the whole word." The drama takes place in Paris. Here, our lovers are in disguise he, an Iranian, can help his woman avoid a Nazi concentration camp, destination Iran. It's a unique story line for Iranian TV given the Iranian president has repeatedly called the Holocaust a myth. That's President Ahmadinejad at the Worldwide Holocaust Conference shaking hands with American David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
And this is a scene from "Zero Degree Turn." Here, our Iranian hero asks, "Where are they taking them? The fascists are taking the Jews to the concentration camps." The Iranian government has spent lavishly on the show, too, shooting it on location and featuring established Iranian stars.
Compare it to the usual Iranian TV fair. You can see the difference. It begs the question, why spend all that government money on a show about something Iran's president denies ever happened?
KARIM SADJADPOUR, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT: President Ahmadinejad may be the president of Iran, but he's certainly not a dictator and he's certainly not the most powerful individual within Iran.
COSTELLO: Now, this man is, the supreme leader. He controls state-run television in Iran, and Sadjadpour thinks "Zero Degree Turn" is his way of sending a message to the world and to Iran's 25,000 Jewish citizens to ignore Ahmadinejad's words.
SADJADPOUR: This is one way to send a subtle to the rest of the world and Iran's own Jewish community that despite the rantings of President Ahmadinejad, you should feel secure here.
COSTELLO: As for how Ahmadinejad feels about this signal, Iranian sources tell us it is not as odds with the president's message. Ahmadinejad does not dislike Jews but Israel, a country he believes uses the Holocaust as an excuse to kill innocent Palestinians.
Iran wants you to see this drama. If you want to see it for yourself, you can find it online, all 22 episodes.
BLITZER: I suspect a lot of people will want to see it. Carol, thanks very much. Interesting story.
Let's go back to Jack Cafferty. He's in New York for the Cafferty File.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm not one of them.
BLITZER: No. You don't have to be.
CAFFERTY: No. The question this hour is what does it say about Pakistan if Osama Bin Laden's more popular there than the country's president, Pervez Musharraf.
Peter writes from Florida, "No surprise Jack. Osama bin Laden's always been popular, particularly with young people, throughout the Muslim world. The only surprise is that the media are starting to notice." Joe is Wisconsin, "As nasty a solution it may be, Musharraf needs to do us a favor: find and kill bin Laden. If I were dictator of a country, I certainly would do what I could to eliminate my opponents."
Saleem in Ellicott City, Maryland, "Dear Mr. Cafferty, the poll results you made it appear somewhat realistic. As an ex-Pakistani and current U.S. citizen, I know for sure that a very large number of Pakistanis think that 9/11 was a drama produced by the U.S. government and therefore they believe that Osama bin Laden is innocent and targeted by the U.S. for nothing."
Judy in West Virginia, "It says Osama bin Laden is safe in Pakistan and we do not have a strong ally in the war on terror in Pakistan, despite all the money we have paid overtly and covertly and despite the huge bounty on Osama's head. We have been duped. Again."
Mike in Ontario, "If Osama bin Laden is so much more popular than President Bush or the Pakistani president, perhaps the Pakistani people should look to bin Laden for aid after their next disaster."
Bob writes, "It goes to show that Pakistan is the real central front in the war on terror, not Iraq. Iraq was a major distraction."
And P. writes, "It's all about the religion, stupid! When will we ever get it?
We invite you to join us next Wednesday, September the 19th, 8:00 eastern time. We're going to do an hour-long special of the Cafferty File talking about how ugly it's getting out there. You can go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. You can send us your I-reports, those little do it yourself news gizmos that you can make at home. And you can also e-mail us at Jack@cnn.com. Or you can do none of those things if you're tired.
BLITZER: It's a free country. They can do whatever they want.
CAFFERTY: You bet you.
BLITZER: Thanks. We'll see you here tomorrow. We'll also see you next Wednesday for your special right after THE SITUATION ROOM.
Meanwhile, a powerful earthquake, strong aftershocks and fresh fear in Indonesia. The magnitude 8.4 quake off the coast of Sumatra Island is blamed for nine deaths. It brought down buildings and triggered small tsunami along the Indian Ocean coast that hit one city on Sumatra. It was negligible, however, compared to the devastating tsunami that struck the region back in December 2004, killing 280,000 people. That quake measured at least magnitude 9.1. Both quakes struck at a depth of 18.6 miles. They occurred about 650 miles apart.
Let's go to our internet report Abbi Tatton. She's monitoring some I-reports coming in from the quake zone right now. What are we seeing, Abbi?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, the earthquake was felt today as far as way as Malaysia and Thailand.
This video sent in to CNN is from Singapore, more than 400 miles away from the epicenter. A 12-year-old Clarissa Lee was in his apartment when she noticed, look at that, the water splashing out of the fish tank in her 28th floor apartment she shares with her father. CNN talked to her father today. He said that it's not unusual to feel tremors in Singapore but this was more extreme than anything he'd ever experienced. The USGS saying today this 8.4 magnitude quake is the strongest worldwide so far this year. CNN.com/Ireport for all those videos.
BLITZER: Abbi, thank you.
Let's go right to Rick Sanchez to see what's coming up in a few minutes at the top of the hour.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I'll take it for you. Thanks, Wolf.
Coming up, a secret Pentagon report that seems to be saying something very different from what General Petraeus has been saying this week. We're going to try and break that down for you.
Also, does a stuffed animal hold the key to a little girl's baffling disappearance? This could be "OUT IN THE OPEN" for you. We'll have it for you right here at the top of the hour.
Wolf, back over to you.
BLITZER: All right, Rick. Thanks very much.
Imagine a police officer unloading on you with an angry rant. But you're armed with a camera to capture it all. And you find an eager audience on the internet.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the Hot Shots coming in from the Associated Press.
In Lebanon, a U.N. peace keeper directs a Lebanese helicopter during a drill.
On Capitol Hill, Senator Dick Durbin gestures to recall toys during a hearing.
In Germany, a couple drives an 1886 motor carriage.
And in southern Germany, an animal tamer pets a five week old lion cub.
Some of this hour's Hot Shots, pictures often worth a thousand words.
It's every driver's nightmare, an officer paid to serve and protect threatens and harasses a driver, and it's all caught on tape.
CNN's Jeanne Moos has this most unusual story.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're driving along, music playing. And then, uh-oh. Police lights in your rear view mirror. Only this driver happens to have a camera in his car, which records this police rant.
OFFICER: Do you want to try me, young boy? Do you want to try me tonight, young boy? Do you want to go to jail for some bleeping reason I come up with?
MOOS: The driver getting yelled at in a commuter parking lot outside St. Louis is Brett Darrow, who has installed a camera in his car. But the lip came from Sergeant James Kenoff. His rant was sent by Darrow to friends and ended up all over the internet. Cop gone wild, reads one title. The officer has been put on unpaid administrative lead.
BRETT DARROW, RECORDED POLICE ENCOUNTER: I would like to see the officer fired. I thought his conduct was ridiculous.
MOOS: But some online posters say Darrow baited and trapped the cop. Ever since he was cleared of assaulting an off duty officer, he's been having little run-ins with police, which is why he said he installed the camera. Here is he driving up to a police drunken driving checkpoint.
OFFICER: Where are you heading tonight?
DARROW: I don't wish to discuss my personal life with you, officer.
OFFICER: All right. Come on up here.
MOOS: He's always taping them. And when he drove into that commuter parking lot at 2:00 a.m., here is how the confrontation started.
OFFICER: Why are you parking here?
DARROW: Can't I park here? It's a commuter parking lot, right?
OFFICER: Yeah but we have problems after midnight time.
OFFICER: People break into cars.
DARROW: Did I do something wrong? OFFICER: Yeah, you're a suspicious vehicle right now. I'm sure ...
DARROW: I'm what?
OFFICER: You are a suspicious vehicle right now.
MOOS: Darrow was ordered out of the car, and the yelling began.
OFFICER: Try and talk back. Talk back to me again. And I bet I could say you resisted arrest or something. You wanna come up with something? I come up with nine things. Do you want to try something?
DARROW: No I don't.
MOOS: Notice something annoying? What's that horrible incessant clicking?
DARROW: It was actually my radar detector.
MOOS: The St. George police detective says he's very displeased with the officer and is investigating.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't treat citizens like that.
OFFICER: Ever get smart mouthed with a cop again I show you what a cop does.
MOOS: After realizing he was caught on camera, the officer simmered down and eventually let Darrow go, but too late to recapture the words that escaped onto the internet.
OFFICER: Do you want to try me tonight, young boy?
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: What a story. Don't forget, tomorrow night, a special two hour SITUATION ROOM seven to nine leading up to the president's address.
Let's go to Rick Sanchez in New York.
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