Return to Transcripts main page


Iraq Banning Private U.S. Contractor; Followers of Muqtada al- Sadr Leave the Iraqi Parliament; President Bush Taps Michael Mukasey for Attorney General

Aired September 17, 2007 - 19:00   ET


Happening now, they are Americans. They are very highly trained, completely armed and they are involved in some of the most dangerous security work in Iraq. Tonight, the Iraqi government says they have to get out of the country. Thousands of American diplomats and other American civilians could be left without their hired guns.

There's amazing new video that's coming into THE SITUATION ROOM taken in the moments before and after a fiery plane crash. Dozens of people died. But some passengers managed to escape the inferno. We're going to have their extraordinary stories of survival.

And O.J. Simpson sitting in a Las Vegas jail right now, awaiting possible armed robbery charges. Tonight, what happened inside that hotel room? Someone taped it. And you're going to hear all of it for yourself.

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

As if things in Iraq weren't bad enough, now the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is telling the heavily armed American men who protect U.S. diplomats to get out of the country. The company, Blackwater, is a security force made up of mostly Americans. And Iraq wants to yank its license after Iraqi civilians were killed in a shootout.

Here's CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's not the first time a security contractor has been involved in a shooting incident in Iraq, but this time, the contractor may be asked to leave the country.


STARR (voice-over): Iraq's interior ministry says it revoked the license of Blackwater, one of the largest private U.S. security firms in Iraq after a shooting incident Sunday in western Baghdad. The ministry says the firefight left eight civilians killed and 14 wounded. The Bush administration relies heavily on private security in Iraq to protect U.S. officials and many key sites. Top officials quickly expressed concern.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is troubling. And I'll leave that issue to the secretary of state.

STARR: The State Department and U.S. military are investigating what happened after this car bombing in an area of ongoing insurgent activity. Blackwater personnel were guarding the State Department convoy, moving through the area at the time.

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: It was a chief of mission convoy that was going outside the international zone. And as you know, recently, there have been some car bomb explosions outside the international zone. So, again, I urge people to keep that -- keep that in mind.

STARR: A spokesman for Blackwater says its people came under fire and they defended the convoy.

MARTY STRONG, BLACKWATER USA VICE PRESIDENT: A convoy with our people protecting a principle U.S. citizen was attacked, first by a large explosive device and then by repeated small-arms fire. And to the point where it disabled one of the vehicles and the vehicle had to be towed out of the firefight.

STARR: Company officials believe the car bomb was tied to the attack on its convoy. Carter Andress heads another security company in Iraq. His employees were in the same area at the time.

CARTER ANDRESS, IRAQ CONTRACTOR: Our people saw a couple cars destroyed, people -- dead bodies, wounded people being evacuated. The U.S. military had moved in and secured the area. So, it was -- it was not a good scene.


STARR: Blackwater says it's not been notified that it's been banned from Iraq. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has already called Iraqi officials expressing U.S. regret over the incident. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thank very much -- Barbara Starr reporting.

They clearly play a vital security role in Iraq, but should American civilian guards be using strong-arm military tactics. Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd.

Brian, how far will these hired guns go to carry out their mission?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They say they'll use lethal force if necessary, Wolf. Now, observers in Iraq say security contractors there often barrel through the streets in heavily armed convoys. And while that does meet the need for security, it's also what strikes fear in the hearts of Iraqi civilians.


TODD (voice-over): Guarding a diplomat or a truck full of gravel, their M.O. is the same, go in numbers, move fast. Carry plenty of weapons. Be ready to use them.

"GONZO", SECURITY CONTRACTOR: If we get ambushed and cut off, yeah, we're going to fight back. That's what we're paid to do, to protect the client, to protect the asset.

TODD: That's Gonzo a private security contractor in Iraq profiled by CNN last year. Who are these people?

SUZANNE SIMONS, CNN EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Lot of these guys are former Special Forces people who have had experience, prior experience in the U.S. military. Some of them are people who have also a law enforcement background.

TODD: And some are from other countries according to CNN executive producer Suzanne Simons who worked on the series and is writing a book on security contractors. She says Blackwater protects diplomats like U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker. Some critics accuse companies like Blackwater of indiscriminately firing on Iraqi civilians in order to protect their clients. A top Blackwater official responds.

STRONG: You don't always have to engage. I served for seven months over there. Sometimes you just drive four more seconds and you're completely out of whatever attack they had for you. That's usually the easiest way to get out of things and it's usually what happens every day.

TODD: Experts say security contractors in Iraq can make around $600 a day. This video shot in 2005 by a contractor in Iraq shows the dangers these people face.


TODD: Of the roughly 25,000 security contractors in Iraq, the U.S. government estimates about 200 have been killed. But experts say the Pentagon doesn't keep an official tally. Who are these contractors accountable to?

SIMONS: Ultimately they're accountable to the United States government. Now, who exactly is going to prosecute them is a horribly difficult question to get into.


TODD: One agency which could prosecute them is the Department of Justice. And we're told the FBI is investigating an incident last Christmas in which a Blackwater employee is alleged to have shot and killed a bodyguard for a top Iraqi official, but as of yet no charges have been brought in that case and experts say no contractor has ever been charged in the death of an Iraqi. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thanks very much -- Brian Todd reporting. Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's watching all the news unfold for "The Cafferty File".

You know, Jack, if they were, the Iraqi government to kick out all these 25,000 civilian security contractors, you know who would have to protect the thousands of American diplomats and civilians who are trying to do their jobs over there?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, it is frightening to think about. I assume you're referring to the Iraqi security forces.

BLITZER: Well I don't think the U.S. is going to trust them. They'd have to -- more American troops would have to...


CAFFERTY: It would fall to the American troops, which -- and they're beleaguered certainly enough with their assignment over there. It's not good. And there's been another blow to Iraq's fledgling government, Wolf.

The followers of the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have left the Iraqi parliament. They walked out of the ruling Shiite coalition and that leaves Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki with a very thin majority, just 108 seats in the 275-member legislative body. Al- Sadr's people have accused al-Maliki of not providing enough security and they've been frustrated that he has refused to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

This comes after half of the ministers in the Iraqi government have already left their seats in the cabinet. And there's been no significant progress on those so-called benchmarks. Now, some officials say with the Sadrists (ph) gone, the Shiite alliance will be able to work more aggressively on getting closer to meeting some of those benchmarks.

We've heard all that nonsense before. Don't hold your breath. After President Bush announced his plan last week to bring some of our military forces home, leaving the number of troops in Iraq at pre- surge levels, CNN's Michael Ware summed it up as only he can -- by describing Mr. Bush's scenario as a quote, "picture of Baghdad that exists only in the president's mind", unquote. Ah, Michael.

Here's the question -- is the idea of any sort of political progress in Iraq simply dead in the water now? E-mail us at or go to There is -- there is no functioning government for all intents and purposes over there, Wolf. It is fragments of stuff that haven't done anything anyway.

BLITZER: That government of Nuri al-Maliki teetering, I think it's fair to say, right now.

CAFFERTY: Good word.

BLITZER: All right.

CAFFERTY: Good word, teetering.

BLITZER: Teetering is a good word, Jack. Thanks very much.

Is O.J. Simpson screaming obscenities? (BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

O.J. SIMPSON: Think you can steal my (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and sell it?


O.J. SIMPSON: Don't let nobody out of here. You (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Think you can steal my (EXPLETIVE DELETED)?


BLITZER: The onetime murder defendant now accused of armed robbery. You're going to hear more of what appears to be Simpson screaming in the confrontation that's landed him in jail.

Also -- President Bush now appearing to avoid a fight in giving the Democrats what they wanted. Senators, though, still have some tough questions for the new attorney general nominee.

And his plane crashed. His fellow passengers died. And he breaks out the video camera to record his living nightmare. We're going to have that survivor's story and a lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Democrats clearly were ready for a fight, but did President Bush blink today and give them what they wanted? He tapped Michael Mukasey to be his third attorney general. Let's go to our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. She's watching all of this from Capitol Hill.

Did the Democrats, Dana, appear to force the president's hand?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It looks that way. And conservatives, Wolf, certainly don't like that. They would have much preferred somebody who was more well-known and more vocal in his conservative views. But what we saw today was the president's pick for attorney general was a sign of the times for the Bush White House.


BASH (voice-over): The president who places a premium on personal relationships stepped into the Rose Garden with a man he barely knows to replace his longtime friend as attorney general.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mike has experience in the Justice Department and private practice.

BASH: Mike Mukasey is a respected former federal prosecutor and judge, known for presiding over terror trials, not politics. Exactly the kind of attorney general Democrats demanded.

SEN CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The very nomination of Judge Mukasey, wherever it comes down at the end of the day, shows a change in attitude. And I think that is very, very good for the country.

BASH: Instead of attacking the president's pick as they had prepared to do, Democrats praised him. The not-so-subtle message Mr. Bush chose someone Democrats recommended and it's a vivid sign of his political weakness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judge Mukasey is not a crony of the president. He is not a White House insider. That's a good sign.

BASH: Still, they cautioned, there will be no coronation. The Senate Judiciary chairman raised the possibility of delaying confirmation hearings for Mukasey until the administration turns over information about fired federal prosecutors and warrantless wiretapping.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I stand ready to work with them in the coming weeks to get the material we need. And then once that material is available, to find appropriate time to schedule a hearing.


BASH: And Democrats are eager to call this a case of the president bowing to political reality. But they also know Congress' approval ratings are incredibly low, too, so the Democrats' polite tone today was also a sign that they understand as well the importance perhaps of taking a time out from all this partisan warfare. Wolf?

BLITZER: And clearly, Dana, if the president had picked Ted Olson or Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary to be the nominee, there would have been a huge uproar by the Democrats.

BASH: Absolutely. You know you had the Senate Majority leader, Harry Reid, saying pointblank that he would fight the nomination of Ted Olson, for example. That was -- the writing was on the wall for somebody like him, and that Democrats feel that they were successful in getting somebody who was essentially not a partisan gunslinger. That's what they wanted. That's what they got.

BLITZER: All right, Dana. Thanks very much -- Dana's on the Hill.

When Alan Greenspan speaks, world markets listen, and now the former Federal Reserve chairmen is giving blunt and surprising opinions in a brand new book. He had some sharp criticism for President Bush and the GOP, some dire financial warnings we should be paying attention to. Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow.

She's watching the story for us in New York. So what's Greenspan saying, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, for one thing he's clarifying a comment that's gained widespread attention that the war in Iraq is largely about oil. Greenspan is now indicating he didn't mean to be that blunt and that he doesn't believe oil was the administration's motive to go to war. But there's a lot more in the book that's highly critical of the administration. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The metrics 101.

SNOW (voice-over): It's Alan Greenspan as you've never heard him before. The man who carefully crafted every phrase he uttered while Federal Reserve chairman for 18 years, opens up in his memoir, "The Age of Turbulence". In an interview with "Fortune" magazine he unleashes stinging criticism against the Republican Party.

ALAN GREENSPAN, FORMER FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: In the election of 2006, the Republicans deserved to lose. And the reason is that they had originally come to office with major important policy initiatives, and they went out of office solely seeking power. And in the end, they achieved neither.

SNOW: Greenspan puts much of the blame on the president's policies, writing, "With George Bush came the tax cuts. Unmatched by decreased spending and in the wake of September 11th, still more open- handed spending." The White House has weighed in on Greenspan's book with a spokeswoman saying we are not going to apologize for increased spending on national security matters. Some political observers say you can bet Democrats are going to use it as ammunition.

STU ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: You'll see Democrats using this both in the presidential race but also I wouldn't be surprised if they tried to use it in the congressional race, arguing that Republicans mismanaged the economy and the government during their years controlling Congress.

SNOW: As for what lies ahead for the housing market, he says the sub prime mortgage crisis was an accident waiting to happen and that the housing market will get worse before it gets better.

GREENSPAN: We do know that the housing market has a significant way to go on the downside. The price decline has not ended by any means that I can see.


SNOW: Now, Greenspan is deflecting criticism that he is to blame for troubles in the housing market by keeping interest rates low and says he doesn't deserve credit either when the economy was strong -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow reporting. Thanks Mary very much.

Coming up, a dramatic and violent end to a speech by Senator John Kerry.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't do anything! Don't take me, bro. Don't take me! I didn't do anything! Ow! Ow! Ow!

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: We're going to show you what prompted this incident, the student. What did he do to prompt police to act?

Also -- Hillary Clinton's first attempt at reforming health care was so complicated, Republicans exploited this chart to defeat her. Now Hillary Clinton is trying once again. So are her detractors.

Plus -- an actor's statement against the Iraq war censored. You're going to hear what viewers of the Emmy Awards last night didn't hear. We'll play it for you.

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


BLITZER: We have some stunning new video of that deadly plane crash in Thailand taken by a survivor who managed to walk away from the inferno. Officials in Thailand now say 89 people including four Americans were killed when this airliner skidded off a runway yesterday in bad weather at a popular resort. You can see the miserable, miserable conditions at this -- in this video as the plane burns in the background. Forty-one people aboard did survive and some are telling frightening tales of the botched landing and the fiery crash.

CNN's Andrew Stevens is in Phuket, Thailand. Andrew?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they are still trying to identify the last few remaining victims from Sunday's crash here in Phuket. But some did get out alive. And here are some of their stories.



STEVENS (voice-over): This was the scene just minutes after the One-Two-Go jet crashed. Fire tracks strained the flaming wreckage, dazed and injured passengers, survivors of one of the worst airline crashes in Thailand's history. This 30-second film taken on a mobile phone by 23-year-old artist Parinyawit Choosaeng on his way home from Bangkok, now recovering in hospital.


STEVENS: "I thought I was going to die," he said. "I felt the plane skidding, and then there was a huge bang. And after just a few seconds, I could see people on fire. They were trapped in their seats. I couldn't do anything. I just got out."

Parinyawit got out through a tear in the fuselage, miraculously, only slightly injured. He says he was saved by the medallion of Buddha he wears around his neck. Eric Nealon (ph) and Christopher Martin (ph) from Sweden were sitting next to the emergency exit when the plane hit. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we just, you know, put our heads between our knees and, like, I had one thought, I you know, I refused to die. That was the only thing I thought of. And then we just came to a stop. And then, like, you can hear -- you don't hear much. You just -- I just saw my friend, like, let's get out. Out, out, out, out.

You can see people coming out and you kind of help them halfway. You know, some people -- because we were fairly shocked, you know because we were out so fast. So but people coming out, with burns like the skin was -- there's no skin left and it was burning. And people were walking with broken ankles.

STEVENS: Stories of two survivors, but dozens of others among the 130 onboard didn't make it. Most of them foreign tourists from Europe, the U.S., the Middle East and Australia coming to enjoy a tropical break at Thailand's top tourist destination. Authorities are still trying to identify the last of the victims.

But already, the wreckage of the 23-year-old MD-82 (ph) jet has been cleared. The black boxes holding vital information on the final few minutes of the flight have been found.


STEVENS: Now, Phuket, which is Thailand's second busiest airport, is now back open. But the crash has cast a long shadow over this normally bustling tourist Mecca. Wolf?

BLITZER: Andrew Stevens reporting for us from Phuket in Thailand.

Let's check in with Carol Costello. She's monitoring some other stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What's going on, Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Some interesting pictures to show you, Wolf.

Florida police investigating a violent incident at an event hosted by Senator John Kerry. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't do anything. Don't take me, bro. Don't take me! I didn't do anything! Ow! Ow! Ow!


COSTELLO: Well as you can see, they did it anyway. That was an audience member who reportedly began shouting at Kerry during a forum at the University of Florida. Police tried to haul him away as you saw. Witnesses say when he resisted officers shot him with that taser gun. The man, a student at the university is being charged with resisting arrest and disturbing the peace. Police are also investigating whether officers were right to taser him. Today General John Abizaid, retired commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East gave a somewhat surprising assessment on the future of Iran's nuclear program. Abizaid said while every effort should be made to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, it is not something the world couldn't handle; he says, quote, "there are ways to live with a nuclear Iran."

Abizaid adds the U.S. because of its military superiority could deter Iran from launching a nuclear attack. General Abizaid stressed it's his personal opinion and his comments were not based on any of his past military experience.

That's a look at the headlines right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Carol, very much.

It appears to be O.J. Simpson. And listen to this -- he sounds out of control.


O.J. SIMPSON: Think you can steal my (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and sell it?


O.J. SIMPSON: Don't let nobody out of here. You (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Think you can steal my (EXPLETIVE DELETED)?


BLITZER: The obscenity-laced tirade part of what's landed the onetime murder defendant in jail.

Is John McCain a Baptist or an Episcopalian? We're going to tell you why his comments on faith are raising some eyebrows.

And why does it seem like Hillary Clinton is wearing a "kick-me" sign. She comes up with a new health care plan and rivals on both sides are pouncing. Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening right now, a grim prediction for anti-war efforts in Congress -- a leading Democratic critic and a Vietnam War veteran, Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania, now saying his party may not be able to pass bills to end the war until after the presidential primaries. Murtha says there just aren't enough Republicans backing the effort.

And the ACLU is filing a brief on behalf of Senator Larry Craig of Idaho saying the bathroom sex sting that led to his resignation may have violated the Republican lawmaker's constitutional rights. Craig's attorney says he welcomes the ACLU filing. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

O.J. Simpson jailed without bail, and due in a Las Vegas court on Wednesday to face felony charges stemming from what police say was an armed robbery. But Simpson maintains it was just an unarmed confrontation over a sports memorabilia. CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in Las Vegas.

So, Ed, what are officials out there saying about this case?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, prosecutors here in Las Vegas say that formal charges against O.J. Simpson will be filed in the next couple of days.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): When O.J. Simpson and his entourage entered a Palace Station Casino Hotel room last Thursday, it didn't take long for tempers to erupt. One of the men who was with Simpson recorded the altercation, a recording made public by the celebrity Web site


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (expletive deleted) you. Mind your own business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at this (expletive deleted).


SIMPSON: You think you can steal my (expletive deleted)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Backs to the wall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was trying to get past you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Walk your ass over there.


LAVANDERA: O.J. Simpson says he was trying to recover sports memorabilia that had been stolen from him by a former agent.


SIMPSON: Think you can steal my (expletive deleted)?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You, up against the (expletive deleted) wall.

SIMPSON: I know (expletive deleted) Mike took it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I know what Brian is trying to prove.


LAVANDERA: Las Vegas Police say Simpson's entourage brandished weapons. O.J. says guns weren't involved. But police say they've confiscated two guns they believe were used in the theft. O.J. Simpson still sits in jail, held without bail, and it could be a couple of days before O.J. is released, if at all.

JUDGE NANCY OESTERLE, CLARK COUNTY COURT: Right now what is going on is the 48-hour, which is the probably cause paperwork, is being walked directly to the assigning judge. She will review the 48- hour paperwork to determine whether or not there's proper cause to detain him. She would not see him in person to do that. Then -- within 72 hours, then she must physically see O.J. Simpson in her courtroom or on the video court. I believe she does it in person. So that would be this Wednesday morning.

LAVANDERA: Hecklers turned out to catch a glimpse of O.J. as he was arrested and escorted to the Las Vegas jail.


LAVANDERA: A "free O.J." banner is already flying, a reminder of this circus-like atmosphere that clouded Simpson's murder trial. This infamous mug shot in 1994 captured the fall from grace of a football hero turned movie star, 13 years later, this is O.J.'s newest snapshot from behind bars.


LAVANDERA: Wolf, and it's starting to feel like 1995 all over again. People dividing into O.J. camps, some who would like to see him go to jail and many who believe that O.J. Simpson is still a victim of his own infamy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Lavandera in Vegas for us. Thanks, Ed, very much.

And according to the Las Vegas Police, by the way, the items Simpson took from that hotel room included pictures and footballs he had autographed as well as a pair of cleats signed by hall of famer Joe Montana and baseballs signed by Pete Rose. Simpson tells CNN he took leather-bound copies of his first book "I Want to Tell You," which he wrote in jail back in 1995.

Her attempt to change the nation's healthcare system left her politically bruised and battered back when she was first lady. Now as the Democratic presidential front-runner, Hillary Rodham Clinton is trying once again. She called today for universal coverage, healthcare for every single American. Let's go to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's watching this story for us.

So, Bill, what's different this time?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, Senator Clinton seems to have learned an important lesson from the failure of healthcare reform back in the '90s.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Physicians are taught, first do no harm. Hillary Clinton seems to have learned the same lesson from her earlier experience with healthcare reform.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will do no harm to the parts of our system that are working.

SCHNEIDER: Her earlier plan collided with an inescapable reality. In January 1994, 80 percent of Americans said they were satisfied with their healthcare, and 69 percent were satisfied with their health insurance. They wanted some kind of assurance that they could keep what they had and liked.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: the problem is they don't get it.

SCHNEIDER: Instead after watching the "Harry and Louis" ads, they feared the government was threatening to take it away from them. Clinton's new plan starts with the assurance, if you like what you have, you can keep it.

LINDA BLUMBERG, URBAN INSTITUTE: What she's trying to do is use the existing administrative structures that we have in place for providing insurance coverage and not build new ones.

SCHNEIDER: The idea is to expand the system so it covers everyone.

BLUMBERG: This is all about redistribution, when you are giving insurance coverage to individuals who can't otherwise afford it.

SCHNEIDER: Redistribution? Uh-oh.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's raising taxes as opposed to holding taxes level. And that's not the right course for solving our healthcare problems.

SCHNEIDER: Some of the money for subsidies to the poor will come from the rich.

CLINTON: I will pay for some of it by rolling back part of President Bush's fiscally irresponsible tax break for the highest- income Americans.

SCHNEIDER: But middle-income Americans who felt threatened in 1994 are now being promised greater choice. Including the choice to keep what they have.


SCHNEIDER: Critics on the right complain her plan goes too far. Critics on the left complain it doesn't go far enough. The Clinton campaign claims she feels perfectly comfortable in the middle -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider reporting for us. Bill, thanks very much.

Let's go to our chief national correspondent, John King. You and I covered her initial "Hillarycare,' or healthcare plan back in 1993. And a lot of bad memories for Hillary Clinton as a result of what she and her team did then.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There certainly are, Wolf. But, you know, she has a husband who is a pretty good political strategist. And Bill Clinton used to always say, if you have a political problem, don't run from it, tackle it. She is defined by that plan. Many believe it was too liberal. Many believe it contributed hugely to the "Republican Revolution" in 1994. The conservatives coming into power, saying the Clintons are not the middle of the road Democrats that they ran for the White House as, they are liberals.

So she is trying to redefine herself here. She has no way to escape this issue from her own personal history and no reason to escape it as a candidate. Because anyone in both parties will tell you, the top strategists, that Iraq is number one. Number two is economic anxiety with healthcare being the giant issue under that title.

BLITZER: All right. John McCain issued a statement saying: "I haven't seen it, but if it's anything like the last time around, I will oppose it vigorously." And the Giuliani campaign saying: "Senator Clinton's latest health scheme includes more government mandates, expensive federal subsidies and more big bureaucracy. In short, a prescription for an increase in wait times, a decrease in patient care, and tax hikes to pay for it all."

They're going after her, major league, except for saying it's socialized medicine.

KING: Well, they'll get to that if they need to. And it shows you uniquely though how Hillary Clinton is in this race. She has two "kick me" signs, if you will. She is being hit from the left by her own Democratic rivals. Former Senator John Edwards, chief among them on this day saying her plan does not go far enough. It doesn't do enough.

And she's being hit from the right by the Republicans who are convinced she is going to be the Democratic nominee. So you have the Democratic candidates who are trying to knock her off her air of inevitability for the Democratic nomination. The Republicans already running against her. And this is a big test for her.

And guess what, if you want to be the nominee of your party or the president of the United States, you are going to have to deal with tough tests. But this is a defining issue for Hillary Clinton.

And, Wolf, they actually think in her campaign, number one, not only can she get back to the middle a little bit with this plan, but number two, she can be more human by saying, yes, you are right, I did do this before and I made a lot of mistakes and I learned from it. BLITZER: And it was 1,000 pages, if you remember, the detail, all the fine print the last time, everybody remembers that weird chart they had trying to explain it. There it is. Take a look at that chart. There's Bob Dole.

He was the Republican leader in the Senate at the time. I couldn't understand it. I don't know if you understood it at the time. But I assume this one is a lot simpler to appreciate.

KING: It better be because that chart used by the Republicans back in the first debate during the Clinton administration, that was it. That was the arrow that just pierced the plan and convinced -- allowed the Republicans to convince -- remember, Bill Clinton ran as a new Democrat.

It allowed the Republicans to go to the American people in that campaign and say, they lied to you, they are big government liberals. They want more government control. It's interesting, though, as the Democrats push this issue, you know, Romney, Giuliani, all the Republicans have healthcare plans, too. Why? Because the American people do want the government to do more. The question that will be answered in this campaign is, how much more?

BLITZER: John, thanks very much.

He was raised in one religion. Now he says he has changed churches. You're going to find out why matters of faith are raising questions about Senator John McCain's presidential campaign.

And Sally Fields was in mid-sentence when she was silenced at the Emmy awards. Was it because she cursed or was it because of her stance on the Iraq War? Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Right now some people are asking if he's a Baptist or an Episcopalian. Senator John McCain is addressing that question. Let's go to CNN's Tom Foreman. He's following the presidential candidate's faith -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the simple answer appears to be, both.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There has been some talk about my religious persuasion.

FOREMAN (voice-over): John McCain in South Carolina referring to an Associated Press article this weekend that has some people talking. The senator from Arizona and Republican presidential hopeful told the AP that he was a Baptist, but Episcopalian is the faith listed in his biography in the latest guide of members of Congress and in the most recent edition of "Almanac of American Politics." And, in an interview with McClatchy newspapers in June, McCain said he still called himself an Episcopalian. We ask him about his faith.

MCCAIN: I was raised in the Episcopal Church and attended high school at a high school called the Episcopal High School. I have attended North Phoenix Baptist Church for many years. And the most important thing is that I am a Christian. And I don't have anything else to say about the issue.

FOREMAN: McCain says his wife and two of their children have been baptized in the Baptist church they attend, but that he has not, telling AP: "I don't find it necessary to do so for my spiritual needs."

McCain's campaign says none of this is new, and that the issue was given a thorough vetting when McCain first ran for president in 2000. McCain says religion plays a role in his life, but he said for years that he doesn't advertise his faith.

MCCAIN: My religious belief is clear. I am a man of faith, but I also have to tell you that I believe that my relationship with God is a private one. And I am not ashamed of my religious beliefs or my faith, but, at the same time, I believe that that relationship is generally a private one.


FOREMAN: The reason all of this is coming up is because some people say McCain may be pandering. He's in an early voting southern state where there are a lot of Baptists, but McCain says, look, I ran as a Baptist last time and it didn't help me much. He didn't win South Carolina -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Tom Foreman, reporting. There are some differences between a Baptist and an Episcopalian. The Episcopal Church has some 2.4 million members in the United States. It ordains both women and homosexuals into the priesthood and believes that marriage is between a man and a woman. But Episcopal churches in some region perform same-sex blessings.

Meanwhile the Baptist Church has more than 30 million members in the United States. Many Baptist churches in the U.S. ordain women but Southern Baptists do not. And the Baptist Church opposes same-sex marriage because they consider homosexuality to be a sin.

Sally Fields' anti-war sentiment sent -- censored at the Emmy Awards. Millions of viewers missing her message.


SALLY FIELDS, ACTOR: I don't care. They got what I meant.


BLITZER: But was there more to the incident than meets the eye? We're going to play for you what you didn't hear last night.

Also, the Simpson case, then and now. What's changed? And what hasn't'? CNN's Jeanne Moos with a "Moost Unusual" look.

And Jack Cafferty standing by with his question. Is the idea of any sort of political progress in Iraq dead in the water? Jack with "The Cafferty File." And a lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Allegations of censorship at the Emmy Awards. Stars having some of their comments bleeped out. But one political charged comment in particular is raising some questions. Let's go back to Carol Costello.

So, what's the controversy, Carol, about this time?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it's really kind of interesting. Remember when Sally Field won her first award and she said: "You like me, you really like me"? As memorable as that was, her comments at last night's Emmys may live on, too.


COSTELLO (voice-over): Remembering that all the world's a stage, Sally Field used her moment under the lights to go way beyond thinking everyone she worked with on "Brothers & Sisters."

SALLY FIELD, ACTOR: And let's face it, if the mothers ruled the world, there would be no goddamned wars in the first place.

COSTELLO: Except, that's not what you heard at home.

FIELD: And let's face it, if the mothers ruled the world, there would be no...


COSTELLO: Censored by FOX. It didn't that i can long for the blogging world to go crazy with conspiracy theories. The Carpetbagger Report blogs: "It's certainly possible that an overly sensitive Puritan was at the switch and the decision to block the comments had nothing to do with politics. But it was a News Corp. broadcast."

Well, not exactly. But News Corp. Is the parent company of FOX Network, which carried the Emmys. And FOX News, run by former Republican consultant Roger Ailes, is a favorite target of liberal groups because of its conservative agenda.

FOX Network denied politics had anything to do with Field's censorship, telling us: "Some language during the live broadcast may have been considered inappropriate by some viewers. As a result, FOX's broadcast standards executives determined it appropriate to drop sound during those portions of the show.

It is true Field wasn't the only star edited. Ray Romano threw his own PG-16 rated bomb.

RAY ROMANO, COMEDIAN: A lot has changed in TV in two years. For one, from what I hear, "Frasier" is screwing my wife?

COSTELLO: Katherine Heigl of "Grey's Anatomy" fame could be seen mouthing a swear word as her award was announced, but at that point she had no mike.

We did talk to Sally Fields after the show who seemed surprised she was censored.

FIELD: I don't care. They got what I meant.

COSTELLO: And what did she mean? Fields says she was merely paying homage to their character on "Brothers & Sisters" who sent a son off to the Iraq War.

FIELD: I said that because that is the heart of Nora Walker's story. And I felt I wanted to acknowledge that. I wouldn't be here had that not been the heart of Nora's story.


COSTELLO: And if you're wondering about FCC rules when it comes to bad words, it does not have a banned list, but it is possible -- lots of people complain, you know, about the words being used on the broadcast. It is possible that the FCC would fine FOX for its use of bad language -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I was watching the Emmys, Carol, and every time that we lost audio, they went to that wide shot. I thought that there was just some sort of transmission problem. I didn't realize they were actually censoring the words. Very interesting, Carol, thanks very much for that.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's in New York with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Remember George Carlin a few years ago did a very funny routine about the seven words you can't say on television?

BLITZER: I remember that. That was hysterical.

CAFFERTY: And there are words you -- believe me, you can't say on television. The question this hour, is the idea of any sort of political progress in Iraq dead in the water? Muqtada al-Sadr's guys bolted the parliament over there. They are upset at Nouri al-Maliki. It's a mess.

Tom in Maine writes: "The Shiites have been killing Sunnis and Sunnis have been killing Shiites for 1,200 years. They hate each other and they have no intention of creating a peace to please President Bush. They want us to go home. We made a mistake and most of us want to get out. What's the problem?"

Kichi, New York: "They're making political progress in Iraq on a daily basis. The Shia are marginalizing the Sunnis and kissing up to Iran. For the majority of the Iraqi people, Shias, that is political progress and could stabilize the region." Buster in Poughkeepsie, New York: "Let the mortals speculate. I'll wait for the Michael Ware update. Whether it is dead, dying or with any hope resuscitation, you can bet the house that Michael Ware is up to his neck in alligators in that murky water, taking the pulse of Iraq's political progress. When it comes to Iraq, I consider the man from down under to be the last word in investigative journalism. You can't put a glove on that rugged, unbiased Aussie. He's in a class all his own. I'm with you, jack, Crocodile Dundee ain't got nothing on Michael Ware."

Phil in Ottawa writes: "What is really dead on arrival, cheap shots from the media. Iraq is a marathon, not a sprint, Jack. Sit tight, like Germany and South Korea, we have to go long, 30 or 40 years long."

Betty in California: "Dead in the water, never. Just ripe for a strong man to step in, pull everyone together, someone with political capital. A uniter, not a divider, a real decider, someone like one of those Hussein guys."

Phil in New York writes: "Not only is an Iraqi political solution dead in the water, have you seen all the ducks on those ponds? We have a lame duck in Washington, our troops are sitting ducks in Iraq, and the Maliki government is a dead duck."

And Danton in New Jersey: "Dead in the sand, not the water, it's Iraq, remember?"

We invite you to join us Wednesday, 8:00 Eastern time for a one- hour special of "The Cafferty File." Talking about how ugly it's getting out there, which coincidentally is the title of my new book. You can go to where you can end us your I- Reports, those little home movie deals, or you can e-mail us at and we'll read some of your e-mails during the program. Whoopi Goldberg is going to be on. There's a cameo appearance by Wolf Blitzer. It's a night of big stars.

BLITZER: Wednesday night, 8:00 right after THE SITUATION ROOM. I think our viewers are going to love it, Jack. Stand by for -- talk a little bit more about it tomorrow. Thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: All right, partner, thanks.

BLITZER: Let's go right to Rick Sanchez to find out what's coming up right at the top of the hour.

Hi, Rick.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: We've been digging deep into this O.J. Simpson story. A couple of things to tell you about. We could have two exclusives. First of all, we've got an exclusive interview with the judge who wouldn't set bail for O.J. Simpson. We've got a shot as well. We've been talking to his attorney. His attorney is going to be here, but we may be talking, Wolf, to one of the suspects in the case with Simpson as well. Also, you know, the O.J. Simpson case, there was a time when if you were white in this country you basically thought O.J. Simpson was guilty, if you were black, you tended to think he was innocent. That still holds. We go out on the street. We have a panel on it. We've got Leo Terrell talking about this and we get New Yorkers' take.

And this, is Hispanic television news in this country, you know, Telemundo and Univision, are they leftist? That's a question we're going to be asking tonight and talking about as well. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Sounds like a strong hour, Rick. We'll be watching, thanks very much.

The mugshot, the arrest, the handcuffs, it's O.J. Simpson deja vu. But 13 years later, the YouTube generation is getting involved. You're going to see the videos, that's coming up next.


BLITZER: A former football star accused of a violent crime. Haven't we seen this before? CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a "Moost Unusual" look.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the 13 years between his first mugshot and his current one, O.J.'s hair may have receded, but memories of him haven't.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's wonderful that he has been arrested, because he is a psychopath probably.

MOOS (on camera): You're almost smiling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How could you not? He's pure evil.

MOOS (voice-over): It's O.J. deja vu, handcuffs then, handcuffs now. A rhyme then...

JOHNNIE COCHRAN, DEFENSE ATTY. FOR O.J.: If it doesn't fit, you must acquit.

MOOS: ... a rhyme now, albeit a lame one. A detective who testified then, testifying now for FOX News.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And FOX News analyst Mark Fuhrman.

MOOS: And the old late-night jokes are back, always assuming O.J.'s guilt.

JAY LENO, HOST, "TONIGHT SHOW": O.J. has a good alibi, he said he couldn't have broken into that room, he was busy at the time stabbing a guy.

CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN": Now they're questioning him about a break-in. Afterwards O.J. said, I hope this doesn't hurt my image as a double murderer.

MOOS: It's time once again to roll out the O.J. puns. O.J. in a can. O.J. in the can.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, "The Juice" is in the can.

MOOS: O.J. squeezed. He did manage to squeeze out a bit of a smile for his mugshot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't get over the smirk on his face.



MOOS: Swaggers and swears. The audio tape of the memorabilia confrontation is memorable for the bleeping. Try understanding this without the transcript.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it me, or did you find yourself next to your television monitor trying to read that?

MOOS: Some are blind when it comes to O.J. deja vu.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know who O.J. Simpson even is.

MOOS (on camera): How old are you?


MOOS (voice-over): He was 1-year-old when the murders occurred.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: O.J.'s in the Britney Spears realm of news for me at this point. I think we need new celebrities.

MOOS: Speaking of Britney,

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leave Britney alone!

MOOS: The Britney fan on YouTube who sincerely wept over Britney's tribulations has spawned a ton of insincere mocking imitators.



MOOS: Even this guy's dog smelled something fishy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's out there trying to find his wife's killer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He hasn't killed anyone in years.



MOOS: He's alone all right, in a cell.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Tomorrow, Bill Maher, here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Let's go to Rick Sanchez in New York -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: All right, Wolf.