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THE SITUATION ROOM
Britain to Withdraw Almost Half Its Troops From Iraq; How Popular is Ahmadinejad in Iran?
Aired October 8, 2007 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, America's closest ally backs away from Iraq. Britain will withdraw almost half its troops.
You're going to find out how that will impact U.S. men and women at war.
Chants of "Death to the dictator!" as Iran's president tries to speak.
But this time, guess what?
The rough recession he's receiving is at home.
Is Ahmadinejad suddenly in trouble in Iraq?
And are Southwest Air flight attendants turning into fashion police? First it was a mini skirt, now a t-shirt. Passengers face ultimatums -- change or be grounded.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
It's about to get lonely for American troops in Iraq. Britain today said it will cut its force of 5,000 in half by next spring. That word from the prime minister, Gordon Brown, just a week after he promised that a thousand British troops would be home by Christmas.
Let's go right to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.
He's watching this story for us -- so what does this mean for the U.S. strategy, Jamie, in Iraq?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, here in Washington, Wolf, the White House says it's all according to plan. But, nevertheless, the British retreat is leaving the U.S. force in Iraq increasingly alone.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
MCINTYRE (voice-over): In Southern Iraq, Great Britain is busy doing what some wish America was doing too -- declaring victory and going home.
GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: There will be 2,500 troops subject to military advice in the spring.
MCINTYRE: With the reduction of roughly 5,000 British forces by half, the U.S.-led coalition is shrinking. Britain is America's biggest coalition partner in Iraq, right after Iraqi forces and private security contractors. While the State Department lists 27 countries with troops in Iraq, only one has more than 1,000 -- South Korea, with 2,300.
The effect on the already overstretched U.S. Army is unclear.
GEN. GEORGE CASEY, U.S. ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: It's a choice for the British government. And am I worried that the army -- our army will have to take on more of a load?
And I'd have to say I'd have to wait for to see what -- how General Petraeus evaluates the impact of that decision.
MCINTYRE: The British plan is to drop from 5,500 troops in Southern Iraq to 4,500 in December, when Iraqi troops take full control of Basra Province, then get down to 2,500 troops next spring, if commanders say it's safe.
BROWN: That is a very substantial reduction in the numbers, but it is only possible because the Iraqis are now able to take responsibility for security themselves.
MCINTYRE: The White House praised the British drawdown as consistent with previously announced plans. But during a raucous House of Commons session, Brown's political opponents offered a more cynical reason -- that having trained some 30,000 Iraqi troops, there is just not much more the British can achieve militarily.
DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH CONSERVATIVE PARTY LEADER: However much the international community does, there is clearly a limit to what outsiders are able to achieve.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
MCINTYRE: Now, the British departure from the largely Shia South will have no immediate effect on U.S. farther to the north in Baghdad and in the Sunni strongholds that surround it. But, if violence erupts in the south after the British troops leave, it will foreshadow one of the U.S. commanders' greatest fears -- that Iraqi troops are really not up to the task of keeping security -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jamie, thanks very much.
Jamie is at the Pentagon.
Who should control the holy city of Jerusalem?
That hotly disputed issue is at the very core of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Israel took all of Jerusalem during the 1967 War. Now there's fresh talk of handing at least part of it back.
CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Jerusalem -- Ben.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a tentative proposal has come out of the Israeli government to divide Jerusalem between Israelis and Palestinians. And, not surprisingly, the reception has been rather rocky.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
WEDEMAN (voice-over): Seen from the air, Jerusalem is a crowded jumble of buildings and roads -- old and new. Seen from the ground, where nations and religions' hopes and dreams, hatreds and passions, overlap, it's infinitely and lethally more complicated.
Jerusalem is a city holy to Judaism, Christianity and Islam -- claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians as their capital.
Recently addressing Christian supporters of Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sounded a note of determination.
EHUD OLMERT, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: And we are going to protect this city no matter what. Jerusalem will forever be the capital of the Jewish people -- open for all religions, welcoming all people.
WEDEMAN: But Olmert's deputy, Haim Ramon, has raised the possibility Israel may be willing to cede control of several Arab neighborhoods in and around Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority. This as Palestinians and Israelis prepare for a U.S.-sponsored Mideast peace summit next month.
Already, Israel's opposition is warning that giving any part of Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority is the same as giving it to the Islamic militant group Hamas.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI OPPOSITION LEADER (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): How will it be possible to live in the Jewish parts of the city when Hamas controls the houses on the other side of the road?
WEDEMAN: The last time Israeli and Palestinian leaders grappled over Jerusalem, in the final year of the Clinton administration, the talks broke down in acrimony. Soon afterward, the second Palestinian uprising broke out.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
WEDEMAN: What followed was seven years of violence. All too often efforts to achieve peace and co-existence here have collapsed into bloodshed -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ben Wedeman in Jerusalem for us.
Thank you, Ben.
By the way, the former president, Jimmy Carter, who brokered that first Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement, will be here in THE SITUATION ROOM on Wednesday. You can send us questions you'd like to ask him. You can submit your video questions by simply logging on to CNN.com/situationroom. We'll try to pose some of your questions on video to the former president.
Let's go right to Jack Cafferty, once again New York for The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Wolf, it's starting to look now like the United States is going to be in Afghanistan for a long time.
We began begin military actions against the Taliban and Al Qaeda there six years ago. But consider this -- the American military base at Bagram, which was originally thought of as a temporary camp for U.S. troops, is now growing by almost a third in size.
Overall, there were about 25,000 American troops stationed in Afghanistan along with 25,000 other NATO troops from other countries. This is more than three times the number of international troops that were there four years ago. And that's when it looked like the terrorists were defeated.
Well, it turns out they weren't, of course. The Taliban is back. Al Qaeda is back. 2007 is going into the books as the deadliest year in Afghanistan so far. Since January, insurgent have launched more than 100 suicide attacks. Eighty-seven U.S. troops have been killed. That's on record pace
And that's not all. Osama bin Laden is still nowhere to be found. Afghan farmers are harvesting another record opium crop this year. And one expert says the U.S. "utterly failed" to understand how to beat the Taliban, that the Bush administration didn't think about the country as a long-term commitment.
An Army colonel says: "We know that we're going to have an enduring presence." And he talks about Bagram, the base, as a long- term base, with no one knowing for sure exactly how long we'll be there.
So the question is this, what does it mean if Afghanistan has become now a long-term commitment for the United States?
E-mail your thoughts to caffertyfile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/caffertyfile.
Remember the Russians?
They went in there, spent seven years and finally packed up their toys and went home. The Afghans are one tough bunch of folks.
BLITZER: They certainly are. And that poppy problem over there -- the opium -- that's a huge -- the world's largest exporter of opium, of the poppy, comes from Afghanistan.
CAFFERTY: Yes. And the problem is if you go in and destroy the crop, you literally destroy and cripple the economy. That is the economy. BLITZER: What a sad story.
All right, Jack.
Thanks very much.
I want to check in with Carol Costello.
She's monitoring a developing story out West, in Oakland.
What's going on -- Carol?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a strange one.
There is a bomb scare at the Oakland International Airport. Now, check this out. Some passengers aboard a Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles go into the Oakland International Airport terminal two baggage claim to claim their bags. When they see their bags, they notice the bags are vibrating. So they run to get a TSA agent to check out the bag and they closed down terminal two.
They also went on that Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles. They're checking all the baggage that remains on board there. They don't know what's in that bag yet, Wolf. But they're checking everything at terminal two and also on that flight, aboard the Southwest Airlines.
When I get more information, of course, I'll pass it along.
BLITZER: That's going to delay some travel for some people.
COSTELLO: Oh, yes.
BLITZER: But we want to be safe rather than sorry.
All right, Carol, thanks very much.
Coming up, you've seen tasers in action lately. Their stopping power is obvious.
But how dangerous are they?
The federal government weighs in. And it's not what you might think.
And change your outfit or get off the plane -- first, there was a mini skirt, now a t-shirt.
Are flight attendants casting a stern eye on what you're wearing?
And child actors forced to flee their homeland because of the roles they played in a new movie. We'll have details.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: High heat, not enough water -- a very dangerous combination that stopped the Chicago marathon in its tracks, but not before dozens of runners were sent to the hospital. And that has many saying race officials stumbled in the way they handled the crisis.
Let's go back to Carol Costello.
She's watching the story for us.
So what are they saying, the race officials, in their own defense?
COSTELLO: Well, Wolf, you could say they are on the defensive today, insisting they were prepared with 1.8 million drinks on hand for some 40,000 runners, insisting the weather, that turned freakishly hot, was really to blame.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Runner down!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Runner down!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Runner down!
COSTELLO: 26.2 miles, sweltering heat, 35,000 plus people -- and not enough water, a dangerous combination that some say should have ended the Chicago marathon before it began. So many collapsed or suffered cramps from dehydration, the Chicago Fire Department told us it set a record for a public event -- 312 911 calls in four hours. Arzu Karamova (ph), a runner, survived the heat, but is still hot.
ARZU KARAMOVA: Amazing to me is that there wasn't enough medical assistance on the roads. And there was no ice. Like they knew it was going to be hot. They should have had ice -- like the individual people were handing out ice and giving water to people. I think it wasn't well organized.
COSTELLO: Organizers deny it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We made contingency plans two days earlier. We were shipping water to the later stages of the race. I feel confident that we had fluids at those locations.
COSTELLO: But as the race wore on and the heat index rose into the 90s, many fastest runners say it was clear the fastest runners used up the extra water, taking four and five cups at a time, drinking some, dousing themselves with the rest, and leaving nothing for those behind them.
Finally, three-and-a-half hours into the marathon, organizers canceled the race.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The race is officially over. We ask that you stop running.
COSTELLO: Not easy with tens of thousands of runners spread over a 26.2 mile course. And that may have been the organizers biggest problem -- the sheer number of runners -- 35,000 plus, many of them potentially in need at the same time.
Amy Rushlow from "Chicago Athlete" magazine.
AMY RUSHLOW, "CHICAGO ATHLETE" MAGAZINE: Even if you've got enough water, there is the question of can you get enough volunteers to hand out all that water and on such short notice?
Can you get enough medical personnel there?
And the city has to keep running.
Can you get people around where they need to be?
COSTELLO: Rushlow says it may be time to think of limiting the number of runners allowed to participate in the marathon to a more manageable number.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
COSTELLO: That's tough to do. I want to mention this. One man did die at mile 18, but an autopsy revealed he died from a heart ailment, not the heat.
Still, so many collapsed from the heat, others are calling for a limit on who should run marathons. The American Runners Association telling me too many people unfit to run are allowed to race just to see if they can do it. If they are eliminated, that would bring down the number of marathoners, as well -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Carol.
Thanks very much.
Through some online forums, video sharing sites and CNN's I- Report, the runners from the Chicago marathon are posting their experiences online.
Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton -- Abbi, what are they saying?
ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, by far the biggest thing that we've seen online from runners posting is them saying, 'where was the water?'.
They're posting on online forums, sharing their experiences. And some of them had their video cameras with them.
Take a listen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE). The aid station at mile six is out of water. TATTON: That was one of the early stations that had run out of the water. That was posted on YouTube by Wendy Shulik (ph), who said the only reason she didn't drop out of the race early on is that a spectator handed over their personal water bottle to her and that was captured online, what the crowds were doing to help.
This was sent in to CNN's I-Report. The crowds, saying Michelle Gantner, who sent this in, were spraying people who didn't have water, buying water for some of the people racing. You can see from her pictures that there was water at certain aid stations. The organizers have said at no point did we not have fluids. But some of the stories online tell of a whole different race -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you, Abbi, for that.
Abbi Tatton, our Internet reporter.
Some people might want to think twice about what they wear on the next flight. One man was almost grounded because of what was on his t- shirt.
Let's go to our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti.
She's joining us from Atlanta.
This isn't the first case that we've seen along this line -- what's going on?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It isn't, Wolf.
This is the third time that Southwest Airlines is apologizing to a customer over a flap over what they decided to wear on a flight.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): OK, whether you think Joe's Winiecki's favorite t-shirt is funny or not, or offensive or not, he says he didn't think twice when he wore it to fly home to Tampa from Columbus.
But Southwest Airlines told Winiecki he'd have to change his tee because the sexual double entendre saying was a bit much.
JOE WINEICKI: She was like, "Sir, either you turn your shirt inside out or change it, or I'm going to have to ask you it come off the plane."
CANDIOTTI: In July, this young woman also got an ultimatum from Southwest -- cover up that sexy look or grab another airline. She covered up. Winiecki complied, too. He had to get home.
WINEICKI: So to undress in front of 132 people to put a new shirt on, it's unbelievable embarrassment.
CANDIOTTI: This from the same airline that used to run commercials that reeked of sex appeal.
In both cases, after massive publicity, the young woman and Joe Winiecki up getting apologies from Southwest.
No hard feelings, he says. He'll keep flying them. And he's definitely keeping that shirt.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
CANDIOTTI: Now, Southwest tells CNN it does not have a dress code and does not want to be the fashion police. And oh, yes, the airline plans on working with its employees to try to overlook some situations or cool down customers who might be offended by what their fellow passengers are wearing -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Susan, thank you.
Susan Candiotti reporting.
Up ahead, the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, facing some open opposition in his own capital. We're going to show you what's behind this rare public protest.
Also, child actors forced to flee their homes in Afghanistan because of their appearance in a new American movie.
And, happily, CNN's Lou Dobbs is back in the anchor chair tonight. We're going to check in with him and see how he's doing. Lou Dobbs coming up, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What's going on -- Carol.
COSTELLO: Well, Wolf, take a look at this. International investigators now have technology to unscramble digitally blurred images. And they're going public with it in the hopes of finding this man -- who they say posted pictures of himself on the Internet showing him sexually abusing young boys in Cambodia and Vietnam. If you recognize this man, Interpol wants to hear from you.
New details about the killing spree by a 20-year-old off duty sheriff's deputy in rural Northern Wisconsin. Officials say Tyler Peterson had an argument with someone at the apartment in the town of Crandon, got a rifle from his truck, forced his way back in and fired about 30 rounds, killing six people. The victims included Peterson's ex-girlfriend. Peterson was killed by a SWAT team.
A deadly accident is casting a shadow over Albuquerque's annual Hot Air Balloon Festival. A California woman was killed when the balloon she was riding in snagged a utility line, tipping the gondola and sending her falling 70 feet. The balloon crash landed nearby.
That's a look at the headlines right now Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Carol, for that. They've been in the news with some high profile incidents caught on tape. Now, a new study from the Justice Department says tasers are not only effective, but generally safe -- with only three victims out of 962 requiring hospitalization. The study finds that from July 2005 through June of this year, 216 people suffered minor injuries, mostly cuts and scrapes when they fell, while 743 victims weren't hurt at all.
Amnesty International, on the other hand, says it has documented 277 taser-related deaths since 2001.
More than half of all U.S. law enforcement agencies now use tasers.
Up next, a growing sign of discontent inside Iran. You're going to find out why some people there are taking huge risks to call for change.
Plus, the presidential primaries thrown in chaos as states compete to get ahead of each other.
What if the U.S. overhauled the whole system?
We're going to show you one radical proposal.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Iraq is planning to seek millions of dollars from the controversial private U.S. security contractor, Blackwater USA. Iraqi sources telling CNN a government report will call for $8 million compensation for each of the 17 deaths blamed on Blackwater in a September 16th shooting incident. That money would go to the families of those killed.
Also, a coalition of labor and amnesty groups is spending a million dollars on a TV ad campaign, stepping up pressure on some Republicans. They want them to help override President Bush's veto of a bill providing more money for a popular children's health care program.
And two Americans are among the winners of this year's Nobel Prize in medicine. They helped develop a process to manipulate mouse genes to help researchers study diabetes, cancer and other diseases.
Congratulations to them.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Angry protesters today jeered Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and scuffled with his supporters, just weeks after his rough reception in New York City. This time, the Iranian leader faced open opposition in his own capital of Tehran.
Let's bring in our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee.
She's watching this for us -- Zain, how significant is this?
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: It's very significant, you know, Wolf.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is seen as a major international threat by the U.S. There's also, now, some real visible discontent at home.
Today, a rare protest.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
LEE BOLLINGER, PRESIDENT, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator.
VERJEE (voice-over): It's one thing for the president of a major American university to slam Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But when Iranian students confront their president on home turf, there's real risk. A group of 100 students staged a rare public protest, shouting, "Death to the dictator!" as he gave a speech. The presence of riot police didn't stop them -- an echo of last December's protests, when students set his picture on fire and booed him. This later student protest was rare and it's unclear what may have happened to those demonstrators.
TOM CASEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: The notion that an Iranian citizen would be able to go in a public forum with media present and harshly criticize his government and not expect to wind up in jail and not expect to bear consequences for it is simply unheard of.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
VERJEE: Iranian experts say Ahmadinejad is getting more and more unpopular at home, as the economy takes a nose dive and unemployment, Wolf, grows sky high.
BLITZER: Zain, thank you very much.
Zain Verjee reporting.
So has Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gone too far, even with his own people?
Who's really running things in Iran?
Joining us now from New York, Tufts University professor, Vali Nasr, and Iran expert. He's the author of "The Shia Revival."
He's now teaching at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
Vali, thanks very much for coming in.
Well, give us your assessment.
What does this say about what's happening in Iran right now, where the -- at least the president -- if not the leader, the president of Iran -- is received this way at a university there?
VALI NASR, AUTHOR, "THE SHIA REVIVAL," TUFTS UNIVERSITY: Well, there has been a lot of opposition to Ahmadinejad's economic policies in Iran. He has not delivered on the promises that he made, inflation is high.
Some of the sanctions imposed by the United Nations are also taking a bite on the economy and, in addition, he has also become more dictatorial in the past here. His intelligence services have been harassing women, have been harassing students and there is a sense that some of this pressure is now beginning to boil over within Iran itself.
BLITZER: A lot of experts on Iran have suggested, and Vali give me your opinion, that the younger people in Iran are simply fed up with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They're on the Internet. They want to see things change and they're frustrated by what's happening in their country. Is that accurate?
NASR: Yes, that is accurate, but these were not the people who actually voted him into office. Ahmadinejad relied on the vote of poor Iranians promising to make their lives better once he became president. It is very important that the students have shown a bold initiative to oppose him. The next step will be to see the poor of Iran who are still economically suffering join in with this uprising.
BLITZER: Is he simply a figurehead, Ahmadinejad, or does he have real power in Iran?
NASR: He has many powers, but he's not the ultimate head of state in Iran. The head of state in Iran is the supreme leader of Iran who controls the judiciary and most of the important organs of the state and also the military forces in Iraq. But Ahmadinejad controls the day-to-day administration of government and, as a result, is responsible for the failures of that government.
BLITZER: What other prospects that there could be a quiet, peaceful revolution, if you will, in Iran that would see him go and others more acceptable to the U.S., the west come into power.
NASR: Well, we're not going to see a change towards democracy any time soon in Iran. The Iranian regime has the ability to crush opposition very effectively. But the leadership in Iran, if they see Ahmadinejad being a divisive force, not only internationally isolating Iran but also domestically leading to opposition, they may believe that it might be time to take their hands off of him and let him face the opposition in the parliament, in the streets and, ultimately, the polls in elections that are coming up in the spring and presidential elections that will be coming up in 2009.
BLITZER: What would be the smartest U.S. strategy in trying to get things better in Iran right now?
NASR: I think the United States should not interfere directly in internal affairs of Iran because opposition to Ahmadinejad can be seen as doing the bidding of the United States. The U.S. should continue with its international approach to Iran and let the course of opposition in Iran to take Ahmadinejad on.
BLITZER: Vali Nasr is the author of "The Shia Revival."
Vali, thanks for coming in.
NASR: Thank you.
BLITZER: There's a story just coming in to CNN. I want to go right to Carol Costello. She's monitoring this story for us.
Carol, what's going on?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, according to the Associated Press, Marion Jones, the sprinter, has relinquished her medals to the Olympic International Commit. Now the IOC was expected to force her to do that, but apparently she voluntarily turned them over. According to a source AP is quoting, it said she apologizes to her competitors and hopes the record books will be amended to accurately reflect their achievements.
Of course, as you know, Jones won two gold medals and two bronzes at the Sydney Olympics and of course she recently pleaded guilty for lying about steroid use and of course she apparently used steroids to win those medals.
Back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Carol Costello reporting.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, the democratic presidential candidate, is championing the middle class on a bus tour through Iowa right now. We'll have some expert political analysis coming up.
And it's been weeks since we've seen him, but Lou Dobbs is finally back. We're going to find out how he's feeling. We'll take a closer look, by the way, also at that "Saturday Night Live" spoof of our own Lou Dobbs and a lot more. Lou getting ready to be here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
All that coming up.
BLITZER: As states race to move up their primaries, there's been speculation that Iowa could be forced to hold its caucuses before Christmas to stay ahead of the pack. Now, we hear from an Iowa republican official that the party is actually focusing in on January 3rd or January 5th., with democrats likely to follow suit. 0
And joining us now our special correspondent Frank Sesno for this week's "What If" segment.
What's going on Frank?
FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this week presidential politics, polls, money, leapfrogging primaries, you name it. We are just being flooded by presidential politics. Look what's happening. The primary schedule, this is primary and caucuses January 5 to February 5. There are eight of them where either republicans or democrats are voting. On February 5, super duper Tuesday, 22 more states. It means that 30 states will have voted in primaries or spoken up in caucuses for one party or the other. That's incredible.
Look at what the situation was eight years ago. Just eight years ago, just a handful of states. This is a process, Wolf, that's stuck on fast forward.
What if we change this crazy primary system we've got? Well, three senators, Republican Lamar Alexander, Independent Joe Lieberman and Democrat Amy Klobuchar have a bill they say would make it better, primary colors with a regional hew.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: You would start in one area and then go to the next, the next, the next and then four years later you would rotate in a different way.
SESNO: Senator Klobuchar, who's from Minnesota, has been on the job less than a year and already wants to change the system.
KLOBUCHAR: This way you know what the rules are, you know when you can get in and it just will bring more order to the process.
SESNO: What if there were just four big regional primaries, Iowa and New Hampshire the only exceptions. Well, candidates could campaign, travel, raise money more efficiently, Klobuchar says. Voters would benefit. Maybe. An entire region that goes last might barely matter. Talk about late to the party. And this would really change the candidate calculus. Example, what if John Edwards, the only southerner in the pack, faced a primary season where all southern states voted first. His prospects might change dramatically. Till now the primary rules have been up to the parties in the states.
What if somebody comes up to you and says senator, this is a lovely idea, but this actually is none of your business and that Congress should stay out of this. Mass or otherwise, it's our politics and our party.
KLOBUCHAR: They have said that, but the problem is you have 50 states and you have parties with operations in 50 different states and someone has to bring order to this case.
SESNO: As far as she's concerned, the problem is what if nothing's done.
KLOBUCHAR: I believe it's chaos, it's a primary arm's race and we can do better. SESNO: We can do better, the question is, who is the we, Wolf? There's a lot of discussion and the debate over whether the constitution would allow the senate or the Congress for that matter to set the dates or whether this is up to the states and the parties.
BLITZER: That could be left up to the courts at some point down the road. But there's no doubt that there are enormous implications of this accelerated time schedule, all these contests moving up earlier and earlier.
SESNO: That's right. And one of the implications is for the candidates themselves.
Here is one particular itinerary. This is Rudy Giuliani who happened to be the busiest. On Monday, he's bouncing around New Jersey and Pennsylvanian; Tuesday he takes a day off to breathe; Wednesday up to New Hampshire, several stops there; Thursday out to Missouri and Illinois, again, several stops; Friday back to Washington; Saturday off to Florida. What people worry about is the primary campaign, which is where you're supposed to get to know a candidate, have him in your living room, meet him in the luncheonette becomes a tarmac and airwaves campaign, where they're covering so much territory and spending so much money that they're hop, skipping and jumping across the country and, really, everybody loses in that process.
BLITZER: The person who wins might be the one that has the most money when all this ...
SESNO: And it's done so early. I mean what happens if the issues change? You're voting on somebody with today's economy and today's set of issues when it could be all together different and you want something different for the campaign itself.
BLITZER: Frank Sesno, thanks.
BLITZER: Hillary Clinton is in Iowa right now aboard her campaign bus named "The Middle Class Express." Recent polls show her ahead in that state. The latest Des Moines Register Polls shows Senator Clinton leading with 29 percent. John Edwards is favored by 23 percent of caucus goers with Barack Obama right behind at 22 percent.
Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. She's watching all of these numbers for us.
So what do these numbers mean, the numbers in Iowa, for Senator Clinton?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's good news for her obviously. She's happy to be ahead. It means her campaign is getting traction. There are a couple of months ago, Wolf, people thought she might really not compete in Iowa. She decided she had to, she's doing it. But the flipside of that is of course now she has a big red target on her back. Nobody wants to have that target on their back. Most of the voters in Iowa, Wolf, are still undecided. What's good for Hillary, though, is that 60 percent of democratic caucus goers are women. And those are the people they're targeting and that's good for her.
BLITZER: You know, a lot of us have been pointing out, we remember four years ago, Howard Dean. He was incredible raising all this money on the Internet. He was so energetic, so excited, supporters were, as well. He didn't exactly go on to win Iowa.
BORGER: Right and a lot of the other democratic candidates are saying, look at Howard Dean. You know, he didn't win, just as you said. But there are some major differences between Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean. First of all, she has a much better organization in Iowa right now. She has learned the lessons of Howard Dean, as has Barack Obama, which is don't believe anyone this early that they're voting for you. Keep going back. Keep going back, keep going back to them because the Iowa caucuses are all about organization. So, people have learned from Howard Dean's mistakes and Hillary's one of them.
BLITZER: Now, let's look at the republican side in the Des Moines register poll. Republican likely caucus goers, Romney is ahead with 29 percent, Fred Thompson 18 percent, Huckabee 12 percent, Giuliani 11 percent. Look at John McCain in Iowa, only 7 percent. It looks like Romney is really doing well in Iowa. He's doing really well in New Hampshire, as well, even though he doesn't do well in the national polls.
BORGER: Right. He has decided to do the local races, spent a lot of money in Iowa. The other republican candidates I talk to say well we're not really paying a lot of attention to Iowa, so whether Romney wins there or not doesn't really matter. He's the guy who spent a lot of money there. The person who's surprising people is Huckabee because he's organizing in Iowa. He's spending money in Iowa. He's showing up in Iowa and folks like that there.
BLITZER: He's a former governor of Arkansas. He's a very likable kind of guy and he knows how to go out there and campaign.
BORGER: He does. But this also shows you what a state of flux the republican side of the campaign is in right now. Folks have not decided who their favorites are and Giuliani, if he wants to do well in Iowa, has got to start showing up.
BLITZER: Gloria, thanks very much.
"Saturday Night Live's" Darrell Hammond is getting lots of material from CNN. He played me in THE SITUATION ROOM, and now he's doing CNN's Lou Dobbs. Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DARRELL HAMMOND, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: After a summer spent taking American money by the fistful at the box office, Seth Rogan, the shaggy-haired marijuana enthusiast and Canadian national is at it again, taking entertainment jobs away from otherwise deserving Americans.
Of course, I should expect no less from your Canadian boss, Lorne Michaels, who's been muling his buddies over the border for years now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Very, very funny. We missed Lou Dobbs. He's been out for the past few weeks. He's back, though. He's getting ready for his own program that begins at the top of the hour.
First of all, Lou, we're really happy to see you back.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you.
BLITZER: Tell our viewers why you were gone, because I can't tell you how many people contacted me and said, "where's Lou, where's Lou?"
DOBBS: Well, the fact is I had a tonsillectomy. I was out, and I managed to lose my taste buds and to be out of commission for a while. I thought I'd be back quicker, but it turns out I'm not quite as tough as I thought I was, not even close.
But it's great to be back. Thank you for that warm welcome back, Wolf. I really appreciate it.
BLITZER: You know, a lot of us had our tonsils taken out when we were little kids. It's a much more serious procedure when you get to be our age. Is that what you're telling our viewers?
DOBBS: Well, exactly. And believe me, at our age, I think just about everything is more serious, but you were much smarter than me to have it done at a younger age rather than, let's say, a slightly older age.
BLITZER: Tell us what you thought about the "Saturday Night Live" skit. It was very, very cute, although I have got to tell you, I thought Darrell Hammond did a better job portraying me than he did portraying you. But I'll be interested in your opinion.
DOBBS: Well, I'm certainly a less flamboyant figure than you, and, therefore, more difficult to capture an image of. I thought Darrell -- I think he's just a brilliant talent. He's done a marvelous job over the years. I just think he's terrific. But since he has brought that muling on the part of Lorne Michaels, executive producer of "SNL" to our attention, we will be doing a lot more stories on them.
BLITZER: Got to watch those Canadians. Obviously, they're trying to slip into this country.
Tell us what's coming up, Lou, at the top of the hour on your program?
DOBBS: Well, with that inspiration, Wolf, we're going to be talking about border and port security certainly tonight. We'll be reporting on a major new food scare, a new recall of ground beef. American consumers, we have absolutely no idea what's in our hamburgers or where that meat comes from, and our federal government has no idea, apparently, how to protect us from dangerous imports. We'll be reporting on that.
Also tonight, rising outrage over foreign companies taking control of our highways. Highways built, of course, with taxpayer money, your money. Another example of foreign interests buying some of our most important assets, and our federal and state governments simply abdicating their responsibilities. We'll have that report.
Charges that New York's Governor Eliot Spitzer is recklessly breaking our laws, offering drivers' licenses to illegal aliens. I'll be talking with one man who is leading the revolt against the governor and his outrageous proposals.
I'll have a few words of my own tonight about Senator Barack Obama, Katie Couric over at CBS, Bill Moyers at PBS and all of their nonsense about wearing an American flag pin on their lapels and associating it with patriotism. It's time to get straight and serious about serious issues.
We'll be doing that tonight at the top of the hour. We hope you'll join us. Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: We certainly will. Looks like Lou is ready to come back to work, and we're happy you're back. Lou, thanks very much.
DOBBS: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: "The Kite Runner" is a powerful best selling novel and it's now a controversial new movie and the children who star in it could be in danger. Coming up, we have new details on the plan to protect the young actors in a CNN exclusive.
And a field trip to Paris. The jury investigating the death of Princess Diana travels to the scene of the deadly crash.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Dramatic new developments in a story we've been following here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Three child actors now being moved out of their home country over deep concerns they could face violence because of their onscreen roles in the new film, "The Kite Runner."
CNN spoke exclusively to some of the key players behind the movie. Let's go out to L.A. Kareen Wynter is standing by.
So how is this impacting, Kareen, on the film's scheduled release?
KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there Wolf. Well, you better believe there is a real sense of urgency here. The studio has taken drastic steps it pull the families out of Afghanistan, even if this means delaying the film. We have blurred some pictures in this piece to protect the children since there are concerns about a backlash.
"The Kite Runner" hasn't even hit the big screen yet and the movie has already been grounded. The release date has been pushed back out of growing safety concerns for some of the young lead characters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I dream flowers will bloom in the streets again.
WYNTER: One of them a 12-year-old boy named Ahmad from Afghanistan who was cast in a brief but graphic rape scene, a role he recently told us he was uncomfortable playing.
AHMAD (through translator): I was just scared for a few minutes.
WYNTER: The cultural implications of a boy from Afghanistan being raped could result in a violent backlash against his family. The movie's director along with the author of the best-selling book that inspired it addressed the controversy in this exclusive television interview with CNN.
MARC FORSTER, DIRECTOR: There's basically, you know, there's no nudity or anything of that. So, it's just shown in a way that people understand what happened, but in that sense, that's all really what you see.
WYNTER: Ahmad's family told CNN they would have pulled their son out of the movie had they known he had to play a rape victim. The film set in Kabul, Afghanistan is about two boys, their friendship and the final days of Afghanistan's monarchy to the brutality of the Taliban era. But it's the rape scene that's getting all it buzz so much so that the studio is moving Ahmad's family from his homeland and relocating two other young actors out of Afghanistan before the movie's release.
FORSTER: We want the children to be safe. We love them and even if it's commercially not the best for the film to push it back, I think the main thing is that the children are safe.
KHALED HOSSEINI, AUTHOR: That's our paramount importance, these kids who have played these characters and have given the amazing performance that they're looked after, they're cared for and that they're safe.
WYNTER: "The Kite Runner" was scheduled to debut in theaters November 2nd. Now it won't be released until the middle of December. The movie's director hopes this six-week delay won't take the wind out of the highly anticipated film clouded in so much controversy.
So we checked with the studio to see if they've already provided a safe haven for these families in Afghanistan. Wolf, they wouldn't elaborate on their exact whereabouts right now, but wanted to ensure us that things will be handled.
BLITZER: All right. Kareen, thanks very much. She'll stay on top of this story for us.
The British jury probing the death of Princess Diana a decade ago is in Paris right now. They are tracing her final moments. The panel visited the hotel where she dined with her boyfriend and the tunnel where their Mercedes crashed as it fled from the paparazzi. Traffic was diverted as the panelists walked to the pillar that was the site of the impact. This is the latest in a series of probes and court cases arising out of Diana's death.
A French investigation launched shortly after the crash found the paparazzi were not responsible and that Diana's driver was drunk and speeding. But in 2003, three photographers were convicted by a French court of invading the privacy of the princess and her boyfriend. The current British inquest opened back in 2004, what was immediately put on hold while the U.K. police finished their investigation culminating the 2006 report calling Diana's death and I'm quoting now "a tragic accident caused by a drunk driver."
Coming up next, Jack Cafferty wants to know what it means if Afghanistan has become a long-term commitment for the United States.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack Cafferty for the Cafferty File.
CAFFERTY: Wolf, the question this hour, what does it mean if Afghanistan has now become a long-term commitment for the United States?
This from S. "The reason Afghanistan will be a long-term commitment is because of the trans-Afghan pipeline. The stuck on stupid Bush administration still bound and determined to steal the oil and natural gas from the Caspian basin. If the war with the Taliban and al Qaeda were legit, then the poppy crop would have been destroyed."
Mia writes from Vicenza, Italy, "It means my husband will spend more time in Afghanistan than here at our home station in Italy and that politicians will continue to argue the right and wrong of it all as we sit here hoping and praying for their safe return. What it means is that for yet another year, our elected officials will debate our presence in both Afghanistan and Iraq from their safe and secure capital offices while husbands such as mine continue to pay the ultimate price."
Martin writes, "It means 3,000 more innocent people won't die again and Bin Laden stays in his rat hole."
John in New York, "It means Bin Laden got exactly what he wanted with 9/11. He drew the U.S. into Afghanistan where he could fight us on his terms just like he fought the Soviets. Bush did exactly what his enemies wanted him to do and now we're paying the price. Actually, he did even more than Bin Laden could have hoped for by invading Iraq as well, angering even more of the Islamic world."
Mike writes from Pittsburgh, "The blowback from our "empire" of military bases and forced occupations will only serve to weaken us as a sovereign nation."
And Last hour's Hot Shots featured a picture of a baby porcupine which prompted this e-mail from Bill in Wisconsin. "The picture of the porcupine brings the obvious comparison, Wolf's looks and your personality."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile where we put more of them online along with video clips of the Cafferty File.
I like that. Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm sure like me and all of our viewers, you're happy Lou is back tonight and he's coming up in a few seconds.
CAFFERTY: I'm happy he's back. You bet. I'm going to be on his show I think Wednesday night. Talk about us getting ugly out there.
BLITZER: Excellent, we'll be watching, Jack. Thanks very much.
We'll be back in one hour, 7 p.m. eastern. Much more of THE SITUATION ROOM coming up. Until then, thanks very much for watching.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. LOU DOBBS TONIGHT starts right now.
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