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THE SITUATION ROOM

Britain Plans to Withdraw More Troops From Iraq; Protests Against Iranian President in Iran

Aired October 8, 2007 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much Lou, good to have you back. Happening now, Britain is doing what America won't, dramatically slashing its forces in Iraq. Tonight the British Prime Minister's plan to pull the plug and whether U.S. troops might suffer.
Also, a rare protest against the Iranian president in his own backyard. What's behind the angry and very public shouts of "death to the dictator"?

And child actors fleeing their homeland and threats to their security. Tonight we have exclusive interviews with key players in "The Kite Runner" a film stirring a culture war and fears of a violent backlash. I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

American troops may soon be feeling a lot lonelier in Iraq. Britain announced today it will cut its troop level there in half. That word from the Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: There were 45,000 UK troops at the time that Saddam Hussein fell and there will be two and half thousand troops subject to military advice in the spring.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's go live to our senior pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre, he's watching this story for us. A lot of people are wondering the ramifications. The British right now have a little bit more than 5,000 troops. They're going down a half, about 2500. What's the fallout for U.S. troops, United States having, what, about 168,000 U.S. troops in Iraq right now?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well you know the British troops are in a different situation in the south. And immediately, it won't have much effect on the U.S. troops that are still in the much tougher areas around Baghdad and the Sunni insurgent strongholds around their. But, the big question will be what happens after the British troops leave. Will the violence that has subsided slightly in the south come back. And that could be an indicator of what U.S. commanders fear could happen all over Iraq, once coalition troops leave. But again, this has always been the case where Britain's been the only ally that the United States has had that's really contributed a substantial number of troops for a significant time. BLITZER: And if there are problems after the British forces leave Basra, the second largest city in Iraq in the south, if there's Shia versus Shia warfare -- and that's clearly possible -- what happens? The U.S. has to go back to the southern part of Iraq for the first time?

MCINTYRE: Well, that would be one possibility. The British say they're moving into what they call an over-watch mode in which they would be able to move back in. But if you listen to the tenor of the debate in today's house of commons, I can tell you that there isn't any more mood in Great Britain than there is in the United States for sending troops back in after you pulled them out.

BLITZER: All right Jamie, thanks very much. Besides the United States, there are 21 countries with forces in Iraq but guess what, only three of them have more than 1,000 troops in Iraq. Britain, as we said, has about 5,500 troops deployed right now but they're going to cut that in half fairly soon. South Korea has just under 3,000. Australia has about 1,600. That's gone down as well. For some countries, though, most of them, it's simply a show of solidarity, political solidarity, than a show of force. Latvia, for instance, has only two soldiers in Iraq.

Angry protesters today jeered Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and scuffled with his supporters only weeks after his rough reception in New York. This time the Iranian leader faced open opposition in his own capital of Tehran. Here's our State Department correspondent Zain Verjee. Zain?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is seen as a major international threat by the U.S. There is visible discontent at home. Today a rare protest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE (voice-over): Only weeks after this reception in New York --

LEE BOLLINGER, PRESIDENT, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator.

VERJEE: It's one thing for the president of a major American university to slam Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a more surprising one in Tehran, when Iranian students confront their president on home turf, there is 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 protest when students set his picture on fire and booed him. This latest 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 OF VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE: Iranian experts say Ahmadinejad is getting more unpopular at home as the economy takes a nosedive and unemployment grows sky high. Wolf?

BLITZER: Zain Verjee, thanks very much.

So has Mahmoud Ahmadinejad simply gone too far, even with his own people? Who's really running things in Iran?

Joining us now from New York , Tuft University Professor Vali Nasr, an 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. Give us your assessment. What does this say about what's happening in Iran right now, where 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": 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 year. 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 figure head, 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, most of the important organs of the state and also the military forces in Iran. But Ahmadinejad controls the day-to-day administration of government and as a result is responsible for the failures of that government.

BLITZER: What are the 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 at 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 then 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 very much for coming in.

NASR: Thank you.

BLITZER: The State Department says the last time Iran and the United States engaged in a substantive high level meeting was way back in 1977. That was when Jimmy Carter was president of the United States and he visited Iran. Now he'll have a chance to ask the former president about Iran or any other topic. Jimmy Carter will be here in THE SITUATION ROOM Wednesday. And as part of CNN's i-Report, you can send video questions you'd like to ask. Submit them by logging on to cnn.com/situationroom. We'll try to get some of your video questions to President Carter Wednesday here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" in New York. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY: Wolf, congress isn't doing its job of oversight and that means that if Watergate happened today, we might not get the same results. One of the two reporters who broke the Watergate story, Carl Bernstein, says this. "The difference with today is that the system did its job back then. The press did its job. The court did its job. The senate committee did its job. There's been great reporting on this President, Bush, but there's been no oversight. We have a democratic congress now and there's still no oversight." That's quote. Maybe that's part of the reason that congress's approval ratings are in the toilet. In fact, the lone champion of oversight seems to be Congressman Henry Waxman as chairman of the house committee on oversight and government reform. He has held 29 hearings since January on things like Iraq contractors and the handling of rebuilding on the gulf coast. Waxman says in some ways he thinks oversight is even more important than legislating. He might have something there. Here's the question. They don't do any legislating of any note either. Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein says congress no longer performs its oversight function. Do you agree with that. E-mail caffertyfile@cnn.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile. Interesting observation from one of the reporters that brought down the Nixon presidency. BLITZER: That would be Woodward and Bernstein, I think we all remember that.

CAFFERTY: We do.

BLITZER: Thanks Jack very much.

The mystery of the missing mayor. He's pulled a no-show now for two weeks. Find out why legal problems may have prompted the disappearing act.

Also, high tech crime fighters, Interpol unscrambling this picture to track down a criminal. Do you know who this man is? Take a close look.

An Olympic return, Marion Jones giving up her medals. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In Atlantic City, some people may be ready to put the mayor's face on a missing person's poster. He's literally dropped out of sight and in this city known for its gambling, some are betting it has something to do with a scandal he's involved in. Let's turn to CNN's Brian Todd. He's watching the story for us. Brian, any word on where the mayor might be?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No public word, Wolf. It is very tightly held at the moment. Some observers say this is business as usual, but right now there is true mystery and crisis surrounding Atlantic City's political leadership.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): He hasn't shown up for work in about two weeks, and some on the city council are fed up with the mysterious disappearance of Atlantic City Mayor Bob Levy.

BRUCE WARD, ATLANTIC CITY COUNCILMAN: We need to know where he is. We need to know what his prognosis is for recovery and getting back to work. I want this mayor to do the right thing. And if that is stepping down, then so be it.

TODD: His attorney says he knows where Levy is, but he won't tell anyone. The lawyer says he'll clear everything up with a press release in the next few days. But if it's anything like the last press release, it may only add to the mystery. Late September, the mayor's office says only that Levy will be out on medical leave until further notice and city business administrator Domenic Capella will take over in the meantime.

DOMENIC CAPELLA, ACTING MAYOR, ATLANTIC CITY: The key question really is, is there a vacant office? There's not. He's out on sick leave.

TODD: But neither the mayor's office nor his attorney will say what the illness is. We know the mayor may have legal trouble, a source familiar with the case tells CNN the federal government's been investigating Levy for misrepresenting his military service. His attorney wouldn't comment on that allegation. Levy is a Vietnam veteran, but he recently admitted to reporters he'd made false claims about serving in the special forces.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Bob Levy does have his supporters. One city council member says the council should not act like vultures swarming down on him. He was elected by a huge margin in 2005 after serving a long time as head of the city's beach patrol. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Brian, for that.

And another story we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM, a well known Christian university sees itself at the center of a scandal right now. Some professors who once taught at Oral Roberts University say they were fired for whistle blowing . And the things they're claiming are simply shocking. CNN's John Roberts has details. John?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you'll remember that some years ago Oral Roberts said God had ordered him to raise $8 million for his university or he would be called home. Well, today the controversy is focused on his son, not how much money he's raised but how much he's spent and where it came from.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD ROBERTS, PRES., ORAL ROBERTS UNIVERSITY: We live in a litigious society. Anyone can get mad and file a lawsuit against another person, whether they have a legitimate case or not.

J. ROBERTS (voice-over): Oral Roberts University President Richard Roberts denies a slew of scandalous allegations. Three former professors have filed a lawsuit against Roberts and the school. They claim they were fired for reporting the school's alleged illegal involvement in the Tulsa mayor's race. The professors also claim Richard Roberts and his wife Lindsey used school money to remodel their home 11 times in 14 years. That they used the university jet to send their daughter on a senior trip to the Bahamas at a cost of almost $30,000. And that they awarded nonacademic scholarships to their kids' friends.

PROF. JOHN SWAILS, ORAL ROBERTS UNIVERSITY: We took it to our superiors and we found out that it was taken all the way up to the administrative chain and even though -- and we discovered later that nothing was being done to make it right.

J. ROBERTS: And there's more. The suit also alleges Mrs. Roberts spent over $39,000 on clothing and that she frequently ran up more than $800 monthly cell phone bills. And sent hundreds of text messages in the middle of the night to underage males.

CALEB TRUJILLO, FORMER STUDENT: My friends here and the students here deserve to know the truth from the administration and from the Roberts family about where their tuition money goes and what it's spent on.

J. ROBERTS: The university's executive board is conducting a, quote, "Full and thorough investigation." Roberts addressed the lawsuit this past week in chapel.

R. ROBERTS: It is about intimidation, blackmail and extortion. Make no mistake about it, this suit is about money.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

J. ROBERTS: The professors have since amended their lawsuit to add claims of libel, slander and defamation. No word yet on how much money the professors are seeking in damages. Wolf?

BLITZER: John Roberts reporting for us. Thank you John.

An unusual international manhunt using high-tech crime fighting techniques. Interpol wants to know who this man is. Take a look at that face. They've been able to digitally unscramble his distorted image to get a clearer look and now they're hoping you can help crack the case.

Also Hillary Clinton. You're going to find out why she's mostly ignoring her Democratic challengers and going after the Republicans. We're taking you on the campaign trail. All that coming up, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our Carol Costello is monitoring stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Carol, what's going on?

CAROL COSTELLO: Well Wolf, we're getting word of a massive settlement to an environmental lawsuit that's been dragging on for the past eight years. The "Associated Press" is reporting that American Electric Power of Columbus, Ohio, is agreeing to pay more than $4 billion to end the suit brought by the U.S. government, nine states and environmental groups over the company's coal-fired power plants.

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 an apartment in the town of Crandon. He got a rifle from his truck, forced his way back in and fired about 30 rounds, killing six people. The victims included Peterson's former girlfriend. Peterson was killed by a S.W.A.T. team.

A deadly accident 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 at least 70 feet. The balloon crash landed nearby.

The British jury looking into the death of Princess Diana a decade ago is in Paris tracing her final moments. The panel visited the hotel she left 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. That's a look at the headlines right now Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much Carol for that. Police in Europe want you to pay attention to this picture. They say this man has traveled the world sexually abusing young boys. And officials are hoping that someone somewhere will help them bust this case. Neil Connery has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NEIL CONNERY, ITV NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the face of the man now the subject of an unprecedented global police hunt. Interpol say he sexually abused boys in more than 200 photographs posted on the Internet. He blocked his own face on the images to disguise his identity. But thanks to the efforts of Germany's federal police agency, his face can now be revealed. Police believe he abused boys as young as 6 years old in Vietnam and Cambodia more than four years ago. The pictures have been on the Internet since then. Police have been able to use technology to show who he is.

JIM GAMBLE, ONLINE PROTECTION AGENCY In one respect, it's a fantastic breakthrough to be able to take a picture which has been digitally changed and then to reengineer that back to a picture whereby we'd be able to identify the individual. The real breakthrough, however, is using the image we now have to share with the public.

CONNERY: This summer an ITV news investigation showed the dangers posed by pedophiles using the Internet to target children. Interpol itself has a database of more than 500,000 images of child sexual abuse. Thanks to technological advances, police forces around the world now hope this man can be tracked down quickly. Neil Connery, ITV News.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Tonight Hillary Clinton is on a role in Iowa as the White House hopeful launches a new bus tour through the lead off caucus state. Is her bid for the democratic presidential nomination unstoppable?

A huge selling novel turned Hollywood film. You're going to find out why some child actors are now being forced to flee their country over the film version of the "Kite Runner." If you read the book -- and millions did -- you're going to want to see this, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, a top Iraqi official says Iraq wants $136 million for what it considers to be premeditated murder, a direct quote. That would be $8 million for each of the 17 deaths involving U.S. military contractor Blackwater USA. The money would go to the families of those killed. Blackwater maintains its contractors acted lawfully and appropriately. Disgraced track star Marion Jones giving up her five medals, one at the Sydney Olympics. It's unclear who has them now. Jones recently admitted to steroid use.

And if you think your spouse makes you sick, you could be on to something. A new study says a lousy marriage or bad relationships may raise your risk for heart disease. The reason, experts say, stress. I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's get to a fierce partisan fight now over children's health care. Tonight Democrats and their allies are turning up the heat on House Republicans who are potential weak links in efforts to uphold a presidential veto. Let's go right to our congressional correspondent Dana Bash, she's watching the story for us. Some of these advocacy groups are taking their case to the airwaves Dana, what's going on?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're right Wolf. And it's a showdown that Democrats and their allies wholeheartedly welcome after 10 frustrating months fighting with the White House over Iraq policy, this is a fight Democrats view as good policy and good politics.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): The Democrats' hopes of overriding the president's veto of children's health care could ride on a new million dollar ad campaign.

ANNOUNCER: George Bush just vetoed Abby and Josh. He vetoed Latoya and Kevin. Bush vetoed health insurance for millions of America's children, whose parents work but can't afford coverage.

BASH: A coalition of labor and advocacy groups is teaming up to sponsor this national commercial and similar ads targeting 20 GOP members of congress. The goal is to pressure those Republicans to drop their opposition to expanding the children's health program by $35 billion.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: We take it one step at a time. And right now we have the next ten days to two weeks to try to peel off of that 14 votes in the house.

BASH: But despite the money and manpower democrats and like- minded groups are pouring into overriding the president's veto, the democrat in charge of counting the votes tells CNN he's pessimistic.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), MAJORITY WHIP: It will be very, very tough for us to get 290 votes. I think that you know a lot of people think that 45, 50 may be the high watermark on the republican side.

BASH: The president and many republicans say the democrats' proposal to expand the children's health program unnecessarily broadens government-run health care. But privately, republicans are concerned that argument is overpowered by democrats' talk of needy children. The administration is already looking for compromise. MIKE LEAVITT, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: The veto will be sustained. And then we'll get on to a real conversation about how we put poor children first, how we then can put insurance within the reach of every American, including every child.

BASH: Republican officials tell CNN they're poised to counter the democrats' lobbying push, feeding talking points to conservative radio and conservative blogs, that the president does actually support funding the children's health program but thinks it should be limited to America's neediest children.

Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Dana, thanks very much.

Meanwhile, Senator Hillary Clinton is campaigning in Iowa right now, trying to build on her considerable momentum there. More than ever, people are wondering if Senator Clinton will leave her democratic rivals in the dust when the first presidential contests are held early next year.

Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is traveling with the Clinton campaign in Iowa.

Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you know, there is the question of inevitability. Is there anyone that can stop her? Well, as John Edwards said earlier today, I live through the inevitability of Howard Dean. She is rolling through Iowa on a bus and making more headway in the polls far enough down the road to ignore her democratic rivals and assault George Bush.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: America's middle class families have been invisible to the president. It's as if he's looked right through them.

CROWLEY: It's been a pretty easy ride for Clinton. She began with name recognition, her husband's Rolodex and a formidable campaign machine. Now 12 weeks away from the start of the primary season, she leads in national polls and in the early voting states, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina. And the greatest of these is Iowa. The Clinton campaign is full of probably, but Iowa is full of possibility. It can be a launching pad or a crash pad. And the caucus system can defy predictions. Iowa votes first. The polls are close here. And because voters have to devote a cold January evening to caucus, the depth and breadth of your organization matters.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: I need you to fill out one of these, Obama supporter cards.

CROWLEY: Barack Obama and John Edwards have put together Iowa machines as good or better than Hillary Clinton's.

PEVERILL SQUIRE, UNIVERSITY OF IOWA: They have the money and they put in the time to put together these organizations. So I think they'll be able to turn out their people on caucus day.

CROWLEY: The Edwards campaign has organizations in other early states but much of his time and money has gone into Iowa. He has been here longer and more often than the other leading candidates.

Barack Obama, from neighboring Illinois, has out-visited Clinton. He is counting on years of stagnation in Washington to turn voters in his direction. Obama is upping his game this fall, challenging her ability to change a system she is part of.

OBAMA: I know that change makes for good campaign rhetoric, the word change on a bumper sticker. But when these same people actually had a chance to make change happen, they didn't lead.

CROWLEY: Now, if you ask the Clinton campaign, they will tell you in no way does Hillary Clinton believe she has this in the bag, despite the money and the poll numbers. They have to say that so they don't appear smug. But she knows and her rivals know that if anyone is to stop Hillary Clinton, they have to start when the voting starts. And the voting, Wolf, starts here in Iowa.

BLITZER: And it could start as early as January 3rd or January 5th. We're watching for a decision this week from Iowa. Thanks very much for that, Candy Crowley reporting from Iowa.

Meanwhile, questions tonight regarding Hillary Clinton's ties to a man who used to work for her husband. It involves Sandy Berger, the national security adviser, during the Clinton administration. Let's go right to Mary Snow. She's watching the story for us.

What's the campaign saying, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Clinton campaign isn't something much about his role today. Senator Clinton was asked about it in an interview with "USA Today" saying Sandy Berger's been a friend for more than 30 years but has no official role. He's an expert on national security, but he comes with baggage. Sandy Berger, national security adviser in the Clinton administration, is giving advice to Hillary Clinton's campaign. In 2005, Berger pled guilty to illegally removing classified documents from the national archives building and was fined $50,000. He admitted to stuffing them in his pants.

SANDY BERGER, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I exercised very poor judgment in the course of reviewing the files at the archives for the 9/11 commission. I deeply regret it. It was mistaken and it was wrong.

SNOW: On Sandy Berger, Hillary Clinton's camp says, "Sandy Berger is a longtime friend but has no official role in the campaign. Like many people, he offers advice, but he has no official role in the campaign." What that unofficial role is remains unclear. A Clinton campaign spokesman declined to answer specifics about whether Berger communicates with Senator Clinton by phone or e-mail or whether he does things like help her prepare for debates. And in an interview with "USA Today," Senator Clinton did not elaborate on Berger's role saying that she has thousands of unofficial advisers.

Back in the 2004 campaign, Berger was an unpaid foreign policy adviser to Senator John Kerry but stepped down amid the investigation about the documents. While experts acknowledge Berger can offer valuable advice, political observers say it poses a risk for Hillary Clinton.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA, CENTER FOR POLITICS: The real threat for democrats with Hillary Clinton has always been not so much her personality as her past. And her past is inextricably tied to her husband's administration and all the problems experienced in the 1990s.

SNOW: Now, we did try to reach Sandy Berger for comment. We contacted his spokeswoman, who told us he was out-of-pocket and traveling and couldn't be reached for comment.

Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow watching this story. Thank you, Mary.

It's time to check our political ticker. Vice President Dick Cheney isn't taking sides yet in the presidential race but one of his daughters is. Liz Cheney has been tapped as a co-chair of Fred Thompson's national campaign leadership team. Liz Cheney has worked for the state department and had roles in the 2000 and 2004 Bush/Cheney campaigns.

An uncomfortable confrontation for the republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. In New Hampshire this weekend, a man suffering from muscular dystrophy pressed Romney about his opposition to marijuana for medical use. Listen closely. When he asked Romney if he'd arrest him for using the drug, Romney tries to quickly answer and then move on. Listen to this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you arrest me and my doctors if I get medical marijuana?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not in favor of medical marijuana being legal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So would you have me arrested?

ROMNEY: I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you please answer my question?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to answer his question, governor?

ROMNEY: I think I have. I'm not in favor of legalizing medical marijuana.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to answer questions like his. Are you going to ignore questions from a wheelchair?

ROMNEY: Hi, how are you. Nice to see you. Thank you.

BLITZER: And the Al Gore presidential speculation game is on again. The former vice president said to be a favorite to win the Nobel peace prize this Friday for his campaign against global warming. And this is refueling some democrats' hopes that he'll run for the White House next year. In fact, supporters in California reportedly are starting today to collect signatures to put Al Gore's name on the state's February 5th primary ballot.

Remember for the latest political news at any time, you can always check out our political ticker at CNN.com/ticker.

Child actors forced to flee their country over a Hollywood movie. There's controversy over the best selling book turned film "The Kite Runner." You're going to find out why the release is now being delayed.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There are dramatic new developments in the story we've been following here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Three child actors now being moved out of their home country over a deep concern they could face violence because of their on-screen roles in the new film "The Kite Runner." CNN spoke exclusively to some of the key players behind the movie. CNN's Kareen Winter has details from Los Angeles.

Kareen.

KAREEN WINTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Wolf. The studio has taken drastic steps to pull the families out of Afghanistan, even if this means delaying the film. We've blurred some of the pictures in this piece to protect the children since there are concerns about a backlash.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened to the boy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Taliban took him.

WINTER: "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 that flowers will bloom in the streets again.

WINTER: 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.

WINTER: 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 address 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.

WINTER: 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 the 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: Our concern is we want the children to be safe. We love them. Even if it's commercially not best for the film to push it back, I think the main thing is that the children are safe.

KHALED HOSSEINI, AUTHOR: That's of paramount importance that these kids who have played these characters and have given these amazing performances, that they're looked after, they're cared for and they're safe.

WINTER: "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.

We checked with the studio to see if they've already provided a safe haven for the families in Afghanistan, but, Wolf, they wouldn't elaborate on their exact whereabouts right now but wanted to assure us things will be handled.

Wolf.

BLITZER: Kareen, thank you very much. We'll stay on top of this story.

Meanwhile, extreme heat sends runners to the hospital. Did Chicago marathon officials stumble in their handling of the crisis?

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

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 clearly stumbled in the way they handled the crisis.

Let's bring in Carol Costello. She's here watching the story.

What are these officials saying in their defense, Carol? CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well you know Wolf they are very much 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Runner down, 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody help me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't get him up.

COSTELLO: So many collapsed or suffered cramps from dehydration, the Chicago Fire Department told us it set a record for a public event, 312 9/11 calls in four hours. Arzu Karimova, a runner, survived the heat but it's still hot.

ARZU KARIMOVA, CHICAGO MARATHON RUNNER: It's amazing to me that there wasn't enough medical assistance on the road and there was no ice. Like they knew it was going to be hot. They should have ice like the individual people were handing out ice, giving water to people. I think it wasn't well organized.

COSTELLO: Organizers deny it.

CAREY PINKOWSKI, CHICAGO MARATHON RACE DIRECTOR: We made some contingency plans two days earlier. We were shipping water to the later stages of the race. I feel confident we had fluids at those locations.

COSTELLO: But as the race wore on and the heat index rose into the 90s, many 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 3 1/2 hours into the marathon, organizers canceled the race.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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 Rushnow from "Chicago Athlete" magazine ...

AMY RUSHNOW, CHICAGO ATHLETE MAGAZINE: Even if you've got enough water, there's 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: Rushnow says it may be time to think about limiting the number of runners allowed to participate in the marathon to a more manageable number.

We should mention one man did die at mile 18, but an autopsy today revealed he died from a heart ailment, not the heat.

Now, I just got off the phone with the New York City marathon race director, who told me Chicago did a great job under extreme conditions. Still, she said, she learned a lot from watching that experience. She was in Chicago to see the race. She will look at New York City's emergency plan and institute what she learned.

BLITZER: Now, Carol, you're a runner and you've actually run a marathon or two. What are your conclusions? What did you learn from this?

COSTELLO: I've learned to carry my own water.

BLITZER: What do you mean? You're going to run 26 odd miles carrying water?

COSTELLO: Yes. They have belts you can wear with your own water. But I should add that you know the runners go to this meeting before the race and the race officials assured them there would be enough water at each station, that they'd ordered more. So the runners were depending on the race officials to provide the water. And that is organizers' responsibility. So in that sense, when they didn't have enough water, they erred.

BLITZER: And it was so incredibly hot in Chicago, too. Who would have thought in October. All right.

COSTELLO: Well, they should have known what the weather report was, too. Because Saturday was just as hot as Sunday when the race was run.

BLITZER: Be careful out there running.

COSTELLO: OK.

BLITZER: Thanks Carol.

Through online forums, video sharing sites and CNN I-report, the runners from the Chicago marathon are posting their experiences online.

Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

Abbi, what are they saying?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, they're saying where was this water that the organizers promised them? And some of the runners posting online had been running with their video cameras.

Take a look at this experience. An early eight station fresh out of water, that posted from Wendy Shuler (ph). She said the only reason she didn't finish the race much earlier than expected was that a spectator handed her their own personal bottle of water that that person was carrying. We've got videos coming into CNN's I-report as well of what the crowds were doing to help out, this from Michelle Gantner, who said that people were buying water, giving them to the racers and they were also spraying them with hoses.

Now, the organizers have said at no point did we not have fluids. But some of these posts online show a very different race. Wolf, CNN.com/I-report is where people can send in their images.

BLITZER: Thank you very much for that. What a story, Abbi Tatton.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York with the Cafferty File.

Running in that kind of heat, 26 odd miles. I run almost five miles in the morning on a treadmill watching TV. But I'm not crazy enough to run a marathon.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, still, though, that's pretty good. I walk down to my garage and get in my car in the morning and drive to the local whatever.

The question this hour is Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein says that Congress no longer performs its oversight role. Do you agree?

Dora in California, "Congress has been afraid to do anything to upset the White House ever since Bush and Cheney questioned the patriotism of anyone who questioned them. I don't understand why they can't get a backbone. They are the servants of the people, not of the White house."

Larry in Virginia, "Too easy, too obvious Jack. Of course Bernstein's correct as he has been all along ever since he reported on the Nixon White House. The real question is: How can we make them do the job or do we fire them all and start over?"

Deborah in North Carolina, "Carl's absolutely right. Get copies of the GAO's reports and highlight all of the items that are ignored; not only is there no oversight, there is no enforcement action. In my opinion, we have the most ignorant, arrogant and incompetent senators and members of Congress in the history of this country.

Brent in Missouri writes, "I agree and so does 70 percent of the country. The problem is no one cares what we think."

Josh, "As a San Franciscan, I can tell you Nancy Pelosi's giving a bad name to "San Francisco values." Where's the left wing liberal radical the right promised us? If she and the rest of the democratic leadership don't start biting instead of just barking on the subject of oversight, the only legacy they'll leave is the dangerous precedent that congressional subpoenas are meaningless."

And Ed writes from Nebraska, "The lack of congressional oversight is not a matter of opinion. It's a matter of fact and it is a fact that you have documented very well. By the way, thank you for that.

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. We post more of them online along with video clips of the Cafferty File.

Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you very much.

Are Southwest Air's flight attendants turning into fashion police? First the incident involving a mini skirt, now a t-shirt. Passengers face a tough choice. Change clothes or be grounded.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In Pakistan, a child plays in a building damaged by the 2005 earthquake.

In Alabama, a kayaker heads out for a morning of fishing.

And in Massachusetts, look at this, two river otters take a swim.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots, pictures worth a thousand words.

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. CNN's Susan Candiotti reports.

Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, once again Southwest Airlines is apologizing to a customer over a flap over what they decided to wear on a flight. OK. Whether you think Joe Winiecki's favorite t-shirt is funny or not or offensive or not, Winiecki says he didn't think twice when he wore it to fly home to Tampa from Columbus. But Southwest Airlines told him he'd have to change his tee because the sexual double entendre saying was a bit much.

JOE WINIECKI, SOUTHWEST PASSENGER: She's like sir, either you turn your shirt inside out or change it or I'm going to have to ask you to 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.

WINIECKI: 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 wreaked of sex appeal. In both cases, after massive publicity, the young woman and Joe Winiecki wound up getting apologies from Southwest. No hard feelings he says. He'll keep flying them and he's definitely keeping that shirt.

Southwest tells CNN it does not have a dress code and does not want to be the fashion police. And 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. That's it for us.

Up next, Rick Sanchez with "OUT IN THE OPEN."

Rick.

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