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THE SITUATION ROOM
Growing Fears of Nuclear Alliance Between Russia, Iran; Anti- Semitic Hatred on the Rise in Israel
Aired October 15, 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: Happening now, growing fears of a nuclear alliance between the leaders of Russia and Iran. Tonight, a meeting raising red flags that even rumors of an assassination plot can't stop.
Also tonight, Condoleezza Rice says it's time for a Palestinian state, right now. Why is the secretary of State suddenly pushing so hard for a solution in the Middle East?
And get this, Nazi swastikas and vandalism, anti-Semitic hatred on the rise. Tonight, the shocking problem in, of all places, Israel.
I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Suicide attackers trained for an assassination attempt on Russia's president. That's the rumored plot, but it's not enough to deter Vladimir Putin. He's pushing ahead with a history making trip to Iran. But on the agenda, Iran's nuclear program, and that has some in Washington deeply worried that it may turn out to be a trouble-making trip. Let's go to our Brian Todd. He's watching this important story for us.
Brian, what's the latest?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Vladimir Putin is delaying his trip one day, Russian officials not saying why. This trip, clearly too important for Mr. Putin to cancel, despite ominous reports about his security.
TODD (voice over): Russia's president shrugs off a reported assassination plot against him. Says he'll still make a crucial, strategic visit to Iran, the first for a Russian leader since World War II.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): If I would react to rumors like this one every time, I could never leave the house.
TODD: Details of the alleged plot are vague and one Iranian official told me reports of a possible suicide attack on Putin are, quote, "ridiculous." It would also be bad for business. Russia and Iran have just completed a huge arms deal that worries the United States. CLIFF KUPCHAN, EURASIA GROUP: Russia sold about $1 billion worth of tour M-1 missile defense systems to Iran over the last year. That has been a real sore in U.S./Russian relations.
TODD: A former U.N. weapons inspector tells CNN many of those air defense systems are being installed around nuclear facilities in Iran. An Iranian official at the U.N. would not comment on that. Russia is also building Iran's first-ever nuclear power plant. Iran claims it's for civilian energy, but U.S. officials and analysts have another concern.
ANDREW KUCHINS, CTR. FOR STRATEGIC & INTL. STUDIES: Once that is turned on and nuclear fuel starts to come into it, that could possibly then be reprocessed and go into a weapons program.
TODD: To top it off, Putin appears publicly to be siding with Iran against the U.S. in the nuclear standoff, resisting America's efforts to slap Iran with tougher U.N. sanctions.
PUTIN (through translator): If you think you can get Iran to comply by scaring them, that is not going to work. The government and the Iranian people, they are not scared, believe me.
TODD: But there are cracks in the alliance. Analysts say Russia and Iran have a mutual distrust of each other. And in the end, they say Vladimir Putin does not want Iran to have a nuclear weapon. And he may be the last best hope for a diplomatic solution to this problem, Wolf.
BLITZER: And amidst all of this, the Russians are selling a lot of weapons to another major U.S. antagonist.
TODD: That's right, the Russians have agreed to huge arms sale with Venezuela, reportedly worth about $3 billion. The Russians always have stressed these are defensive weapons, but according to "Jane's Defense Weekly", they do include the same air defense system that the Russians are selling to Iran.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting, thank you.
Has Al Qaeda in Iraq been crushed? A CNN fact check, as a new debate rages over whether the U.S. military is ready to declare a victory over its most bitter enemy. Let's go to our Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre. He's watching this story for us.
What is the story here, Jamie?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there is widespread consensus among U.S. commanders that Al Qaeda in Iraq is down, but almost none of them think, it's out.
MCINTYRE (voice over): This cockpit video from an Apache attack helicopter is typical of what the U.S. military is releasing these days. It shows suspected Al Qaeda fighters being taken out after local Iraqis tip the U.S. off as to their whereabouts. That is what the U.S. military says has turned the tide. As many as 50,000 concerned citizens, local Iraqis, taking their country back one town at a time.
And it's why, for the first time in a long time many U.S. commanders are guardedly optimistic that Al Qaeda in Iraq has been knocked on its heels.
GEN. JAMES CONWAY, COMMANDANT, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Are they crippled? Yeah. Are they still dangerous? Absolutely. And certainly they are not destroyed.
MCINTYRE: The military says there's been a cascade effect, each tip leading to another, each success producing better intelligence. It's how the U.S. says it nailed this man, Abu Osama al Tunisi, last month, with a pair of 500-pound bombs from an F-16. The air strike eliminated a possible Al Qaeda number two, and leaves number one, Ayyub al Masri as the only senior Al Qaeda leader in Iraq not captured or killed.
But a report in "The Washington Post" suggesting some U.S. generals are ready to declare victory was met with immediate derision by top commander, General David Petraeus. In respond to a CNN fact check, his spokesman e-mailed, "No one here has proposed a formal or informal declaration of victory."
While flushed with recent successes against Al Qaeda in Iraq, no one wants a repeat of the "Mission Accomplished" banner that accompanied President Bush's premature declaration that major combat ended. Just because Al Qaeda is on the run doesn't mean it's on the ropes.
CONWAY: I would also add, though, that they have shown an amazing ability to regenerate.
MCINTYRE: One sign that Al Qaeda in Iraq is still a factor is that the number of suicide bombings, while cut in half, still remains at around 30 a month. So as military officials here point out, Wolf, Al Qaeda in Iraq is still killing a lot of people, and shows no sign of surrendering -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The war is by no means over, on that front, at all. Thanks, Jamie, very much.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says it's time for a Palestinian state. With only weeks to go before a planned peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland, the secretary traveled to the West Bank today to urge both sides to step up their efforts. Here's our State Department Correspondent Zain Verjee -- Zain.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPT. CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Condoleezza Rice has one eye on the clock, and one eye on her legacy.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Frankly, it's time for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
VERJEE: But time is not a friend to Condoleezza Rice; 15 months left in office and just six weeks to a peace conference the U.S. is planning in Maryland, hoping for substance.
RICE: We, frankly, have better things to do than invite people to Annapolis for a photo op.
VERJEE: This week she's pushing Israelis and Palestinians to hammer out the outline for a final peace deal.
MAHMOUD ABBAS, PRES., PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY (through translator): The business of Dr. Rice here is an indication of the efforts that are being made by the Bush administration.
VERJEE: Palestinians want specifics on major sticking points and a timetable. The Israelis refuse on both. Mid East pragmatists like analyst Jon Alterman, are skeptical about Rice's initiative.
JOHN ALTERMAN, CTR. FOR STRATEGIC & INTL. STUDIES: I think it's very unlikely that this conference can achieve a lot that's new.
VERJEE: Rice is investing her precious little time, and legacy, on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, but it may not be enough.
ALTERMAN: Without having the president on board, without cashing in that close, personal relationship she has with President Bush, to get him to really move this forward, I don't think it can go very far.
VERJEE: A senior State Department official says that the Mid East conference is still on track and that formal talks on that outline between the two sides have started tonight -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Zain, thanks very much.
The rock star Brian Adams, by the way, had planned two peace concerts this week promoting a two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. But both have now been called off. One was to have been held in the West Bank town of Jericho. It was cancelled last week after Palestinian militants threatened the local organizers. The second concert planned for Tel Aviv has been called off in solidarity.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's in New York with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: Some federal judges seem bound and determined to prevent the enforcement of this nations laws against illegal immigration.
First, we told you about this judge in Northern California, blocked enforcement of the law against hiring illegal aliens. Now this -- construction has been temporarily delayed on part of the fence along the Mexican border in Arizona. Why? Another federal judge says the government rushed its environmental study and didn't take a good look at how that fence might affect the lizards and other things that live along the border.
Environmental groups, the Sierra Club, and Defenders of Wildlife petitioned for this delay. I wonder if any of them have gone to the border areas and seen what the illegal crossing of hundreds of thousands of aliens has done to the environment along our southern border.
Of course, there is the effect of tens of millions of illegal aliens already in the United States on our environment here. The good news is, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has the right to waive all environmental laws in order to build this fence. The Department of Homeland Security says that is what he's considering doing.
The government points out that building the fence will address both national security and environmental issues. They say that illegal aliens crossing the border create plenty of environmental problems themselves. Cutting through the conservation areas on foot, and in cars, leaving tons of trash behind, and damaging wildlife.
So here's our question: Does it make sense to halt the construction of a fence along the Mexican border because of environmental concerns? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you.
Hillary Clinton with a dominant lead; new polls show her way ahead of the pack, and now she's targeting women voters in hopes of locking up the nomination.
Also, Rudy Giuliani, out of this world. On a much lighter note, we're going to hear what he's saying when asked if he could protect the nation from alien space invasions. That's a question he was asked by a little kid.
But on a very, very serious note, what's happening in Israel right now, neo-Nazi swastikas, gang attacks. There's a disturbing trend under way in the Jewish state. There are new developments tonight. We'll tell you what's going on. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Tonight Hillary Clinton knows she doesn't have a lock on the woman's vote, even though she's the only woman running for president. So now the Democrat is now pulling out all the stops in her campaign for the female report. Let's turn to Mary Snow. She's watching this story in New York.
How did the senator do today on "The View"? MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was a setting where Senator Clinton was able to mix personality with politics. It's all part of a stepped-up effort to target women voters.
SNOW (voice over): Call it the female card. Senator Hillary Clinton is playing it to win women voters, taking her Democratic presidential campaign center stage on ABC's "The View".
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do think that there still is, you know, probably a tougher standard for women, especially running for president.
SNOW: Sitting on the couch with the all-female hosts, she showed some of her softer side, while still staying tough.
CLINTON: You know, we've got to figure out how we're going to work with China, but we also can't be patsies.
SNOW: It's just one of a number of events to be held this week in which she's appealing directly to women. Political observers say it marks a change in approach.
JENNIFER DONAHUE, N.H. INSTITUTE OF POLITICS: I think over the course of the campaign, the campaign has been very careful not to make Hillary Clinton a female candidate. They've had her first as a commander in chief, someone who could look presidential.
SNOW: Senator Clinton has made it clear it's her credentials, not her gender, that qualify her for the White House.
CLINTON: And I want to tell you that as excited as I am to be running as a woman, I'm not running because I'm a woman, I'm running because I believe I'm the best qualified and experienced person to hit the ground running in January, 2009.
SNOW: And that includes Al Gore. Senator Clinton was asked on "The View" about how she felt about talk that Gore should run for president now that he's won the Noble Peace Prize for his work on global warming.
CLINTON: I'm just as excited as I could be, because maybe now, when I'm president maybe we can get something done on global warming.
SNOW: Now the Clinton campaign is hoping women voters will give them the edge, not just in the primaries, but the general election. With women making up 54 percent of the electorate, the campaign says women could prove to be critical swing voters -- Wolf.
BLITZER: That's a good point. Thank you so much, Mary, for that.
In the presidential race, there is new evidence that Hillary Clinton's frontrunner status among the Democrats continues. A new poll in New Hampshire shows she's 21 points ahead of her nearest rival, Barack Obama, among the likely primary voters. And in Nevada, Clinton is running 18 points ahead of Obama, in a new Mason-Dixon poll. Here's CNN's Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I think what you're seeing on the Democratic side of the race, Wolf, is that it's pretty much status quo right now. It seems to be frozen in Hillary Clinton's favor. She seems to be something like 20 points ahead of Barack Obama, in a bunch of states.
And what he's trying to do, particularly in the state of Iowa, is really break through that. That's where they're a little bit closer. He knows he needs to win Iowa if he's going to get any traction, or else he's going to continue to trail behind Hillary Clinton.
BLITZER: All right, let's take a look on the Republican side, a couple poll numbers. I want to put them up on the screen. In New Hampshire, first of all, Romney at 26 percent, Giuliani, 20 percent, McCain, 17 percent, Fred Thompson 10 percent. That's in the Marist poll. In Nevada, the GOP, look at this: Giuliani as at 28 percent, Fred Thompson, 23 percent, Romney 17 percent, McCain down at only 9 percent.
How's it shaping up on the Republican side?
BORGER: Well, it's a little bit more fluid on the Republican side, Wolf, particularly in New Hampshire. You see that Romney is still in the lead. You know, it's a neighboring state to Massachusetts, but you see that McCain is inching up, Giuliani's certainly inching up. I think you're going to have more of a horse race there on the Republican side.
And I think you see Fred Thompson is also making some inroads in Nevada. That's because people are just starting to see him out there on the campaign trail. I don't think they've made a judgment on him yet, but he's doing well in Nevada, which I think is a reflection of really the weakness of the Democratic -- of the Republican field.
BLITZER: You and I remember a while back the conventional wisdom amongst a lot of pundits was that once the Republicans figure it out where Rudy Giuliani stood on a lot of the social issues, whether abortion, or gay marriage, they would quickly abandon him, but in the national polls, at least, and in some of the state polls, he is still the frontrunner.
BORGER: They're not abandoning Rudy Giuliani, and you have to presume that people know where he stands, being pro-abortion rights, and that's creating a lot of conversations within the Republican Party, saying that these evangelical leaders ought not to say that they wouldn't support Rudy Giuliani, because they may be handing the election to someone like Hillary Clinton.
They are saying that what Rudy Giuliani is successfully doing is turning terrorism into the issue that attracts Republicans, not necessarily those values issues. And there is going to be a struggle, Wolf, in the Republican Party about those two issues.
BLITZER: Gloria, thanks very much.
Disgraced, but determined. The senator busted in that men's room sex sting fighting to try to clear his name. We're going to tell you about Larry Craig's latest legal and public relations maneuvers.
And signs of life: Fidel Castro in a live television interview reminding the world once again that he may be down, but he's not out. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: In Cuba, Fidel Castro wants you to know he's alive, and he's turning to a good friend to help him show it. We're monitoring a live phone call and new video between Castro and the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. Our Havana Bureau Chief Morgan Neill has details.
MORGAN NEILL, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF: Wolf, Venezuela and Cuba today signed agreements deepening their already close economic ties. Since Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez arrived in Cuba late Friday, he's dominated the airwaves.
NEILL (voice over): Sounding a bit like an evening news presenter, Venezualan President Hugo Chavez teased the day's main attraction.
"Stay close to your television," he said. And soon enough, he delivered, a live phone call from Fidel Castro. The first time Cubans have heard their leader live in more than a year.
"I think everyone is electrified listening to you," said Chavez.
HUGO CHAVEZ, PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA: Viva, Fidel!
NEILL: The Venezuelan leader broadcast his weekly show, "Hello, Presidente" from Santa Clara, Cuba, in honor of the 40th anniversary of the death of Ernesto Che Guevara. Guevara was executed in Bolivia while leading an armed insurgency. Chavez's conversation with Castro lasted more than an hour and was notable as much about what is showed about their close informal friendship, as for anything the two leaders said.
"You're the big devil," said Chavez. "You're Lucifer, himself."
"We're from the axis of evil," replied Castro. Earlier this edited video was broadcast simultaneously on Venezuelan and Cuban television. It showed the two reportedly meeting Saturday in Havana.
"You are the father of the revolutionaries of this Earth," beamed Chavez.
"I don't think that way about myself," said Castro.
While Fidel Castro's appearance will quell rumors of his death, he himself reminded viewers of his ongoing recuperation just before signing off.
"OK," he said, "I think I've got to go take some pills or something."
NEILL: Among the agreements signed today, Venezuela has pledged to help Cuba build a plant to provide national gas here in Cuba, that's in addition to an oil refinery authorities say will go online in December -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Morgan Neill in Havana, thank you.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government is saying how it feels about this ongoing relationship in a statement. The deputy State Department spokesperson Tom Casey says, let me quote him. "I'm delighted that Castro has had an opportunity to have a dialogue with Chavez. It's too bad he hasn't had that same dialogue with the Cuban people."
In Iraq, fears that areas that had been very quiet could explode into all-out war. It involves Kurdish rebels, thousands of Turkish troops and a clash, one the U.S. is deeply worried about.
Also, swastikas painted on a synagogue and violent attacks recorded on tape. An update to our story on neo-Nazis in Israel. You'll want to see this. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, regarding Iraq, the prosecution says he helped the enemy, but the defense says he was trying to win over Iraqis. A former U.S. military police commander in charge of detainee jails like the one where Saddam Hussein spent his final days. Among other things, prosecutors contending the soldier let top detainees make unmonitored cell phone calls. We're watching this story.
The disgraced senator busted in a sex sting in a men's room is not backing down. You'll remember, a judge recently denied Senator Larry Craig's request to withdraw his guilty plea to charges in the case. Craig is now appealing. One of his attorneys says the Republican is pursuing his constitutional right to clear his name.
And some good news for your health. Scientists now say death rates from cancer dropped about 2 percent on average each year between 2002 and 2004. Experts say an improved fight against colorectal cancer helped.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Tens of thousands of Turkish troops now on the border with Iraq. They're already clashing with Kurdish rebels. Now as tensions rise with its key U.S. ally, the U.S. is deeply worried about a full-scale Turkish invasion, and what that would mean for U.S. troops. Let's go to our Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, growing worries here at the Pentagon about the military alliance with Turkey.
STARR (voice over): Turkish artillery shells set the hillside on fire in northern Iraq. Across the border, Turkish villagers run as troops battle Kurdish rebels who launched cross-border attacks from inside Iraq.
The U.S. military fears a deteriorating situation between Turkey, a vital NATO ally, and the largely peaceful northern Iraqi Kurdish area, home to those rebels.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM R, SOUTH CAROLINA: Let Iraq fall apart and have a Kurdish separatist movement in the north. Allow a Kurdish independent state in the north, you really will have problems between Turkey and the Kurds in the north.
STARR: U.S. military intelligence shows 60,000 Turkish troops on the border. U.S. commanders hope that Turks won't invade northern Iraq to chase down the Kurdish rebels, but the U.S. also hopes the Kurds don't plan retaliation.
In the event of all-out war, the U.S. military just wants to stay out of it. Senior Pentagon officials say the only plan is to try to convince both sides to cool off.
There are even more worries. If Congress proceeds with a resolution condemning as genocide, Turkish killings of Armenians in World War I, Turkey still threatens to cut vital U.S. access to its air space and border crossings.
ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: 70 percent of the air cargo of the American air cargo going into Iraq goes through Turkey.
STARR: The Pentagon is urgently studying alternatives to Turkish access, but all other options involve longer shipping routes. That means delays and rising costs.
Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called its Turkish counterpart as well as members of Congress to discuss the consequences of a Turkish military cutoff. Turkey is a valuable NATO ally the U.S. does not want to anger, and the U.S. certainly does not want to see a new border war in that troubled region. Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Barbara, thank you; Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Let's get an update now on a truly shocking story that we've been monitoring here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Neo Nazis in Israel, and Israel of all places, a growing threat from gangs in the Jewish state.
CNN's Atika Shubert reports.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They call themselves Patrol 36, a neo-Nazi gang in Israel. These are their own recordings of their violent attacks, images now familiar to Israelis since eight members were arrested.
But neo-Nazi incidents have continued. Swastikas painted on a synagogue, hateful graffiti on public buildings.
Israelis wonder, how deep is the problem?
Police were first tipped off more than a year ago when this synagogue was vandalized here in the town. All of the gang members lived here in this town, and all of them came from Russia. The source, police say, of their neo-Nazi ideas.
They came here on Israel's law of return that allows anyone with a Jewish grandparent to immigrate here, whether or not the individual is Jewish. In fact, in the last decade, more than a million immigrants from Russia and the former Soviet Union have come to Israel.
Here we found Boris and Yevgeny, also recent arrivals from Russia. They say they know the gang members and not everyone has been caught. They show us a nearby sidewalk with this, the Jewish Star of David etched with swastikas. Boris is upset. "I am also a Jew," he says. "People who do that should be imprisoned for life or lynched in the middle of the street so everyone can see."
His friend, Yevgeny, who says he is Christian, is not so sure. "I don't care, as long as they don't touch me. They never hit me. They're a fun people. Just let them go to Russia. There are a lot of Nazis there," he says.
Zalman Gilichinsky is a self-styled investigator of neo-Nazi incidents in Israel. He is also Russian and an orthodox Jew. He shows us stacks of language and videos, a Russian language book called "The Myth of the Holocaust" sold in Israel. He believes the problem is more widespread than officials will admit. "The root of the problem is in the flawed policy of immigration," he says, "when just any person can become a citizen in Israel and neo-Nazism is on the rise in Russia."
Lawyers defending the gang say their neo-Nazi ideas are a result of a failure by Israeli society. "They're angry at those who brought them here and cut them off from the one culture they understood," this lawyer explains. "They are angry towards Israelis because they were unable to be absorbed into the society."
We spoke to the mother of the youngest suspect, just 15 years old. She asked not to be identified. "It was a terrible shock, a blow to my heart," she says. "I saw my son in one of those pictures and I asked him, how could this happen? He was pressured. Stand this way, they said. Salute or you're not a man. At that age, you don't want to fail. You want to feel power." Her son was the only Jewish member of the gang. His grandmother survived the Holocaust and his mother recalls, he grew up knowing his heritage. "When he was 3, an uncle came over and asked him, who are you?" she recalls. "And I was shocked when he answered, I am the new Jew." Now he like seven others sits in jail waiting for trial.
Atika Shubert, CNN, Israel.
BLITZER: The embattled Idaho Senator Larry Craig going after republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. You're going to find out why.
Plus, a high-ranking Vatican official is suspended after hidden camera video airs on Italian TV. We have those images. We're going to show them to you right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The former House majority leader and democratic presidential candidate, Dick Gephardt, is teaming up with his daughter, Chrissy, speaking out about her decision to come out. They appear in a new documentary film about Christianity and homosexuality.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Joining us now, the former House majority leader Dick Gephardt and his daughter, Chrissy Gephardt. They are involved in a new film that has just come out. Chrissy, it's entitled "For the Bible Tells Me So."
Tell our viewers, first of all, how you got that title.
CHRISSY GEPHARDT, ACTIVIST: Well, the title comes from basically the doctrine of the Bible, tells people, you know, this is how you should live your life. You know, treat your neighbor as you would treat yourself and, so, it basically is talking about how homosexuality in the Bible has been treated and basically it's a sin. So, the movie is about how homosexuality is dealt with in the Bible and how there's all these myths that surround it.
BLITZER: And you're a lesbian and you've been an open lesbian for how long?
C. GEPHARDT: Well, let's see. That would be going on almost six or seven years.
BLITZER: Why did you decide this was a good idea, Congressman, to make this film?
RICHARD GEPHARDT (D), FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, we've always been very open about this fact with Chrissy and we told it, you know, when I was running for president in 2004, we were very open about it. So when we were approached by the producer and director of this film, we thought maybe we could help others deal with this tough set of issues and show how we dealt with it, or tried to deal with it.
BLITZER: Not just politicians, but other parents who have a gay or lesbian son or daughter.
R. GEPHARDT: Exactly. This is an issue that faces a lot of Americans and a lot of Americans don't have an understanding of their religious background or what their religion says about this or how people try to deal with it.
BLITZER: How did you tell, Chrissy, your parents that you're lesbian? Because we're showing our viewers video from your youth growing up. What was it like? Because you were scared.
C. GEPHARDT: I was so scared. I mean I think that, you know, like people talk about the church and how it's, you know, a taboo to come out as gay or lesbian. Well, in a political family it's the same way. You know you have to keep a certain image and, so, when I told my parents I was very worried that they would never speak to me again and that they would not love me any more. But, obviously, that didn't happen and it was quite the opposite.
BLITZER: What was their reaction?
C. GEPHARDT: They basically said, my father said we will love you no matter what. You are our daughter and you always will be.
BLITZER: Were you scared politically this could embarrass you in Missouri, your home state, or nationally?
R. GEPHARDT: I never cared about what people in my district or people generally would think about me because of my family. My family has always been the most important thing in my life. I love my kids. I will love them unconditionally and that, that just doesn't equate for me. It doesn't compute for me.
BLITZER: Let's go through some advice. This is a powerful film. What advice do you have for young people or maybe not so young who want to finally come out and tell their parents or other loved ones they are gay?
C. GEPHARDT: I would say that, you know, you just have to be yourself. And I hope that a film like this gives people the courage to be able to do the same thing that I've done. And I mean the only thing you can do is be yourself because if you keep it inside, it causes a lot of pain for people and it's easier just to tell your, I mean, if your family loves you, which every family should love their children, then it shouldn't be a big deal.
BLITZER: And what advice do you have for parents out there?
R. GEPHARDT: Well, just love your kids unconditionally and try to understand that they have to lead their own life. They have to make their own choices.
I don't believe homosexuality is a choice. I think it is something that is in a person's genes. So, why should you hold it against someone and, also, look for help. There's a group called PFlag all over the country of parents of kids who have come out. They really help other parents who are just finding this out deal with it.
BLITZER: You're a supporter of Hillary Clinton for the democratic presidential nomination. She stops short of saying she would support same-sex marriage. Is that a mistake?
R. GEPHARDT: Well, she has to take the position that she thinks is right. I think she's undoubtedly for civil unions. I think the whole country is evolving on all these issues. I think as people learn more about all of this, they begin to change their minds. I certainly have through my life. And I think eventually we're going to get to a point where the whole society can accept at least civil unions, if not gay marriages.
BLITZER: Lynne Cheney was on CBS Sunday Morning yesterday, told Rita Braver this. Let me tell you what she said. "I think the society has evolved. I've evolved in my way of thinking, but I think the whole society has evolved. You know my mother had a rule, which was people are just people." Now, in the context of her openly lesbian daughter, Mary Cheney, that's a statement that I thought was significant.
C. GEPHARDT: I think it's very significant. You know, we've heard in the past that they haven't necessarily come out publicly and supported their daughter, but so, I think that's huge and I applaud Lynne Cheney for saying that.
BLITZER: What do you think?
R. GEPHARDT: I think it's great. And I think they can have a huge influence, not only in the whole country, but even in the Republican Party and begin people to take another look at all of this.
BLITZER: Dick Gephardt and Chrissy Gephardt, the film is entitled "The Bible Tells Me So." Thanks to both of you for coming in.
C. GEPHARDT: Great. Thank you.
R. GEPHARDT: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: On our political ticker this Monday, embattled republican Senator Larry Craig is lashing out at presidential candidate Mitt Romney. When the news broke of Craig's arrest in a bathroom sex sting, Romney called Craig's behavior, and I'm quoting now, "disgraceful," and he urged him to resign. In an interview with NBC news, Craig is now firing back at Romney, whom he had been supporting for president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LARRY CRAIG (R), IDAHO: I was very proud of my association with Mitt Romney. I worked hard for him here in the state. I was a co-chair of his campaign on Capitol Hill, and he not only threw me under his campaign bus, he backed up and ran over me again. And you know, you kind of look and blink a little bit. And while they were reacting that way, there were another set of senators who were calling us and saying, what's going on? What can we do to help you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Romney's campaign says the presidential hopeful stands by his comments and stands by his concern that Craig broke a public trust.
In the democratic presidential race, John Edwards today won the endorsement of ten branches of the influential Service Employees International Union, including the lead-off caucus -- in the lead-off caucus state of Iowa. Edwards' campaign is calling it a big, big victory, but it's not as powerful as winning the backing of the union on a national level.
The national SEIU decided not to support a candidate in the primaries after backing Howard Dean's failed candidacy in 2004.
In the meantime, Senator Barack Obama is also getting some SEIU support. He's won the endorsement of the Illinois and Indiana branches.
An out of this world question for Rudy Giuliani, the republican presidential candidate is used to talking to voters about homeland security but not used to talking about the potential threat from space invaders. Listen to this question during a campaign appearance in New Hampshire yesterday, and Giuliani's response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something living on another planet and it is bad and it comes over here. What would you do?
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's the first time I've been asked how do we get prepared for an outer space attack. If we are properly prepared for all of the things that could happen to us, we'll be prepared for that as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Rudy Giuliani answering a tough question from a little kid.
Remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can always check out our political ticker at CNN.com/ticker.
A high-ranking priest caught on videotape inside the Vatican in a scandalous hidden camera sting. We're going to show you what happened.
And Jack Cafferty wants to know, does it make sense to halt the construction of a fence along the Mexican border because of environmental concerns? Jack and the Cafferty file, a lot more, all that coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The Roman Catholic Church is being rocked by a scandal involving a high-ranking priest caught on tape inside the Vatican meeting a young man, allegedly for sex. Carol Costello's here. She's in THE SITUATION ROOM.
What's the story about and what's the story of this video?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was a hidden camera, hidden camera video. It was an Italian TV investigation, you know, hidden cameras, a man ready to play along. But what's on the tape is pretty damning, and if it's true, it begs the question, how many gay men are serving in the Vatican?
These images were captured by a hidden camera. And if they depict what one man alleges, it would be major embarrassment for the Vatican. The tape was shot secretly by a young man who alleges Monsignor Tomasso Stenico, a high-ranking Vatican official, propositioned him at this meeting after they communicated in a gay Internet a chat room. It was shown on an Italian TV station, as the meeting took place right under the pope's nose.
JOHN ALLEN, NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER: They arranged to meet in St. Peter's Square on the very shadow of the pope's apartment, went up to the monsignor's office in where he apparently believed that there would be a sexual encounter.
COSTELLO: And there is talk of sex on the tape. Stenico can be heard telling the young man he doesn't believe homosexuality is a sin and that he knows many gay priests, some in the Vatican. That, despite the fact just two years ago the Vatican issued strict guidelines, saying no man could be admitted to the church if he practices homosexuality or even just supports the gay culture.
DELIA GALLAGHER, VATICAN ANALYST: I think the concern at the Vatican now is not just about what happened in this particular case, but what else is there that they don't know about? Is there more to come?
COSTELLO: Monsignor Stenico would not comment to CNN, but he did tell an Italian newspaper he was not gay and that he was just pretending to be gay to gather information about homosexuals and how they damage the image of the church.
ALLEN: The big picture here is I think this is a tremendous embarrassment for the church and certainly a tremendous embarrassment for the Vatican.
COSTELLO: Now, it remains to be seen whether the Vatican will investigate others in its ranks or if this monsignor is truly guilty. Sex scandals in the Catholic Church are not new, but never has one emerged so close to the Pope himself.
BLITZER: Carol, thank you for that; Carol Costello reporting. Let's check back with Jack for the Cafferty file.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Monsignor sounded a lot like Larry Craig in his stammering around, trying to explain away the unexplainable. The question this hour is does it make sense to halt the construction of a fence along the Mexican border because of environmental concerns?
Dave writes, "Once again, the far left environmentalists have completely lost their mind. In this instance, they are willing to jeopardize our nation's security and hinder the ongoing efforts to secure our borders by creating an absurd argument that makes them a laughing stock. Chernoff, Allen Chernoff, Secretary of Homeland Security, should step in, see to it that the fence is erected." He can do that, by the way. There is a judge standing in the way of this for environmental reasons. Chernoff can short-circuit the judge and order the construction go ahead.
Angelique writes from Nevada, "No. Illegal immigrants are already ruining the environmental landscape all over the U.S. with graffiti, garbage and primitive way of life in which some of these people live. Here in Nevada, we are facing a huge water shortage due to growth. So although I like these lizards, I dislike the influx of these immigrants more."
George in Connecticut, "Of course we could forget about the fence! Mine fields would be much more effective. They would protect the endangered species as well as get rid of the pollution caused by the garbage left by all the illegal aliens now crossing the border. I understand mind fields worked very well in Korea."
Paul writes from Minnesota, "It makes sense to me to stop the construction of the fence, period."
And Shirl in San Jacinto, California, "Why wouldn't the same government that protects the illegal immigrants from Mexico crossing our borders want to protect their little lizard friends and their habitants? Before you know it, the lizards will be receiving free veterinarian care."
And finally, Randy in Texas writes, "We don't need any illegal lizards crossing our border either!"
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile, where we post more of them online along with video clips of the Cafferty File.
BLITZER: One minor, little correction. It's Michael Chertoff, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Allen Chernoff is the New York correspondent
CAFFERTY: I do that all the time. They were joined at the hip at one point. I apologize to both of them.
BLITZER: Very different guys.
Jack, thanks very much. See you tomorrow.
80,000 cans of silly string, a New Jersey woman organizes a gift for the troops in Iraq. You won't believe what they're using it for as a life-saver, up ahead on our Hot Shots.
BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the Hot Shots coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow. Check them out.
In Iraq, look at this, a mother mourns for her three sons, one of whom was killed and the other two injured after a mortar attack.
Here in Washington, the Dalai Lama is greeted upon his arrival. He'll receive the Congressional gold medal Wednesday.
In New Jersey, a woman plays with silly string that she's donating to the troops in Iraq to use for detecting trip wire in bombs.
In Budapest, Hungary, check this out. A 3-week-old monkey is introduced to the public for the very first time. Look at those eyes.
Some of this hour's Hot Shots, pictures worth a thousand words.
Carol Costello's monitoring other stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Carol, what do you have?
COSTELLO: A couple things, Wolf. Officials with Interpol now say they believe they know the identity of this man. You're going to see him in a minute. There he is, a suspected pedophile. He's been the subject of an international manhunt after about 200 pictures were posted on the internet showing him allegedly molesting boys in Southeast Asia. Investigators are not releasing his name, but they say he's an English teacher who's been working in South Korea. He's now believed to be in Thailand.
New developments in the O.J. Simpson Las Vegas robbery case. Two of the men arrested with him have agreed to a plea deal and will cooperate with prosecutors and testify against Simpson. Most troubling for him, the men will testify that guns were used in the alleged heist of sports memorabilia, something Simpson has denied.
And British billionaire, Richard Branson, says he's "pretty well given up hope that his friend Steve Fossett is alive." Fossett disappeared more than a month ago on a solo flight over western Nevada. Branson says chances are Fossett is no longer with us and that Fossett's wife is returning to Nevada for one final search.
Back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Let's hope for the best on that story as well. Carol, thank you very much.
And we want you to make this programming note. I want you to mark your calendars. Starting November 5th, just one year from Election Day 2008, THE SITUATION ROOM will be on for three hours, straight hours, back-to-back, from 4:00 p.m. eastern to 7:00 p.m. eastern. "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" will air right afterwards from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. eastern. All that starts on November 5th so mark your calendars and get ready for that.
Until then, I'm Wolf Blitzer. See you back here tomorrow.
Up next, Rick Sanchez with "OUT IN THE OPEN."
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