Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Outsourcing America's Security; David Crosby, Graham Nash Come Out Against Iraq War
Aired October 16, 2007 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, outsourcing America's security -- a surprising new discovery on who the airlines are letting check the names on those airline passenger watch lists.
Once a pariah for sponsoring international terrorism, including the being of a U.S. airliner, Libya has changed its ways. The reward -- a seat now in the United Nations Security Council. Why some, though, are still outraged.
And decades after they protested the Vietnam War, rock stars David Crosby and Graham Nash blasting the war in Iraq right now and the Bush administration, comparing it to, in their word, "a junta." Their solution for ending the war.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Stunning word today that some U.S. airlines are using foreign companies to check passengers' names against a sensitive U.S. government terrorist watch list. That comes from a Congressional investigator, who told lawmakers the practice raises concerns.
Let's go right to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena.
She's watching this story for us.
How can this be -- Kelli, a secret government watch list now in the hands of outsource -- of a foreign company?
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's it, Wolf.
You know, apparently some airlines will hire overseas contractors to make sure that terrorists aren't boarding U.S. airplanes. The GAO investigators did not say which airline she was talking about, nor did she say where those foreign contractors were based. So we called the Transportation Security Administration for answers, but they didn't immediately have any.
A spokesman there did say, though, that any company, whether it's foreign or domestic, is responsible for ensuring that those lists remain confidential. So at least there's that -- Wolf. BLITZER: What exactly is on those lists, Kelli?
ARENA: Well, Wolf, it's the names of 300,000 people, including about 15,000 U.S. citizens who are suspected of having some type of terrorist connection. It's provided to the airlines so that they can match the passenger information against them to make sure that there are no high risk passengers on board. But, you know, the GAO also said today that besides contracting that work out to some foreign companies, the airlines that do do that work in-house don't always check the list. It's very inconsistent. So someone on the list could get on one airline's plane and not another.
BLITZER: Hasn't the Congress, Kelli, ordered the TSA to take charge of this?
ARENA: Yes, Wolf, they have. But there have been repeated delays. And, ironically enough, because of privacy concerns -- now, when this program is finally in place, Wolf, the government won't be giving the list to the private sector. And some say that's a very good thing -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right.
Thanks very much.
Kelli will stay on top of this story.
The U.S. military is deeply worried about losing a key ally and access to a vital air base needed to supply American troops in Iraq. And that has the Pentagon right now scrambling to try to find some alternatives.
All this comes amid heightened concerns about a major new military conflict, as Turkey considers sending troops into Iraq against Kurdish rebels.
Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
She's watching this story that has huge ramifications for the U.S.
What's the latest -- Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it does.
Here at the Pentagon, there are growing concerns about the crisis with Turkey and Iraq, and a lot of questions about why the U.S. military isn't getting involved.
Is it just another case of not enough troops to do anything about it?
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
STARR (voice-over): CNN has learned a military warning order has been issued to air crews across Europe, telling them to be ready to move if Turkey follows through on threats to cut off U.S. access to Turkish air space, bases and border crossings -- which carry 70 percent of U.S. cargo into Iraq.
For the first time, senior U.S. military officers are openly discussing just how serious the crisis has become.
LT. GEN. CARTER HAM, U.S. ARMY: If the flow of those materials were to be disrupted, it would have not only a significant effect on the U.S. military operating in Iraq, but it would have a significant effect commercially to Iraq, as well.
STARR: The Bush administration is also struggling to explain why it's not moving against Kurdish rebels, the PKK, who are launching attacks into Turkey from Northern Iraq.
HAM: Some of it is intelligence-related, to say, you know, where and when are they?
Are they posing a specific threat that we need to counter immediately?
STARR: Turkey reminds the U.S. the PKK is a designated terrorist group operating out of Iraq -- a country where the U.S. has more than 160,000 troops fighting terrorists. For now, the U.S. is encouraging Iraq to step up the dialogue with Turkey, in hopes of keeping the Turks from invading with their 60,000 border troops to chase down the PKK.
TOM CASEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: I think our main concern is that unilateral military action isn't the way to deal with the threat posed by the PKK.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
STARR: And, Wolf, today, there was more bad news. Oil prices hit an all time high over worries that the fighting will result in a disruption of oil supplies coming out of Northern Iraq -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Is there any pressure on the Kurds themselves, the Iraqi Kurds in the north, to get tough with the PKK, which the U.S. government considers to be a terrorist organization?
STARR: Well, you know, Wolf, that is part of the overall diplomatic strategy, trying to get both the Iraqis on their side of the border and the Turks to deal with the PKK, but do it in a fashion that doesn't escalate tensions between the two countries and do it in a fashion where they each stay to their own side of the border. Nobody wants to see a cross-border war. Nobody wants to see the Turkish military crossing into northern Iraq.
So the U.S. hope is, indeed, that the Iraqis will step up and try and do something about it on their side of the border -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks, Barbara.
Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. President Bush met today privately with the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan religious leader exiled by China. The meeting came over the strong protests of China.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We understand that the Chinese have very strong feelings about this. And that's one of the reasons that the president brought up with President Hu, almost two months ago, that he would be actually -- that he would be attending this event. The president wanted President Hu to know about this early on. We attend -- the president attends that ceremony. It's a special one we have in America -- in American traditions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The White House was asked why the president ignored China's concerns, but has backed Turkey in its opposition to a Congressional resolution labeling the mass killing of Armenians a century or so ago genocide. The short answer -- and I'm quoting now, the White House -- those two things are different.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty.
He's in New York.
He's got The Cafferty File -- I guess China is not a NATO ally, but Turkey is a NATO ally. That may be one explanation.
CAFFERTY: Yes. And it looks like we're managing to get them both upset in the same day here.
BLITZER: Yes. That's true.
CAFFERTY: I mean this -- this whole thing about this Armenian resolution is just silly.
I mean why go out of your way to make these people angry?
I don't understand.
"I don't like being in the minority" -- we're quoting here -- "it's not that much fun. The prospects for the future don't look that good."
The speaker is Republican Congressman Ray LaHood. He's talking in an interview to "Los Angeles Times". LaHood is going to retire at the end of this term.
And he's not alone. So far, 17 Republican lawmakers have announced they're not going to run for re-election in 2008 -- five Senators, 12 House members. Two of the House members are running for higher office.
It sounds like a lot when you consider that only two Democrats have said they're not running for re-election, and that's only because they're seeking higher office.
It all adds up to a big challenge facing the Republican Party next year. Among other things, Republicans are trailing Democrats by a lot when it comes to the all important fundraising, which means the Republicans will ultimately have to defend more House and Senate seats with less money. And in our system, that doesn't tend to work so well.
Some experts say it's no surprise that many Republicans are thinking about leaving the game now. President Bush's popularity is low, Iraq's a mess, the U.S. economy could be headed into a recession at some point.
So the question is this -- what does it say about the 2008 campaign when 17 Republican lawmakers have already announced they're not running for re-election?
E-mail your thoughts to caffertyfile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/caffertyfile.
What did the guy say?
I don't like being in the minority. It's no fun.
BLITZER: And I've been covering Congress for a long time and I've spoken to minority members and majority members. It's a lot more fun when you're in charge than when somebody -- than when you're not. That's a fact of life.
CAFFERTY: That's just the way it is.
BLITZER: Thanks, Jack, very much.
BLITZER: Up ahead, Libya spent a quarter century on the U.S. terrorist list and then a few years making amends for the bombing of PanAm Flight 103.
Does it deserve, though, a seat on the Security Council?
Iran finds a new ally. That would be Russia's president, Vladimir Putin.
Is it a move to keep America bogged down in Iraq or something even more ominous?
And a music legend has some harsh words for President Bush. Why Paul Simon says the president committed, in his words, a heartless act when it comes to America's children. My interview with Paul Simon. That's coming up, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, getting a powerful new ally in the standoff with the West. Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, is now backing Iran's right to nuclear power and warning the rest of the world not to use military action against Iran.
Our Middle East correspondent, Aneesh Raman, is watching this story -- Aneesh.
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Vladimir Putin did not mince words today, voicing strong support for Iran.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
RAMAN (voice-over): They spent the day side by side -- two presidents challenging the West by affirming Iran's right to nuclear power.
PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA: When it comes to the nuclear issue, the Iranians are cooperating with Russian nuclear agencies to reach a peaceful objective. And all the countries involved have expressed their idea that peaceful nuclear activities must be allowed.
RAMAN: Russia is, of course, a veto member of the same U.N. Security Council looking to sanction Iran, again, over its year long defiance of a U.N. deadline to stop enriching uranium. The chances of that now seem slim. And with a close to $1 billion deal in place for Moscow to build Iran's first nuclear power plant, the Russian president warned the world against attacking the Islamic Republic, vowing that no Caspian Sea country would be used to hit another -- a veiled reference, it would seem, to Azerbaijan, where the U.S. is rumored, according to the Associated Press, to be considering as a staging ground for any possible military action against Iran.
It all seems a Putin-style slap in the face for the Bush White House.
But why now?
MARK BRZEZINSKI, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL STAFFER: Two themes dominate the mindset of the Kremlin today.
First, they're delighted that America is bogged down, as it is, in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, second, the Kremlin has an exaggerated notion of Russia's own importance.
RAMAN: By any measure, this was a historic trip -- the first one since 1943 of a Kremlin leader. Back then, it was Josef Stalin sitting side by side with U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill -- three allies eager to end World War II.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
RAMAN: This time, a much different message from Vladimir Putin -- one of support for Iran and, in turn, one of great concern for the West -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Aneesh Raman reporting for us.
The summit in Tehran, by the way, consists of the five nations bordering the landlocked Caspian Sea. There's Iran, along with Russia and three other former Soviet republics -- Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Strategically vital, the Caspian is one of the world's richest oil regions.
Once an outcast because to its support for international terrorism, including the bombing of a U.S. airliner, Moammar Gadhafi's Libya is now vowing to mend its way. And now Libya is officially out of rehab and on its way to the United Nations Security Council.
Let's go to our senior United Nations correspondent, Richard Roth.
He's watching this story -- quite a turnabout, Richard, for Libby.
But is everybody happy about this?
RICHARD ROTH, SENIOR UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: It does seem hard to believe, Wolf.
Not everybody is happy that Libya is coming to the U.N. Security Council.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
ROTH (voice-over): Libya's return from the cold is complete. An international pariah until just a few years ago, Libya has won a two year seat on the elite U.N. Security Council.
GIADELLA ETTALHI, LIBYAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: I can say we are back to the international community, that all the problems we have faced in the past are now behind us.
KATHLEEN FLYNN, MOTHER OF FLIGHT 103 VICTIM: This absolutely an abomination as far as I'm concerned.
ROTH: Kathleen Flynn, who lost her son J.P. in the Lockerbie bombing, watched the vote. In 1988, PanAm Flight 103 blew up over Scotland, killing 270 people. A Libyan intelligence officer was convicted. Libya was punished with sanctions by the same Security Council it will now join.
After the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Libya quickly renounced terrorism and cooperated with Washington on intelligence. Unlike other elections where Washington blocked Libya, the U.S. said this time it would not oppose Libya's chances.
ALEJANDRO WOLFF, DEPUTY U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: The United States doesn't reveal how it votes in these elections. You know, we look forward to working with all new members.
FLYNN: It's been 19 years and I think everybody feels OK, it should just go away and we should just let, you know, sleeping dogs lie and let it all go away. But it can't. I mean they murdered my child.
ROTH: But the U.S. and Libya are moving even closer together. Secretary of State Rice may soon travel to Libya.
PROF. LISA ANDERSON, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: This is precisely what the Libyans wanted was that dramatic a change. And so if they can be on the Security Council, this a way for them to say we have come around 180 degrees.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ROTH: But many of the families of those who were on PanAm 103 say Libya has still not opened up about this investigation into the bombing, Wolf. And another former U.S. adversary also won a seat for the first time on the Security Council -- Vietnam. So an interesting alignment starting January 1st in the Council chamber -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Fifteen members of the Security Council, five of them the permanent members, including the United States. Of course, 10 that rotate.
What will this mean, practically speaking, for actions of the Security Council, with Libya and Vietnam now members?
ROTH: Vietnam made it clear it's not going to be really looking to impose sanctions on a neighbor such as Myanmar. Libya is moving closer to the United States. But don't look for it to really go for Iran sanctions, either. It will be an interesting test. But one Western diplomat said regarding Libya, at least we can do deals with them. That's the nature of the vast change we've seen in the relationship between the Western powers and Libya.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
Richard Roth covering the United Nations for us.
Up ahead, combat deaths are down, but deaths from accidents and suicides are climbing.
Are extended tours of duty in Iraq taking a deadly toll on U.S. forces?
Plus, the legendary rock stars David Crosby and Graham Nash -- they're comparing the Bush administration to a dictatorship and a junta. You're going to find out what they're doing to protest the war in Iraq.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: More than three decades after they protested the war in Vietnam, musicians David Crosby and Graham Nash are now calling on young Americans to protest the war on terror, and they're doing it with some sharp criticism of President Bush.
Carol Costello is here in THE SITUATION ROOM watching this story. How are they trying to get their message out this time?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're doing it in a church, oddly enough, Wolf. They're singing at a peace conference at the Washington National Cathedral. That concert will take place about 7:30 p.m. Tonight. Clergy of many faiths will be praying for peace around the world. And Nash and Crosby -- they'll act peacefully, but inside they are angry.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
COSTELLO (voice-over): Graham Nash along with David Crosby at the National Cathedral. Veterans of the antiwar movement, they're singing for peace, again.
COSTELLO: They worry what the president calls the war on terror, especially Iraq, has taken the power out of protest because of what they call Bush's brainwashing. They say the administration has conned Americans into thinking it's unpatriotic to criticize the war.
GRAHAM NASH, MUSICIAN: It's the administration controlling the populous.
DAVID CROSBY, MUSICIAN: It's an old stuff...
NASH: It's old style. This is...
CROSBY: You can watch -- you can watch all of these same moves out of any other dictatorship or junta or, you know...
NASH: Emperor. Any...
CROSBY: This is...
COSTELLO: Are you comparing the Bush administration to that?
CROSBY: They use the same techniques. It's not any different. The same exact techniques. Look over there. Those people are different. Why, it must all be their fault. Nonsense.
NASH: Let's have a common enemy so we can unite against them.
NASH: Whoever they are.
CROSBY: Meanwhile, I'll rake off a few billion here. Nothing to it.
NASH: And take away your civil rights. You won't feel a thing.
COSTELLO (voice-over): For their fans, it has a familiar ring. Both are vehemently anti-any war -- famous for one of the Vietnam era's most defining anti-war songs. (MUSIC)
COSTELLO: "Ohio" was born on May 4, 1970 after four students were killed by National Guardsmen in the midst of an anti-war protest at Kent State University. Some believe their deaths brought about the end of the Vietnam War and defined the power of protest in this country -- a lesson that Crosby and Nash feel has been lost.
NASH: And the reason why there isn't a tremendous of protestation that there used to be against the Vietnam War is that there's no draft. The students aren't dying by the thousands. If they were, this war would be over tomorrow.
CROSBY: That's the truth. If they were faced with it immediately in their faces, they would become activists again and fight it with everything they have. We, you know, it seems kind of strange, you know, but I would love it if they put in a draft. I might have to leave the country, but I think it would certainly, you know, stop the war.
COSTELLO: An odd sentiment coming from two guys who celebrated young men burning their draft cards during Vietnam. But both are frustrated by what they see as a war with no end in sight.
COSTELLO: So they will sing, they will pray and hope it matters.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
COSTELLO: Now, if you're wondering who they're supporting for president, it is not Hillary Clinton. They say she's too connected and polished and politician for them. They want someone with heart and they say that would be Barack Obama, although David Crosby's first choice is Al Gore, but he's not running.
BLITZER: All right, Carol, thanks very much.
It brings back some memories, watching that piece of yours. Appreciate it.
Still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, a chemical in lots of household products that could harm all of us. It could harm your reproductive system, as well. One state is so worried, It's issuing a sweeping new ban.
Plus, Iraq's investigation into that controversial Blackwater shooting is done and now the country's prime minister is taking dramatic action. Find out what he's demanding.
Plus, a new high school run by the U.S. Marine Corps. We're going to show you why it's causing so much controversy.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Iraq's prime minister wants Blackwater out of the country. A top adviser says Nouri Al-Maliki is asking the State Department to pull out the private security contractor after an Iraqi investigation found it workers committed unprovoked random killings in a September shooting incident.
The House Judiciary Committee is looking into the case of the so- called Jena 6. Democratic members are blasting Justice Department officials for not intervening in the case.
And the price of crude oil closing at a record high today -- $87.61 a barrel. So far, the cost of gas has not been climbing along with crude, but analysts say that will probably change soon. Get ready to shell out more cash at the gas pumps.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Combat deaths are dropping in Iraq, but the extended tours of duty may be taking a deadly toll on U.S. troops. The number of fatalities from accidents and suicides has risen sharply.
Let's go straight to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.
He's watching this story for us.
What's behind all of this -- Jamie.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know how when you work day after day, hour after hour, and you get tired and sometimes you start to make little mistakes?
BLITZER: Yes. I'm very familiar with that.
MCINTYRE: Well, maybe not you, but it happens to me. And now U.S. commanders are wondering if that could explain the rise in non-combat deaths in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
MCINTYRE (voice-over): U.S. troops in Iraq, after being extended, sometimes more than once, and spending up to 15 months in the battle zone, are exhausted. And the Army is investigating if the prolonged stress could be behind a sharp jump in non-combat deaths in Iraq over the past two months.
HAM: We don't yet know what may have caused an increase in the non-battle casualties. And that's why the commanders in Iraq have asked for the Army Safety Center to come help them analyze that. MCINTYRE: The numbers show something is going on, especially as soldiers reach the 13th, 14th and 15th month of their arduous tours. In May, as the surge was building, combat losses peaked at 120, with only 5 percent of deaths due to non-hostile accidents or suicides.
Then, as combat losses dropped over the summer, the number of non-hostile deaths jumped, so that by August and September, just over a third of all U.S. deaths in Iraq were by accident or suicide.
A single catastrophe can skew the numbers, such as the August Blackhawk helicopter crash that killed 14 U.S. soldiers. But commanders suspect the daily stress of constant danger may be a factor, the troops are stressed out.
GEN. JAMES CONWAY, COMMANDANT, U.S. MARINE CORPS: If you look at what they're doing, it is, indeed, difficult, you look at mental health assistance and those type of things. It's tough on the soldiers.
MCINTYRE: Wolf, there's a flip side to the numbers, as well. They may suggest that violence against U.S. troops is dropping faster and the surge is working. If you take away non-combat deaths, the number of combat deaths has dropped 65 percent from that high back in May.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Jamie, thanks very much.
Chicago is the latest battleground in the debate over the role of the U.S. military in America's public schools. The city has just opened a Marine Corps high school, the first of its kind in the nation. CNN's Susan Roesgen is in Chicago. She has details of the controversy.
SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, the marines have invaded the halls of Chicago public schools on the shores of Lake Michigan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From now on you go no where. They come and see me or you come and see me. You don't even move, breathe or nothing. You go no where. Understand?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
ROESGEN: The marines always say they want the few and the proud, but do they really want ninth graders?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's not on the collar, it's where it's supposed to be.
ROESGEN: This is the first high school in the country sanctioned by the U.S. Marine Corps. Chicago now has five military high schools and students who want to go to one of them have to apply. But they are public schools with public school teachers, paid for by public taxes.
COL. RICK MILLS, MILITARY DIRECTOR: I would say that every dollar that goes into these schools is well spent.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because?
MILLS: Because I think we're doing what we should be doing, teaching these young men and women more discipline, more structure, character, loyalty, integrity, all the qualities that we want to see to pass on to the future leadership of this country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the military?
MILLS: No, whatever career path they choose.
ROESGEN: Still, there's something about calling cadets and putting them in military uniforms that makes critics uneasy.
SHEENA GIBBS, "TRUTH IN RECRUITMENT": We're in a war right now. They need fresh recruits and so the best way to get recruits is to go into the high schools and go into the city colleges.
Sheena Gibbs with the Quaker Truth in Recruitment group calls it part of the poverty draft.
GIBBS: And what that poverty draft means is that they target only people of color and they target only people that are low-income neighborhoods.
ROESGEN: But that's not the way a lot of the students see it. Some like Shamika Olivares say they have no plans to join the marines when they graduate. Shamika told me she just thinks this is a better public high school.
SHAMIKA OLIVARES, STUDENT: When I was in eighth grade I wanted to go to high school and know most girls and guys and things but once I got here, I mean it gave me a whole approach that I am someone and that I will fight to be someone in life.
ROESGEN: Even if you're not fighting with a gun.
ROESGEN: While critics complain, the military academies have room for only 700 students and they received more than 7,000 applications.
BLITZER: Susan Roesgen in Chicago. Students at Chicago's Marine Military Academy, by the way, are required to join the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps. There are more than 3,200 junior ROTC units nationwide with about half a million students taking part. The majority of the units army, more than 1,500 with almost 800 air force, 600 navy, 260 marine corps and just one coast guard unit junior ROTC.
Political snapshot. Our latest poll numbers are out and there are some surprises. We're going to tell you who is soaring and who's stumbling.
And the singer/songwriter Paul Simon has a strong message for President Bush. He'll share it when he sits down with me right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: New numbers out on the republican presidential hopefuls this afternoon. Take a look at this CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll showing registered republican's choice for president right now, as opposed to back in September. Look at those numbers.
Our senior political analyst Gloria Borger here to make some sense out of it.
Rudy Giuliani, very consistent. He's still ahead nationwide among registered republicans.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, he is. That's very consistent, but the real news here today, Wolf, on the republican side, is Fred Thompson. Fred Thompson is down eight points from September. Now, you can say his September results were kind of inflated because people were looking forward to seeing him out there on the campaign trail. Now they're a little depressed. So maybe republicans have taken a look at him and they said, you know, he's not exactly the rock star that we expected him to be.
BLITZER: Still pretty much of a horse race among the republicans. A very different picture emerging nationwide among registered democrats. Look at this. Hillary Clinton way ahead now with 51 percent, as opposed to 21 percent for Obama. She's moving ahead.
BORGER: Yes. She's past that psychological threshold of 50 percent. She's now at 51 and it's a commanding position for her, Wolf. Because not only is she ahead in these national polls, but she's also doing very well in Iowa and New Hampshire, which is very important for her, but I have to add a caveat here. It ain't over, Wolf.
And, remember Ted Kennedy in 1979 was over 50 percent in the polls and he was not the nominee? That, of course, was Jimmy Carter. So I think we all have to take a deep breath and say she's in a commanding position, but it's not over.
BLITZER: She's certainly got a lot of cash on hand and so does Barack Obama. We'll put those numbers up and what's interesting, if you look at all those numbers the democrats have for the primary, it's very impressive. Certainly when compared to the republicans because we'll put the republicans' numbers up. They're no where near as much money as the democrats. The democratic frontrunners have raised. Why are the democrats doing so much better than the republicans raising money?
BORGER: Well, there's clearly more enthusiasm among democratic givers. There's more enthusiasm among democrats. They feel they've had eight years in the republican administration. They want to turn this over to the democrats. This also has a lot to do with the war, Wolf. And I think they're much more willing to give.
The republicans are having a rougher time raising money. And it's very tough environment for them right now. They'll be the first ones to tell you that.
BLITZER: Gloria, thanks very much.
This programming note for our viewers, our next CNN debate is November 15th. It's a democratic presidential debate. I'll be moderating it from Las Vegas, November 15th.
Just two weeks ago President Bush vetoed a bill that would have dramatically expanded a popular children's health insurance program. The music legend Paul Simon is joining the effort to persuade Congress to override that veto. Another showdown vote is planned for Thursday.
And joining us now, the artist Paul Simon and Irwin Redlener. He's the co-founder together with Paul of the Children's Health Fund, himself a pediatrician.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in. It's not every day where Paul Simon says it's important enough to come to Washington, go up to Capitol Hill and get involved in an issue.
Tell us why you're here.
PAUL SIMON, MUSICIAN: Well, Irwin and I founded the Children's Health Fund about 20 years ago. They're a mobile pediatric units staffed with doctors and nurses that serve poor communities around the country. And over the years I've been watching this issue of children's health care and my observation is that people speak as if they care, but they don't really care.
BLITZER: But you're really upset that the president has vetoed the expansion of the so-called SCHIP program, the state children's health insurance program.
SIMON: I really think we need to have protection for all of these children.
BLITZER: I want you and Irwin to listen to what the president says in explaining why he thinks the Congress has simply gone too far in this expansion.
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: I happen to believe that what you're seeing when you expand eligibility for federal programs is the desire by some in Washington, D.C., to federalize health care. I don't think that's good for the country. BLITZER: All right, Irwin, you've been involved in this issue in a long time. What do you say to the president?
IRWIN REDLENER, PRES., THE CHILDREN'S HEALTH FUND: Well, first of all, there are many health care programs that have been federalized for years very successfully; Medicare for example, Medicaid for the very poor. The one group that has been left out of the mix right now are the middle class and especially low-earning middle class families where there's not enough money to buy insurance. Their employers don't provide it very often and they're making a little bit too much money to afford Medicaid. All we're trying to do is help out a very important group of lower middle class working people.
BLITZER: The opponents of this expansion point out some families earn as much as $83,000 a year.
REDLENER: They might, although the states have a right to limit as much of that as they want to. But the point is that for example $80,000 in a rural part of the country may buy a whole lot more than it might, for example, in Chicago, New York City or Los Angeles. It's very hard it be that nit-picky about it. We're try to set some limits so it's fair, that people who are not making a lot of money, even if you're making $80,000, by the way, insurance premiums might be $1,200 or $1,300 a month which makes it essentially unaffordable even for them.
BLITZER: Paul, what's the major point? You're telling lawmakers who may be on the fence right now and urging them to go ahead and try to override the president's veto.
SIMON: I think it's a very pure issue. I think that there are children who are vulnerable because they're not covered. I don't think that this is a scam by people who are earning $83,000 to make money off the government. I think we have a large portion of our population, millions of children who are not covered and need to be covered and I would hope that the people who supported the veto will reexamine their conscious and their hearts and change their votes.
BLITZER: Do you think they will?
SIMON: I think some will, yes. I don't know if enough will to change the outcome of this next vote. But I think, eventually, we will find that the children will be covered.
BLITZER: Paul Simon and Irwin, thanks to both of you for coming in.
SIMON: Thank you for having us.
BLITZER: Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his program that begins right at the top of the hour. He's standing by to tell us what he's working on.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf, thank you. Tonight we're reporting on rising concerns that terrorists could sabotage U.S. commercial aircraft being sent to cheap foreign labor markets for maintenance. U.S. lawmakers say the outsourcing of those aircraft repairs is a threat to safety standards for American fliers, as well.
Also, new developments in the battle to stop New York's Governor Eliot Spitzer from giving away drivers' licenses to illegal aliens. Opponents and critics now say the governor's plan would lead to massive voter fraud. We'll have that special report.
And a remarkable teacher who says our public school system can be saved from disaster. He will be among our guests here tonight. Rafe Esquith, author of "Teach like Your Hair Is on Fire," says our public schools are irrelevant, but our children can still be motivated.
We'll be examining tonight charges that two former border patrol agents sent to prison for doing their jobs are being held in far harsher conditions than suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay.
Please join us for all of that, all the day's news and much more at the top of the hour right here on CNN.
Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou, we'll be there.
Up ahead, a toxin banned in Europe but legal in every state in the United States, except one. You're going to find out what it is and why there is real concern it could be harming kids.
And caught on tape, a woman rescued from train tracks just in the nick of time. We'll show you the dash cam video. Stay with us.
BLITZER: We're just getting in some dramatic new video that you have to take a look at. A police dash cam recording a woman whose car broke down on a railroad crossing and an officer saving her only moments before an Amtrak train smashed her vehicle. Look that right- hand side of the screen. You're going to see the woman as the policeman convinces her to abandon her car. Watch this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get back.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, get back.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody else in that car, right? Thank you, oh, thank you for saving me.
BLITZER: Several people on the train had some minor injuries but all the passengers eventually continued on their trip on the same train. That woman is a very, very lucky soul.
Homeland security is being put to the test this week in a massive terrorism drill with a very specific focus, an attack with a so-called dirty bomb.
Let's go straight to our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve. She is joining us now live.
Jeanne, why the focus on a dirty bomb?
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The reason is very simple, Wolf, because a radiological dirty bomb is a very real threat.
This game is not for fun. It is to find and fix weak points in the nation's preparations for a radiological dirty bomb.
DAVID PAULISON, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: We don't deal with a radiological piece very much on a daily basis. We have to practice that.
MESERVE: GAO investigators recently smuggled simulated radiological material across the U.S./Canadian border undetected. But experts say terrorists could get it right here.
RANDY LARSEN, AUTHOR "OUR OWN WORST ENEMY": Library books in many cases are better protected at universities than the material used to make a dirty bomb which is why we all say it's one of the most likely scenarios.
MESERVE: Combine that radiological material with a conventional explosive and you have a weapon that could kill people in the immediate area, but terrify millions more.
JIM WALSH, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Frankly, radiation scares people and part of terrorism is about scaring people.
MESERVE: In this exercise, as in a real event, the release of radiation requires unusual public outreach.
PATTY HOPKINS, PORTLAND OFFICE OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: There has been emergency broadcast alerts saying this is going on, telling people to shelter in place.
MESERVE: Observers here in Portland say some first responders failed to wear protective breathing equipment and victims were left too long without treatment. And at local hospital where they were taken for decontamination, communications were a problem.
DR. ROBERT HENDRICKSON, OREGON HEALTH & SCIENCE UNIV.: We had insufficient number of radios but we eventually got enough, but that was an early issue. There's been problems with having the correct phone numbers, despite all the planning and preparedness.
MESERVE: The follow-up report will undoubtedly catalog other shortcomings in response and recovery, but that's exactly the point of the exercise, to discover these weak points and fix them in case the threat of a dirty bomb becomes something much more.
BLITZER: All right, Jeanne, thank you, on the scene for us in Portland, Oregon.
It's banned in Europe and now in California, but are children in the rest of the United States being exposed to a potentially dangerous chemical agent?
CNN's Brian Todd is watching this story for us.
What is the chemical, Brian, and what are the concerns?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Those agents are called phthalates, Wolf. It sounds obscure but it's virtually impossible not to have come in contact with them some time in your lifetime. The question is are they as dangerous as some people believe?
Compounds that make that rubber duck bend to a baby's whim? Can they also prevent them from also later having babies?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like sucking on a toxic lollipop.
TODD: With a stroke of Arnold Schwarzenegger's pen, California has just banned the use of potentially toxic agents in products for children under 3 years old. Phthalates are chemicals used to soften plastic in some toys that young children can put in their mouths. They are also used to make blood storage containers, shampoo, cosmetics. Consumer advocates say they're everywhere and dangerous.
JANE HOULIHAN, ENVIRONMENTAL WORKING GROUP: These are chemicals that target the male reproductive system. They're reproductive toxins that are linked to birth defects in boys, linked to reproductive problems in boys.
TODD: Not to mention hormone problems in girls, liver damage and cancer, according to some activists. California is the first state to ban it, effective 2009. Several others may follow.
The European Union has banned some phthalate compounds after ten years of studies. More than a dozen countries have black listed them. But whose science should we believe? Chemical producers point out the EU only tested toxicity levels in rodents, not humans.
MARIAN STANLEY, AMERICAN CHEMISTRY COUNCIL: We're know they're safe as used. We know the exposure is very low. We know the toxicity is very low.
TODD: The U.S. government is not convinced either. The Centers for Disease Control reports the health effects of phthalates in people are "not yet fully known and more research is needed." The Consumer Product Safety Commission which could ban the substance nationally did its own is study years ago.
JULIE VALLESE, CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMM.: The CPSC bases its findings on actual exposure, the hand to mouth or the product to person exposure and that's the science that is used and was used for the agency to make the determination not to ban phthalates in children's products.
TODD: But it's worth knowing at least 11 toy manufacturers stopped using phthalates in kids' teethers and rattles about eight years ago. So there had to have been some industry concern back then, Wolf.
BLITZER: Any safety benefit, Brian, in this chemical?
TODD: Well, chemical industry officials tell us that because it softens plastic it does make some kids less brittle and therefore, prevents them from becoming choking hazards.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you very much.
Still ahead, what does it say about the 2008 campaign when 17 republican lawmakers have already announced they're not running for re-election. Jack and your e-mail, that's coming up.
BLITZER: Here he is, Jack Cafferty. Let's check in with you.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let's do that.
What does it say about it the 2008 campaign when 17 republican lawmakers have announced that they're not going run for re-election?
John writes, "If this trend turns out to be true, it means after 2008 we can actually start taking back this country from the little guy. The standard of living for us middle classers has steadily eroded while the republicans have been in charge. They totally screwed up our relations with the rest of the world and pretty much abandoned poor people altogether. Give the democrats solid majorities in the presidency and maybe the country will go back to being the caring and compassionate nation we once were."
Andy in Kentucky, "I think it shows the American people are becoming disenchanted with the Republican Party. It shows how far the party has truly drifted from it roots and how much it has to be changed."
Ruth in California, "Who cares? There's no difference between the parties, just two heads of the same animal. It's a lot easier to debate something that happened 100 years ago (Armenian genocide) than deal with current problems. It's time for a third party."
Tom in Minnesota, "It means 17 fewer people to roll over and play dead every time Bush snaps his fingers."
Jannan in Texas, "Is it not human nature to run when trouble is sensed? I'd be more curious to see what becomes of those 17 seats and whether or not they can be used for something other than bipartisan political bickering."
And Don in South Carolina, "It means that running for higher ground, a tsunami is coming."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile we post more online along with video clips if you have nothing else to look at in your house at night.
BLITZER: Jack, check this out. You remember the high school book projects we used to do when we were little kids? Marcus, one of our CNN I-reporters, he sent us this video of his high school book report. Look at this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When their plane crashed, why did no one find them sooner and now some boys that were confirmed dead. Find out how they were rescued and how they survived.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
CAFFERTY: I think he's got it down, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. His book report was on "Lord of the Flies." I hope he got an A.
CAFFERTY: He's just not old enough to grow your beard yet.
BLITZER: Not yet but he looks like he's got a future in this business.
Jack, thanks very much. See you back here in one hour.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
Let's go to Lou in New York.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com