Return to Transcripts main page


Carnage in Pakistan; Airport Security Test Shows Holes in Defenses

Aired October 18, 2007 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, breaking news, carnage in Pakistan. The triumphant return of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto leads to a blood tragedy. Tonight, Bhutto is safe but the death toll is now rising.
Plus, terrifying results of airport security tests, right here in the United States. Fake bombs getting through checkpoints over and over again.

And Republicans are calling it Hillary Clinton's taxpayer-funded Woodstock flashback. Did the Democratic presidential candidate giving critics a far-out reason to attack?

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

But we begin with the breaking news, a major U.S. ally facing bloody chaos right now. In Pakistan, ambulances are carrying away the dead and the wounded, after a pair of shattering explosions ripped through crowds in Karachi. They had gathered to welcome back the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Returning from eight years of exile. She was hustled to safety, but more than 110 people are dead, twice as many are wounded. Those numbers could go up.

Let's go to our State Department Correspondent Zain Verjee. She's watching the story for us.

Zain, what happened?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPT. CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a triumphant return home turned deadly.


VERJEE (voice over): A deadly suicide bombing strikes around midnight as former Prime Minister Bhutto's motorcade slowly weaved through the streets of Karachi, amid thousands of supporters and tight security.

Video footage at the scene showed carnage, bodies strewn all over the road. One of Bhutto's aides traveling with her described the chaos.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Suddenly we were struck by from the left of the truck. There was a huge explosion. And we all fell on each other, for a while we were on the ground, and then we stagger up and pull each other up. Somebody pulled me up. I couldn't get up. After a while, while we staggered up, another shock to the truck, shook, and the shrapnel, the glass, and the fire actually flew into the truck. Something set on fire, it out that the tires of the truck and the car next to it.

VERJEE: Security forces shuttled her away immediately. She is now safe at home. Pakistani officials say Bhutto was warned to delay her return because of threats to her life.

Many Pakistanis were bitterly opposed to a deal she made to share power with President Pervez Musharraf, allowing her to return after an eight-year exile. In an interview with CNN before taking off from Dubai, Bhutto said she knew she was a potential target.

BENAZIR BHUTTO, FMR. PRIME MINISTER, PAKISTAN: I'm aware of the threat for my security. And this has been discussed with General Pervez Musharraf. I'm also writing him a letter and I'm mentioning the hidden hands, who will be responsible if any untoward action happens.


VERJEE: The Pakistani government has been holding an emergency meeting tonight about what happened, and about what to do with Bhutto's security -- Wolf.

BLITZER: This is an Islamic country, Pakistan, with a nuclear arsenal, they have nuclear bombs. Right now, President Musharraf in charge. He's working with the U.S. in the war on terror, but the great fear from the U.S is if that nuclear arsenal should get in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists, extremists, the Taliban or Al Qaeda.

What's the U.S. reaction to this carnage on the streets of Karachi tonight?

VERJEE: Well, Wolf, the U.S. really came out and they condemned the attack. What they basically said is there is no political cause that can justify murder of innocent people. And went on to say the U.S. stands with the people in Pakistan to stop extremists from threatening the democratic process.

In Pakistan, Wolf, as you know, the U.S. had supported Benazir Bhutto's return to Pakistan. They see her as a moderating force in the country, and had also backed the power sharing deal she cut with Musharraf.

BLITZER: All right, Zain. Thanks very much.

Shock and horror at the scene of the slaughter. Let's go to CNN's Dan Rivers. He's on the phone with us.

Dan, you were there, right near Benazir Bhutto's motorcade as these explosions ripped through. Give our viewers a sense of what you saw and heard.

DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we arrived about 15 minutes after the explosion to horrendous scenes, Wolf, with the dead and injured scattered across the roads, a burnt-out remains of one vehicle, which looked as if it was the seat of the explosion, probably only 20 feet away from the bus that was carrying Benazir Bhutto. And all around chaos, really, as dozens of ambulances and police vehicles arrived to ferry away the injured to the hospital and pick up the bodies and pieces of bodies, as the police try to work out what happened.

It appears there were two blasts, from the witnesses that we talked to. There is talk that perhaps one was in a vehicle, another one was strapped on a suicide bomber in the crowd, Wolf.

BLITZER: Our terrorism analyst Peter Bergen, Dan, suggests that if there were these back-to-back bombings, these explosions, that would be the hallmark, sort of the trade craft of Al Qaeda. Is, A, anyone taking responsibility for this yet? And what's the initial sense there?

RIVERS: Well, I think certainly that seems a very likely possibility, though there was also a very clear threat from one of the local Taliban leaders, on the border with Afghanistan, in south Waziristan, one of these lawless tribal areas. Baitul Mehsud is the leader in question. He said his suicide bombers would be waiting for Benazir Bhutto when she came back. That threat was taken extremely seriously.

Also, the fact that her convoy was moving so slowly through the city, it presented such an easy target for the bombers. It was going slower than a walking pace, really, and was mobbed by thousands of her supporters. The police and army hadn't really managed to control the crowd. They weren't held back at the side of the road. They were allowed to come right up to the side, as we saw when we were filming earlier on, right up to the side of the vehicle. And it was really impossible for the police to prevent this happening.

It was going so slowly, they knew the route, the route was well known right the way through the city. And it had taken some 12 hours just to get a couple kilometers from the airport. So, in a way it was a kind of sitting duck target for them. It was extremely easy for them to hit.

BLITZER: Shocking, indeed. OK, Dan, stand by. Thank you very much.

Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan, knowing that many inside her homeland did not want her back. She said terrorists feared her return and cited threats against her life. I spoke with Benazir Bhutto here in THE SITUATION ROOM, in Washington, only the other day about the dangers she faced. Listen to this.


BLITZER: You're a relatively young woman. How scared are you, though? As you know, Osama bin Laden and other terrorists, they've attacked you in the past, and they clearly would like to go after you now. BENAZIR BHUTTO, FMR. PRIME MINISTER, PAKISTAN: Yes, of course they would like to go against me. There's a lot of threats, because under military dictatorship, and archaic situation has developed, which the terrorists and Osama have exploited. They don't want democracy. They don't want me back.

BLITZER: They don't want a woman to be the prime minister of Pakistan, either.

BHUTTO: And they don't believe in women governing nations, so they will try to plot against me, but these are risks that must be taken. I'm prepared to take them.


BLITZER: Benazir Bhutto also told me she fully understands the dangers out there. She's prepared to take risks for her country. We're going to stay on top of the story, more on it, coming up later this hour.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty, he's in New York with "The Cafferty File".

The politics over there in Pakistan, that's a deadly sport.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: Yeah, it is. And the stakes go up when somebody like Benazir Bhutto returns home after being in exile. Now you ignite all the passions on both sides, and introduce the kind of thing that happened today, the explosions that killed a bunch of people. Very, very risky business.

Speaking of risky business, the government like to point out positive economic news. And we have some. It's clear, though, that not everybody in this country is feeling as optimistic as the Bush economists are.

A new survey shows almost half of us think the economy is actually in a recession. The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows 46 percent of those surveyed think the economy is in the tank; 51 percent say it's not.

There's also a racial divide in these findings, not surprising, blacks are more pessimistic; 69 percent of black Americans say the U.S. is in a recession, compared to only 42 percent of white Americans who feel that way. The National Bureau of Economic Research defines a recession as, quote, "a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months," unquote.

They say it's visible in things like the real gross domestic product, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale/retail sales.

So here's the question: Do you feel the economy is in a recession? And if so, why? E-mail your thoughts to or go to You know, the polarization that's occurred in this country over the last couple decades, Wolf, leaves a significant portion of wealthy people at the top of the income scale for whom things are fine, stock market is going along, they get dividends on their investments, yadda- yadda-yadda. But the rest of the population with the outsourcing of jobs, and this mortgage meltdown that's happened in the credit markets, they're feeling the squeeze pretty good. Gas prices, oil is over 90 bucks a barrel, so a lot of people not feeling so good about things.

BLITZER: Feeling the heat right now.


BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you.

A major evangelical leader, on whether he could support Rudy Giuliani for president?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I personally would not. How many evangelicals would, I think depends on Giuliani.


BLITZER: Richard Land is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll speak about which Republican can win the Christian vote.

Plus will there be a museum for Woodstock? Republicans weighing in on Hillary Clinton's pet project.

And lacks security at two major airports in the United States. Screeners fail to find fake bombs. Has anything really improved since 9/11? Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Terror suspects seized and smuggled to prisons abroad, today a dramatic turnabout as U.S. lawmakers apologize in the case of a man who was shipped off to Syria. That came during gripping congressional testimony about a secret U.S. anti-terror tool. Here is CNN Justice Correspondent Kelli Arena.


KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's about a man named Maher Arar. Now, he couldn't come to the United States to tell his story, because he remains on a U.S. terror watch list. So he testified before Congress via videoconference.

His real-life story is disturbingly similar to the plot line in the movie "Rendition" that's coming out this weekend.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one has told me why I am here, or what I have done. This is crazy.

ARENA (voice over): The movie is called "Rendition." That's when the government transfers someone it thinks might be a terrorist to another country for interrogation. Maher Arar says the film isn't far off.

MAHER ARAR, FORMER DETAINEE: I interrogated and physically tortured. I was beaten with an electrical cable and threatened with a metal chair.

ARENA: Arar is a Syrian-born Canadian citizen who found himself on the wrong flight at the wrong time. He told lawmakers he was making a connection in New York when U.S. authorities took him into custody, and deported him to Syria. A country where human rights groups say torture is common. He was held for 10 months.

ARAR: When I was not being beaten, I was put in a waiting room, so that I could hear the screams of other prisoners. The cries of the women still haunt me the most.

ARENA: Arar says he was accused of having connections to Al Qaeda and repeatedly asked about an acquaintance, questions he could not answer.

ARAR: Five years have passed since my original detention, and I have never been charged with any crime.

ARENA: The Justice Department says Arar was not rendered, merely deported. But one U.S. official admits that since September 11, the government has sent about 50 people to other countries for interrogation.

MICHAEL HAYDEN, CIA DIRECTOR: They've been conducted lawfully, responsibly, with a clear and single purpose -- get terrorists off the street and gain intelligence on those still at large.

ARENA: Arar insists he's not a terrorist.


ARENA: It was his own government of Canada that provide the original intelligence suggesting that he was a terrorist, but after a lengthy investigation, Canada cleared him, and paid him about $10 million for his suffering. But the U.S. still considers him a danger -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kelli, thank you. Kelli Arena reporting.

Textbooks teaching students to hate, that's long been an allegation leveled against Saudi Arabia schools. Now a Saudi school in this country is coming in for some of the same sharp criticism. CNN's Brian Todd has been following the story for a long time. He joining us now from the Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria, Virginia, right outside the nation's capital.

Brian, what's going on? BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, after years of scrutiny by CNN and other, serious concerns that Saudi schools in the U.S., like this one are still using some very controversial textbooks.


TODD (voice over): New claims Saudi Arabia is not coming clean on the issue of religious tolerance. U.S. officials are concerned that the Islamic Saudi Academy, a private school in the U.S., just outside Washington, funded by the Saudi government, is still using textbooks that preach religious hatred.

Those officials are asking the State Department to do something pretty unusual.

NINA SHEA, COMM. ON INTL. RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: To strive for a bilateral agreement from the Saudi government itself to close its own school, until it comes clean with its textbooks.

TODD: A U.S. government panel became concerned when they went to Saudi Arabia recently and tried to examine school textbooks there. They say they weren't given a single one. According to one report, cited by the U.S. government, the books used to contain phrases like, "the hour of judgment will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them." State Department officials did not say they would pressure the Saudis to shut down this school, but --

TOM CASEY, SPOKESMAN, STATE DEPT.: We continue to work with the government of Saudi Arabia to press them to make the kinds of changes that they have committed to make in their textbooks.

TODD: A spokesman at the Saudi embassy told us there's no inflammatory material at the textbooks at the Islamic Saudi Academy here in the U.S., that his government is working with the State Department to deal with any objections over the text in Saudi Arabia. And that several changes have already been made.

When we followed up on his suggestion to go to the Virginia school, we were first told to leave. Then after we persisted, Administrator David Kovalik came out and addressed the key charges.

DAVID KOVALIK, ADMINISTRATOR, ISLAMIC SAUDI ACADEMY: There are no such passages that preach hatred, or intolerance toward any other faith, or any other people. That's not what we're here for. We're here to teach a values-based education.


TODD: But verifying that is very difficult. A student here gave us this fifth grade textbook on Islam and Koran. A translator went over it with us and found no really inflammatory passages, but a known critic of the Saudi royal family showed us another book, which he says is for ninth graders. He translated a passage for us that does talk about Muslims killing Jews, Wolf. Very hard to verify that every textbook here has taken those passages out.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you. Brian Todd reporting.

A Republican swipe at Hillary Clinton, it's over a proposed Woodstock museum. We're going to show you what this controversy is all about.

Plus, fake bombs smuggled past airport screeners at an alarming rate. We'll also show you the results of a shocking undercover test that could affect all of our security. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Shocking results from an undercover test of airport screeners in the United States. Get this -- they missed as many as 75 percent of the fake bombs smuggled through check points at some of the country's busiest airports. CNN's Susan Roesgen has more from Chicago.


SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, if I were here in the security line at O'Hare, I'd probably would be able to get through with this bag, but undercover government investigators made it through the screening with fake bombs.


ROESGEN: In the security lines at Chicago O'Hare's Airport, undercover government investigators say they were able to sneak through with fake bombs and bomb parts 60 percent of the times they tried. In Los Angeles the rate was 75 percent, and in San Francisco the screeners were better, but were still fooled 20 percent of the time.

CLARK KENT ERVIN, FMR. DHS INSPECTOR GENERAL: It is absolutely not acceptable all these many years after 9/11, all these many years after the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

ROESGEN: Critics like former Homeland Security Inspector General Clark Kent Ervin, say there's no excuse for contraband making it past Transportation Security Administration screeners.

Surprisingly, however, some passengers are more sympathetic.

DAVID CASEK, PASSENGER: I can imagine sitting at one of those monitors and looking at just image after image, after image, going across the screen. It's got to be a little numbing after a while. Maybe they could do something to rotate those people in and out a little more quickly, to give them more breaks. You know, to keep them fresh and keep them alert.

ROESGEN: In fact, the TSA says the screening procedures are better now than during the year-long investigation that ended late last year. And the TSA says that because bombs don't look like this anymore, the TSA's own tests are intentionally difficult for screeners to pass. ELLEN HOWE, TSA SPOKESMAN: We expect a significant failure rate, because if the tests were easy, everybody would be passing. We want the tests to be hard, we want the tests to replicate the real-world scenarios.

ROESGEN: The TSA also claims that every airport carry-on lane in the country is tested for security breaches every day.


ROESGEN: The Transportation Security Administration says better technology is on the way, but critics say that humans still run those machines, and that leaves the potential for human error -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Susan Roesgen at O'Hare in Chicago. Thank you.

Witnesses describe seeing dead bodies everywhere. We're following the breaking news out of Pakistan tonight, explosions near the motorcade carrying the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto back home. She's said to be fine, but might this bring even more political turmoil to Pakistan?

Also, could religious conservatives support a pro-abortion rights, pro-gay rights presidential candidate like Rudy Giuliani? I'll ask one of the most influential evangelical leaders in the country.

And it's never happened before in France, a president's wife leaves him. You're going to find out what happened. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, recovering after a strike that came with little warning. A violent tornado touched down in Pensacola, Florida, destroying homes, knocking out power and directly hitting a children's daycare. Luckily -- luckily, the children had already taken cover elsewhere. Several people have been treated for minor injuries.

Oil prices topped $90 a barrel for the first time ever. Prices rose to hit two cents above $90 before falling slightly under that number. Don't be surprised when it reaches $100 a barrel.

And then there were eight in the presidential race. The campaign graveyard. We'll see another burial. Sources telling CNN Republican Senator Sam Brownback will drop out of the race. The Kansas conservative was hard-pressed in raising funds.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Our top story, a key U.S. ally grappling right now with carnage and chaos. In Karachi, Pakistan, at least 124 people are dead, 320 wounded after bombs ripped through the crowd welcoming home the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. She spent the last eight years in exile, hopes to regain a share of the power, but she has also spoken frankly of the risks she faces. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BHUTTO: I'm aware of the threats on my security, and this has been discussed with General Pervez Musharraf. I'm also writing him a letter and I'm mentioning the hand, the hidden hand, who will be responsible if anything untoward action happens. Because I believe that there are certain people who have gained a lot through dictatorship.

They have presided over the rise of extremism, they have created safe havens in the tribal areas of Pakistan, for the Taliban and other militants, and they fear my return.


BLITZER: Benazir Bhutto speaking in Dubai, just before leaving to return to Pakistan. Let's bring in a veteran journalist, Arnaud de Borchgrave, editor-at-large at UPI. He's also a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, here in Washington, and a good friend.

Arnaud, you were in touch directly with Benazir Bhutto in the hours leading up to her decision to go back today to Pakistan today. Tell our viewers how that exchange went.

ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE, Well, the e-mail came in midnight her time, and we're about 10 hours, I believe, behind them, so it was 2:00 in the afternoon yesterday in which she mentioned names of three people she said she told Musharraf --

BLITZER: Let me read to you from the e-mail that she sent to you and we'll put it up on the screen: "I have been informed that Baitul Mehsud, (Afghan), Hamza bin Laden (Arab) and a Red Mosque militant have been sent to kill me." Those are pretty chilling words. Media reports in Pakistan insist that Mehsud himself is denying this, but give us some perspective what this means.

DE BORCHGRAVE: She's been well aware that she was going into deep trouble, because she asked me a week ago not to accompany her on the flight as I think you were supposed to be on that flight, too.

BLITZER: She invited me to go back with her when she was here sitting here exactly where you are. She said come back to Pakistan with me on my plane. Obviously I couldn't do that, but she invited you as well.

DE BORCHGRAVE: She invited me and I said I could sit up front and get interview with her after she landed. Of course, as you saw the chaos today, there would have been no interview. But what was extraordinary was that she had a premonition, and advised me about a week ago not to come. And since my wife was having minor surgery at that time, I decided to skip it. I also know the intelligence adviser she has in Pakistan has been telling her that if she gets back as prime minister, and that's still a big if on the political horizon, if she gets back, her problem will be the federally administered tribal areas in the north, the seven tribal agencies. BLITZER: Supposedly where Osama Bin Laden is hiding out. But, you know, our correspondent there on the scene right close to her motorcade, Dan Rivers, he said security was sort of weak, if at all, that people were just coming up, doing what they want. You would think, knowing the fears, knowing that she's seen as pro-U.S., very -- a woman in fact that a lot of the Islamic fundamentalists would not want to see a woman ruling Pakistan or having a significant political role, you would think the security would be tight.

DE BORCHGRAVE: There was a lot of security, 3,500 extra policemen were assigned to that route, and of course you had about a million people welcoming her back home. Clearly the security people were overwhelmed. I understand her vehicle was also hit, miraculously she escaped, but she has one hell of a tough problem ahead of her, again getting back to administration the federal areas, it's all Taliban now, the army is not operating.

BLITZER: For the U.S. this is a huge potential nightmare. This is a strategically important country in south Asia, with a nuclear arsenal, an Islamic country, with a huge Islamic fundamentalist population. Many of them support al Qaeda or the Taliban. The worst- case scenario for the U.S. is they, the bad guys, get their hands on Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. How scared, how worried should we be about that?

DE BORCHGRAVE: I think very worried when you look at the performance or lack of performance of the Pakistani army in the tribal areas that separate Afghanistan from Pakistan.

A few weeks ago, 245 of these soldiers were captured. They surrendered without firing a shot. Quite a few of them I'm told have joined the Taliban. These are Pakistani soldiers. All of this is denied all the time sometimes by the ambassador here and sometimes by the prime minister. They don't know what's going on out there, but this intelligence man is working directly with Benazir Bhutto and has been reporting to him exactly what is going on, and al Qaeda and Taliban control that whole area.

BLITZER: Her father was assassinated, as you well remember. He was a prime minister.

How worried should she be right now? She wants to get out campaigning, running for office, and clearly, especially in a city like Karachi, a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism, that's not easy.

DE BORCHGRAVE: She should be very worried given the fact that Musharraf will continue as president for the next five years, probably with his uniform off but he'll still be not in charge of the army, but with close contacts at the highest level of the army, and the intelligence service. I would expect these military entities will heed Musharraf more than they will heed Benazir Bhutto, if she makes it back as prime minister.

BLITZER: We'll watch this story with enormous ramifications for all of us. Arnaud, thanks for coming in.


BLITZER: Arnaud De Borchgrave watching this story. He knows the subject well.

Critics call it Hillary's gifts to hippies. It involves Woodstock and republicans say hippies will be cheering and gathering their "groovy beads for a trip down memory lane."

And could religious conservatives actually support Rudy Giuliani despite his pro-abortion rights, pro-gay rights views? I'll ask one of the most influential evangelical leaders in the country.

That and a lot more coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM


BLITZER: Republicans are trying to portray presidential candidate Senator Clinton as a liberal-spending, hippy-loving democrat. That issue whether creating a Woodstock museum is any way to spend our taxpayer money.

Let's go right to our congressional correspondent Dana Bash. She's watching this story for us.

There was a vote today. It did not exactly go the way Senator Clinton wanted.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It sure didn't. Republicans had a big victory here today, Wolf. The senate voted to eliminate what republicans call Hillary Clinton's taxpayer-funded Woodstock flashback.

Woodstock, an event and images that define a generation. New York Senators Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer want to spend $1 million taxpayer dollars to preserve these memories and others from the 60s in a museum, a million dollar earmark tucked into a health spending Bill, but republicans cried foul.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: I'm part of the hippy generation, but the question is, should this be a priority for this body over the priority of women and children?

SEN. JOHN KYL (R), ARIZONA: Gather your groovy beads and we'll see you on the lawn for a trip down memory lane. Well, a trip down memory lane may be just fine for folks. I suggest if they want to participate in that, they can pay the admission price.

BASH: Republicans privately admit they made an issue of the Woodstock earmark to go after presidential contender Hillary Clinton to slam her for misplaced priorities and link her to a liberal Mecca. Clinton was in Washington, but did not take the floor to defend her earmark, saying only through a spokesman, "Senators Schumer and Clinton have worked hard to promote economic development and tourism in upstate New York."

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: It's the right type of earmark.

BASH: Clinton left the battle to her colleague from New York. Schumer adamantly defended the project, calling it a job generator for his state.

SCHUMER: I'm proud to do it. I spent some time doing it. I'm going to continue to do it. I think it's part of my job.

BASH: The museum is mostly funded with state and private dollars. Backers insist it's not just a monument to hippies, but a place to learn about a tumultuous decade.

But the senate did vote to kill the Woodstock earmark. It's highly unusual for senators to eliminate pet projects, but right now the controversy over pork barrel spending is so red-hot, republican opponents say Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer's Woodstock museum was just too hard for other senators to defend back home.


BLITZER: Dana Bash on Capitol Hill, thank you.

Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani is leading the republican pack in many of the national polls but he's having serious problems winning over some Christian conservatives because he supports abortion right and gay rights.

I talked about that and more with Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention. His latest book is entitled, "The Divided States of America." I asked him if he could vote for Rudy Giuliani if he gets the nomination.


RICHARD LAND, SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION: I personally would not. How many evangelicals would I think depends on Giuliani. I mean there are some things he can do to mitigate the damage.

I saw a poll just today that said if there was a third party candidate in the race between Giuliani and Hillary, that they would get 14 percent. It would drop Rudy's vote right now from 43 percent to 34 percent.

BLITZER: And it would guarantee that let's say Hillary Clinton the democratic nominee.

LAND: That's right. It would.

BLITZER: What would be better from your perspective, Hillary Clinton as president or Rudy Giuliani as president?

LAND: Well, I refuse to answer that question on the grounds I might tend to incriminate myself. I don't endorse candidates. I'm just saying that as a matter of personal moral conscience, I can't vote for a pro-choice candidate. But Giuliani could do some things that would mitigate the damage and would encourage more evangelicals to sort of vote for him as the lesser of two evils.

BLITZER: Because millions of votes are at stake. You represent a lot of people out there who if they don't vote, for example, that could really hurt the Republican Party.

LAND: Or if they voted for a third party, it would. I mean, 40 percent of Bush's raw total vote in 2004 against John Kerry were considered to be evangelical voters.

BLITZER: Some have spoken, Dr. James Dobson among others, of a formal third party candidate. If Rudy Giuliani, for example, were to get the nomination would you support that?

LAND: Well, I don't get involved in supporting parties. But it would be nice to have someone to vote for the first Tuesday in November and as a matter of moral conscience, I can't vote for a pro- choice candidate. Just as a matter of moral conscience, I can't do it.

BLITZER: Mitt Romney used to support abortion rights for women. The former governor of Massachusetts says he no longer does. Would he be acceptable to you? Could you vote for Mitt Romney who is the front-runner at least according to some of the polls in both Iowa and New Hampshire right now.

LAND: Well, you know, I'm not going to say who I would vote for. I have said who I wouldn't for. But I take his conversion on the pro- life issue at face value. I have too many family members and too many friends who used to be pro-choice who have become pro-life. I don't think the charge of being a flip-flopper is going to stick. I think that he is considered by most evangelicals to be a pro-life candidate who would adopt pro-life policies in his administration.

BLITZER: Some evangelicals as you know well know have suggested they couldn't vote for a Mormon. Could you?

LAND: Under the right circumstances. I've encouraged Governor Romney when he was governor. I said look, you need to give a JFK-type speech. I believe that Jack Kennedy was the only person who could convince tens of millions of Protestants to vote for a Catholic in 1960. Only Mitt Romney can convince millions of evangelicals that it's OK to vote for a Mormon.

BLITZER: What would you want him to say in that speech?

LAND: Well, I would not want him to defend Mormonism. President Kennedy didn't defend Catholicism. What he did was defend the right of a Catholic to run for president. If I was advising Romney, I would say give a speech in an evangelical venue the way Kennedy did at the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in Houston, and I would say look, I'm not the Mormon candidate for president. I'm the republican candidate for president. And I'm going to be guided by my moral conscience. I have a right to have this faith and run for president. That's the American way. We don't have a religious test for office. Judge me on my administration in Massachusetts. Judge me on my record. And don't judge me because of my faith. And here's how my faith would and would not impact my performance of my office. I think if he did that, he could convince a lot of people who have reservations to vote for him because after all, you know, we are voting for our commander in chief, not pastor in chief.

BLITZER: Which is a fair point. Among the other front-runners on the republican side do you like of them? McCain, Fred Thompson? Do you have any problem was those two, for example?

LAND: No. No, I don't. Personally, I know both of them. I think they are fine men. They would make fine presidents. I know Mike Huckabee. I think he would make a fine president.

You know the issue, of course, is that we have a pro-life plank in the platform of the Republican Party and most of my constituency, they have been voting in the last few presidential elections for the republican candidate and not because he's the republican candidate. But because he's the pro-life candidate. And if the republicans take that off the table, then it scrambles everything.

BLITZER: Dr. Land, thanks very much for coming in.

LAND: Thank you.


BLITZER: And this reminder, on November 15th, I'll be in Las Vegas, Nevada, to moderate a debate in the key western states among the democratic presidential candidates. They'll all be there.

When we come back, love, sex and politics in Paris, a very public divorce for the French president. We'll tell you what's going on.

Also, feeling the squeeze on your pocketbook. Is the economy in a recession? Jack Cafferty is taking your e-mail.



BLITZER: What may have been the worst-kept secret in France is no secret any longer. An attorney for the new French president Nicolas Sarkozy confirming that France's first couple has divorced.

Let's bring in Carol Costello. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

So what's the reaction in France?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's really funny. There's this huge transit strike in France. But the streets are abuzz with news Cecilia left the president. Cecilia Sarkozy has never wanted to be first lady. She has said it bores her. So she left. The Sarkozy marriage is over.


Love, it used to be so romantic for Nicolas and Cecilia Sarkozy, a powerful man, a beautiful former model. They were so close during Sarkozy's run for president. Some might say by design.

GUILLAUME DEBRE, TF1 FRENCH TELEVISION: He used his wife to soften his image. Now she left him and he's alone.

COSTELLO: That tactic sounds so American.

We often accuse our politicians of using their spouses for political gain. The Clintons, anyone? Still the Sarkozys don't reflect love American style. Remember, the French yawned when they heard about Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky.

DEBRE: A lot of French people look at American politics and Americans' lives, in a way of puritanical, hypocritical and repressed. And for them, divorce sex matters are a part of life and they admit it and they accept it.

COSTELLO: Yes, the French newspapers scream Sarkozy's divorced but don't expect French voters to now question his leadership because he lost his wife.

Contrast that to American politics, it's a different game. Remember when Ann Romney told voters the biggest distinct between her husband, who was running for the republican nomination, and his opponent, Rudy Giuliani, is he's only had one wife. Giuliani's had three.

The only real shock to the French over the whole Sarkozy saga was that their marriage unraveled so publicly that cozy and Sarkozy had long left the marriage. Cecilia Sarkozy even flying off to New York for a time with her lover. When she did come back to her marriage, she exactly hide the fact she wasn't that into her husband. Back in July, a Sarkozy angrily fended off American photographers at the waters of on of New Hampshire. Cecilia was nowhere to be found. Skipping an American vacation and tea with president and Mrs. Bush to shop in Paris. And now the final but expected blow, divorce.


COSTELLO: Still, this is a first for France. Never before has a couple divorced while the president was in office. But when you compare it to former president Francois Mitterrand, maybe it's no big deal. The world discovered he had a secret second family when they showed up at his funeral.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much for that. Carol Costello watching that story.

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


JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do we need to know all that?


The question this hour is, do you feel the economy is in a recession, and if so why?

Ronald writes, "Now the economy is not in recession but it's being supported by significant war spending. On the other side is the lack of taxes to pay for the war. When the war spending stops and the taxes necessary to pay for the war are put into place, then the economy will go into the tank or we will have double-digit inflation again as we did during the Vietnam war."

Carol in Tennessee, "I think we're in a recession. We've been headed for one for a while. I think this because I am in the retail sales business but the things I sell are not necessities. My sales are down almost 50 percent from this time last year. The first things to go when consumers feel their belts tighten are the things they buy with discretionary income."

Dave in Ohio, "There's a recession in northeast Ohio, absolutely. We operate a small retail business and our sales have declined more than 50 percent for over four years now. Our operational expenses have increased by almost 30 percent in the same period. That's a recession!"

Ronald in South Carolina, "The only recession ongoing today is in political ethics. We are at record lows in unemployment, inflation, et cetera. The question reminds me of Bill Clinton's "worst recession" of the last 50 years. Except we weren't in one. Are you serving one up for Hillary?"

Franklin writes, "I think we're in a recession because my wife tells me we are. For the past 20 years, she's worked for Roadway Express, a big trucking company. Every time they have had a reduction of business like they had over the last six months, a significant decrease in GDP has been reported later. If you know what kind of freight Roadway handles, this makes all the sense in the world."

And finally, a smart-aleck named Buster in New York. "You know you're in a recession when the economy begins to look like Jack Cafferty's hairline. No wait, never mind, that's a depression."

Why are you laughing?

BLITZER: It's funny.

CAFFERTY: You'll be bald some day.

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to We post more online, along with video clips of the Cafferty file.

BLITZER: It's a natural reaction. Something's funny, you laugh.

CAFFERTY: Well, it was funny actually.

BLITZER: Thank you. See you tomorrow, Jack.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: Let's check in with Rick Sanchez to see what's coming up at the top of the hour.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Unbelievable this situation taking place in Pakistan. We're expecting more pictures. We're going to be sharing those with you.

We're also hooking up with some of the Pakistanis living here in the United States. In fact, we're going to have a live camera at a restaurant there. We'll turn all that around for you.

By the way, Wendy Chamberlain, she's the ambassador who actually negotiated with Musharraf after 9/11. She's here. She's going to join us.

And then the big story out of Maine about birth control pills. Should they be given to 11-year-olds, without calling the parents? It's a big story. We'll tackle it for you.

Wolf, back over to you.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks, Rick. We'll be watching.

Look deep to the Russian president's eyes. President Bush saw his soul. John McCain saw KGB. Jeanne Moos taking a closer look when we come back.


BLITZER: An new slap at President Bush from Russia's President Vladimir Putin. Putin is now urging the U.S. to set a date for withdrawing from what he calls a pointless war in Iraq.

CNN's Jeanne Moos sees a most unusual change from the days when Mr. Bush was looking fondly into Putin's eyes.

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure, he may bring you flowers, but look deep into Vladimir Putin's eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wouldn't trust him. I would not trust him, no way.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He looks very tough, like he doesn't take any crap from anybody, especially the people in Russia.

MOOS: Not exactly what president Bush said when he and Russia's president first met six years ago. PRES. GEORGE BUSH: I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward. I was able to get a sense of his soul.

MOOS: But these days there's a new quip making the rounds.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I looked into Putin's eyes and saw three letters, KGB.

MOOS: Because he used to work there, you know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got it all going on, honey.

MOOS: It's Putin who's got it going on. Going on with Iran's president Ahmadinejad, but with Putin seeming cockier these days, Senator McCain's line about KGB eyes gets applause every time.


MOOS: Circulating on You Tube, the line even made it to the president's press conference.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he looks into Putin's eye, there's a k, a g, and a b.

BUSH: That's a pretty good line.

MOOS: No wonder he thinks it's good. He may have heard it way back after that first meeting with Russia's president, but Colin Powell confirms that he was the one who coined the quip. "Wall Street Journal" reports Powell first uttered it to President Bush.

BUSH: I looked a man in the eye.

MOOS: As they were discussing President Bush's soul searching plunge into Putin's pupils. Funny when the Russian president is half naked he looks even scarier, more Rambo like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looked like he might have borrowed his eyes from Saddam.

MOOS: Even folks who didn't recognize President Putin.

Do you know who this is?


MOOS: Psychoanalyzed his eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kind of a mean guy to me.

MOOS: Looks some like. This You Tuber put sexy Vladimir Putin pictures to the Britney Spears song, "Toxic." No wonder he often hides behind sunglasses.

He don't seem warm and cuddly?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hell no. I see warm and cuddly in your face.

MOOS: Warm and cuddly eyes are the eye of the beholder.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mark your calendars. Starting November 5th, just one year from Election Day, THE SITUATION ROOM will be on for three hours back to back from 4:00 p.m. eastern to 7:00 p.m. eastern.

That's it for us. Let's go to Rick Sanchez in New York.