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THE SITUATION ROOM
Mukasey Gains Votes to be Approved; Ralph Nader Interview; Diplomats Opposed to Iraq Postings
Aired November 2, 2007 - 1900 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: At 6:00 p.m. You'll be on at 7:00 p.m. We'll be on from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m., three hours nonstop.
To our viewers, thanks very much for joining us. Happening now, the president's choice for attorney general dodging a bullet right now, two key U.S. senators just announced they'll vote for Michael Mukasey, breaking with fellow Democrats in a dispute over torture.
Plus, Barack Obama, missing in action, we're going to tell you how his no-show record in the Senate stacks up against some other members running for president.
And Ralph Nader is taking his beef with Democrats to court. Will he also challenge them by running for president again? I'll ask him.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Just a short while ago two top Senate Democrats threw a life raft to President Bush's choice to become the attorney general. Just as Michael Mukasey's nomination was starting to get swamped with opposition, the Judiciary Committee members Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein finally revealed where they stand.
Let's immediately go to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena. She's watching this story for us. Kelli, it looks like essentially a lot of people are saying, it's a done deal now. Is it?
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well yeah, Wolf, it looks like Mukasey is in. I mean those two Democratic senators, as you said, both on the Judiciary Committee, announcing they will support Mukasey's nomination saying they believe that he'll act independently and uphold the law. Now, their statements came out just after the chairman of that committee, Patrick Leahy, saying he would oppose Mukasey, because he refused to call waterboarding torture. Now that's when detainees who are being interrogated are made to feel like they are drowning.
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SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN: I don't believe he should be attorney general. It's not anything against him personally. It is a signal that sends to the rest of the world that the United States will not say waterboarding is torture and illegal.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ARENA: Now, despite that, Wolf, with at least two Democrats supporting him, Mukasey should get the nod of the Judiciary Committee in a vote on Tuesday, and then his nomination goes to the full Senate. We expect, at least at this point, after a few bumps in the road, that Mukasey will, indeed, be voted as the next attorney general, Wolf.
BLITZER: A win for President Bush on this front. Thanks very much, Kelli, for that.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is taking a hard line with State Department workers, speaking out against possible mandatory postings to Iraq. She's speaking out in favor of those mandatory postings. Rice is now saying that duty calls while other top diplomats are less diplomatic about it.
Let's go to our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee. She's traveling with Rice in Turkey -- Zain.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just flew halfway around the world to prevent a clash between Turkey and Iraq, but she couldn't escape the war of words with her own employees.
VERJEE (voice-over): From one firestorm to another, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the target of a new onslaught of personal attacks from enraged anti-American protesters, in Turkey's capital. While facing a near revolt from American diplomats, angry that they may be forced to serve in Iraq.
JACK CRODDY, FOREIGN SERVICE EMPLOYEE: And I'm sorry, but basically, that's a potential death sentence and you know it. And then another thought. Who will take care of our children? Who will raise our children if we're dead or seriously wounded?
VERJEE: Secretary Rice is responding to the harsh criticism from her own employees during a town-hall meeting on Wednesday. Now, she's sending a cable to diplomats around the world. "I commit to each of you that had all those who serve in Iraq and their families will receive the department's full support before, during, and after their assignment."
Her U.S. envoy to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, was sharper, saying diplomats need to put national interests over their personal safety and those who don't are in the wrong line of business. A former U.S. ambassador to Syria agrees.
EDWARD DJEREJIAN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SYRIA: It was incumbent upon the Foreign Service officers to accept hard ship assignments, sometimes in war zones and that certainly has been a tradition of the service.
VERJEE: The U.S. embassy in Iraq is short by almost 50 diplomats and is having a hard time getting volunteers to fill the spots. So, the State Department is now ordering some to go whether they like it or not.
CRODDY: Any other embassy in the world, the embassy would be closed at this point with all this incoming rocket and everything.
VERJEE: It hasn't been since Vietnam that Foreign Service officers were forced into duty. Condoleezza Rice is appealing to patriotism to help settle the diplomatic fury, telling reporters -- people need to serve wherever they're needed. This is one of the highest-priority tasks of the United States, and we are going to meet our obligations. But she has an uphill battle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You roll your eyes, but we have polled the Foreign Service. Twelve percent of your foreign service believes that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is fighting for them, 12 percent.
VERJEE: Aids to U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker tell us that he's got ambitious plans in Iraq to turn things around, so he needed diplomats with specific skills to help him -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Zain Verjee on the scene for us in Turkey with the secretary of state. Thank you.
A Saudi prince and former ambassador to the United States is now raising some serious eyebrows with a surprising claim. He says the 9/11 terror attacks could have been avoided, if -- if -- Saudi warnings had been heeded.
CNN international security correspondent Paula Newton has more on what Prince Bandar is now saying -- Paula.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the allegations came right out of the blue. And no one seems to know exactly why the Saudis are making them, just now.
NEWTON (voice-over): The explosive claim is designed to strike a nerve. And how could it not? Saudi Arabia's national security adviser says 9/11 could have been prevented, if only U.S. officials had listened to his country's warnings.
PRINCE BANDAR BIN SULTAN, SAUDI NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER (through translator): U.S. security authorities had engaged their Saudi counterparts in a serious and credible manner, in my opinion we would have avoided what happened.
NEWTON: In a documentary on the Arabic network al-Arabiya, Prince Bandar, a former Saudi ambassador to the U.S., claimed his intelligence officers were following the 9/11 hijackers with precision. The Bush administration said it was seeking clarification.
TOM CASEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: If he has any information that hasn't come to light as a result of the 9/11 Commission or any of the other studies that have been done on this, be useful for him to explain it.
NEWTON: All of this echoes what Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah said earlier in the week before a controversial visit to London that his kingdom could have also prevented the July 2005 London bombings.
KING ABDULLAH, SAUDI ARABIA (through translator): We have sent information to Great Britain before the terrorists attacks in Britain. But unfortunately, no action was taken. And it may have been able to maybe avert the tragedy.
NEWTON: The Saudi king refuses to put up any evidence to back up his allegations, saying the intelligence is too sensitive. And that's the problem. King Abdullah knows all of this raises persisting questions about whether Western governments were naive about the terrorists threat, just now, at a time when Western allies are accusing the Saudis of the same thing.
Fifteen of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi, as is Osama bin Laden. A significant number of Saudi fighters are in Iraq right now, attacking U.S. soldiers. Saudi petro (ph) dollars help fuel and fund Islamic extremism. In fact, a recent congressional report noted, Saudi Arabia has an uneven record in the fight against terrorism, especially with respect to terrorist financing.
NEWTON: Still, both U.S. and British government officials told CNN, no matter what the Saudis are claiming, and why, they do have unique leverage in fighting extremists, leverage Western governments need, they're not about to pick a fight with them -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Paula Newton in London for us. Thank you.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's in New York. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the government's deficit spending is a bigger moral issue than abortion, because it puts massive debt on future generations before they're even born; those words from a Republican senator from Oklahoma, Tom Coburn.
According to the Washington newspaper "The Hill" Coburn told reporters, "The greatest moral issue of our time isn't abortion. It's robbing our next generation of opportunity. You're going to save a child from being aborted so they can be born into a debtor's prison", unquote.
The Oklahoma senator criticized President Bush for not doing enough to curb spending and predicted the president will end up giving in on some policy points in order to force Congress to cut spending. Coburn thinks it's in the president's best interest to follow through on this threat to veto spending bills that exceed the levels he set.
And he says that's because the president has a reputation for accommodating the spending wishes of the previous Republican Congress. Oh, how he accommodated them. The president recently signed a measure that increases the national debt limit for the fifth time in his presidency, to $9.8 trillion.
Seven years ago when Bush took office our debt was $5.6 trillion. It's almost doubled under Bush. Here's the question. Republican Senator Tom Coburn says deficit spending is a bigger moral issue than abortion. Is he right? E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. Are we doing that "Roundtable" thing...
BLITZER: Yes we are and you're going to be a huge part of it, as you have been all this week and down the road, Jack. Thanks very much.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is standing by for our "Roundtable".
Also coming up, some say he spoiled the Democrats a chance of winning the White House back in the year 2000. Will Ralph Nader run again this time?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Underdogs need to be respected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I'll ask Ralph Nader just what that means. He's going to be here.
Also -- Mr. Bush says what he thinks of the Republican presidential candidates. We're not talking about President Bush; we're talking about his brother, Jeb Bush. You're going to want to hear how he's sizing up the Republican field.
And Barack Obama says elect him and things will change. He says he knows how to get Iran to change its behavior of thumbing its nose at the U.S.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: There's no love lost between consumer advocate Ralph Nader and the Democratic Party. He's suing the Democratic National Committee, accusing it of conspiring to try to keep him off presidential ballots back in 2004. And he hasn't ruled out another independent presidential bid next year. I spoke with Ralph Nader just a short while ago.
BLITZER: Let's talk about -- the lawsuit you're filing against the DNC right now. The election was in 2004. This is the end of 2007. Why now? What took so long?
RALPH NADER (I), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This was in reality a vast Democratic Party conspiracy. You don't want to use the word conspiracy too loosely. But it was so intricate, all over the country in states like Arizona, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Ohio to remove the Nader (INAUDIBLE) ticket from the ballot and deny our voters the freedom to vote for us...
NADER: ... that it took time. It took time.
BLITZER: What you're saying it took three years or so to get all the evidence, is that what you're saying?
NADER: And the jurisdictional problems and so on.
BLITZER: Because a lot of the rulings that went against you in trying to get on the ballots in some of the states like Pennsylvania, one judge said this. I'm compelled to emphasize that this signature- gathering process was the most deceitful and fraudulent exercise ever perpetrated upon this court. In reviewing signatures it became apparent that in addition to signing names such as Mickey Mouse, Fred Flintstone, John Kerry and the ubiquitous Ralph Nader, there were thousands of names that were created at random and then randomly assigned other existent or nonexistent addresses by the circulators.
NADER: Yeah, he's describing the sabotage of our campaign.
BLITZER: You're accusing others...
BLITZER: ... of doing that not your supporters?
NADER: Yeah and there were petitioners on the streets being harassed and fake names being put in like Mickey Mouse and other false names.
BLITZER: Were those names on your, the petitions that...
NADER: We caught most of them. We were we were down to 1.3 percent, only about 600 names out of 52,000.
BLITZER: So were the names Mickey Mouse or Fred Flintstone were submitted, you were gone, but some of these obviously remained as part of your petition.
NADER: Yeah. Yeah, 600 out of 52,000. I mean it was like dealing with an avalanche of sabotage and mischief. And the Democrats were very much involved.
BLITZER: Name names. Who do you believe among the Democrats was involved in this alleged conspiracy that you're now putting forth?
NADER: The Democratic National Committee, Terry McAuliffe (ph), Toby Moffitt (ph).
BLITZER: Do you cite them...
BLITZER: ... specifically by name as conspirators against you?
NADER: That's right. Yes, that's correct.
BLITZER: And so what are you -- you're going to local court, state court, federal court?
NADER: We're going to local D.C. court and we filed in federal district court in Virginia. And this -- this involves many states and it involves state Democratic committees. It involves Democratic (INAUDIBLE). There's never been a candidacy that has been so sabotaged and drained. Toby Moffitt (ph) who is one of the ringleaders, told "The Guardian" newspaper in England right after the election, he said, I would be less than honest if this was about the law.
This was about, you know, blocking George W. Bush. But that's not the way you do it in America. You have competition in America. You don't misuse the legal process with malicious lawsuits in order to remove a candidacy.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the current field. Hillary Clinton...
BLITZER: ... right now, the last time you were here in THE SITUATION ROOM...
BLITZER: ... you called her a panderer, and you clearly were opposed to her. What do you say now?
NADER: Well, she's continuing the strategy and it's getting her in some difficulty, very, very ambiguous, wants it both ways.
BLITZER: If she's the Democratic nominee, could you support her?
NADER: No, I would not. But I think she's going to be the Democratic nominee.
BLITZER: If she's the Democratic nominee, would you run?
NADER: Well that wouldn't be the compelling factor.
BLITZER: What would be the compelling factor?
NADER: Compelling factor is not -- is there a need for more voices and choices on the campaign, new agendas, new directions like small parties did in the 19th century.
BLITZER: But let's put behind you some of the -- all of these. There are a lot of candidates running right now, a lot of Democrats. Look behind you. Turn around.
NADER: Just to answer your question...
BLITZER: You can see all these Democrats.
BLITZER: All these -- these are all the Democrats right there. Do you like any of these Democrats?
NADER: In terms of his record, Dennis Kucinich. In terms of a great Democratic strength in democracy for proposal, Mike Gravel two- time senator, but they don't have any money.
BLITZER: Both of those are very, very great long shots, as you know.
NADER: Yeah. That's true.
NADER: Underdogs need to be respected...
BLITZER: Neither Mike Gravel or Dennis Kucinich gets the Democratic nomination, would that encourage you to run?
NADER: Well, of course, but the critical factor is getting enough volunteers, pro bono lawyers to come up against the Democratic Party. They are never going to do this again to us or to other third- party candidates.
BLITZER: The lawsuit in part is a shock to try to deter them from doing what they -- you allege they did the last time.
NADER: And to other parties, too.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the Republican candidates.
BLITZER: And we'll put all of those behind you and you know all of them. Any of them you like?
NADER: Well there are some I dislike intensely. I mean Mark Green (ph) called Rudy Giuliani Bush on steroids. I mean in terms of belligerence and aggressive and kind of a one-no Charlie, that's all he talks about. McCain has a broader framework, of course, to him. But I don't -- you know, I -- I think if Giuliani gets the nomination, or he thinks he's going to get it, Bloomberg is going to run.
BLITZER: And then you would support Bloomberg?
NADER: Well no, but I would like the idea of a no-nonsense mayor who doesn't have to dial for dollars. And who can go right in and turn it into a multi-party or multi-candidate race. We've got two narrow choices here and in many districts there is only one.
BLITZER: Because the argument if a lot of Democrats would make it -- let's say Giuliani...
BLITZER: ... who you obviously don't like, were to get the Republican nomination. You could be a, quote, "spoiler" and guarantee him the White House if you were to jump in and take votes away from whoever the Democratic nominee is.
NADER: Now Wolf, you've been around this too long to use the word "spoiler." If we have an equal right to run for election, all of us, then we all try to get votes from one another, so we're either all spoilers of one another or none of us are spoilers. We've got to get over this idea because the American people are not getting enough voices and choices.
BLITZER: If the decision you had to make today, would you run?
NADER: I'm not making a decision today.
BLITZER: But if it were today?
BLITZER: Ralph Nader speaking with me earlier.
Next Tuesday, by the way, here in THE SITUATION ROOM a follow-up to one of our more heated interviews. The filmmaker Michael Moore will be back in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can e-mail us questions, by the way, for Michael Moore. Just go to CNN.com/SituationRoom -- Michael Moore in THE SITUATION ROOM on Tuesday.
Senator Barack Obama would be very aggressive against Iran if he were president. The Democratic candidate wants you to know exactly what he would do to handle the situation with Iran.
Also, two presidents named Bush, possibly two named Clinton. Are you tired of what many see as political dynasties? That's a question for our "Roundtable" including Jack Cafferty, and a lot more coming up right here.
BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM from around the world. Carol, what's going on?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: A couple of things, Wolf.
Heavy rains have given way to sunshine in southeastern Mexico but tens of thousands of people are believed to be stranded by flooding there. And tens of thousands more are fleeing the region where almost all services including drinking water and public transportation are shut down. Health officials are warning against outbreaks of cholera and other waterborne diseases.
And in Caracas today supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez cheered after lawmakers approved sweeping reforms to the country's constitution. The changes would greatly expand presidential powers and allow Mr. Chavez to run for re-election indefinitely. Yesterday protesters demonstrated against the reforms in the biggest anti-Chavez demonstrations in months. The changes must now be approved by voters in a referendum next month.
Headlines right now, Wolf.
BLITZER: Am I hearing the words president for life?
COSTELLO: For life, indefinitely.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Carol, for that.
Both Democrats and Republicans are using online video to attack Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton's performance at Tuesday's presidential debate.
Let's go to our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton. Abbi, what do these videos say?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, from this Barack Obama fund-raising e-mail to the front page of the Republican National Committee Web site, these videos of Hillary Clinton from Tuesday's debate are being used by her opponents all over the place. The latest is from the John Edwards' campaign. The politics of passing, it's called, and it accuses Clinton of double talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, you said yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You thought it made sense to do it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I didn't, Chris. It makes a lot of sense. What is the governor supposed to do?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TATTON: That video was in response to another that was put out by the Clinton campaign earlier this week characterizing the debate as the politics of pile-on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Clinton?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Clinton?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Clinton.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Clinton.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary Clinton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TATTON: You get the picture there. The Clinton camp accused Edwards of launching false attacks on fellow Democrats -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Abbi, thank you.
This important programming note, starting Monday, this coming Monday, one year exactly to Election Day, THE SITUATION ROOM will be on for three hours back-to-back from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Lou Dobbs will air at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. The changes take effect Monday.
Could there be a link between UFOs and the White House? Consider this.
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JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I was back as a peanut farmer and the head of a Lions Club in the southwest Georgia, I and about 25 others saw something in the air that changed colors. It was round and came and left.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We're going to take a closer look at the close encounters that seem to be the rage for political figures this week.
Also -- should Barack Obama be spending more time on his day job? We're tracking the Senate votes he's missed lately.
And former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is gushing over a presidential candidate. What he has to say about Republicans who want his brother's job.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, near Phoenix, the country's largest nuclear plant locked down. This after a man showed up for work with an explosive device in his truck, his motive, unclear. But the contract employee may not be arrested. That's from a law enforcement official who says the device was very small. We're watching this story.
President Bush promises those in Congress, even some fellow Republicans, he's vetoed a $23 billion bill, although it appears lawmakers have enough votes to override him. The bill would pay for water projects like repairing hurricane damage, the White House calling the legislation fiscally irresponsible. The Democrats calling the veto irresponsible.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Presidential candidates who serve in Congress have been known to miss a vote or two on the Senate or the House floor. But one Democrat apparently has been a no-show more than most this fall. Let's turn to our congressional correspondent, Jessica Yellin, she's keeping tabs on the candidates' voting records. Jessica, Barack Obama, I take it he's missed some votes lately?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He sure has, Wolf. And it's not just how many votes but which one. Senator Obama skipped a vote on a big issue that he's made into big part of his campaign.
YELLIN (voice-over): It's become one of the most consistent themes of Barack Obama's campaign: slamming Senator Clinton for her vote on an Iran amendment. He claims it empowers the president to attack Iran.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This kind of resolution does not send the right signal to the region. It doesn't send the right signals to our allies or our enemies.
YELLIN: But Barack Obama never voted on that amendment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Obama.
YELLIN: While Hillary Clinton was voicing her support for it, Senator Obama was campaigning in New Hampshire. Obama's campaign says he didn't get enough notice to make it back to the Senate in time, though Clinton, Biden and Dodd voted.
In fact, since returning from the August recess, Senator Obama has missed the most votes of any of the Democratic presidential candidates, nearly 80 percent since September. The others don't have great voting records either.
According to the Obama campaign, he has made the most important votes, including on Iraq and key domestic priorities, and he did cancel an appearance on "The View" to cast a crucial vote on the children's health insurance measure. STUART ROTHENBERG, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": I think most Americans understand that, if you're running for president, you are going to have to be in Iowa, New Hampshire, and you're not going to make all the votes. And they give candidates slack.
YELLIN: But, facing a mounting fight with the White House over key bills, Harry Reid is putting all the contenders on notice.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm going to leave here and go call our presidentials, and let them know that they better look at their schedules, because these are not votes you can miss.
YELLIN (on camera): Now, Wolf, on the vote on that Iran amendment, two senior Senate Democratic aides tell CNN that contrary to what the Obama campaign says, all Democratic senators were advised that the vote was coming the next day. They were given notice the night before. And Obama would have gone to New Hampshire knowing that that vote was coming and he would miss it. But the Obama campaign maintains he simply did not have enough time to come back and make the vote. Wolf?
BLITZER: Thank you, Jessica. Jessica's on the Hill.
Presidential candidates to Congress usually have a heads-up that a big vote is coming so they can plan their schedules around it if they want. On the day of the vote, members of both chambers get about a 15-minute voting. When the vote begins lights flash on the clocks inside the Capitol and bells start ringing. Members get electronic pages or e-mail as well to let them know a vote is under way.
The president's brother, the former Florida governor, JEB Bush, is breaking his silence on the republican presidential candidates. He's sizing them up, but not necessarily finding fault, at least not yet, publicly. Our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, has details of what JEB Bush is saying. Susan?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been almost a year since JEB Bush moved out of the governor's mansion for a swanky condo in Miami, and ever since, he's been doing some fund- raising. He's been speaking at some schools, and now he's weighing in on the GOP race for that party's nominee for president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Talking today with the 43rd chief executive of the great State of Florida.
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): right off the bat, former Governor Bush sidestepped a question about the shortcomings of the Republican candidates.
JEB BUSH, FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I'm not going to do the weakness. Because I saw someone that did that, Dan Bartlett, and it came out pretty-bad looking.
CANDIOTTI: Here's how former presidential counselor Dan Bartlett recently sized up some fellow Republicans, starting with Mitt Romney.
DAN BARTLETT, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: I think the Mormon issue is a real problem. Biggest dud, Fred Thompson. President Huckabee? You got to be kidding.
CANDIOTTI: JEB Bush focused on each candidate's strength. Starting with front-runner, Rudy Giuliani.
J. BUSH: He sees the world the way it is, and he's direct and he communicates well. He's got high energy. And a tremendous personality. People are drawn towards him.
CANDIOTTI: He used two words to describe late entry, Fred Thompson.
J. BUSH: Fred Thompson I think is a committed conservative.
CANDIOTTI: Bush gushed over John McCain.
J. BUSH: His courage. I mean, I -- I -- I was in my bed watching this with my wife. I got out of bed and started cheering. I assume you're talking about the Woodstock thing.
CANDIOTTI: McCain knocked Hillary Clinton for a recent vote to spend $1 million for a Woodstock concert museum.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, my friends, I wasn't there. I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was -- I was tied up at the time.
J. BUSH: Did it in a humble way. He didn't do it in a way that was grandstanding at all.
CANDIOTTI: And this is what impressed Bush about Mitt Romney.
J. BUSH: Intellectual curiosity, which I think the next president of the United States is going to need to have. He's incredibly smart.
CANDIOTTI: Bush says he likes Mike Huckabee.
J. BUSH: He's clear, clear-minded about the importance of moral principles which you can't untether in a -- particularly if you believe in limited government. You have to also advocate self- government.
CANDIOTTI (on camera): Bush wouldn't tip his hand about who his favorite is and insisted he will support the party nominee. And by the way, one of his sons, George P., is working for Fred Thompson, and another son, JEB Jr. is in the Rudy Giuliani camp. Wolf?
BLITZER: Thank you, Susan Candiotti, in Miami.
Coming up, Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama, how will he handle Iran if he's elected president? He's outlining his vision for a new approach, but can it work?
Plus, almost 20 years with a Bush or a Clinton in the white house. Is America tired of this two family dynasty? That's a subject for our round table, including Jack Cafferty, coming up next.
BLITZER: Right now Barack Obama's offering his thoughts about Iran. Obama says he'd engage Tehran, telling "The New York Times" he knows how to get Iran to change behavior. Let's get some analysis about it.
Joining us now about that our three panelists, CNN contributor Roland Martin, he is in Chicago, CNN political analyst Amy Holmes in San Francisco and in New York, Jack Cafferty, among others thing he's the author of the best-selling book "It's Getting Ugly Out There, the Frauds, Bunglers, Liars and Losers Who are Hurting America."
If you haven't read it yet, more importantly, if you haven't bought it, yet, go out there and get a copy. Jack, what do you think about Barack Obama saying he'd engage in unconditional negotiations with President Ahmadinejad, the government, in Tehran, and he'd get to the end of this bitter confrontation, potentially, according to President Bush, could lead to World War III?
Well, I think anytime you can sit down and talk about something, it's probably better than whipping out the six-shooter and blowing a hole in a guy. I mean we can bomb Iran anytime we want. It would take about eight seconds to send a couple missiles their way and take out whatever nuclear facilities they have. But Bill Richardson says we ought to talk. Obama says we ought to talk. If you have an IQ above a cauliflower you got to think that talking to these guys is better than getting into another war. If I'm a young guy, I don't want to go to war. I'm not, I'm an old guy. I don't want to pay for any more wars. And if we can talk that little can of alphabet soup that runs North Korea into dismantling his nuclear program, why can't we sit down with these mullahs and see if we can play let's make a deal with them.
BLITZER: The argument the Bush administration makes is that the U.S. under President Bush and Condoleezza Rice, they would be willing to engage in open-ended discussions with the Iranian leadership but only, it's a huge but, but only after they stop enriching uranium. Something they are refusing to do. Does that make sense?
AMY HOLMES, CNN ANALYST: Well, that makes sense. But I think what we're all forgetting is this is a whole lot of been there, done that. We tasked the EU-3 if you remember back in 2005 to negotiate with Iran. They offered Iran WTO normalizing trade status and Iran unilaterally rejected the talks process. They walked away and reopened the nuclear research at Natanz facility in January of 2006 and basically they told the EU-3 plus Russia and China and the United States, we're going to go ahead and we're going to nuclearize whether you like it are not.
BLITZER: So what does it mean, Roland?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: What it means is the bottom line is, we cannot proceed down a path of threatening everybody that we will invade your country and a call for regime change if you don't do what we say. Look they're not going to stop to enrich uranium just to have a conversation with us. They're going to continue with it. The whole point of the conversation is to get them to stop.
And so if they stop doing that, why even talk? Reading that "New York Times" story when Obama talked about regime change he also, I think, brought the historical point. You know, we keep thinking Iran and America problems go back to '79, when they really go back to '53 and '54 when frankly we overthrew a Democratically elected president there over the whole issue of oil. That -- the people in that country were still ticked off 40 years later. So we can't deny our own history has a role in terms of how Iran feels about us.
BLITZER: Jack, listen to ...
HOLMES: Can I interject here?
BLITZER: Hold on, Amy, hold on. I'll get back to you in a moment. I want Jack to react first of all to what Senator Edwards is saying about Hillary Clinton, his major challenger and he's using the Iran issue as an issue to try to undermine her front-running status. Listen to this ...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN EDWARDS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Senate had a very clear chance to say unequivocally they were going to stop George Bush. That was on the resolution on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Senator Clinton had a chance, she voted yes. She voted with the president and with the neocons. Signing a letter now doesn't solve that problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Jack, what do you think?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I think John Edwards would like to be in Hillary's position in the polls. So he's going to say and do the things that he thinks will get him there. There are a lot of senators and congressmen who wish they voted differently going all the way back to the vote to authorize President Bush to wage war on Iraq. The fact of the matter is Congress hasn't done anything to stop President Bush from doing anything he damn well pleases.
BLITZER: You want to weigh in, Amy?
HOLMES: Well, I think it's good politics on John Edwards' part to be sort of pandering to the left of his party. But getting back to the whole issue of iran, there seems to be this mantra out there among Democrats that we're not talking to them. In fact, we are. The question is -- do we have high-level, public talks between the president of our United States and the president of Iran? And our administration said, no. But the idea that we're not talking to this country is simply false.
MARTIN: Wolf, the president invokes World War III as a possibility. I think that rises to the level of the president or the secretary of state getting involved in a conversation versus someone else.
HOLMES: He has not ...
MARTIN: No, no, the president has brought it up he raised the point, Amy. So, again, this is a major issue. We cannot sit here and act as if ...
HOLMES: Of course, it's a major issue. It's a major issue that Obama's being irresponsible in his policies and when he refused to acknowledge the history of talks with Iran that have failed.
MARTIN: You know, what ...
BLITZER: Hold on. Let Jack weigh in.
CAFFERTY: You got to give Iran something. They are going to continue down this road of enriching uranium because we've made it clear we're not going to allow them to do it. So, you know, everybody's playing "I got a bigger gun than you do." You got to engage them in a way that they come out of this with a little face. And the way you do that is you have a public meeting, you sit down with them in a public building with high-level people and you start talking about it.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to take a break.
CAFFERTY: And you explain to them, look, we want to do business. We don't want to bully you. But it can't be a unilateral, you're not going to do this. Somebody tells me that, I'm going to say, oh yeah, watch me.
HOLMES: We tried carrots and it didn't work. And that's the fact.
CAFFERTY: So you stop trying and start a war now? Come on.
BLITZER: Guys, stand by. Amy's referring, I think, to the discussions that the U.S. and Iranian ambassadors had discussions and apparently haven't led to much progress, at least not yet.
We showed you JEB Bush giving his opinion of the republican presidential candidates a few moments ago. Should he join their ranks? Another Bush in the White House. Is that a good idea or not? That topic coming up in our "Roundtable." as well as this one, the former President Jimmy Carter, he's the latest politician to speak out against UFOs. He tells what he saw in the skies decades ago. Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Mr. Bush is now rating the Republican presidential candidates. That would be JEB Bush, the former governor of Florida. The president's brother is talking about the candidates' strengths. Let's get back to our "Roundtable," our CNN contributor Roland Martin in Chicago, CNN political analyst Amy Holmes in San Francisco and Jack Cafferty in New York. A lot of people think that JEB Bush would be a good presidential candidate. Jack, what do you think?
CAFFERTY: Jim Carville said at breakfast we all had to go to the other morning that he thought JEB Bush might be the most attractive president of the Republican candidates except for his last name. Do you know that 40 percent of the people was not born, that's over 100 million people, the last time there wasn't a Bush or a Clinton in the White House. We've had -- we've had them there since Bush 41 was vice president to Ronald Reagan. It's enough Bushes and enough Clintons and it's time to go somewhere else.
BLITZER: Are Americans sick of Bush/Clinton dynasties, Roland?
MARTIN: Well, I wouldn't necessarily say that. Because it's also time and space. We look at George Bush 43rd ran, that was a space of eight years between Bill Clinton. And Hillary Clinton with her running now, you also have eight years with Bush running. The big difference is the Bushes control in essence the Republican Party infrastructure. That is fund-raising, resources, volunteers, staff, the same thing with the Clintons. So if the party apparatus gets behind the candidate, that is what really sets the stage. That's why we've had the dynasties. The Bushes and the Clintons, they control the parties.
BLITZER: Amy, should the Republican nominee, whoever that turns out to be, think about JEB Bush, the former governor of Florida, a key state, as a running mate?
HOLMES: It's an interesting idea. But I have to agree with Jack and Roland, if you look at American history, the American people are very comfortable with bequeathing president seats, when it comes to the presidency, not so much, we've only two father/son combos in the entire United States history, John Quincy Adams and of course George and George Bush. I think Clinton-Clinton, that would be a tough one. And putting Bush on the ticket as vice president, I don't think it would go down.
CAFFERTY: I agree with her. I think it's enough of both the families. And the point that Roland made about the machinery of the two major parties being controlled by these two families is very valid. And that's a lot of what's wrong with the entire system of government in this country is the machinery, the system, controls the country. The country no longer has any control over the country.
MARTIN: Wolf, the party ...
BLITZER: Go ahead, Roland. MARTIN: The Republicans would be nuts to put JEB Bush on the ticket. Because they're going to run against Clinton, Obama, whoever is going to be the Democratic nominee. In essence JEB Bush would have to be defending his brother's record. And trust me, they don't want to have to deal with that. They want to run against the opposition versus having to constantly defend the president.
BLITZER: Stand by for a second. Because the other night at the Democratic presidential debate, Dennis Kucinich, the congressman, the former mayor of Cleveland, acknowledged or at least confirmed when he was much younger, he did see a UFO. He got some rid dual for saying it. Listen to the former President Jimmy Carter, on AMERICAN MORNING, CNN's morning show, earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT: When I was back as a peanut farmer and the head of a Lions' Club in the southwest Georgia, I and perhaps about 25 others saw something in the air that changed colors and was round and came and left. We couldn't figure out what it was. It was unidentified as far as we were concerned. But I think it's impossible in my opinion, some people disagree, to have space people from other planets or other stars to come into this area. I don't think it's possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Jack, you grew up in Nevada. What do you think?
CAFFERTY: I think I remember a time when President Carter, and he's a delightful man, was in office and he went home to Georgia on a break. And he reported to the nation that while he was in the middle of a lake in a row boat he was attacked by a rabbit. That swam, threateningly, toward the rowboat. He may have had a bad bag of peanuts that day.
HOLMES: A killer rabbit.
CAFFERTY: I don't believe in UFOs myself. I think they'd have to be crazy to come here.
HOLMES: In all fairness to President Carter and Dennis Kucinich. UFO stands for unidentified flying objections, not necessarily from outer space.
BLITZER: What do you think, Roland?
MARTIN: UFO is a flying object, I can't figure out what the heck it is. And so you know what it is. He probably saw it. If all of a sudden he said, hey, you know, a couple of green Martians walked up and said, Jimmy, how are you doing, that would be a different question.
BLITZER: Roland Martin, Amy Holmes, thanks for both of you. Have a great weekend. Jack, you're not leaving yet. We have "Cafferty File" coming up here in THE SITUATON ROOM.
Also we have Rick Sanchez coming up in the top of the hour. Rick, what's coming up on your show?
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Hey, Rick, we're in Atlanta and OUT IN THE OPEN, first of all, we're just now getting some information, we're confirming this, we've got Brooke Anderson who is standing by who has been following this out in L.A., that Dog the Bounty Hunter, Duane Chapman out in L.A., after comments he made which we're going to have on our show and we're going to play them for you. Production has now been suspended. It would mean that he is off the air as a result of these vile comments that he seemingly made. We're going to be all over that story.
Also we're always all over the story about Tulsa, Oklahoma. This new immigration crackdown that's taking place there. It actually says that if you give an illegal immigrant a ride in your car, you go to jail for a year. So, we've got our correspondents standing by there. And a lot of news. We'll have it all for you, right here, coming up just a little bit, Wolf. A good conversation, by the way, that you guys were having a little bit ago. I liked that.
BLITZER: I liked it, too. Thank you very much, Rick, we'll see you in a few moments.
One Rpublican senator said spending, deficit spending, that is, is a bigger moral issue than abortion. Jack Cafferty wants to know what you think. He has got your e-mail. That's next.
BLITZER: Check back with jack once again for "The Cafferty File" this time. Hi, Jack.
CAFFERTY: Wolf, the question this hour -- Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma says that deficit spending is a bigger moral issue than abortion. We asked -- is he right?
Bill writes from California, "He is dead on. Unfortunately, it's our elected officials in both parties who cannot control spending. With the earmarks and the pork each sends home to buy votes we and our children will be paying for those votes the next century. There needs to be a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget which can be deviated from only in times of declared war or declared state of national emergency, requiring a two-thirds vote of Congress and the signature of the president."
Paul in Brooklyn writes, "I never thought I'd be in agreement with a Republican. When it came to anything concerning abortion. But I have to agree with Senator Coburn that deficit spending is a bigger moral issue than abortion. It's about time a Republican got off the party's talking points to discuss something that's important to all of Americans."
Brian writes, "You bet, Jack, it's the first time I've heard a Republican make sense in an awful long time." Shaun says, "So the senator says making sure the child is born with money or opportunity is more important than making sure the child is born. This man is more confused than the president and probably should not be a senator."
Suzy in Arizona writes, "With debt climbing and people having less and less money to spend, it won't be long before they'll be abortions because some people can't afford to have a baby. What'll Bush think then? Oh, he won't be in office. Somebody else will be cleaning up his mess."
And George writes, "What good are government programs that rob future generations to make our lives easier. Paying for things that are beyond our means has placed many Americans in debt or hell. Why should we do that to Americans not yet born?"
Iif you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile, we got them all over the Internet, along with video clips of this stuff, if you're interested. Wolf?
BLITZER: And you know, Jack, those trillions and trillions of dollars in the national debt. You know who owns a lot of those loans that we're going to be indebted to.
CAFFERTY: Communist China.
BLITZER: China, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates. A lot of the wealthy countries out there and it's not necessarily all that good.
CAFFERTY: No. And they're beginning to use all that money to buy a lot of American assets. Companies, and things of the like all over this nation. Thinks that you could have a debate whether they should even be for sale or not.
BLITZER: See you on Monday, Jack. Thanks very much, have a great weekend, Jack Cafferty, working hard for us in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Remember, this Sunday on LATE EDITION, the last word in Sunday talk, among my guests, the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, it's a LATE EDITION exclusive interview. LATE EDITION starts for two Sunday morning 11:00 a.m. Eastern. Starting Monday, a year from election day, the situation room on three hours back to back, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. Eastern. LOU DOBBS will air at 7:00 p.m. Till Sunday, hanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington, up next, Rick Sanchez with OUT IN THE OPEN. Rick?
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