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THE SITUATION ROOM

Pakistan in Chaos; Few Changes in New Presidential Polls; John Edwards Weighs in on Pakistan Crisis

Aired November 5, 2007 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, guys.
Happening now: brutal new blows to democracy, the breaking news coming out of Pakistan. A crackdown on civil unrest turning violent. Now the Bush administration is struggling to help keep a lid on the crisis plaguing a nuclear-armed ally.

Also this hour, new forecasts of who would win the president election -- presidential election if it were held today. One year before America votes, is the race for the White House wide open or open-and-shut? We have some brand-new poll numbers.

Also, John Edwards turning up the heat on Hillary Clinton in Iowa. Does he think she's qualified to be the nation's commander in chief? I'll ask Edwards to explain his line of attack on the Democratic frontrunner.

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

Right now the Bush White House is on diplomatic red alert as a key ally in the war on terror plunges deeper into crisis. That would be Pakistan.

Today police fired tear gas and clubbed thousands of lawyers and others protesting President Pervez Musharraf's decision to impose emergency rule. Pakistani opposition groups say thousands already have been arrested, and now the United States and other western allies are putting intense pressure on Mr. Musharraf to get back path of democracy or else.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Ed Henry. He's watching this story for us.

The president just spoke out on what is clearly a critical situation with enormous ramifications, not only for the region, but for the world. Explain what's going on, Ed.

ED HENRY, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. After a meeting with the Turkish prime minister about one crisis, PKK terrorists in Northern Iraq, President Bush speaking out about another crisis, this one in Pakistan, revealing that he instructed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today to call Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, and deliver a stern message that the U.S., No. 1, expects elections to be held, free and fair elections, as soon as possible, and that they also want General Musharraf finally to take off his military uniform. But more significant is what the president said next, saying that he basically gives an important vote of confidence to General Musharraf, by saying, once again, he is a key ally in the war on terror.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Previous to his decision, we had made it clear that these emergency measures were, you know -- would undermine democracy. Having said that, I did remind the prime minister that President Musharraf has been a strong fighter against extremists and radicals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: Now, just as significant is what the president did not say. When he was asked what consequences Pakistan will face if they do not follow through on the U.S. advice, Mr. Bush dismissed it as a hypothetical question, would not answer. So basically there's no stick for president Musharraf to follow.

BLITZER: Well, what about this -- what about the issue of U.S. military assistance? It's spent billions of dollars since 9/11. What, if anything, did the president say about suspending aid in order to use some leverage on General Musharraf?

HENRY: He said absolutely nothing. As you know, in recent days, privately U.S. officials have said that perhaps this aid of about $150 million a month would be cut off. Secretary of State Rice raised that prospect, as well.

But critics have said that's a hollow threat. And in fact, President Bush did not follow up on it today.

Now the Democratic Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, also lashed out, putting out a statement charging that she believes that President Bush has essentially enabled what she called the delusion that President Musharraf has had -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry at the White House, watching the story for us.

A stark warning from inside Pakistan today as to why whole world should care about the violence and the instability there comes in an exclusive interview I had with the Pakistani opposition leader, the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto. I spoke just a little while ago with her about the upheaval in her homeland. Listen to this little clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENAZIR BHUTTO, FORMER PAKISTAN PRIME MINISTER: But I'm afraid that Pakistan is a nuclear arms country. It is facing a threat from radicalization and terrorists. Whatever happens in Pakistan is also going to impact the rest of the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Explaining why the United States needs to do something to prevent a potential nuclear conflict in -- over Pakistan. The interview with Benazir Bhutto, that's coming up in the next hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM, my exclusive interview with her. She was at her home in Karachi.

Let's turn to the race for the White House right now. It's now only-- less than a year until the presidential election. And the top candidates are gearing up for the long haul. But first they have to make it out of the bruising primary battles, and that's less -- repeat less -- than two months away.

We'll turn to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's watching this unfold in New Hampshire.

Bill, we have some new, brand new CNN poll numbers that are out, showing what's going on specifically among the Democrats since last week's bruising debate. What are we picking up?

BILL SCHNEIDER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what we're picking up is what I would call a blow to Hillary Clinton's momentum.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Hillary Clinton got a lot of criticism for her performance in the debate last week.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are you asking me, did I hear things last night that would raise questions for voters? I did.

SCHNEIDER: Is there any evidence of damage among Democratic voters?

Clinton is still leading the Democratic field, but her lead over Barack Obama has slipped a bit, from 30 points in October to 19 points now. Clinton's momentum had been building steadily month by month since the spring. Last month it reached 51 percent. Now, her forward momentum has halted.

Rudy Giuliani continues to lead among Republicans nationally, though at 28 percent, Giuliani still doesn't get as much support from his party as Clinton does from hers.

The only noticeable change in the Republican race is that Mike Huckabee, the fifth place contender, has reached double digits.

Whatever damage Clinton suffered among Democrats, she still has a slight lead over Giuliani, six points, among all voters.

If Republicans nominate Giuliani, some conservatives are threatening to put up a third-party candidate who believes abortion should be outlawed. Is Giuliani concerned?

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My analysis of it is that that is more an attempt to try to keep the nomination from me, as a -- you know, as a tactic. It's an illegitimate one. People have to think about that and consider it.

SCHNEIDER: Here's something they might consider: 18 percent of voters say they would support an antiabortion third-party candidate against Clinton and Giuliani. Almost all of those votes would come from Giuliani.

In that three-way race, Clinton's margin over Giuliani would jump from six points to 16 points.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Conservatives can say to the Republican Party, "You nominate Giuliani, and we can bring him down."

Republicans can say to the conservatives, "You do that, and look who you'll be putting in the White House" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider in Manchester, New Hampshire, thank you very much.

And as all of our viewers know, bill is part of the Emmy Award- winning, best political team on television. Remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can always check out our political ticker at CNN.com/ticker.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty, who's part of that Emmy Award-winning best political team on television, as well.

And Jack, our viewers are getting excited, because they're beginning to realize that in our 6 p.m. hour, in our third and final hour of the day, not only will we be doing "The Cafferty File" but Jack Cafferty will be part of our political roundtable, which is always going to be interesting.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Nice way to finish up three hours, don't you think?

BLITZER: I think it's a great way to finish up three hours.

CAFFERTY: There you go.

BLITZER: More Jack.

CAFFERTY: House Democrats, Wolf, are turning up the heat in connection with the firing of those U.S. attorneys. Remember that? Those federal prosecutors that got canned when Alberto Gonzales was running the Justice Department?

This afternoon, House Democrats submitted a 102-page contempt report to the House clerk. It accuses former legal counsel Harriet Miers of three charges of contempt, chief of staff Josh Bolten with one, for failing to answer subpoenas from the House Judiciary Committee.

The head of that, John Conyers, has sent nine letters to the Bush administration on this issue. He wants testimony and documents from Bolten and Miers about those firings. Conyers also wants to interview Karl Rove and other current and former White house officials, but the White House calls Conyers's efforts a waste of Congress's time, and predicts that it won't go anywhere.

They have said this information is off-limits to lawmakers, because of executive privilege. Isn't everything?

Instead, the White House offered to make officials and documents available to committee members behind closed doors, off the record, and not under oath. Isn't that how democracy is supposed to work? I think it is.

The controversy over the firing of those U.S. attorneys hasn't gone away, even though former attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, mercifully has. Attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey didn't rule out prosecuting Miers and Bolten for contempt of Congress during his confirmation hearings.

So the question this hour is this: should the House proceed with contempt citations against current and former White House aides in connection with the U.S. attorney firings? E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.COM, or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile.

BLITZER: Conyers is pretty serious about this, Jack, you know. He's a tough guy.

CONYERS: There's one out of, what, 535 of them in the Senate and House who's serious about trying to get some accountability out of the White House. Good luck.

BLITZER: Jack, stand by. Thank you very much.

Hillary Clinton, is she qualified to be president or not?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARDS: Well, that depends on your definition of "qualified." I mean, I think that's what will be determined in this election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: John Edwards here in THE SITUATION ROOM taking on the Democratic front-runner and some tough questions about the situation in Pakistan.

Also a Republican underdog -- that would be Ron Paul -- pulling off another campaign fund-raising shocker. Wait until you hear how much money he's raised on the Internet.

And does being a Republican mean what it used to mean? Some influential party members saying no, and they suggest the current presidential race may be ruing -- ruining -- the GOP branding.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards today accusing his rival, Hillary Clinton, of having a two-faced approach to foreign policy on Iraq and Iran, even as another nation is exploding in crisis: Pakistan.

And joining us now from Iowa City, Iowa, the Democratic presidential candidate, the former senator, John Edwards.

Senator, thanks for coming in.

Let's talk about Pakistan right now, a huge crisis unfolding with enormous ramifications for the United States. This is a Muslim country that already has a nuclear arsenal.

If you were president right now, would you cut off military aid? The U.S. providing billions in military assistance to Pakistan since 9/11.

EDWARDS: Well, what I would do is use the great leverage that we have with Musharraf and the Pakistani government, which is aid. They rely on us for billions of aid, and we need to use that leverage to push Musharraf and the government to move toward open, free elections, Democratic reform, transparent operation of the government, transparent operation of the economy, I mean, all of the things that need to be happening in Pakistan, particularly...

BLITZER: But what if he doesn't do it? What if he doesn't do it? What do you do?

EDWARDS: Well, then we use -- we use the leverage we've got, and we start cutting off money. I mean, that's -- that's the leverage we have. We should use it, first as a tool to force them to do what they should be doing and to try to provide some level of stability in an extraordinarily unstable situation, as you just pointed out.

And if that doesn't work, then we just need to start taking money away.

BLITZER: Because there are some who are concerned that he's not perfect by any means, Musharraf, but he has been cooperative since 9/11 with the U.S. And if he goes down, it could be a whole lot worse, if the Taliban or al Qaeda or Muslim fundamentalists take charge of a country that already has a nuclear arsenal. It's a delicate balance you have to walk.

EDWARDS: I completely agree with that. I think the balance here is hard. I think what we want to do is push Musharraf, push the Pakistani government, but given the potential down the road that a very radical element could take over the government in Pakistan and have -- have access to a nuclear weapon, control of a nuclear weapon and be able to use it -- they're in constant conflict with India over Kashmir. Be able to turn such a weapon over to a terrorist organization. I mean, those are the things that we have to be constantly cognizant of, but they shouldn't keep us from putting pressure on him, which is what we should be doing now.

BLITZER: You delivered an important speech today on the lessons if the Iraq war and how they apply to a possible war with Iran. Among other things, you declared here at the end what you called the preventive war doctrine of Bush/Cheney, and that should go where it belongs, the trash heap of history.

But explain how you would deal with a crisis -- let's say your intelligence community came to you and said, "Mr. President, there's going to be another 9/11, or even worse with a nuclear 9/11." Wouldn't you do a preventative operation to stop that from happening?

EDWARDS: What -- what George Bush and Dick Cheney and the neo- cons did is they rejected decades of American foreign policy fashioned by FDR, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, and Republican presidents, not just Democratic presidents. And that -- that policy was to use force as a last resort.

And what this preventive war doctrine did -- by the way, preventative war doesn't prevent war. All it prevents, to quote Harry Truman, is -- is peace. And that's not what we should be doing. We should get rid of this doctrine.

It's -- first of all, it's unduly provocative to the rest of the world. And second, as president of the United States and commander in chief, I will do what has to be done to keep America safe. If there's an imminent threat and I'm completely satisfied that there's about to be an attack or an assault on America or on one of our allies, then I'll respond. I mean, I'll do the things that have to be done.

BLITZER: So you would launch -- you would launch a preemptive strike under certain circumstances?

EDWARDS: I would take the steps necessary to keep America and to keep Americans safe, but this doctrine of preventive war was first of all used in the lead-up to Iraq. You can hear them rattling their saber on Iran, which I'm sure we're going to talk about now, and it's a very dangerous doctrine for America and I think rejects decades of policy that was working very well.

BLITZER: You've really gone after Senator Clinton for her vote on that resolution, that Lieberman-Kyl resolution, that declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.

It passed 76-22, but among the Democratic senators who voted along the same lines she did, Dick Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer. These are anything but neo-cons. She's in pretty good company from your former Senate colleagues, isn't she?

EDWARDS: I think it's wrong. I mean, I don't know any other way to say it. I think what that -- what that resolution did is it paved the way for Bush and Cheney to do what they did a few weeks later, was -- which was to declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization and a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction. I mean, this is unprecedented. This is a state-sponsored militia.

BLITZER: So all these other senators, all these other Democratic senators are wrong, as well, just as she was wrong?

EDWARDS: I believe this is the wrong thing to do, and I think it's particularly wrong to do when you're running for president of the United States and you're saying that you're going to stop Bush from taking military action in Iran.

If you're going to stop Bush from taking military action in Iran -- excuse me. If you're going to stop Bush from taking military action in Iran, then when this opportunity presents itself, you have to stand up and make clear that you're going to stand your ground.

You know, the lesson I have learned, unfortunately, the hard way on Iraq is if you give this president an inch, he'll take a mile. And he has to be stopped.

BLITZER: All right.

EDWARDS: And you can't say that you -- when you're out on the campaign trail that you're going to stand up to him, and when the real test comes, you vote with Bush and Cheney.

BLITZER: Is -- is Hillary Clinton qualified to be commander in chief?

EDWARDS: Well, it depends on your definition of "qualified." I mean, I think that's what's going to be determined in this -- in this election.

I mean, my own view is that, if you -- what we desperately need in the next president, is somebody who recognizes that we have a system in Washington that's become broken. It doesn't work for most Americans. It's become -- corruption has crept into it, and we have to tell the truth about that.

And if you defend that system, it's -- I don't believe you can bring about the change that America needs. So in terms of what America needs at this crucial point in our country's history, is we actually need a president who understands what's wrong and can bring about the change as a result.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: John Edwards speaking with me just a little while ago.

Coming up, Democrat Joe Biden says he wouldn't want to be Hillary Clinton's vice president, and he's taking a jab at his presidential primary opponent along the way.

Senator Biden goes one on one with our Candy Crowley aboard the CNN Election Express. Plus it's a lot of cash for a presidential candidate who often barely registers in the national polls. Stand by for Ron Paul's new fund-raising surprise. It's a huge surprise.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Carol Costello is following some other important stories incoming in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Carol, what's going on?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: A couple things, Wolf.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she is hopeful Israel and the Palestinians can find common ground on a two-state solution. Rice met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank today. Abbas agreed with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that there is, quote, "a real possibility to achieve peace."

A U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace conference will be held in Annapolis, Maryland. The date is still pending.

Bayer is suspending sales of its anti-bleeding drug, Trasylol. The FDA requested the move. Preliminary data from a new study suggests the clotting medication is linked to an increased risk of dying, compared to other similar drugs. Trasylol, which is also known as Aprotinin, is used to stop excessive bleeding in heart surgery.

Airlines, hair salons and your dentist, they've all helped keep the U.S. economy plugging away. Orders for non-manufacturing industries increased for the 55th consecutive month in October, but analysts warn it's still too soon to tell if economic growth will pick up overall, because manufacturing remains in a slowdown.

And you will see re-runs if you turn on Jay Leno and other late- night TV shows tonight. That's because Hollywood writers are on strike from New York to Los Angeles. They want a bigger slice of the Internet revenue pie. A last-ditch effort to reach an agreement collapsed last night.

The strike will not affect primetime TV shows or movies, at least for now, because studios have been stockpiling scripts.

A look at the headlines right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: And the strike will not affect us here at CNN.

COSTELLO: Nope.

BLITZER: Certainly not in THE SITUATION ROOM. No reruns; we're live. We're live for three hours, and that's that, Carol.

COSTELLO: And our fabulous writers are on the job.

BLITZER: That's right. Thank you very much, Carol, for that.

Does GOP stand for a brand name in decline? That's what some Republicans are asking, including a powerful voice in a Republican -- in Republican politics in a key southern state, who suggests it's time to repair what many see as a damaged brand.

And Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson says he didn't know about an adviser's criminal past. Now, that adviser is paying a price.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, jails overflowing with opposition figures as Pakistani forces brutally enforce emergency measures. Pakistan's president is under pressure from the U.S. to resolve the crisis. The former Pakistani prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, speaks to me exclusively about the state of emergency. That interview coming up.

Also, one man's words helped cause the Iraq war, but his words were false. Now there's a report on who that man is.

And teaching children to kill. You're going to hear about boys being recruited on the Internet, and how one shocked his parents when he said he wanted to be a suicidal terrorist.

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

Any operation that hopes to last must be sure to protect its brand name, but right now some are asking if the Republican Party's image is tarnished, and if so, whether it can be repaired before the 2008 election.

Our chief national correspondent, John King is in New York. He's watching this story.

You've been talking to some people who know a lot about the Republican image out there, and some of them are deeply concerned. What's going on, John?

JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They sure are, Wolf. You have an unpopular war, an unpopular president, still a lot of finger-pointing over just what went wrong in 2006. Hardly the best of times for the GOP.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING (voice-over): One year to election day, and the Republican Party is looking for much more than a new leader.

GOV. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It takes time to damage a brand. It takes even longer to rebuild it.

KING: A good brand builds trust. The consumer knows what to expect. It's critical in the marketplace and in politics.

SANFORD: The Republican Party, I think, has really been hurt with regard to its brand on the degree to which it will walk the walk on government spending and government taxes.

KING: South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford sees a party that has lost its way on pocketbook issues. Others see a threat to the GOP's social conservative branding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see more anger, more frustration, more of a sense of betrayal by the Republican leaders in Washington now than I have in the 45 years I have been involved at the national level.

KING: Whatever the reason, the brand is in decline. Only 25 percent of Americans identify themselves as Republican, 36 percent when independents are asked which party they lean toward. By comparison, 33 percent identify as Democrats. And that climbs to 50 percent when independents are asked their leanings, the largest gap in 20 years of Pew Research Center polling.

ANDREW KOHUT, PRESIDENT, PEW RESEARCH CENTER: It's the war. I think it's the way Bush has right now the -- views about way Bush has run the country, and discontent with the status quo.

KING: All this on the watch of a president whose bold ambition was to build a lasting Republican majority.

SANFORD: He's not the only one to blame. I don't want to suggest that. As much as the presidency, if you're the party in power, is that sort of titular head of the Republican Party, certainly, some of the buck stops there.

KING: Picking a new leader is just one step in the rebuilding process.

WHIT AYRES, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: The real challenge for the Republican Party is figuring out how to keep the base happy, while at the same time reaching out to the independents who voted Democrat in 2006.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Keeping the base happy is the dominant theme of the primary campaign, Wolf, for the Republican nomination, all of the candidates tripping all over themselves at the moment to prove who is the true and who is the most conservative, very little talk of the big ideas that many in the party believe are necessary to reach out to the independents. They hope that comes down a few months down the road, when the party finally has a clear new leader -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John, thank you very much. John King is in New York. He is going to have a lot more important political stories, plus all the day's other important news, when he hosts "ANDERSON COOPER 360" later tonight. "A.C. 360" airs at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN. Senator Joe Biden is trying today to make headway in Iowa, where polls suggest he's struggling uphill all the way. A bright spot for the Democratic presidential hopeful, a foreign policy crisis that plays to his strong suit.

The senator sat down with our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, aboard the CNN Election Express. It was early in the morning.

Does he really believe, Candy, that he has a shot at getting this nomination?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, he can an argument, Wolf, that he does, that, if he does well here -- and he says that's, you know, first, second or third -- that he could in fact win Iowa and then, of course use that momentum to move forward.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): As Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was arresting dissidents, Joe Biden was in a living room in Osceola, Iowa, showing off his Rolodex.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As I talked to Mrs. Bhutto, as I exchanged calls with Musharraf this morning, not at my institution, my wife is asking me at 8:00 in the morning, who are you talking to?

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: Crisis in Pakistan is a headline made for Biden, a single-digit candidate with neither the money, nor the crowds of his supernova competition, Biden banks his ambitions on a living room campaign and foreign policy expertise. A dangerous world, he says, requires a president who doesn't need on-the-job training.

BIDEN: These are good, decent people, these Democrats. It's going to take them a while to get their footing. We don't have a whole long time.

CROWLEY (on camera): And are you talking about Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama?

BIDEN: I'm talking about all -- I'm talking about the entire field. I'm talking about the entire field, the entire field. And I...

CROWLEY: The whole field needs OJT?

BIDEN: Well, I think to one degree or another, yes. The exception might be Chris Dodd.

CROWLEY (voice-over): He believes -- he has to believe -- in Iowa's proven ability to deliver surprises on caucus night. If he is the surprise, Biden thinks he will be the nominee. If it's Clinton, he warns, she comes with baggage that will change the nature of a general campaign.

BIDEN: It's not Senator Clinton's fault, but, right now, if anyone else is the nominee, it's going to be about Bush and his legacy. If it's Senator Clinton, because of the power of the name, and the power of the family, and the -- and the popularity of the family, as well as the detractors, I think it will be an awful lot about Clinton.

CROWLEY: At 35 years in the Senate, and at the age of 64, Biden knows his stuff and himself, who he is and who he will not be.

(on camera): We have brought you to where your plane is, and so, I know you have got to get going. But I have one requisite question.

BIDEN: Sure. No. Take your...

CROWLEY: Vice president?

BIDEN: No. No. I promise, no.

And the reason is, I think, if I don't win the nomination, the likely nominee is going to be Hillary. And I love Bill Clinton. But can you imagine being vice president?

CROWLEY: So, you think he sort of would be -- kind of take that vice presidential role? Is that what you're saying?

BIDEN: Oh, I don't know.

CROWLEY: Overshadow you.

BIDEN: It's just -- it just is, I think -- I think you're going to -- I think it would not be something where the next vice president is going to have all that much input. And I don't want to -- you know, I'm not looking for a ceremonial post.

CROWLEY (voice-over): It is lonely business being a single-digit candidate, but Biden is relaxed and philosophical. If he loses, he will his expertise and his Rolodex back to the Senate.

BIDEN: See you. Thanks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Biden admits to being frustrated by the lack of attention in the media and by the lack of time in those debates. But an Iowa surprise could change all that. As Biden puts it, "If I do well here, you guys will have to cover me" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Windy there in Des Moines, Candy?

CROWLEY: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: Just -- just a tad. BLITZER: A little bit windy.

CROWLEY: I believe a cold front is coming.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Good thing you have got that -- that nice CNN Election Express bus to go warm up in behind you.

Thanks very much.

CROWLEY: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Candy Crowley is on the campaign trail for us.

The CNN Election Express, by the way, is going across the country, bringing politics to you, the voter, in Iowa. Tomorrow, Candy Crowley, by the way, has another big interview with the Democratic presidential front-runner, Hillary Clinton. She will be on the bus with Candy Crowley. Does Senator Clinton think she's damaged after a bruising debate last week?

The one-on-one interview aboard the CNN Election Express tomorrow, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Candy Crowley and John King, as all of our viewers know, are both part of the Emmy Award-winning best political team on television. Remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can check out our Political Ticker. Go to CNN.com/ticker.

A man who Fred Thompson counts as a close friend apparently was keeping a dark secret, a criminal past that includes a record for drug dealing. Now that man's past has been revealed, and he is paying for what he calls an embarrassment.

Who's to blame for the violent eruption in Pakistan? Does the U.S. some -- bear some of the responsibility? We will discuss that and more in our "Strategy Session."

And is Hillary Clinton smartly playing to her base of simply playing the woman card? Some critics blast her as having trying to have it both ways.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: One of Fred Thompson's close friends is stepping down from his role in the Republican presidential campaign, now that a criminal past has been revealed. And that includes a record for drug dealing.

Mary Snow is watching this story for us. Mary is joining us from New York.

It seems that the senator himself was caught off guard by these revelations, Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

Wolf, Fred Thompson indicated that he only learned about Phil Martin's past over the weekend. He said he wouldn't throw his friend under the bus, that they would talk and figure out the right thing to do. Today, Martin quit the campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): On the campaign trail today, Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson didn't mention his friends and fund-raiser Phil Martin. Martin quietly resigned from the campaign one day after "The Washington Post" reported over the weekend that he had a criminal record dating back more than 20 years.

That caught Thompson off guard.

FRED THOMPSON, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He thought it was over and done with and forgotten about, I'm sure, but, of course, nothing is ever over and done with and forgotten about in this business.

SNOW: State records in Florida show Martin pled guilty to marijuana charges in 1979 and no contest to cocaine trafficking and bookmaking charges in 1983. He got probation both times.

Messages left by CNN for Martin and his attorney went unanswered, but the Thompson campaign released a statement from Martin announcing his resignation, stating: "The focus of this campaign should be on Fred Thompson's positions on the issues and his outstanding leadership ability, not on mistakes I made some 24 years ago. I deeply regret any embarrassment this has caused."

One political analyst says, damage control is key in revelations like this.

STUART ROTHENBERG, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": What you want to do is, you want to try to act as quickly as you can, so that a story doesn't fester, doesn't grow, doesn't become bigger than it starts out.

SNOW: Thompson's campaign isn't the only one to have ties associates with problematic pasts. The Clinton campaign gave back thousands of dollars after it was revealed that fund-raiser Norman Hsu had a criminal record. Like Hsu, Martin was a fund-raiser.

"The Post" also reported, Thompson's campaign paid Martin more than $100,000 for use of his private jet. The campaign says Thompson didn't use the plane Sunday or today.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now, as for his position, Martin resigned as the chair of the First-Day Founders of the Friends of Fred Thompson.

As for exactly how much money he raised, a campaign spokesman said he didn't have a figure -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, does the campaign plan any further action?

SNOW: You know, a spokesman says, at this point, there is no further action planned. And Fred Thompson yesterday had that he -- that Martin had not raised any funds improperly. So, he was clear to draw that pretty early on.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Mary Snow in New York.

The Republican -- Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, he is an underdog candidate. He often barely registers in the national polls, but he is getting a massive amount of online fund-raising support and an enormous push from his very energetic supporters.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She's following this story for us.

All right, give us the background. What is going on? Because this is a pretty incredible story.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, we have seen candidates online this cycle using gimmicks to fund-raise. It might be a birthday or a meal with a candidate.

Well, for the grassroots online supporters of Ron Paul, the fund- raising hook is a date the 5th of November, today, designated for a big fund-raising drive. You will see this date repeated in online forums, in YouTube videos, unofficial sites dedicated to Ron Paul all over the Web.

Now, the 5th of November, if you don't know English history, this a day in 1609 that a man, Guy Fawkes, tried to blow up the houses of Parliament. It's also the focus of this recent film "V For Vendetta."

Blowing up Parliament? Well, we spoke to the guy that is running this Web site that has been pushing this fund-raising drive. There are many of them. And he said the message is not violent. This is just a fund-raising idea that spread online virally. The Ron Paul campaign confirms that the idea didn't come from them, but they have been monitoring it all day.

And a spokesman for the campaign says that, since midnight, they have brought in more than $2.5 million, some amazing figures. Those are figures we can't at CNN confirm right now. We will have to wait until those FEC filings at the end of the year for this quarter for the breakdown -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Those are actually pledges or people supposedly gave their credit card numbers and they made the contributions? Do we know?

TATTON: We have talked to them, and they said these are actual donations that have come in online. Again, Wolf, we can't confirm that under those FEC breakdowns are out at the end of the year.

BLITZER: Well, that's an incredible sum for one day, if in fact they have raised $2-million plus in one day. That would be amazing.

All right, thanks very much, Abbi, for that.

This programming note for our viewers. On November 15, I will be in Las Vegas -- that's in Nevada -- to moderate a debate in that key Western state among the Democratic presidential candidates, November 15. It's a Thursday night in Vegas.

Today in the "Strategy Session": President Bush reiterates his call for elections in Pakistan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We expect there to be elections as soon as possible and that the president should remove his military uniform.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Key Democrats, at least some of them, laying at least some of the blame for the instability in Pakistan at President Bush's own feet.

And our brand-new CNN poll numbers -- with a year to Election Day, is the race for the White House losing or taking shape? Paul Begala, J.C. Watts, they are standing by live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're a year before all of us choose a new president, but only less than two months before Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina, as we count down. We're looking at some fresh poll numbers that are coming into THE SITUATION ROOM, who is up, who is down.

Let's get to our "Strategy Session" right now with our two CNN political analysts. Paul Begala is a Democratic strategist, and J.C. Watts is a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma.

Put on your strategic hat right now. I'm going to give you the latest poll numbers for the Republican candidates. And I want you to handicap the Republican contest, Paul.

Right now, Giuliani remains atop with 28 percent, Fred Thompson 19, McCain 16, Romney 11. Mike Huckabee went from October, 5, up to 10 percent. He is moving, moving up.

Give us your little handicap. What's going on among the Republicans?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The biggest thing is that Republicans are still unhappy with their field. I have to say, as a Democrat, that's a very talented field. That's a bunch of really, really able guys, and yet Republicans are unhappy with them. That's just the first thing, the unhappiness with the field. The second thing is that none of them right now are campaigning on change. We want an anti-Bush. Nobody is running like Nicolas Sarkozy did in France, saying, yes, I'm of the same party of the incumbent, but I know you hate him, so I'm going to be real different.

They're running basically on the Bush message, especially on the war, on the economy, on health care. So, I think this is one of the reasons it's in such a state of flux. We always, in the past, have always known who the Republican nominee was a year or two in advance. It was always the oldest white guy. It was like, Dole, get in there or whatever. You know, Bush, get in there. It was -- and now we don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: It was pretty predictable.

BEGALA: Yes.

BLITZER: I want you to handicap the Democratic field, J.C. And we will put the numbers up as well. You can see, Senator Clinton, she went in October from 51 down to 44 percent. Obama is at 25, Edwards 14. Richardson and Biden and everybody else down in the low single digits.

Give us your handicap. What's going on, on the Democratic front?

J.C. WATTS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, Senator Clinton is obviously still the front-runner. She has been bumped downwards about seven points, but she still has 19-, 20-point lead.

That's pretty consistent around the country, but I think most of the candidates would say the battle is going to be fought on a state- by-state level. I think the candidates feel like they have a better chance there. I think Barack Obama is the one that has the real chance of knocking her off of her perch.

But I think Senator Obama is still dealing with one problem that he hasn't figured out. He's still thinking that the campaign is about vision. Unfortunately, it is not. It is about establishment politics. Senator Clinton has the establishment in her camp. She's got the most popular Democrat in the country on her side. That creates some problems for him.

BLITZER: There's a huge problem right now, namely, Pakistan, a close ally under President Musharraf since 9/11, a country with a nuclear arsenal, but a strong Taliban, a strong al Qaeda presence right now. And he's basically abrogated the constitution to try to take charge.

Listen to Joe Biden, what he said about the president, General Pervez Musharraf. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: If you're Musharraf, and you see the last two years our entire attention being diverted to Iraq, us not being in a position where we look like we're really in it to stay in Afghanistan, then you start cutting your own deals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What do you think of Senator Biden -- he's the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee -- his analysis?

BEGALA: I think he knows a lot about this, and I think he's right. He has got decades of experience here.

I will also say, his colleague, Senator Clinton, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, two and three years ago, was going to Afghanistan. Her state is the home of the 10th Mountain Division. So, not only is she a presidential candidate. She has a special concern about Afghanistan, because the 10th Mountain Division has been deployed in Afghanistan, a very mountainous country.

And she, for years, has been saying the same thing as Biden, which is, we're ignoring the war that we probably have a better chance of winning in order for the -- the war in Iraq. So, I think Democrats are making a good case here on Bush.

BLITZER: All right.

J.C., what do you think?

WATTS: Well, cutting his own deals with who? I think Musharraf, he has been an ally, but he came into power in 1999, by way of a military coup. He's wearing a general's cap and a president's cap. That's not good for the Pakistani people.

He's been promising since 1999 that he was going to have civilian elections. He's yet to do that. So, Wolf, this points to, I think, the complexities of foreign policy today. We have got Pakistan, Afghanistan, Israel, you know, the Middle East.

BLITZER: All right.

WATTS: I mean, it's a real mess.

BLITZER: And it certainly is.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But hold that thought, because we have got to go.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Thanks, guys for coming in.

Do you know where your presidential candidates are on the campaign trail? Clustered in one important state. Is it yours?

Also, she describes violent scenes of Pakistan's crisis. The former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, she is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Actually, she's in Karachi, but she's talking to us in THE SITUATION ROOM about what's going on in Pakistan, what she thinks the U.S. should be doing right now.

And his false claims -- and they are very false -- helped lead the U.S. into the war in Iraq and helped plunge Iraq into chaos. We're learning now new details about the man the intelligence community dubbed Curveball, including what is said to be his true identity.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: On our Political Ticker this Monday, the most frequent flyers in Iowa and New Hampshire. It's a busy day in Iowa, with six presidential candidates stumping in the leadoff caucus state. All are Democrats, except for Republican John McCain.

Iowa's Democratic Party reports Clinton has spent fewer days campaigning in the leadoff caucus state than most of her top rivals this year. She's been there 30 days. Joe Biden leads the pack, by the way, with 61 days. On the Republican side, a tally by George Washington University shows underdog candidate Mike Huckabee has spent more days in Iowa, 29, than any of his rivals. That helps explain why he's surged to second place, or tied for the number-two spot, in several recent Iowa polls.

Two Republicans are spending this day hunting for votes in New Hampshire, Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani has spent one- fourth of his time in New Hampshire as second-tier candidates Tom -- as has Tom Tancredo. A G.W. survey finds Tancredo, by the way, leads the pack by stumping a whopping 59 days in New Hampshire.

John Edwards has spent 33 days in New Hampshire, more than any of his Democratic rivals.

Jack Cafferty is watching all of this in New York for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: You know what's nice about those two states? You can't just throw a bankroll in there and have them run some TV ads, and get it done. You have to go there. You have got to talk to people. You have got to learn a little bit bit about their issues and what's on their mind. What a refreshing approach to this democracy we have.

The question this hour is, should the House proceed with contempt citations against current and former White House aides in connection with the firing of those U.S. attorneys?

Mike in Arlington writes: "As public servants, it's their patriotic duty to testify if the Constitution and law have been violated. If that means dragging them into court or to Congress to a hearing in custody wearing handcuffs, so be it. Miers and the lot of them have made their White House beds, and now it's time to lie in them. Executive privilege has been perverted to the point that it's now become obstruction of justice."

Taylor in Georgia writes: "The simple fact is, this issue is a non-issue. Our Constitution gives the president the right to hire and fire attorneys and other government officials at his leisure. While I completely disagree with the president's reasons for dismissing these lawyers, I respect his right to do so. And, by continually pressing this issue, the Democrats are not helping themselves."

Brian disagree, Maine -- Portland, Maine -- "Nah. Since there's no more pesky balance of powers, the administration can do anything it wants. They have nothing to hide, so why should we be interested in looking? To paraphrase the thief in chief, the Constitution, just a piece of paper."

Jean in Pennsylvania: "Yes, but they won't. The Democrats have calculated incorrectly that confronting the administration will be perceived as negativity. So, while the prospects are increased for the November 2008 election by this tactics, the chances that there will be a country worth governing in November of 2008 continue to decline."

Nelson writes from New Jersey: "The House should hold off on the contempt citations for now. We saw what happened with Scooter Libby. Anyone else in the administration found guilty of violating any law will get a pardon as well. Better to wait until a new administration is elected."

And Jim in California notes that: "Yes, I would like to know the truth. President Bush comes off like Bubba Barbecue. But..."

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: "But I think he's very devious. By the way, wouldn't it be great fun to know the truth about both the Clinton and Bush administrations?"

Bubba Barbecue -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack.

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