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Pervez Musharraf Tightens Grip on Pakistan; Interview With New York Senator Hillary Clinton

Aired November 6, 2007 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, happening now: dueling challenges to the Bush-Cheney White House, the president facing what could be his first veto override, and the vice president -- get this -- facing a new call for impeachment.
Also this hour, even some of Rudy Giuliani supporters are wondering what he is thinking. The former mayor keeps praising his onetime police chief now disgraced and under investigation.

And can Hillary Clinton stand the heat of the presidential campaign? After a bruising Democratic presidential debate, she's talking about her missteps and questions that say she may be hiding something. It's an exclusive interview aboard the CNN Election Express.

All that, plus Jack Cafferty teaming up for some blunt talk with the best political team on television.

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

But, first, we're following the breaking news out of Pakistan. President Pervez Musharraf tightening his grip on power with violent new arrests of hundreds of lawyers and many judges now under house arrest. And now General Musharraf is reaching out to Democratic U.S. lawmakers, calling Senator Joe Biden and Representative Tom Lantos.

Biden says he urged Mr. Musharraf to restore the rule of law.

Our State Department correspondent Zain Verjee is right now in Islamabad. She's joining us.

So, what else can you tell us about this crackdown, first of all, Zain, on the lawyers?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are hearing that more than 3,000 lawyers have now been arrested in this major crackdown on them in Pakistan.

We have also learned, Wolf, that they're being brought in on terrorism charges and that their cases are being brought before anti- terror courts. The courts throughout the entire country are in lockdown. The lawyers are not even going to court.

We're also hearing, too, that thousands of political activists and human rights activists have also been arrested. Opposition leaders have been arrested as well. We're hearing also, Wolf, as you have heard, as you know, too, that the media, the television is off the air. You turn on the TV, there's nothing, no local media, no international channels. CNN, BBC, it's off the air. Eight journalists, we're hearing, Wolf, have been arrested.

BLITZER: And if you go out on the streets of Islamabad, the capital, Zain, what do you see? What are people doing? What is the mood out there?

VERJEE: Well, we have talked to people since we have been here. We have only been here a few hours, and on the surface of it, Wolf, people are kind of going about their everyday business. It seems like business as usual.

But there's really an underlying sense below that surface of unease and uncertainty and people are really wondering what is going to happen next.

BLITZER: All right, Zain, be careful over there in Islamabad -- Zain Verjee reporting for us.

The chief justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, is among the judges now under house arrest. He says he believes like many others that General Musharraf cracked down on the judicial system because he expected the supreme court to bar him from seeking another term as president. The chief judge, however, was not a part of that decision.

In an exclusive interview, I asked the chief judge for his assessment of Musharraf.


BLITZER: Do you believe he is a dictator?

IFTIKHAR MOHAMMAD CHAUDHRY, PAKISTANI CHIEF JUSTICE: Of course. Who was the person who was not believing in the independence of the judiciary, who was not believing in the norms of the law, who was not believing that let the independent judiciary give an independent decision, was not allowing the judges to work independently? Then what one say that he was actually wanted to dictate. And that is only the habit of a dictator.


BLITZER: The chief judge also called on the United Nations and the United States to pressure General Musharraf, but he stopped short of calling for a cutoff of aid.

Closer to home, right here in Washington, President Bush may now be on the brink of an unprecedented defeat. The House of Representatives is voting on whether to override his latest veto, this after a delay to deal on a red-hot question, a delay to deal with the question of this. Should Vice President Dick Cheney be impeached?

Let's go to our congressional correspondent, Jessica Yellin. She's following both of these stories for us. First of all, on the House and the Senate about to deliver a serious defeat to the president.


The vote is happening right now in the House of Representatives, and it is expected to be a real repudiation of President Bush on this issue. Now, the president has vetoed a $23 billion water bill. He says it's filled with pork. And plenty of Republicans who have stuck by him on his other spending fights are ready to break with him tonight. They say this bill is essential to improving Americans' lives.


REP. CANDICE MILLER (R), MICHIGAN: I like to think about myself as a fiscal conservative, but part of that I believe it means being able to clearly make choices about priority spending. In my mind, these types of projects are priorities for our nation.


YELLIN: Now, there are a few Republicans still standing with the president. A number of them calling their colleagues hypocrites for supporting such a costly bill.


REP. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: There's something wrong with this picture. So, I think that we should sustain the president's veto. We need to be fiscally responsible, not just with appropriations, but with authorizations as well.


YELLIN: Now, the bottom line, the real winner here are the Democrats. Today, Steny Hoyer borrowed a phrase of the president's. He said tonight's vote is evidence that Congress and not the president is the real decider.

And the big question tonight, Wolf, is, is tonight's vote a onetime break with the president or a sign that Republicans are ready to repudiate Mr. Bush and override a number of his other promised vetoes in the weeks to come?

BLITZER: And as we're looking at the live tally right now, 261 yea, they're getting very, very close to that two-thirds majority needed to override the president's veto in the House.

We will watch it and bring the information to our viewers as we get it.

But this vote, very dramatic, very important, was delayed because of something else. Explain what happened, because it was quite a surprise. YELLIN: It was a surprise. The vote got sidetracked on, of all things, a resolution to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney.

And just before debate was about to begin on the water bill, Dennis Kucinich introduced a resolution that accused the vice president of misleading Congress about the case for the war in Iraq, and he called for his impeachment.

Well, the Republicans, they saw a political opportunity and, instead of voting that down, Republicans actually sided with Representative Kucinich in favor of having the House draw up impeachment articles. Now, the Republicans hoped that would divide and embarrass Democrats.

You should know that tonight the Democratic majority leader made clear that impeachment is not on the Democrats' agenda -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much for that, Jessica Yellin.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He has got "The Cafferty File" up in New York.

Hi, Jack.


The world is a vastly different place than it was before September 11, 2001, especially in the Middle East. In Pakistan, as you know, President Musharraf suspended the constitution, declared a state of emergency. He's locking up everybody, throwing his country into turmoil.

Seven years ago, President Bush didn't know Musharraf's name, but he hoped he would bring stability and democracy to Pakistan. Wrong. In Afghanistan, the Taliban are back. Al Qaeda never left. Just today, a suicide bomber killed at least 35 people, possibly many more, and insurgent violence is at its highest levels there since U.S. forces invaded in 2001.

Right after 9/11, the U.S. went after the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan, like we should have. But it quickly became more important to invade Iraq than to complete the job in Afghanistan. And that still remains undone. And now, after almost five years, U.S. troops remain mired in Iraq's civil war with no end in sight there.

In 2001, you will recall, Iraq was quiet, surrounded by no-fly zones and under the strict control of strongman Saddam Hussein. Then there is Iran. Israel says Iran could have nuclear weapons by 2009. In 2001, Iran condemned the 9/11 attacks and was one of the first countries to send condolences to the U.S.

These days President Bush, Vice President Cheney sound like they can hardly wait to start bombing Iran. The U.S. wanted the Palestinians to hold elections. They did. The terrorist group Hamas won. And how about Turkey, which is now threatening to invade northern Iraq and beat up on the Kurds, something that wouldn't have even been considered in 2001?

So, here's the question. To what degree is the U.S. responsible for the myriad problems that currently exist in the Middle East? E- mail your thoughts to or go to

A lot of things have changed, Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of things have changed.

Jack, stand by, because, in addition to "The Cafferty File" you are going to be back for our roundtable discussion. That's coming up this hour as well.

I want to go back to Jessica Yellin very quickly.

Jessica, the vote, the rally, it's over with, a resounding defeat for the president.

YELLIN: That's right, Wolf, 349 in favor at this time as they're still tallying votes, the first successful override of a presidential veto.

Here's why it matters. It's because the Democrats are now going to say this is the first of a series. They're going to feel victorious and confident that they will be able to override some more of the president's promised vetoes. At least that will be the hope after tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And a similar lopsided tally expected in the Senate. That's coming up.

All right, Jessica, thank you very much.

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," by the way, starts at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. It's the new time at the top of the hour.

Just ahead: Senator Hillary Clinton off her game.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wasn't at my best the other night. We have had a bunch of debates, and, you know, I wouldn't rank that up in my very top list.


BLITZER: A rare admission in a CNN exclusive. How does she explain her misstep? And would she ever consider running for vice president?

Also, why is Rudy Giuliani aspiring to work like someone who is under criminal investigation? The Republican front-runner praising a man who could face bribery and tax evasion charges.

And, as many of you eat dinner, how safe are your meals? The government is out with new tools to try to keep dangerous foods off our table.

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


BLITZER: Hillary Clinton keeps saying she is under attack by her rivals, not because she's a woman, but because she's winning.

The presidential Democratic front-runner is acknowledging that those attacks threw her off her game a bit the other night.

She gave an exclusive interview to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, aboard the CNN Election Express.

Candy is joining us now from Newton, Iowa.

She's getting back on message. Candy, what's going on?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was really interesting to me, because, as you know, this whole week in -- right after the debate, Hillary Clinton has been hit on not just what she said, but her performance in general. And it was interesting to me that she actually agrees.


CROWLEY: Let me talk to you about politics.

Post-debate, you have gotten pretty hard hit. And if you boiled down the criticism on the various subjects, it is this: She lacks candor; when the questions get tough, she dodges.

What is your reaction to that?

CLINTON: Well, I understand the necessity for criticism. We are getting toward the end of a very long presidential primary process. And I wasn't at my best the other night. We have had a bunch of debates, and I wouldn't rank that up in my very top list.

But I have answered probably -- oh, I don't know, more than 5,000 questions in the last 10 months. And I have been very clear about where I stand and what I want to do for the country.

I have laid out very specific plans on how we are going to have a different energy agenda, how we are going to have a health care plan that covers everybody, how we are going to improve our education system and all of the other issues that people talk to me about, as well as what we need to do to restore America's leadership around the world.

And I have even put out how I'm going to pay for each and every one of the policies that would cost money. So I am very encouraged as I go around in these events in Iowa and New Hampshire and elsewhere.

People are hearing me. They are following this campaign. They understand the give and take of politics and the up and down of the campaign. But what I am excited about is that people are saying: You know, I really like your health care plan, or I'm excited by what you are doing with energy.

And that seems to me to be what the campaign should be about.

CROWLEY: Let me simplify a couple of questions that were left hanging. Have you gone to your husband, the former president, and said to him, I want you to do what you can to get these archives out into the public?

CLINTON: Well, the Archives are moving as fast as they can. And both Bill and I have a commitment to that.

I think there's been a lot of misunderstanding. You know, the Archives takes possession and control of presidential records. They, by law, actually have to look at every record before it's released. That's not something bill and I have asked be done. That's what they must do by law.

And Bill has gone further than any other president ever in saying, speed up the process. Put things out. You know, do it as quickly as possible.

But they have to follow the law. And he's never, ever said we're not going to put something out. And they're moving as quickly as they can.

CROWLEY: But have you asked him, look, is there some way we can do this? Because we're talking about a quarter of the experience that you're basing your candidacy on. So, you can see how people would want to say, well, fine, let's look at those eight years in the White House.

Have you gone to him and said, what can we do?

CLINTON: Well, we have pushed the Archives.

In fact, he has been much more aggressive in trying to get the Archives to get his information out more quickly than any other president. And, you know, we keep being told that the Archives has a process. They have to follow the law. They have to read everything. They have to record everything. And they're doing it as quickly as they can. And I have no reason to doubt that.

CROWLEY: So, nothing you all can do to speed it up?

CLINTON: We have tried. And, as I said, he has done more than any other president, and has never withheld any document that has been processed to be ready to be released.

CROWLEY: You said after the debate: I don't think that all of those men came after me because I'm a woman, but because I'm the front-runner. Yet you have -- there are two people out there who support you, Geraldine Ferraro, Eleanor Smeal, who said, it looked like the Anita Hill hearings; this is sexism. So this is a mixed message. It's the sort of thing that people look at and say: You know, the Clinton campaign wants to have it both ways.

CLINTON: Well, I can only speak for myself. I am deeply grateful for the strong support that I have across the country. And a lot of people watching it reach their own conclusions and are certainly free to speak out but I know that in a campaign where people are trying to score political points and I am ahead, I'm going to be attacked. That's what happens in campaigns. I don't have any problem with that.

If they want to use their energy attacking me, that's their choice. I am going to use my energy focusing on a new energy policy and so much else. I'm not running anybody else's campaign and I love what Harry Truman said: If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. And I'm really comfortable in the kitchen.


CROWLEY: One last thing, Wolf.

I did ask her, if she didn't win, if she would be willing to be number two on another ticket. And she said, well, right now, I'm concentrating on winning the nomination.

And I said, well, is that a maybe?

And she said, no.

So, make of that what you will.

BLITZER: We did hear she's got a little scratchy voice. We hope she feels better in the days to come.

Candy, thanks very much -- Candy aboard the Election Express.

This programming note for our viewers. On November 15, next week, I will be in Las Vegas to moderate a presidential debate in that key Western state. The Democratic presidential candidates will be there, November 15, in Vegas.

It's an issue affecting all our safety, thousands of people slipping into the United States at official border crossings. We're going to discuss that in our roundtable, including Jack Cafferty.

And Michael Mukasey is one step closer to getting something he really wants. You're going to find out what happened today regarding his nomination to be the nation's next attorney general.

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


BLITZER: Right now, something Rudy Giuliani said has many people scratching their heads. Regarding fighting crime if he becomes president, the Republican candidate suggests he would use one model's achievements.

But that role model is now the focus of a criminal investigation.

Our Mary Snow is in New York. She's watching the story for us.

It involves his former police commissioner, Mary, Bernard Kerik. What is going on?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Wolf, you know, Rudy Giuliani doesn't talk much about discredited former aide, and has distanced himself from Bernard Kerik. So, when he brought him up on the campaign trail, it gained notice.


SNOW (voice-over): From early on, Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign has been concerned about his former police commissioner, Bernard Kerik. Earlier this year, he was among potential problems listed on this internal campaign memo obtained by "The Politico."

Soon, the Giuliani-Kerik relationship could be an even bigger concern. Sources tell CNN a decision on whether Kerik will be indicted on federal charges is expected within the next two weeks, following a probe into allegations that include bribery and tax evasion.

Giuliani recommended Kerik for homeland security secretary in 2004. Kerik withdrew his name after tax issues and a host of other legal problems were exposed. Giuliani admits that he made a mistake.

RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think Bernie Kerik, I should have checked out more carefully. I have said that. I have apologized for it.

SNOW: Kerik's lawyer tells CNN: "The prosecutors are making a decision on whether to charge Mr. Kerik with various crimes. If they make the decision to charge him, we will fight it, and he will win."

On Monday, in New Hampshire, the Republican presidential hopeful touted Kerik's crime-fighting record in New York, suggesting it is more significant than his legal troubles in assessing Giuliani's performance as mayor.

GIULIANI: If you look at the combination of the mistakes I made and the correct decisions I made, I think, if I made the same balance of those as the president of the United States, the country would be in great shape.

EUGENE O'DONNELL, PROFESSOR OF LAW AND POLICE STUDIES, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: It's a true statement that, when he was the mayor, there was a dramatic drop in crime.

SNOW: Eugene O'Donnell is a former police officer and former New York prosecutor who says Giuliani can't take all the credit for the crime drop. O'DONNELL: In terms of proving that it was him or his administration that brought crime down, that's been studied to death, and there is no conclusive evidence.

SNOW: Focusing on crime-fighting, says one political analyst, is a preemptive strike for Giuliani, as Kerik's legal troubles come into the spotlight again.

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: He's changing the focus to try to control the focus, to also say that he's already covered the subject, that it is old news.


SNOW: Now, Kerik told us back in July that he and his former boss no longer have any contact. But their past relationship, say political observers, will no doubt be revisited as a source of embarrassment on the campaign trial for Giuliani, if corruption charges are brought against Kerik -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Mary, thank you for that -- Mary Snow reporting.

He's a Republican presidential underdog, but Ron Paul has a secret weapon, his money bomb.


REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's hard for them to believe that somebody that takes my positions would have such a popular following.


BLITZER: It's an Internet fund-raising phenomenon that's going on. Even Ron Paul's rivals may be wondering how he's pulling it off.

Plus, Bill Clinton says his wife is being swift-boated by her opponents. He's referring to attacks that helped dash John Kerry's presidential hopes. Is he right? Jack Cafferty and our roundtable panelists, they're ready to discuss that.

And President Bush says he wants to make imported toys, foods and other products safer, but will the idea he's pushing really make much of a difference? We're keeping him honest.

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


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

Happening now: The homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, calling news of mass border security lapses unacceptable and promising that change is in the works. But will it mean longer delays at U.S. entry points? Also, Barack Obama says he was -- quote -- "stunned," "stunned" when Bill Clinton claimed his wife was being swift-boated by Democratic critics. Did the former president go too far to defend Hillary Clinton?

And a dark horse candidate's stunning Web haul, Republican Ron Paul taking in more than $4 million in just 24 hours. Is the congressman's campaign on the verge of taking off?

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

This hour, new questions about whether President Bush is doing enough to solve the problems of unsafe toys and other imports from overseas. Today, he proposed giving the Food and Drug Administration the authority to order mandatory recalls.

Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Ed Henry. He is watching this story for us.

All right, so, what's the bottom line in the short term? What does this mean, Ed?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, some of the biggest proposals are being kicked over to Congress, which is unlikely to find consensus any time soon.


HENRY (voice-over): On the same day as yet another major recall, this one from Fisher-Price, President Bush tried to show he's getting tough with companies importing unsafe toys, toothpaste and food.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will work to increase penalties for those who violate U.S. import laws and regulations.

HENRY: But, just minutes earlier, on Capitol Hill, the president's own consumer product safety chief was defending her decision to take free trips from the same industries the White House claims to be cracking down on.

NANCY NORD, CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION: Faced with limited enforcement dollars, Mr. Chairman, I would much rather spend $900 on paying for more testing of toys and more resources at our laboratory than I would on airfare and a hotel.

HENRY: And Nancy Nord recently insisted Democratic plans to increase financial penalties for rogue companies would spark frivolous lawsuits -- even though the president is now advocating a similar solution by hiking fines.

NORD: I don't want to be hiring lawyers, I want to be hiring safety inspectors.

HENRY: But consumer advocate say the White House's recommendations will not have teeth unless the Safety Commission's budget finally gets a boost.

JANELL MAYO DUNCAN, CONSUMERS UNION: It's not OK to continue to have business continue to regulate itself.

HENRY: But the chair of the president's task force, Health Secretary Michael Leavitt, told reporters he's still not sure how much the White House enforcement plan will cost.

MICHAEL LEAVITT, SECRETARY, HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES: We haven't gone to the point of putting up a price tag, but we have said in our '09 budgets, and subsequent budgets, that we'll need to include those resources necessary to implement this. Think of this as a master plan.


HENRY: So, it will be hashed out in the budgets of 2009 and beyond, when the president is leaving office. So, obviously, in the short-term, it is not going to do too much for consumers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry watching this at the White House.

Ed, thanks very much.

Meanwhile, a new government report says thousands of illegal immigrants -- thousands of them are believed to have entered this country by passing right through official border crossing stations without ever being stopped -- thousands of them. With illegal immigration a hot button political topic, which candidates are best poised to capitalize on these new revelations?

Joining us for some insight, tonight's roundtable, CNN's chief national correspondent, John King. He's in South Carolina. Our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. And Jack Cafferty. He's the author of the best-selling book "It's Getting Ugly Out There."

Guys, thanks very much for coming in. Jack has no choice in the matter -- all right, Jack, let's talk about Michael Chertoff, the secretary of Homeland Security.

I interviewed him here in THE SITUATION ROOM and he promised that things were about to change.

Listen to this.


MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Starting on January of next year, no more waving people through; dramatically reducing the types of identification that are acceptable. And then later next year, we're going to put into effect a new, more secure form of identification with a chip, which will be able to be read directly off the machine.


BLITZER: All right, Jack, what do you think? CAFFERTY: I think Homeland Security is the gift that just keeps on giving. From the day that Tom Ridge suggested we wrap our house in clear, plastic sheeting and duct tape, through the confiscating of grandmothers with fingernail scissors but not bothering to inspect the cargo that goes into the belly of the planes, to lack of border security, to the lack of port security. You know, these people are a joke. And now this guy stands there and says well, next year -- next year. 9/11 was six years ago. We don't have secure borders. We don't have secure ports. The airlines aren't secure. These people ought to be fired.

But nobody ever is, have you noticed that?

Oh, yes, and then there was Katrina. "You're doing a heck of a job, Brownie."

BLITZER: Gloria, who stands to gain politically from this whole issue of illegal immigration, because, as you know, there are a lot of angry voters out there.

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, one thing I think we learned, Wolf, from watching last week's Democratic debate is that this is not just an issue that the Democrats can sit on the sidelines and watch the Republicans argue among themselves. This is an issue now that the Democrats have to confront -- that Independent swing voters consider immigration a question of the rule -- of the rule of law, that we have to keep illegal immigrants out of this country, we have it abide by the rule of law. And watch it become a values issue as this election marches on.

BLITZER: John, you're in South Carolina.

How big of an issue is this down there?

JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a very big issue, Wolf, in part because of economic anxiety. This state has lost most of its textile industry. And whether it's right or wrong, many blame it on illegal immigrants -- jobs going overseas.

Just a few moments ago, Mitt Romney mentioned this as an issue at a campaign event here. And I'll tell you this, Wolf, among the conservative politicians who, for some time, have been criticizing this administration on border security, whatever Secretary Chertoff promises -- the Bush administration, including Secretary Chertoff -- have no credibility with their own base in the Republican Party. So in promising to take steps next year, it won't quiet the criticism of the administration.

CAFFERTY: Well, you know, John, the -- some of these border crossings were unmanned. They have nobody in the checkpoints. The little shack where you're supposed to check the I.D. of the people crossing -- empty. There was nobody there.

BLITZER: And, you know, it's -- this was all documented, Gloria, in this GAO report -- this Government Accountability Office report -- with specific details. So when Michael Chertoff comes out today and says, yes, there are serious problems, but we're working on them and stand by for next year, I guess a lot of people take that promise with a grain of salt.

BORGER: Sure. It just plays into this whole issue of the question of competency in government. That's one of the reasons Ron Paul is doing so well, because people don't trust their government to do the right thing. And they think this has been a mess and that the Bush administration has not handled this in a competent way -- as they haven't handled other issues.


BORGER: You're laughing, Jack, but, right. Of course. You know...

CAFFERTY: No, you know...

BORGER:'s Katrina and everything else.

CAFFERTY: You're absolutely right. They're absolutely right. They can't get out of their own way on this and a whole lot of other stuff. But this immigration issue is huge. I get a lot of mail in THE SITUATION ROOM every day. And every time we do an immigration question, the response is through the ceiling. The Democrats...

BLITZER: Can we assume

CAFFERTY: The Democrats want the illegals to vote for them, if they can figure out a way to do it, and the Republicans want them to work for them. So you and I and the rest of the middle class taxpayers are left at the back door.

BLITZER: John, can we assume that, for all practical purposes, comprehensive immigration reform, which the president, John McCain and Ted Kennedy tried to get through a few months back, that for all practical purposes, that's dead throughout the remainder of the Bush administration?

KING: Wolf, even John McCain has backed away from that position, saying the lesson he learned from that debate was do border security first. And that is the refrain you hear over and over again from the Republicans. They view this as the new wedge issue.

Back in the '80s, it was race and crime. Same-sex marriage was an issue for the Republicans in the past few election cycles. They now view immigration as the premier wedge issue to try to get conservative Independents, conservative Democrats, people who perhaps voted for the Democrats in past elections but are in play. The Republicans think this one issue plays to their advantage. At the moment, pretty significant.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by.

We've got more to talk about, including Hillary Clinton.

Is she being Swift Boated?

Bill Clinton thinks so.

But what do the experts say?

And Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul's pockets are a lot heavier right now. Get this -- he's raised more than $4 million in 24 hours. With that much financial support, why isn't he doing better in the polls -- or is he poised to do a lot better right now?

Much more on our roundtable right after this.


BLITZER: Bill Clinton is likening criticism of his wife to the attack ads against John Kerry back in 2004 -- a comparison that has stunned at least one of Hillary Clinton's Democratic presidential rivals.

Let's get back to our roundtable.

CNN's chief national correspondent, John King; our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; and Jack Cafferty of THE SITUATION ROOM and The Cafferty File.

All right, Jack, Barack Obama says he was stunned by Bill Clinton's analogy making this comparison to the Swift Boating voting of John Kerry back in 2004 to what some of the Democratic candidates are now saying about Hillary Clinton.

Do you think the former president has a point?

CAFFERTY: No, I don't think he has a point. Hillary sat on the bus and told Candy Crowley that it wasn't her best night at the debate.

And what was that famous line?

I can't remember who said it, but somebody said -- one of these politicians -- "I was for it before I was against it." That's what Hillary, in effect, said about the plan to give illegal drivers' licenses in the State of New York. Everybody who saw the sound bite, including the people that night at the debate, called her on it. And she admitted it wasn't her finest hour.

You know, Bill Clinton is out of line and Barack Obama probably ought to be stunned. It was silly.

BLITZER: That was John Kerry, the guy you were quoting.

John King, you're smiling down there in South Carolina.

KING: Well, Wolf, this is a trademark Bill Clinton political tactic. It has been throughout his political career. When you come under attack -- attack the attacker, don't deal with the substance of the attack, but attack the attacker and say that they're out of line. They're engaging in negative politics. It is a snapshot of how Bill Clinton will operate in this campaign, as well. He's almost like Hillary Clinton's vice president, if you will, in the presidential campaign. If you attack George W. Bush, it's Dick Cheney who comes back at you. Now, if you attack Hillary Clinton, watch out. And remember, Bill Clinton is very popular among Democrats. So when he hits, the other campaigns take notice.

BORGER: And, by the way, Wolf, you know, Swift Boating means distorting someone's record. I think that what went on in the debate the other night was people were trying to find out what Hillary Clinton thought about driver's licenses for illegal immigrant immigrants, for example. So it really isn't Swift Boating at all.

BLITZER: You know, Jack, Ron Paul -- this Republican presidential candidate raising, within 24 hours, $4.2 million. It's an amazing sum of money. I don't remember someone doing that out on the campaign trail.

What do you make of this?

CAFFERTY: Well, and the source of the money is, to me, what's interesting. He got it from 35,000 small -- comparatively small -- contributors. Every time Ron Paul's name has come up on THE SITUATION ROOM over the last five or six months, there is an organized cadre of his devotees out there that flood the e-mail servers in THE SITUATION ROOM with supportive e-mails. Today I said something on one of the earlier hours about this fundraising thing and once again this huge outpouring of support.

It's unlike the support I get on the e-mail -- through the e-mail -- of any of the other presidential candidates. Now, granted, that's his forte, much like Dean's strength was on the Internet in 2000. But I wonder if this ability to raise this kind of money in this short a period of time and the fact that we're sitting here now talking about it for the third or fourth time this afternoon, might be the launching pad that he's been looking for.

BLITZER: What do you think, John?

KING: In a place where Independents can play, there could be some mischief and some influence in the race by Ron Paul, especially in the State of New Hampshire, where Independents could come in the primary. We have focused on will they vote for Barack Obama or will they cross over and vote for John McCain again, as they did in 2000?

If they decide to get involved with Ron Paul, they could affect the race. There's no evidence, Wolf, that he's moving up in the Republican polls. He certainly has emotion on the Internet, organizing on the Internet.

Impacting the Republican race large scale?

There's no evidence of that yet.

But could he influence it in a few states?

Yes, he could. And he, of course, now, can stay in the debates. And in each of the debates, he has been a very colorful competitor.

BLITZER: And, Gloria, there's no doubt about that. He brings a lot of zest to this campaign.

BORGER: Well, he does. And let me throw something else out there.

What if he decides he wants to mount an Independent candidacy, if he's not going anywhere in the Republican Party?

BLITZER: Well, that's a good question, Gloria.

Who does he help and who does he hurt if he were to run as a third party candidate, let's say, on the Libertarian ticket, which he has done before?

Who does he take votes away from, Rudy Giuliani or Hillary Clinton?

BORGER: Well, I think he takes votes away from, perhaps, somebody like a Barack Obama. I mean, you know, this is -- this is an independent thinker who says he wants to change politics. And he could be -- you know, if all works according to his plan, perhaps he's kind a Naderite kind of a candidate, who could hurt whomever the Democrat is.

BLITZER: Do I hear the word...

CAFFERTY: I'd be willing to...

BLITZER: Jack, do I hear the word spoiler coming up?

CAFFERTY: Well, I was just going it suggest that John King would know more about this than I would. But I'll bet you, when it's all said and done, he does better than Fred Thompson is going to do.


KING: Well, Wolf, if you have Ron Paul running as an Independent candidate and Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee, she could be at some risk of anti-war Democrats who don't think she is pure enough on the war finding a place with Ron Paul. But some Republicans who don't like government spending and government agencies could find a home there, as well. So he would be an interesting wildcard. He's running for the Republican nomination. He says he has no plans to go third party. But when you get a groundswell of support like this, it sometimes gets a candidate thinking maybe I should think about some other options.

BLITZER: How is the chili, John, that you've got over there?

Take a bite. Let us know.

KING: We are at the...

BLITZER: Our viewers are...

KING: The 9th Annual...

BLITZER: I thought it was ice cream originally, but you've got a little chili there. You deserve it. You're working real hard.

All right, John and Gloria, thanks.

KING: It's the Emerson, South Carolina Chili Cook-Off. It's great.

BLITZER: Excellent. Excellent chili there.

Jack, stand by.

We've got The Cafferty File coming up.

To what degree is the U.S. responsible for problems in the Middle East?

Jack with your e-mail -- that's coming up.

Also, new details of what killed Stephen Colbert's presidential campaign. We're going to tell you what role Barack Obama's supporters played.

And troubling signs, literally, from the Hollywood writers on strike.

Stick around.

Much more of THE SITUATION ROOM, right after this.


BLITZER: Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show. That begins right at the top of the hour. He's standing by with a preview -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, thank you very much.

Coming up at 7:00 p.m. Eastern we'll be reporting tonight on scathing new criticism of the federal government's outright failure to prevent the collapse of our consumer safety system. The president today trying to reassure some American consumers.

But is the president still pandering to massive business interests, corporate elites instead of protecting the American people?

We'll have that report.

Border security advocates in Congress launching a counteroffensive against the socio-ethnic centric special interests and the pro-illegal alien amnesty lobby. A large group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers trying to pass legislation to secure our borders -- imagine that -- before undertaking any change in U.S. immigration law. Finally, the right path.

And we'll have an exclusive interview with Senator Hillary Clinton. She'll tell us whether she is for or against Governor Eliot Spitzer's outrageous plan to give away driver's licenses to illegal aliens.

And among my guests here tonight, the governor-elect of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal. He'll tell us about his battle against conventional wisdom, political orthodoxy, special interests and outright corruption in the State of Louisiana. He's quite a fellow. You'll meet him at the top of the hour here on CNN.

And I'll be talking with three of my favorite radio talk show hosts -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Lou, thank you very much.

Lou coming up in a few moments Jack Cafferty coming up right now with The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Well, they've got a -- they've got a Ph.D. in political corruption down there in Louisiana.

BLITZER: He's a talented politician, though, the new governor- elect.

CAFFERTY: Oh, yes. No, he's great.


CAFFERTY: The question this hour, Wolf, is to what degree is the U.S. responsible for the myriad problems in the Middle East?

Charles writes from Indiana: "We put the Shah of Iran in power, financed Osama against Russia, financed Saddam against Iran, put a dictator back on the throne in Kuwait, support a military dictator in Pakistan and use our military to keep the Saudi royal family in power and turning out suicide bombers from their school system. The question is have we ever made a rational decision concerning the Middle East or have all the decisions been made by the oil companies and their lobbyists?"

James in Texas: "Let's see, we have a dictator in Iraq. He has no weapons of mass destruction. He poses no threat to the United States. He hates Al Qaeda. Bush launches a disastrous war against this country. We have a dictator in Pakistan, propped up by the U.S. He gave Al Qaeda a safe haven. He has nuclear weapons. He completely locks his country down and Bush responds with a tepid, 'I'm concerned.' Does this answer your question?"

Cathy in Missouri: "President Bush's decision to go into the Iraq has been the sole reason for instability in the Middle East. His apparent inability to finish the business he starts, as in Afghanistan, is the reason we'll be mired in the Middle East for years."

Hassan, Berkeley, California: "Historically, conflicts within countries can be traced back to meddling superpowers. America's mess in the Middle East today is just another link in the long chain of problems created by imperial powers. For centuries, Western powers have been enforcing policies that will "bring freedom to the people," but in reality only support their own goals and aims."

And Danton in New Jersey writes: "To properly answer the question, you have to go back into the 1970s and track our involvement through several presidents. One might say we've been stirring this pot for decades and the stew is nearly done."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to There are more of them posted there, along with video clips of The Cafferty File -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

See you back here tomorrow.

Jack Cafferty working hard in THE SITUATION ROOM.

On our political ticker this Tuesday, the attorney general nominee, Michael Mukasey, is now a step closer to confirmation. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted today to green light his nomination. The outcome was sealed, by the way, when panel members Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein announced their support for Mukasey last week, breaking with several other top Democrats who strongly oppose him. Mukasey is likely to be confirmed by the full Senate next week.

Something that hasn't happened in 11 years is now set to happen tomorrow -- a French president addressing a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress. President Nicholas Sarkozy planning to use that address to further ease tensions between the United States and France. Tonight, by the way, the White House hosting a dinner for the visiting French leader. You're looking at some live pictures coming in from the White House right now. The red carpet already out. He's scheduled to arrive in about 10 minutes. A nice steak dinner for Sarkozy.

New information about why comedian Stephen Colbert's mock presidential campaign effectively died in South Carolina. CNN has learned that two prominent Barack Obama supporters called Democratic Party officials and urged them to keep Colbert off the ballot. One member of the party's executive council says he felt pressured by an Obama backer to nix Colbert's bid. But the Obama campaign is denying any link to efforts to block Colbert from the ballot.

Remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can always check out our political ticker at

Troubling signs in Hollywood -- we're going to show you what striking writers finally and really need.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol.


The chief operating officer of the National Children's Museum in Washington has been arrested on child pornography charges. Forty-nine- year-old Robert Singer was busted as part of a federal sting. He allegedly sent an e-mail with graphic sexual images of minors to an agent posing as a 12-year-old girl and her mother in an Internet chat room.

And a historic meeting at the Vatican today. In face-to-face talks just hours ago, Pope Benedict XVI told Saudi King Abdullah he is concerned about restrictions on religious freedom of Christians in Saudi Arabia. It was the first time a reigning Saudi monarch has met with the pope.

That's a look at the headlines right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Carol, thank you.

So what do striking Hollywood writers really need?

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The writers are on strike. The writers are on strike.

But if they're writers, how come they don't come up with wittier signs than the ones saying "on strike?"

But when you've writer on your back, you'd better do better than the run of the mill chants better suited to steelworkers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do we want?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When do we want it?


MOOS: You're not going to win an Emmy for writing with that. Or this...





MOOS: Even striking writers themselves have expressed embarrassment. Blogs one on The Huffington Post: "What's with our signage? Our signs are awfully boring."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't forget that sign choreography. When I say union, you say power.



MOOS: Talk about writers' block, though at least some managed to work in the tools of the trade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pencils down all around, Hollywood's a union town.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, hey, ho, ho, management can't write this show.

MOOS: And picketers in New York used an inflatable raft with bloody claws to symbolize management. Online, an apparently unemployed writer looked on the bright side.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm no longer a bum. I'm not allowed to work. And idea pops in my head -- no!


MOOS: From half naked writer to face painted fan...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's only so much reality TV we're going to take before we want the next episode of "Grey's Anatomy".


MOOS: Actually, there are still three episodes of "Grey's Anatomy" in the can. It's the late night talk shows...


DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: This could be your last look at me and Paul.


MOOS: ...that first had to say good-bye last week.

But did anybody notice?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no, no. I don't know, I don't care and I don't know watch Letterman and Leno. No.

MOOS: As a parting joke, Leno promised a new show requires no writing -- aimed at male viewers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming to NBC -- explosions. Nothing but explosions. No stupid writing -- just explosions.


MOOS: So Leno went out with a bang and now all those late night comedy shows are reruns.

(on camera): What do you do when you realize it's a rerun?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It does something for me at night, you know?

When I go home, I really want to see some comedy.

MOOS (voice-over): Yes, well, you're going to live without any new stupid pet tricks -- like the one performed by Pepe (ph), who hates it when you point a certain finger. At least Pepe doesn't need a writer.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: That's it for me.

Let's go to Lou.

He's in New York -- Lou.