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THE SITUATION ROOM
Stem Sell Researchers Announce Breakthrough; Rudy Giuliani's Record Under Attack
Aired November 20, 2007 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, like embryonic stem cells without the embryos -- researchers announcing what they're calling to be a significant achievement that might -- repeat -- might provide all the benefits without the controversy of this important and promising medical technology.
Also, Rudy Giuliani's record under attack by 9/11 families -- fair criticism or a repeat of the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry?
We're going to hear from both sides this hour.
And new developments in a story that Jack was just reporting on -- a story that's truly horrified a lot of world. A rape victim ordered lashed and jailed for allegedly causing her own attack.
Will the U.S. intervene?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Word is out of what could be -- could be a major breakthrough potentially marking the beginning of the end of the dispute over stem cells -- a dispute that's divided this nation. Scientists say they've found a way to program skin cells to act like embryonic stem cells -- eliminating the need to destroy embryos.
Our medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is joining us -- Elizabeth, I know you've been looking into this and speaking to a lot of the researchers. Give our viewers a sense of potentially what's going on.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is, indeed, a big, big new development. People on both sides of the stem cell controversy say that this discovery could change everything.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
COHEN (voice-over): These tiny cells could mean the end to one of the biggest controversies in medical history. That's because these stem cells may one day turn into treatments for a whole host of devastating diseases -- and scientists made them without destroying an embryo. Until now, promising research has come from embryonic stem cells, which require scientists to destroy an embryo to get them. Polls show that the majority of Americans have supported embryonic stem cell research -- but not President Bush.
GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The use of federal money -- taxpayers' money -- to promote science which destroys life in order to save life is -- I'm against that.
COHEN: Six years ago, President Bush put severe limits on funding for embryonic stem cells. Today, the president reacted positively to this latest development -- stem cells made not from embryos, but from human skin tissue. The White House issued this statement: "By avoiding techniques that destroy life, President Bush is encouraging scientific advancement within ethical boundaries."
But scientists say this doesn't mean the end of embryonic stem cells and it's still not clear which approach -- embryonic stem cells or the reprogrammed skin cells -- will be more useful in coming up with important medical treatments.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
COHEN: Now, what's really exciting about stem cells is that they can hopefully be changed into different types of body tissue and you kind of make -- if you'll excuse the term -- spare body parts. And with these new stem cells, you have to look at this. It's really amazing.
What they did is they changed some of the stem cells to behave like heart tissue. And you can actually see it starts to beat. So this is the very infant stages of turning these stem cells into real therapies that will help real people -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And we shouldn't get our viewers' expectations overly raised. You point out accurately this is really the infant stage of all of this, is that right?
COHEN: Oh, that's right. I mean you can't go to your friendly family doctor this afternoon and say, hey, could I have that new stem cell treatment?
They will look at you blankly. Any treatments -- if any do development -- are years and years away.
BLITZER: Elizabeth, thanks very much.
Other news we're following -- a new battle shaping up over funding of the war in Iraq with House Democrats, who hold the purse strings, accusing the White House of making up stories about the military supposedly running out of money.
Let's bring in our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.
He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM -- Jamie, what's the latest? JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, the dictionary definition of brinkmanship is creating an impression that you're willing to push a highly dangerous situation to the point where it could become really serious without conceding. And that's exactly what's going on between the Bush administration and Democrats in Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
MCINTYRE (voice-over): The Pentagon insists unless it gets an immediate cash infusion, it will have to close down bases and lay off some 200,000 government and contract workers beginning mid-February. Democrats in Congress say not our fault.
REP. DAVID OBEY (D), WISCONSIN: So we have provided the money. The money is not the issue. The issue is that the president is simply refusing to accept the conditions under which the money is provided.
MCINTYRE: The House has approved $50 billion of the $178 billion in war funds, but with a timetable requiring most U.S. troops to be withdrawn from Iraq within 14 months -- by the end of 2008. The president rejects that and the Pentagon says it's left with no choice.
GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: He can only keep the Army and Marines afloat for a few -- for a couple of additional weeks. And that means the Army will now be able to operate into mid-February and the Marines into mid-March. But that's it.
REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: They don't need to do the things. You're missing the point.
Because the Pentagon says it, you believe it?
You believe what the Pentagon says?
MCINTYRE: Democrats like John Murtha dismiss that as shameless scare tactics. Take this briefing chart in which the Army Budget Office claims it will be forced to close child care centers, shut down training ranges, stop custodial services and counseling for soldiers and their families, and even default on NATO treaty obligations.
MURTHA: This a political document. They're scaring people. They're scaring the families of the troops with this document. That's the thing that's so despicable about what they're doing.
MCINTYRE: But the Pentagon insists it is not crying wolf.
MORRELL: These aren't scare tactics. These are the facts.
MCINTYRE: The Pentagon says it did find $4.5 billion to keep funding the fight against IEDs, but has no money left to shift around for other programs.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
MCINTYRE: So the brinksmanship continues, with the administration and Republicans in Congress accusing the Democrats of playing politics with money for the troops. Meanwhile, the Pentagon -- the Democrats say that the Pentagon and the administration just want a blank check for a war without end. And, Wolf, neither side shows any signs of backing down.
BLITZER: All right.
You'll stay on top of this story for us.
Jamie, thank you.
Meanwhile, there's been a dramatic drop in the violence in Iraq, with the U.S. military now reporting stunning declines in the number of attacks and the number of casualties.
But can these gains hold without a political solution? And joining us now from Baghdad, our correspondent, Michael Ware -- Michael, clearly, the statistics are showing some favorable trends right now. But I take it the U.S. military itself is worried that the positive numbers that have been reported lately -- that could turn around down the road.
What's going on?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, surely, Wolf.
I mean the first thing that has to be said is this -- there has been a spectacular success. I mean, as the U.S. military is reporting, you know, attacks are down by 55 percent than what they were just back in June. Civilian deaths in Baghdad are down by a massive 75 percent. Indeed, we're seeing levels of violence that we haven't seen since January 2006 -- since before the Samarra mosque bombing which sparked the civil war.
Now, will it last?
This is the million dollar question. Admirals and generals are very careful to caution that these are very positive trends, but we can't read too much into them yet. Privately, what the strategists are telling me is that things could turn on a dime. We could see the violence revert back almost instantly. However, their belief is that that won't happen. Among the U.S. forces here, they have the -- they have the confidence they can keep the levels of violence to where they are now, until at least the summer of next year. But what happens after that, no one knows because the name of the game now, Wolf, is reconciliation. By building Sunni militias, by America essentially now working with 72,000 Sunni insurgents, putting 45,000 of them on the U.S. government payroll, that has seen a massive decline in attacks.
It's also seen neighborhoods in Baghdad protected, essentially by U.S.-backed Sunni militias.
The problem is, is there going to be real reconciliation at the political level with this Shia-dominated government?
And all signs right now point to no. So perhaps the success may amount to nothing. And the generals are warning that if there's no reconciliation by next summer, we may be looking for a new strategy -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The -- you've been away for a while. Now you're back. Actually, you've been there for more than four years covering this -- this war.
Have you felt any really discernible difference on the streets of Baghdad or elsewhere since you've come back?
WARE: Well, yes and no, I have to say. I mean, yes, look, honestly, this is a much more peaceful city than it used to be. But we still have dozens and dozens of people dying every week. Now, I mean the American military celebrated last Friday, because across the country there was only 33 attacks.
Now, can you imagine in any other country in the world, be it Israel, be it America itself, be it Pakistan, that there were 33 attacks in a day?
That would be a horrific day. Yet here, that's cause for celebration. There very much is still a war going on.
So, yes, I can feel changes. There is a certain life returning to the city. But, honestly, Wolf, this is a segregated metropolis. People live in heavily guarded sectarian enclaves. This is a world divided. There is still great tension, great distrust and, honestly, I don't see the path forward happening how most people hope.
BLITZER: Michael Ware, be careful over there.
Thanks very much.
WARE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's get right to Jack Cafferty.
He's in New York for The Cafferty File.
Good to have Michael back in Baghdad -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Yes. Yes, you're reading my mind. I've missed him.
You know, it's interesting, though, he mentioned that it's -- you know, the people in Baghdad are living in walled enclaves and it's a city divided. But it's a city at peace -- at least for now. And if that continues into the spring of next year, that living in peace on a daily basis could go a long way toward changing the idea toward reconciliation among the of the people that live in that city. After all, it's nicer to get up in the morning and go open your store and send your kid to school than spend your whole day hiding in the basement of the house for fear of your life. Just idle ramblings of a disjointed mind.
Support for Senator Hillary Clinton -- back here at home -- slipping in some key early voting states -- an ominous sign for the woman once considered unbeatable just a couple of weeks ago. In Iowa, a "Washington Post"/ABC News poll shows Senator Barack Obama has now surged in front of Clinton for the first time. Obama is getting 30 percent of likely Democratic caucus goers. Twenty-six percent are going to vote for Hillary. Twenty-two percent for John Edwards. That poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Clinton has also seen her lead decrease in Iowa on some of the key issues -- including the questions of experience and which candidate is best prepared to handle the Iraq War. More voters now say they trust Obama to handle Iraq rather than Hillary. But perhaps the most ominous for Hillary is support among women in Iowa. As many women now say they'll vote for Obama at the Iowa caucuses say they'll vote for Hillary.
There's more. The CNN/WMUR New Hampshire Presidential Primary Poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire, shows that although Clinton still holds a double digit lead, her lead in New Hampshire has dropped by 7 points.
And check this -- when voters were asked which candidate is the most honest and trustworthy, Hillary Clinton placed fourth behind Obama, Edwards and Bill Richardson.
And, finally, in Florida, a new Mason/Dixon poll shows Rudy Giuliani beating Hillary in a potential match-up, 50 to 43 percent. Republicans Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney also beat her in that same poll, although their wins are within the poll's margin of error. And the poll also shows that Hillary Clinton is the only candidate -- Democrat or Republican -- with higher unfavorable than favorable ratings. So here's the question -- what's behind Senator Hillary Clinton's drop in the polls?
E-mail your thoughts to caffertyfile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/caffertyfile.
You know, back to that Iraq thing for a second, Wolf. You know, sometimes peace will beget peace. I mean it's -- it's easier not to fight.
BLITZER: Well, let's hope that this -- what we've seen the past couple months really, really portends a positive trend. And the only way we'll see that is what actually happens on the ground.
BLITZER: But you make a good point, Jack.
CAFFERTY: Then we can get in there and take that oil.
BLITZER: He didn't really mean I, guys.
All right, Jack.
CAFFERTY: Yes, sure.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
Outrage growing right now around the world over the case of that young Saudi rape victim facing brutal punishment for the attacks on her.
So why is the Bush administration staying silent?
Also, Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani trying to fend off attacks on his 9/11 record from relatives of the victims.
Plus, did poor decisions cost Princess Diana her life?
A medical expert says she could have survived.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We have a follow-up report on a story that astonished a lot of our viewers -- the case of a young Saudi woman being blamed for her own gang rape and sentenced to be lashed and jailed.
Carol Costello reported on the story yesterday.
She's following up today.
So what's the latest -- Carol?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, when we aired the story last night, outrage has grown. Our story seen in many parts of the world. You know, the is not a woman's tale of woe -- it's a human rights issue.
So what are U.S. officials saying?
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
COSTELLO (voice-over): It's a rape case that's caused worldwide outrage. In Saudi Arabia, a 19-year-old woman gang raped by seven men and then punished herself by a Saudi court.
Because she was with a man who was not a male relative when they were both abducted.
Sentenced at first to 90 lashes, her attorney appealed. The court increased the punishment to 200 lashes with a bamboo reed and six months in prison.
For speaking to the media, her attorney has been stripped of his law license.
SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: You have a situation that, I think most individuals, for example, in our country, just don't understand. And we don't understand how -- how something like this, you know, could happen.
COSTELLO: The Saudi justice ministry, apparently stung by the international outcry over the case, has issued what it says is a clarification. It says the charges were proven and the woman's lawyer showed a lack of respect to the judicial counsel.
But that isn't likely to silence critics, who are calling on Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah -- an ally of the Bush administration -- to void the court's verdict.
We asked the White House if it would intervene. It declined comment, directing us to the State Department.
The only White House official to comment on the case was Fran Townsend -- who is about to leave her post as homeland security adviser.
FRAN TOWNSEND, HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: What I praise the Saudis for is their counterterrorism cooperation. It is unprecedented and we share information that's helped us stop attacks.
This case is separate and apart from that. And I just don't think there's any explaining it or justifying it.
COSTELLO: Suffice it to say there calls into King Abdullah to void the verdict.
MCCORMACK: I am not aware of any direct contact with the Saudis on this issue.
COSTELLO: As for the young Saudi woman, her government told us today, justice will prevail in the end.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
COSTELLO: And, yes, we did hear from the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel Al-Jubair, who was with King Abdullah today. He told us: "This case is working its way through the legal system. I have no doubt that justice will prevail."
BLITZER: Adel Al-Jubair.
COSTELLO: I'm sorry.
BLITZER: He's the Saudi ambassador.
The -- why isn't the State Department coming out more aggressively, more openly on this issue? Because a lot of people are probably wondering.
What -- what's happening?
COSTELLO: Yes, it's such an outrageous case, you'd think it would simple for them to come out. But some analysts say there is this Middle East peace summit that's going to be held in Annapolis, Maryland, hosted by Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state. And she wants Saudi Arabia to come to this summit because she believes that Saudi Arabia can help achieve Middle East peace.
You don't want to like -- you don't want to be too hard on the Saudi government, because you want them to come. So that may be a reason why the State Department isn't coming out more strongly against this.
BLITZER: Because they would love the Saudis to attend in Annapolis. That's supposedly next week, this conference is going to take place. The president sending invitations out today.
All right, Carol, stay on top of this story for us and let us know what's going on.
BLITZER: They're accused of presiding over genocide that left around two million of their own people dead in the 1970s. And many survivors feared they would not be brought to justice. But now a United Nations-backed tribunal in Cambodia has finally started pre- trial hearings for the five most senior surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge.
First to appear, the regime's alleged chief torturer -- who is appealing his detention. Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in a jungle hideout back in 1998.
Other news from around the world, some surprising testimony at the British inquest into Princess Diana's death. A top British surgeon now claiming she might have survived if French medics and doctors had acted differently.
CNN's Fionnuala Sweeney has details -- Fionnuala.
FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the inquest into the death of Diana, the former Princess of Wales, had what was described as an agitated Diana pulled out a drip which doctors tried to insert into her arm as she lay dying after her car crash.
The court from London heard from Jean-Marc Martino, a physician and emergency specialist, who recalled Diana shouting and saying things in English which were comprehensible and yet incoherent.
The 36-year-old had to be sedated and restrained so that doctors could treat her in the wrecked car in the Pont d'Alma Tunnel in Paris in the early hours of August 31st, 1997. Speaking from Paris by video link, Professor Andre Lienhart, who had investigated the medical treatment of Diana for the French authorities, said an assistant held had to hold her arm by force to get a drip in, but she quickly pulled it out. He said she was agitated. She refused treatment.
The inquest further heard a claim by Professor Thomas Treasure, a leading British surgeon, that the princess might have survived her car crash had French medical staff -- not in his words -- squandered vital time -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Fionnuala, thank you.
Fionnuala Sweeney reporting from London.
His critics are trying to undermine the foundation of his presidential campaign. Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani is fending off attacks from some 9/11 families.
Is there any truth to what they're saying?
Plus, an urgent warning for anyone who might be buying toys this holiday season. We're going to show you why danger is still lurking, despite all those recalls.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's check in with Carol Costello.
She's monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol, what's going on?
COSTELLO: A couple of things.
Warren Jeffs heading to prison. A Utah judge has just sentenced the polygamist sect leader to two consecutive terms of five years to life in prison. Jeffs was convicted of two counts of rape as an accomplice for arranging the marriage of a 14-year-old girl. Exactly how long he stays behind bars, well, that will be up to the parole board.
Postal workers, teachers and nurses are among hundreds of thousands of state employees who walked off their jobs in France today. That coincides with a week long strike by transport workers. They're protesting reforms planned by president Nicolas Sarkozy, including raising the retirement age for some workers. Mr. Sarkozy claims a mandate from voters, saying we will not surrender. Talks are planned for tomorrow.
If you're traveling to Japan, be prepared to smile for the camera and hold out your hand. Beginning today, almost all arriving foreigners will be photographed and fingerprinted. The results will be checked against terrorist watch lists and criminal files. Visitors who match that data will be denied entry. The system is modeled after one used in the United States. Japanese officials says it's meant to deter terrorism.
And there's been a drop in the number of people living with the virus that causes AIDS. A United Nations agency says the worldwide figure is about 33 million. That's down from last year's estimate of just under 40 million. But much of that revision is on paper due to new research and analysis methods, especially in India. Two thirds of those infected live in Sub-Saharan Africa, where AIDS is the primary cause of death.
That's a look at the headlines right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Carol, for that.
Coming up, what some consider to be the very foundation of Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign now under attack by some 9/11 families in an effort that some are comparing to Swift Boating. We're going to hear from both sides of this debate.
Also, hidden dangers on toy shelves across the country. We'll have details of an important warning for parents.
Plus -- get this -- Lou Dobbs for president?
There's lots of speculation out there about drafting him for a White House run. Coming up, I'll ask Lou about it point blank. We'll see what he says.
That and a lot more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, the U.S. Supreme Court agreeing to take up what could become a landmark gun case. The justices will decide whether Washington, D.C. can ban handguns -- potential the most important ruling in decades on the right to bear arms.
Also, almost 200 journalists are detained in Pakistan in protest against the state of emergency that continues there. But there are some signs the crackdown by the president, General Pervez Musharraf, may be easing. The Interior Ministry saying more than 3,000 detainees have now been released.
And the United Nations now estimating one million people displaced in Somalia with 200,000 fleeing the capital in the last two weeks alone. Troops loyal to the ousted Islamic government are fighting to retake Mogadishu. I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in the SITUATION ROOM.
It's the cornerstone of Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign, the 9/11 terror attacks. But now, an unlikely group is trying to undermine that with the effort that some comparing to the swiftboat campaign against John Kerry. CNN's Deborah Feyerick is joining us now, she's watching all this unfold. So, who's challenging, Deb, Rudy Giuliani's 9/11 credentials?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is not a new group. In fact, they are just to many New Yorkers are familiar. These are people who have repeatedly criticized Rudy Giuliani's handling of 9/11 and all the events before and after that day. The big question - can this small group gain momentum and, if so, what does that mean to the mayor's candidacy?
FEYERICK (voice over): This is the image many Americans have of Rudy Giuliani. The New York City mayor covered in dust moments after the World Trade Center's tower collapsed. It is an image he has evoked in his run for the White House to spotlight his leadership on that tragic day. But Sally Regenhard and others are challenging that image.
SALLY REGENHARD, MOTHER OF 9/11 FIREFIGHTER: Rudy Giuliani is no hero of 9/11.
FEYERICK: Regenhard's son was one of 343 New York City firefighters to die when the towers fell. She was small part of the small determined group of firefighter families taking on the former mayor.
REGENHARD: We want to give people the opportunity to hear the true story and to make their own decisions.
FEYERICK: On Monday, the group traveled to New Hampshire, a crucial state where Mr. Giuliani recently began running these ads.
RUDY GIULIANI, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe I have been tested in the way in which the American people can look to me, they're not going to find perfection, but they're going to find somebody who's dealt with crisis.
FEYERICK: The families have told a handful of people about some of the fire department's radios that didn't work on 9/11, about the emergency command center to coordinate a response that, instead, literally collapsed and about the lack of respirators provided to firefighters searching for colleagues in the toxic rubble. Political scientist, Doug Muzzio says these issues are not new, at least not to New Yorkers.
DOUG MUZZIO, BARUCH COLLEGE: There is a lot of hyperbole on what Rudy Giuliani says about what he did prior to 9/11, on 9/11 and after 9/11, but the kernel of truth is that Rudy Giuliani had his finest hour of 9/11.
FEYERICK: The Giuliani campaign cited news reports praising Giuliani's efforts on behalf of firefighters and touting the city's preparedness. A former fire commissioner speaking on Giuliani's behalf accused Regenhard groups of quote, "Turning the terrorist attacks of September 11th into a political football." The question now -- is this another swiftboat situation in which unsubstantiated attacks against John Kerry's service in Vietnam scuttled his presidency candidacy. These families say no.
REGENHARD: The difference between the swift voting and this is that everything we're saying is the truth.
FEYERICK: Now, for over the summer these firefighter families appeared in a scathing anti-Giuliani video made by the International Association of Firefighters. Giuliani's representative called the group highly partisan, it is endorsing Democrat Chris Dodd, but says it's not part of this particular New Hampshire trip. Still that firefighter unit is meeting after Thanksgiving to consider a much larger campaign against the former mayor. Wolf?
BLITZER: Deb Feyerick in New York, thanks very much.
Let's get some more now on Rudy Giuliani's 9/11 record. For that we're join by Jim Riches, he's a deputy chief of the New York Fire Department, he lost his son in the attacks. Our condolences, chief, going out to you and your family. I know you're part of this group. Let's get right to the issue. Are you trying to "swiftboat" Rudy Giuliani?
JIM RICHES, DEPUTY CHIEF, NEW YORK FIRE DEPARTMENT: No, we're going to set the record straight on 9/11. We don't think he's the hero that he says he was sort of leader. Because there's many points to have radios don't, he had recommendations in '39, we have the same radios in 2001. He didn't replace them. We didn't have a unified coordinated command. We didn't have interagency coordinated drills down at the World Trade Center from '93 to 2001. We had an OEM, which was supposedly he's - highlight of his whole mark of his tenure, Giuliani to be the main player in this operation. They were considered useless and invisible that day and we had, we had incompetent commissioners there. We had firemen as the fire commissioner, a police officer as a police commissioner, they ran OEM director was a fire dispatcher and these guys took off and ran before the towers fell and everything is documented in a 9/11 Commission and in the NIST reports and the McKinsey reports they show the failings of the Giuliani administration.
BLITZER: And I had a chance yesterday to speak with the co- chairman of the 9/11 Commission report, the former New Jersey governor, Tom Kean and I asked him about the criticisms of Rudy Giuliani. Listen to what Tom Kean said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM KEAN, FORMER CO-CHAIRMAN 9/11 COMMISSION: The lack of communications was not really Rudy Giuliani's fault, it was because they didn't have the same frequencies operating on. And we didn't have any criticism in the report of people who failed to anticipate some of the things that happened. Nobody did. Rudy Giuliani did a great job on that day 9/11.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I take that you disagree with the committee chairman -
RICHES: I disagree totally. In 1993 we had recommendations to get new radios. He never got them. He ordered illegal radios that were defective. He didn't field test them. We have them pulled back. My son went back with the same radio. They didn't work in '93 and they didn't work in 2001. And the police officers heard the call to come down, they testified at the 9/11 Commission and as they were going down, the firemen going up, they told the firemen to get out and the firemen said we never heard the order. And the firemen continue to go up on that event. It's Rudy Giuliani's job. And Tom Von Essen, who was the fireman who never passed a promotional exam, to get us radios that worked. The police officers had radios that worked that day and we didn't, and I think Tom Kean, he softballed Rudy Giuliani on the 9/11 Commission hearings.
BLITZER: Let's talk about your political operation right now. I take it that you're thinking of creating what's called a "527," a committee to raise money to go after a specific candidate without being directly involved in any other candidate. Is that right?
RICHES: We're all from different - we're from Conservatives, we're Democrats and I voted for Bush and I voted for Giuliani three times. This is not political; it's strictly about his leadership. He's been out there making millions and millions of dollars talking about his leadership and how and what a great leader he was on 9/11 and he's politicized 9/11 from day one. And Howard Safir said yesterday it was conceivable that the families politicized 9/11. Well, that's a lie because they've politicized it from day one and if he wants it run on his record a failure and everything else, then let him run on it. We're going to set the truth out and everything is out and all those commission reports and the McKinsey report and how we failed miserably the first despondence and put our sons in danger that day with inoperable radios and no cooperation and the same mistakes were made in '93 were made again in 2001.
BLITZER: So, Chief, are you going to form this committee?
RICHES: We're going to sit down and discuss it with the family members, we've spoken to lawyers and if we have to put our message out throughout the country and get it on TV. TV made him a hero that day because all he did was get on TV and calmed the nation, that's all he did. He ran before the towers fell like a coward with all of his future millionaires and they took off and left the real heroes down there. And that's a shame and we will tell the message the way it's told. The correct way and not lies like Howard Safir and all those little cronies say that we got the right respirators. We didn't get the right respirators. And they're lying if they said we did.
BLITZER: Jim Riches is a former, excuse me, he's a current, he's an active duty fire chief in New York City. Jim Riches, once again, our condolences to you for you losing your son on 9/11. Thanks for joining us.
RICHES: Thank you. BLITZER: And coming up: We're to get the side of the story. The other former New York Police and Fire commissioner, Howard Safir, he's standing by live to join us. He's a strong supporter of Rudy Giuliani.
Also, a major stem cell break through, potentially. How will it impact the political debate? We're going to take you live to the White House for that story. Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's get some more now on the challenge to Republican presidential candidate, Rudy Giuliani and his record by some relatives of the 9/11 victims. For that we're joined by Howard Safir, the former New York City Police and Fire Department commissioner. Commissioner, thanks very much for coming in.
HOWARD SAFIR, FORMER COMMISSIONER NYPD, NYFD: Good to be here.
BLITZER: You heard what a deputy fire chief in New York just said. I want to give you a chance to respond to Chief Riches' accusations against Rudy Giuliani.
SAFIR: First, we owe an unpayable debt to Chief Riches' family and all the fire and police families who lost loved ones on 9/11, unfortunately, Chief Riches has just has his facts wrong.
BLITZER: Well, give us an example because he says that there wasn't good communications and that emergency response centers should have never been in the World Trade Center, it was blown up obviously with everything else. And it just wasn't as coordinated, as well- coordinated as should have been, given what happened in '93, the first attack on the World Trade Center. What happened in 2001 the response should have been a whole lot better by the Mayor and his team.
SAFIR: Well, the truth is, if you look at the Rand report that took at a look at the emergency response to 9/11. They said it was an excellent response. But, let's get to more specifics. Chief Riches talks about the lack of communication. If you look at the 9/11 Commission report it clearly says that 24 of 32 companies in the North tower that Chef Riches said were killed because of lack of radios actually had communication and were notified of the evacuation order. It was the radios that killed these people. It was - number one, the terrorists and, number two, it was the fact that the building collapsed. Radio or -
BLITZER: Let me just press you on that one point, Commissioner. How many of the firefighters who were killed in 9/11, who died in 9/11 never got that message, evacuate, evacuate, this building is going down?
SAFIR: We will never know the answer to that. But the fact is the radios at the time whether they were with the fire department or other department don't work very well through steel and concrete. Two way radios work line of sight. What really failed that day was not the radios but some of the repeaters that were supposed to repeat the radio communications. But, again, if you look at the 9/11 Commission, it's clear that they say that the majority of deaths in 9/11 firefighters were not caused by lack of communication.
BLITZER: How worried are you, Commissioner, that these individuals might go ahead and do what he suggested that they're considering create one of these committees to fund an attack campaign against Giuliani?
SAFIR: Well, you know, they certainly are hooked up with the International Association of Firefighters, who supported Kerry in the last election and Dole and the Democrats and the -
BLITZER: They've endorsed Chris Dodd in this election.
SAFIR: Right. And you know, it's clear that they are a Democratic supporting group and, you know, they can put this together. But as I travel around the country and talk to firefighters and police officers and I talk to many of the 9/11 families who do not support this group, they think that Rudy Giuliani was a great leader in 9/11 and that he was supportive. Now, as police and fire commissioner for over seven years, I can tell that there wasn't a time when Rudy Giuliani did not provide the resources that were necessary. This group has alleged that there weren't drills, that's not true. We did many interagency drills during the Giuliani administration. Did we do a drill about two planes crashing into the World Trade Center towers? No. Because, nobody ever anticipated that.
BLITZER: Could the police talk to the firefighters? Were they're communications compatible?
SAFIR: No, they were on different frequencies, as most police and fire departments were at that time. That's been fixed. One of the things you know, it's easy to look back seven years in hindsight and dissect and be very critical. The fact is that's the way that most departments were equipped at the time but the reality is that we learned from that situation and now it's fixed.
BLITZER: Here's what Joe Biden said about Rudy Giuliani at an earlier presidential debate because I want you to respond. Listen to Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Think about it, Rudy Giuliani, there's only three things he mentioned in a sentence, a noun a verb, and 9/11. There's nothing else. There's nothing else. I mean it sincerely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. You want it respond to what Biden says?
SAFIR: Absolutely. You know, I'm responding to a totally political statement. But the fact is, when I was a fire commissioner early on we had two firefighters killed in a horrific fire in Greenwich Village. I found out that the time that we did not have fireproof clothing for firefighters. I went to Rudy, he immediately allocated $11 million to put the entire fire department with fire proof bunker gear and we reduced fire injuries by 60 percentage. I don't hear Chief Riches talking about that.
BLITZER: He did say one serious allegation. He said Giuliani and he said you and others were cowards that you ran away and you let his son and other firefighters die which is a horrible accusation obviously, but go ahead and respond to him.
SAFIR: But the fact is that I wasn't there but Rudy Giuliani and the then fire commissioner and police commissioner were whisked away from the collapsing towers by their security details, as they should have been. Because they were not there to operationally fight the fires. You know, we have great heroes in both the police and fire departments that ran into those buildings and saved 20,000 some odd people. The fact is 99 percent of the people below the impact floors survived because of the heroism of police and firefighters. And what, you know, Chief Riches and his group are doing, are trying to denigrate that.
BLITZER: And just want to make it clear Howard Safir was not the police or fire commissioner at the time, you had then, both Bernard Kerik was the police commissioner, Thomas Von Essen was the fire commissioner at that time. Howard Safir, thanks very much for coming in.
SAFIR: Glad to be here.
BLITZER: Millions of toys recalled, but millions more may still pose a threat to kids and they're still on store shelves. We'll have details of an urgent warning that's going on.
Plus: The pending Supreme Court case that could redefine the right to bear arms. Details of a major second amendment case, that and a lot more coming up right here on the SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Millions of popular toys recalled but with millions more. There's apparently some hidden dangers still lining store shelves as the holidays approach and that's prompting an urgent warning and a lawsuit. Our senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff is joining us with more on what's going on. So, what are the latest concerns, Allan?
ALLAN CHERNOFF, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, we actually have a double dose of concern. Not only do parents have to worry about toys containing lead and other hazards, but consumer advocates say we should also be worried about the federal agency that's supposed to protect us from such dangers.
CHERNOFF (voice over): On the very day that the Consumer Product Safety Commission is warning shoppers about dangerous toys containing small pieces and sharp edges, consumer advocates are issuing a warning about the commission itself.
MICHAEL GREEN, CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH: The leadership at the Consumer Product Safety Commission is not committed to protecting kids from the lead. They appeared to be more committed to protecting the convenience of the companies than protecting the kids.
CHERNOFF: The California-based Center for Environmental Health says it has been testing children's products and has found more items still on the shelves than contain lead, including baby bibs, yet another reason for parent to be cautious as they shop for the children.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think you need it be very careful on what you buy and looking at where it's made.
CHERNOFF: The Consumer Product Safety Commission says it's the victim of a cheap shot.
JULIE VALLESE, CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION: We have a responsibility to enforce safety and that's what this agency does. Any time that you start playing politics with safety, that's just not a good thing for consumers.
CHERNOFF: It is a well-known fact in Washington that the Consumer Product Safety Commission operates with a very lean staff and low budget. It relies on toymakers to test their own products.
ED MIERZWINSKI, U.S. PUBLIC INT. RESEARCH GROUP: The Consumer Product Safety Commission or CPSC is a little agency with a big job that it simply cannot do with the resources that it has available.
CHERNOFF: The state of California is taking matters into its own hands, suing 20 toymakers and retailers, including Mattel and "Toys R Us" in an effort to get them to tougher inspections.
CHERNOFF (on camera): "Toys R Us" says it shares the attorney general's commitment to product safety and Mattel says it is toughening inspections and will cooperate fully with the State Attorney General. The company pledges toys this holiday season will be quote, "The safest ever." Wolf?
BLITZER: Let's hope that's true. Thanks very much, Allan for that.
Let's go back to Jack. He's got The Cafferty File in New York. Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, THE CAFFERTY FILE: The question this hour, Wolf, is what's behind Senator Hillary Clinton's recent drop in the polls? We've got a lot of mail. Tom writes, "I'm reminded of the old adage, familiarity breeds contempt, we thought we knew Hillary, but we only knew her in a supporting role. Now that she is out front, here all too apparent limitations are on display. Who really wants more Clintonism in the future? Bill was a fine, moderate Republican president, but now the country needs a real Democrat." Steve writes, "Hillary was anointed as the chosen one by the media, not the voters. Now the voters are paying attention and they see an empty opportunist. Joe in Colorado, "I truly believe that when Hillary supported New York Governor Eliot Spitzer with a statement of what else is he supposed to do when it came to giving drivers' licenses to illegal aliens that pushed us over the edge. I had her on the border but her statement pushed me off my ballot. Big booboo."
Ardy on Woodstock, Georgia, "The biggest reason for the drop in the polls for Hillary Clinton are you and the rest of the press. For some reason you just cannot accept Hillary Clinton and you've been picking up on anything you can to attempt to downgrade her. I'm disappointed in you. Joe in Colorado Springs, "I'm not so much Hillary is dropped but at Obama has risen. The more the public looks the more substance they see in Barack Obama. We have enough politicians in politics at some level, even the blind party supporters know that. The world needs integrity and leadership to get the U.S. out of the hell hole we dug for our selves and Obama is the only leader in the race." And Brian writes from Gridley, California, "The senator from New York has all the charisma of Richard Nixon on a bad day." Wolf?
BLITZER: Richard from Gridley, California, does not like Hillary Clinton.
CAFFERTY: Apparently not.
BLITZER: Jack, stand by, the Round Table in the next hour and more of The Cafferty File. Jack will be with us. Also coming up, Lou Dobbs, there's some speculation he's thinking about running for the White House. If you want me to ask Lou about. That's coming up next. We'll talk about that.
And will a stem cell break through be enough to end the debate over the controversial research? Stick around, you're in the SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show that begins in one hour, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. He's joining us now. Lou, a little uproar a little commotion earlier on "Good Morning America" on ABC. I'm going to play a little clip and then we'll talk about it. Listen.
LOU DOBBS, CNN SHOW HOST: Sure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DIANE SAWYER, HOST: The "Wall Street Journal" and friend of Lou Dobbs were quoted as saying that you were seriously contemplating running for president as an independent.
DOBBS: What kind of friend would urge that kind of thinking on one even in the "Wall Street Journal" without being named. That's not where my interest lies right now.
SAWYER: Not going to do it, not going to be you?
DOBBS: I doubt it very seriously that anything like that could even possibly merge it.
SAWYER: Alright, we have doubted it seriously in they're reporting (ph) this. We didn't close the door completely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, a lot of people say, you know, they didn't hear a Shermanesque kind of flat statement, Lou, you want to clarify?
DOBBS: You know, I've been saying for sometime, I mean I'm very flattered that a number of people have asked me to run for office, run for president, but I've been saying for some time that isn't where my interest lies. I am an advocacy journalist, I love what I do. Besides that, Wolf, I would have to give up working with you. I mean, that's just not the right decision at this time.
BLITZER: Well, that sounds like you may be leaving it open down the road. You're still a very young man. What do you think?
DOBBS: Well, I think that you know, you never say never, but the fact of the matter is, my commitment, my interest lies in being - doing what I do, which is that of an advocacy journalist on this great network. I'm very flattered by the thoughts. As a matter of fact, today, I received my first campaign contribution, and very flattering. People are talking about it. By the way, Wolf, you should know a number of people said that they were thinking about contributing to my campaign. But I can't tell you how many people have said this, that, after the Democratic campaign of last week, they want to double their offer. So...
BLITZER: All right, Lou, thanks. I know you are going to be talking more about this, not only today, but in the days to come.
DOBBS: You bet, Wolf.
BLITZER: Lou has got his show coming up in one hour, his new time slot.
Thanks very much, Lou, for that.
DOBBS: Thank you, Wolf.
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