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THE SITUATION ROOM

President Bush Caught Up in CIA Leak Scandal?; New Hampshire Announces Primary Date

Aired November 21, 2007 - 18:00   ET

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


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: a stunning new twist in the CIA leak scandal, as a former White House spokesman says President Bush was -- quote -- "involved" in the false information put out about the case.
Also, a looming question in the race for the White House finally answered, as New Hampshire announces the date of the nation's first presidential primary.

And we will show you why almost one million legal immigrants are caught in limbo, victims of an unprecedented government backlog. Some say we should have seen that coming.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following stunning claims against the Bush administration from a former White House insider. In a forthcoming book, former Press Secretary Scott McClellan says high-ranking officials in the White House were involved in misinforming the public in the CIA leak scandal.

In 2003, McClellan told reports that Karl Rove and Lewis Scooter Libby were not involved in the leaking of Valerie Plame Wilson's name. It all started after she was outed in a newspaper column as being a CIA operative. Well, now McClellan is saying something very different about the involvement of top White House officials.

CNN's Jessica Yellin is at the White House.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, I talked to the publisher today, and he's dialling it back a bit. He says in the rest of the book McClellan makes it clear at no point did the president tell him to lie about this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any comments at this time?

YELLIN (voice over): During the frenzy surrounding the leak of a CIA operative's name, then White House press secretary Scott McClellan announced that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby had nothing to do with it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They're important members of our White House team, and that's why I spoke with them, so that I could come back to you and say that they were not involved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: But in an upcoming book, McClellan admits there was one problem -- it was not true. I unknowingly passed along false information. And he makes this accusation, "that five of the highest- ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so," among them, "the president himself."

That is raising questions about what Mr. Bush knew and in what way he was involved. The White House issued a swift response. The President has not and would not ask anyone to knowingly pass on false information. And the world knowingly could be key.

Earlier this year, McClellan told CNN Mr. Bush was misled just like he was.

MCCLELLAN: I said what I believed to be true at the time. It was also what the President believed to be true at the time based on assurances that we were both given.

YELLIN: The outed CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson pounced on the news, calling it shocking, saying it adds support to her civil case. But former chief of staff Andy Card says there must be more to the story, though he hedged on his own role in the matter, telling CNN, "I cannot imagine that I would have knowingly asked Scott McClellan to say something that's a falsehood."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: When I spoke to Andy Card, he also suggested, he would like Scott McClellan to give the full story of what happened, but McClellan isn't talking, and his publisher says they kept the excerpt short deliberately. That book comes out next April -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Well, Scott McClellan's ties to President Bush go far back. In 1999, he was then Texas Governor Bush's spokesman. In 2000 McClellan was traveling press secretary for the Bush/Cheney presidential campaign. McClellan was White House press secretary from 2003 to 2006.

Also, McClellan's family has strong political ties in Texas and Washington. His mother, Carole Strayhorn, spent decades in public service in Texas and even ran for governor unsuccessfully. And McClellan's brother Mark has held various posts in Washington, including former FDA commissioner.

Well, there is a major development in the presidential race. All eyes have been watching New Hampshire for when it would hold its presidential primary. Well, now we're getting word of just when that is going to happen. The first-in-the-nation primary will be January 8. That is five days after the first caucuses in Iowa. New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner made that announcement a short while ago.

The contest calendar appears to be set now with Michigan and Nevada holding their contests mid-January and South Carolina and Florida holding theirs at the end of the month.

Well, hoping to win those contests, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are locked in a political food fight. They are hurling barbs at each other with Clinton suggesting that Obama is too inexperienced to be president and Obama is suggesting that Clinton is not that much different than President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

CNN's Dan Lothian has more from Manchester, New Hampshire.

Dan, this rivalry really heating up, the war of words obviously taken to a whole 'nother level.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF: It really is, because they both realize -- in fact, all the candidates realize how important this state is.

Hillary Clinton still leading, according to the latest polls, but she has slipped a bit. Senator Obama has gone up just a bit. So, you can see one reason why we're seeing so many fireworks.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN (voice over): Helping to prepare meal boxes for the needy, Senator Barack Obama worked the assembly line at a food pantry in Manchester, New Hampshire.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanksgiving is a time where we're grateful for what we have, but we also are thinking about those who don't have.

LOTHIAN: That was all he wanted to talk about, putting down the gloves and picking up cans of beans one day after sparring with Hillary Clinton over foreign policy experience and her comment that she had met with many world leaders.

OBAMA: I was wondering which world leader told her that we needed to invade Iraq.

LOTHIAN: This surge and heated exchanges between the top two Democratic candidates began earlier in the week when Obama said this...

OBAMA: You know, probably the strongest experience that I have in foreign relations is the fact that I spent four years living overseas when I was a child in Asia, in southeast Asia.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With all due respect, I don't think living in a foreign country between the ages of 6 and 10 is foreign policy experience.

LOTHIAN: Obama tried clarify his point.

OBAMA: It gives me some judgment and perspective around what other people think about America.

LOTHIAN: For much of this race, Hillary Clinton had been directing her harshest criticism against President Bush and her Republican rivals, campaigning with a sense of inevitability that she will be the Democratic nominee.

Here's an ad released on Tuesday in the Granite State.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CLINTON CAMPAIGN AD)

ANNOUNCER: Here they go again. The same old Republican attack machine is back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: But the tone of this race now seems to be changing as Clinton's closest Democratic rival inches up or ahead in the first two states that matter, Iowa and New Hampshire. The question is, how will voters here take to this more stepped-up war of words?

SCOTT SPRADLING, WMUR POLITICAL EDITOR: Negative attacks work everywhere you go, but here in New Hampshire it's not received as well as it might be in other states, where you really see the fisticuffs.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN: And, of course, that could be risky in New Hampshire and could potentially backfire in a state where political experts say the voters do want their candidates to point out the differences without getting ugly -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: We will see if that works. Dan Lothian, thank you so much.

Mitt Romney's strategy for Iowa and New Hampshire, spend big, finish first, and ride the momentum, has been looking, well, pretty solid, at least until this week's polls came in.

Our Dana Bash has been traveling with the Romney campaign in Iowa, joining us of course from New York.

Dana, how has this week's news changed and shaken up the dynamics here?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Suzanne, Mitt Romney actually got some good news this week in New Hampshire. Poll numbers there show him with a comfortable lead. But, in Iowa, Romney's lead has all but evaporated, and that is posing a big threat to his strategy to win the nomination.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice over): Day 42 and counting campaigning in Iowa.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's good to see you.

BASH: Mitt Romney has invested more in Iowa than any GOP presidential candidate. Fifteen TV ads, the first nearly a year ago.

ROMNEY: We're spending too much money, and that's got to stop.

BASH: Early endorsements were key.

CHUCK LAUDNER, IOWA STATE GOP CHAIR: I think everybody would agree that Mitt Romney has the best operation on the ground.

BASH: But the value of those big early investments is now in question. A new Washington Post poll shows Romney in a statistical dead heat in Iowa with rival Mike Huckabee.

(on camera): How worried are you about Governor Huckabee? He is right on your heels here.

ROMNEY: Well, I recognize you have got a lot of good people that are going to be in this race. It's going to be really tight.

BASH (voice over): The former Massachusetts governor now downplays his goal here, saying he just wants to place no less than third in Iowa's caucuses. But the reality is Romney's strategy to win the nomination depends on early victories, first in Iowa, then Michigan and New Hampshire.

Romney has made significant inroads with Christian conservatives, key to the Iowa vote. But Huckabee's climb is more evidence many are leery of Romney, worried his conversion to abortion opponent and emphasis on opposing same-sex marriage are more political calculations than personal convictions.

PASTOR DARRAN WHITING, HUCKABEE SUPPORTER: I just don't know that I can believe the change that he wants me to say that he's encountered. I'm not convinced that he is as conservative as I am.

BASH: Romney's response?

ROMNEY: I don't think there's a single elected official in the country that's been a more tireless advocate for protecting the traditional marriage and preventing the spread of gay marriage than I have been.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: So, as you just heard, Romney now downplays expectations for an Iowa win. How he does there is one of the defining questions for the GOP race right now, whether he can get enough momentum to derail Rudy Giuliani, who is the front-runner on a national level.

And, Suzanne, Iowa delivers that answer in just six weeks.

MALVEAUX: Wow. Not that much time left. OK.

BASH: Not at all.

MALVEAUX: Dana, thank you so much. Have a good holiday.

Jack Cafferty joining us now from New York.

Jack, what are you following?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: For those of you who haven't had your fill of this crop of presidential candidates, maybe you would like to set an extra place for one of them at your Thanksgiving dinner table. Or maybe you wouldn't. But that's what we're doing anyway.

A new Quinnipiac University poll asked voters which candidate they would like to sit down with for the big holiday meal; 27 percent picked Hillary; 24 percent picked Barack Obama; 22 percent picked Rudy Giuliani. John McCain was preferred by 17 percent, Fred Thompson by 14 percent, and John Edwards by 13 percent. And the rest of the candidates, they weren't exactly welcome at the Americans' household. They all placed in the single digits.

For some of the presidential wannabes, like Giuliani, Obama, McCain, this is actually a decline in the number of Americans who would like to have them over for dinner based on a similar poll that was taken last Memorial Day.

How much does this all matter? Well, probably not a lot. As one of the pollsters points out, voters don't just vote on the issues. They want to vote for somebody they trust. And you don't invite people over for dinner if you don't trust or like them.

So, here's the question. Which presidential candidate would you most like to invite over for Thanksgiving dinner and why?

E-mail caffertyfile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/caffertyfile -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So, Jack, is there anybody you would like to invite for Thanksgiving dinner, any of them?

CAFFERTY: I would prefer to eat alone.

(LAUGHTER)

MALVEAUX: OK. Don't want to get indigestion or anything, right? OK.

Thanks, Jack.

He has been called the president's wordsmith, moral compass, and even his conscience. Coming up, former speechwriter Michael Gerson and what he thinks Republicans need to do to shed the negative image.

And two years later, some new developments in the case of a missing American student in Aruba -- details just ahead.

And a massive attack off the coast of Ireland. The culprits? Jellyfish, billions of them. Well, you will want to hear this one -- ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: And Carol Costello following the latest developments on breaking news.

Carol, I understand you have some details on a story.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a really strange story out of the San Francisco area, Suzanne. We have some live pictures provided for us from our affiliate KGO.

Apparently, there are four sticks of dynamite tied to a residential motor home. And police have evacuated a one-mile radius of Broadway near the unincorporated town of Knightsen. That's in East Contra Costa County. People are being evacuated, while firefighters and explosive experts are trying to figure out if these four sticks of dynamite that are apparently tied to this motor home are the real deal.

I will keep you posted on this, Suzanne, but, again, a strange story we're following.

MALVEAUX: Well, as the Bush administration winds down, a debate is under way about whether Republicans have lost their way and need to refocus on conservatism's ideals, as well as goals.

An important voice in that debate, of course, is Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for the president. He has just put out a book called "Heroic Conservatism: Why Republicans Need to Embrace America's Ideals and Why They Deserve to Fail If They Don't."

Michael, thanks for joining us.

MICHAEL GERSON, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: Great to be here.

MALVEAUX: And congratulations on the book, of course.

GERSON: Well, thank you. Thank you.

MALVEAUX: You have been referred to as the president's wordsmith, his moral compass, even his conscience at times. And I read the book, and you say here Republicans need to shed their mean, anti-government image. That in some ways they have lost their way.

Who is to blame? Is it the president, the head of the party, Vice President Cheney?

GERSON: You know, I think there's a backlash against the leadership of Congress because of the failure in Congress, a backlash in many ways against the administration. But I argue in the book that it's possible to be an economic conservative and also believe that you can address poverty. That you can be a social conservative, which I am, and also believe we should be helping African children.

These are great moral causes that unite Americans, that appeal to their aspirations instead of just their interests. And I -- you know, I think these ideals are going to be important for the Republican Party as it moves forward.

MALVEAUX: Well, let's talk a little bit about politics -- obviously the race. In your book you say that, If Republicans run in future elections with a simplistic anti-government message, ignoring the poor, the addicted, and children at risk, they will lose and they will deserve to lose.

The only person, the only candidate here who's talking about poverty as a central issue is a Democrat. That's John Edwards.

GERSON: Right. John Edwards...

MALVEAUX: So do the Republicans deserve to lose?

GERSON: Well, actually, I talked with Mike Huckabee the other week. He is a Republican that's talking about populist economic issues, about the need for, you know, income mobility in this country. He does talk about poverty in a certain way.

I like that about him. I like some of John McCain's themes as well. But John Edwards gets credit, I think, for raising this issue.

I disagree with a lot of his prescriptions, because I propose in my book specifically conservative ideas, conservative and free market ideas to help raise the poor and empower people. But I think he gets credit for raising it.

MALVEAUX: So based on your definition of heroic conservatism, who deserves to win?

GERSON: Well, right now I'm very impressed with Huckabee. I don't -- I don't endorse him, because I like McCain and I like some of the others as well, but at least he's addressing these issues, these economic populist issues about people that feel -- stagnant incomes, people in this country that don't feel like they're getting ahead.

Republicans, you know, can't just talk about budgets. They also have to talk about people. Eventually, you need that message.

I was involved in the last three presidential campaigns in one way or another. I know eventually you have to appeal broadly and you have to address these basic issues that people are talking about.

MALVEAUX: But how are the Republicans faring? Obviously with immigration they're losing Hispanics support against a comprehensive reform on immigration.

GERSON: I think that's a huge problem. A huge problem.

MALVEAUX: Hurricane Katrina, obviously there's been no follow-up when it comes to the anti-poverty movement that the president talked about shortly after Katrina.

GERSON: Yes. Well, I agree with you completely on immigration. This is a situation where particularly the Republican leadership of the Congress is actively alienating the fastest-growing group of voters in America. People with -- who are entrepreneurial and have conservative social values, often natural votes for Republicans. And they're being actively alienated by this party. It's one of the reasons I think they're on the wrong track.

And I talk in the book about Katrina, the disappointment. You know, with Democrats as well after Katrina.

We're mainly interested in blame instead of addressing these issues, and Republicans are mainly interested in budgets. I think we're going to have to rise above those kind of debates and address these fundamental problems, particularly of race and poverty in America.

MALVEAUX: Let's talk real quick about a book that will be coming out in April, a good friend of yours -- you were in the White House at the same time -- Scott McClellan. An excerpt that was released here saying about the Valerie Plame case and misinformation he had given to reporters at the podium. He said, I had unknowingly passed along false information and five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so. Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president's chief of staff, and the president himself.

What do you make of what Scott is doing here?

GERSON: I read that, too. And right now, of course, the charges are pretty sketchy. The rest of the book isn't there, we don't know anything about what that means. And there's a lot of debate about that today.

MALVEAUX: Do you think he's trying to rewrite history or save his name or throw the president under the bus? What do you make of it?

GERSON: You know, I don't know. I guess I would need to know more. I mean, this is something I don't have any firsthand knowledge about, but it certainly does not fit my view of the president I know, Andy Card that I know, who's a man of great character. I was always tremendously impressed with Andy Card's, you know, transparency and honesty.

MALVEAUX: So this doesn't ring true to you?

GERSON: It does not ring true to what I have seen both with the president and the chief of staff at the time. So that's all I can say. But right now those charges are pretty sketchy. I mean, it's hard to make any judgment because there's no detail there.

MALVEAUX: OK. Michael Gerson, thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

GERSON: Good to be with you.

MALVEAUX: We appreciate it.

MALVEAUX: Computer disks missing in the mail, it is not just an ordinary case of lost records. This one affects half the population.

And a lost masterpiece found in a pile of trash finally sells at auction. Just see how much it's worth -- next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Our Carol Costello is monitoring stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Carol, what are you looking at, at this hour?

COSTELLO: A couple of things, Suzanne.

Major new developments in the case of missing American teenager Natalee Holloway. Aruba prosecutors say three young men who were previously detained as suspects have been re-arrested. Joran van der Sloot was arrested in the Netherlands. Two others, brothers, have been arrested in Aruba. The three are suspected of involuntary manslaughter. Prosecutors say the arrests came because of new material in the investigation. Holloway disappeared in Aruba in May of 2005.

Nerves are rattled in Britain after a security lapse affecting almost half the nation's population. Two computer disks disappeared while being sent by internal mail from the Tax and Customs Department to the government's audit agency. The discs contained names, addresses, birth dates, national insurance numbers, and in some cases banking details for 25 million people. The government is saying it's sorry. It says there's no sign that the data has fallen into criminal hands.

It sounds like something from a horror movie. A massive jellyfish attack has wiped out Northern Ireland's only salmon farm. The farm's owners say billions of jellyfish were in a dense pack that spanned 10 square miles when they overwhelmed the fish last week. Workers tried to save the salmon, but they were all dead or dying by the time the workers' boats reached them.

And an art collector is paying more than $1 million for an abstract painting that was found in the trash. Elizabeth Gibson spotted the painting 2003 in New York City. She recently learned that it is a masterpiece by a Mexican artists and was stolen from a Houston couple back in 1989. The husband has since died.

An American collector bought the painting last night from his widow. Gibson is getting a reward and a percentage of the sale's price.

Why can't that ever happen to me?

(LAUGHTER)

MALVEAUX: Happy ending to the story, though, Carol.

COSTELLO: Yes.

MALVEAUX: One day.

Well, a lot of talk has centered on illegal immigration, but what about those hoping to become citizens legally? Many more of them are filing applications. But they're running into one major problem.

Also, they are battling on the trail, but united on one idea -- why some Democratic candidates might not show up for the next debate.

And, well, political turkeys, greatest hits of this year's duds.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: the president's former press secretary, a confusing quote, and allegations of misinformation at the highest levels of the White House, a surprise new twist in the CIA leak case. What will the fallout be for President Bush?

Also, a former Republican underdog now nipping at the heels of the front-runner in Iowa. Will presidential candidate Mike Huckabee upset Mitt Romney in the crucial first test of the voters?

And Barack Obama once again admitting to drug and alcohol use as a youth. Is honesty always the best policy for a White House hopeful?

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A new twist in the battle over immigration -- there's been a surge in the number of immigrants applying for naturalization. And the government has fallen way behind in processing those applications.

CNN's justice correspondent, Kelli Arena joining us now -- and, Kelli, what is going on?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, immigration lawyers say it's a mess. There's no telling how long the process is likely to take and it's threatening the chance for some to vote in time for next year's presidential election.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARENA (voice-over): Millions of immigrants applied for citizenship this summer -- to beat a sharp fee hike. And there was supposed to be an added bonus -- the opportunity to vote in next year's presidential election.

TOM ELLIOTT, IMMIGRATION LAWYER: This is unheard of. This is nearly triple, in some cases, or more, of the normal time just to get the case started.

ARENA: Tom Elliot has been practicing immigration law for three decades and he says he's never seen anything like it.

ELLIOT: They should have anticipated at the top, at headquarters, what was to happen. ARENA: The July rush created a huge backlog -- nearly 900,000 pending cases -- almost twice as many as a year ago. Agency officials say more than 100 employees have volunteered to help process applications. But lawyers and applicants say that files are being sent back with errors or have disappeared into a bureaucratic black hole.

Manny Barajas submitted his application forms six months ago.

MANNY BARAJAS, CITIZENSHIP APPLICANT: You've got people who are willing to pay the money, learn whatever they have to learn and they're getting discouraged because we have to wait. The process is so slow.

ARENA: Even under normal circumstances, the wait is about seven months. Now, it's anyone's guess. And that means this freshman class of new Americans may well miss the vote.

BRENT WILKES, UNITED LATIN AMERICAN CITIZENS: It's a huge injustice because of the fact that immigration is such a big topic in this election cycle and these people are motivated to have an input.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ARENA: And while it wouldn't provide anyone on camera, Citizenship and Immigration Services says that it's working hard to process all applications and petitions as quickly as it can and to do so without sacrificing efficiency, quality or security -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Kelli.

An explosive claim in a forthcoming book by former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan. He links President Bush to the passing of misinformation to the news media about the CIA leak scandal.

In our Thanksgiving Day tonight to talk about it, CNN's chief national correspondent John King in New York, along with CNN's Jack Cafferty. His book "It's Getting Ugly Out There" is a "New York Times " best-seller.

And joining us here in Washington, CNN senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Thank you joining all of us -- of course, here. The first thing that's created a lot of buzz here in Washington and throughout the country, this book from Scott McClellan. I want to read the excerpt from that book that seems to be so controversial here. He said: "I had unknowingly passed along false information and five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so -- Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president's chief of staff and the president himself."

Jack, let's start with you.

With a bombshell accusation like this, what does it say about the administration? CAFFERTY: Well, a couple of things occur to me. The first one is whoever is doing the P.R. for McClellan's book ought to get a raise, because he's doing a masterful job of creating buzz and interest in a book that won't even be out until next April.

The second thing is it doesn't really seem to me like it's breaking news that the administration -- the White House may have misled one of their own about something. After all, they've been lying to the rest of the country about a whole bunch of stuff for the better part of six-and-a-half years.

Remember when the story broke about the CIA agent and President Bush said I will fire anybody in the White House who was involved in compromising the identity of the CIA agent.

Well, that was a lie, wasn't it, because Karl Rove and "Scooter " Libby and some of those folks -- they were up to their armpits in the compromising of Valerie Plame's identity. So the president changed and he said well, I will fire anybody who is convicted of committing a crime in conjunction with the outing of a CIA -- so I mean that place has turned into an oil slick down there a long time ago and I don't believe a whole much of anything that comes out of there these days.

MALVEAUX: John, I know you're itching to jump in here, obviously.

How much of what we understand -- what McClellan is saying -- you were there when all this was unfolding here, when he says the president was involved.

What is your understanding of what he's trying to say?

JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think, first and foremost, he might want to steal Jack's title and rename his book a little bit -- "It Got Ugly In There" -- inside the White House. Look, you know, Scott feels betrayed. There's no question about that. He has said that privately in conversations since he found out what had happened. The key question now is, obviously, there's that quote that makes everyone say whoa, the president was involved in it.

His publisher is out today saying Scott is not saying the president was lying. Scott -- what Scott seems to be saying is that he thinks the president was ill-informed or misinformed, as well.

So there are questions unanswered here. The principal one in my view is what was the vice president's role?

We understand that Karl Rove and "Scooter " Libby told Scott McClellan something that was not true -- that he is -- he feels his credibility was shot and he feels betrayed by it. The bigger question is what did the vice president know?

And if the president didn't lie but passed on information to Scott McClellan that turned out not to be true, who told the president that information and what is being done about that?

So I would love to read the full chapter, not just the brief excerpt that's here.

MALVEAUX: And, Gloria, how is this going to be received by the White House? Who is the potential fall guy in all of this?

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they're not happy, obviously, because nobody wants to see the president accused of lying. And I think the key word to look at here, which everybody seems to be throwing around, is knowingly -- "I did not knowingly tell somebody a falsehood."

If the president actually told Scott McClellan that nobody in the White House had leaked Valerie Plame's name, that is probably what the vice president -- what the president was told.

I agree with John.

The question is, who told the president that?

Was it the vice president?

And we know how close the vice president was to "Scooter " Libby.

And did Karl Rove technically leak Valerie Plame's name or did he say to the "Time" correspondent, when the "Time" correspondent raised it, said yes, I heard that?

Is that technically leaking her name?

Maybe not.

CAFFERTY: But wait a second, though...

BORGER: So I think this whole thing is a bunch of technicalities right now.

And, by the way...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: ...I agree with you, Jack, this is a big publicity stunt because, really, nobody cares anymore.

CAFFERTY: Well, I care.

BORGER: OK.

CAFFERTY: and I'll tell you why I care. George Bush is the president of the United States. And this idea that he was somehow victimized by his own people, he didn't know what was going -- he's the president. This was a huge story at the time.

BORGER: But what if he's lied to, Jack?

What if somebody lies to the president?

CAFFERTY: Excuse me... BORGER: What are you going to do?

CAFFERTY: excuse me. The buck stops at the Oval Office. He's in charge. It's up to him to find out who's telling the truth and who isn't. It's up to him to tell the American people what went on in his White House. It's his...

BORGER: I think we'll hear that in his memoir.

CAFFERTY: it's his White House.

BORGER: I think when he writes his memoir...

CAFFERTY: It's his White House.

BORGER: When he writes his memoir...

CAFFERTY: I'd like to hear it now.

BORGER: ...maybe we'll get to the bottom of it.

CAFFERTY: No, I'd like to hear it now.

MALVEAUX: Should we wait until...

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: There might still be time to impeach him.

BORGER: I would, too.

MALVEAUX: Should we wait...

BORGER: I'd love to hear it.

MALVEAUX: Should we wait for the memoirs?

CAFFERTY: No.

MALVEAUX: Does anybody believe the president should jump in now, in the next 13 months?

CAFFERTY: Well, how about the American public be told what the chief executive office of the United States government is up to?

How about if we were told the truth?

Wouldn't that be a switch?

KING: Well, Suzanne, as you know, the president doesn't like these behind the curtain books being written about his administration. This is, in fact, a very rare thing for someone who was in the inner circle to write a behind-the-scenes look inside the White House that will be at least somewhat critical of the administration.

But the president will get asked about it. He'll get asked about it at the next news conference. He'll get asked about it when the book comes out.

Look, Scott McClellan is a good man who was a loyal soldier to this president.

CAFFERTY: Exactly.

KING: He was betrayed and he wants to clear his name and I'm looking forward to reading the book.

MALVEAUX: OK.

BORGER: Yes...

MALVEAUX: OK.

Well, we'll pick up this conversation on the other end of the commercial.

Real quick, Barack Obama talks about wasted time. He opens up about drinking and experimenting with drugs while growing up. You'll hear what he says woke him up.

And they serve tasty bits of news -- feeding many hungry viewers. For that, there are political turkeys of the year.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama admitting what he says he calls a goof-off in high school who experimented with alcohol and drugs.

But what impact will that have on his campaign?

Gloria Borger, Jack Cafferty and John King back with us, of course, to try to figure that out and answer that question.

Let's start off by listening very closely to what Barack Obama said at a New Hampshire high school.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There were times where I got into drinking and experimented with drugs. There was a whole stretch of time when I didn't really apply myself a lot. And it wasn't until I got out of college, or got out of high school, and went to college, that I started realizing, man, I've wasted a lot of time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Jack, is this new or is this just the first guy to admit it?

CAFFERTY: Well, I don't know if he's the first guy to admit it. But since he is telling the truth and it doesn't seem to have caused him any long-term harmful side effects, I'd suggest that it's probably less damaging to his presidential aspirations than trying to make us believe that living in Indonesia when you're nine years old qualifies as foreign policy experience.

MALVEAUX: John, we've seen President Bush deal with a number of things. Obviously, there was a dui charge. He's also spoken publicly about a struggle and battle with alcoholism.

Do you think that ultimately this will help or hurt him?

KING: I think it's pretty neutral in today's society. Twenty years ago, this was the kind of thing that could be quite damaging. But you mentioned, George W. Bush did concede in the 2000 race that he had a DWI conviction. You remember back in 1992, Bill Clinton said he smoked, but didn't inhale. There are people still rolling their eyes at that one -- me included.

(LAUGHTER)

So, look, Barack Obama is telling the truth about this. Generationally, he's being candid about it. He wrote about this in a book some time ago. I don't think there's any political price to be paid if that's it -- something that happened in high school long ago and he's being candid about it.

MALVEAUX: Gloria, very interesting -- Gloria, there were two candidates who weighed in on this, both Republican. Romney, on one hand, criticized him for it, saying that you shouldn't give this idea to kids that this is OK, because you, too, could be president. But then he -- then we heard from Giuliani, who said he admired his honesty. It doesn't matter.

BORGER: I think, in a way, it does matter because honesty is very important in this presidential race. Authenticity is going to be an issue that's raised, particularly on the Democratic side.

But here's Barack Obama talking to students, trying to give them an object lesson, which is that you can overcome a lot of things in your life. And, by the way, in his book he was much more specific and wrote about cocaine use. And I don't think any candidate really wants to get in there and start criticizing Barack Obama for this because who knows what can be revealed about someone else. Maybe Mitt Romney is pure as the driven snow. We have absolutely no idea. But we know that Rudy Giuliani understands that he's got some own problems in his past, like his three marriages, which he probably doesn't want folks to talk about.

So I'm with Jack's viewer earlier in THE SITUATION ROOM, who said look, applaud this guy for his honesty.

MALVEAUX: Well, let's -- let's switch topics, if we can, and turn the corner to Iowa. The big question, of course, what is happening in Iowa?

Let's take a look at the latest poll here. This is ABC News/ "Washington Post." you've got Mitt Romney at 28 percent; Mike Huckabee really on his heels at 24 percent; and then the rest, of course, trailing behind.

I guess, Jack, to you, Romney spends all his time and money in the state.

I mean is it a waste?

CAFFERTY: I don't know. And I think this is a good story for the news media. But if you look at the most recent poll in New Hampshire, for example, Romney is favored by 33 percent of the New Hampshire voters, Huckabee by 5 percent. Huckabee is in fifth place. And if you look at the national polls, Huckabee polls at about 8 percent and is consistently in fifth place. So I don't know what the Iowa polls suggest, but it's at sharp odds with some of the other major polling that's going on around the country.

MALVEAUX: John, real quick, do you think that Huckabee could pull it off?

Could he win Iowa?

KING: Sure he could. And Gloria a word a few moments ago -- authenticity. Mike Huckabee, to the conservative Evangelical base of the Republican Party, which is very dominant in the Iowa caucuses -- is authentic. Two other anti-abortion candidates, Tommy Thompson and Sam Brownback, dropped out. It looks like most of their support went right to Mike Huckabee. He's got a chance in Iowa. Jack's right, he doesn't have the resources. It will be tough to go on from there.

MALVEAUX: Gloria, I'll give you the final word here.

What do you say -- what do you think this means for the GOP field or even Giuliani, perhaps?

BORGER: I think -- I think what this shows, Suzanne, is how wide open it is. And it shows you the weaknesses in the Republican field right now. The voters don't have a favorite candidate -- particularly conservatives, particularly conservative Evangelical voters. They're looking for a horse. They don't have one. It is not Fred Thompson.

MALVEAUX: Gloria, Jack, John, thank you so much.

CAFFERTY: Amen.

MALVEAUX: All right, amen to that.

Well, they've gobbled up lots of news media coverage and served tasty tidbits that kept hungry viewers satisfied. And right now, some people are still picking through, well, the leftovers of what they did.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is here to explain all of that and what he has for us for Thanksgiving -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: For Thanksgiving, turkeys, of course. They're foolish creatures -- overstuffed, noisy and self-important. You know, they're a lot like politicians.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER (voice-over): How do you become one of our "Political Turkeys of the Year?"

By doing something foolish -- like, say, turkey number five, John Edwards -- who spent $400 on a haircut.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You can come from nothing to spending $400 on a haircut.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

EDWARDS: There are great opportunities.

(LAUGHTER)

EDWARDS: So embarrassing, by the way.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHNEIDER: Yes, it was.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've had a Congress that spent money like John Edwards at a beauty shop.

SCHNEIDER: And how about turkey number four -- that fake FEMA news conference during the California wildfires?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, I will be glad to take some of your questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you happy with FEMA's response so far?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm very happy with FEMA's response so far.

Thank you.

SCHNEIDER: Thanks for asking?

Not necessary. The questioner was a FEMA employee.

Turkey number three -- the attorney general suffers an amazing memory lapse when asked about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don't recall having specific questions.

I don't recall such a conversation.

Senator, I don't recall that -- that occurring, again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: Exasperated Republicans finally gave up on him.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: And I believe that the best way to put this behind us is your resignation.

SCHNEIDER: Done.

Turkey number two -- Larry Craig pleads guilty, pays a fine and agrees to step down if the court denies his appeal.

SEN. LARRY CRAIG (R), IDAHO: Therefore, it is with sadness and deep regret that I announce that it is my intent to resign from the Senate, effective September 30.

SCHNEIDER: Not done -- even though the court denied his appeal.

Turkey number one -- New York Governor Eliot Spitzer promotes a plan to give driver's licenses to illegal aliens.

GOV. ELIOT SPITZER (D), NEW YORK: Over the last two months, I have been advancing a proposal that I believe would improve the safety and security of the people of my state.

SCHNEIDER: The plan meets with overwhelming public opposition -- enough to trip up a presidential contender.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I did not say that it should be done, but I certainly recognize why Governor Spitzer is trying to do it.

SCHNEIDER: Governor Spitzer's response? Oh, never mind.

SPITZER: I have concluded that New York State cannot successfully address this problem on its own. I'm announcing today that I am withdrawing my proposal.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Now it's time to answer my annual Thanksgiving question -- what three national disasters would happen if you drop the Thanksgiving platter?

Answer -- the downfall of turkey, the breakup of china and the overthrow of grease.

So be careful out there -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, Bill, good stuff.

Have a good holiday.

SCHNEIDER: Same to thee.

MALVEAUX: OK.

Well, heck no, they won't go -- that's what some Democratic presidential candidates say about an upcoming debate. Find out why. And which presidential candidate would you most like to invite over for Thanksgiving dinner and why?

Well, Jack Cafferty is going to have all the answers coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: In our Political Ticker this Wednesday, on the eve of Middle East peace talks, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is raising the bar as high as possible. Rice tells reporters she is hoping for a final peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians -- including a Palestinian state by the time she and President Bush leave office. Talks involving dozen of Middle East nations begin next week in Annapolis, Maryland.

And a Democratic debate in Los Angeles next month may be sparsely attended. The DNC sanctioned debate is set to be broadcast by CBS on December 10th. Both Hillary Clinton and John Edwards are already saying if the network's news writers do go on strike, they won't cross the picket lines to debate.

And Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey may be close to setting the date -- that is, the campaign date. According to the "Chicago Sun- Times," Obama was overhead telling supporters that plans are in the works for Winfrey to stump for him in Iowa. When asked New Hampshire or South Carolina, the paper says Obama replied, "One state at a time."

And remember, for the latest political news at any time, check out the Political Ticker at CNN.com/ticker.

And many of you are going to be giving thanks tomorrow. But you're not likely thankful for the holiday costs that have gone up. Thanksgiving originally began as a feast by the Pilgrims to celebrate a bountiful harvest. Well, this year, a feast for 10 will cost, on average, $4 more than last year. Starting with the main course, the price of a 16 pound turkey increased $1.93. With those turkeys, 12 ounces of fresh cranberries cost eight cents more. Also, the fixings for a pumpkin pie have increased 34 cents.

However, not everything costs more. The cost of stuffing, actually, went down 12 cents.

So, Jack, joining us again from New York.

Are you going to enjoy an expensive Thanksgiving meal this year?

CAFFERTY: Well, I'll get plenty to eat. I'm not concerned about that. I always manage.

The question this hour is which presidential candidate would you most likely like to invite over for Thanksgiving dinner and why?

Erin writes: "Easy. Ron Paul. It's like asking whether I'd rather have dinner with one of the founding fathers or a used car salesman. Most of the candidates are trying to sell America a car that will break down the minute they drive it off the lot in 2008. I'll buy my ticket on the Ron Paul freedom train, thank you."

Albert in Las Cruces, New Mexico: "You're kidding, right, Jack? Why on Earth would anybody want any of these people on Thanksgiving? They've consumed the airwaves and been in my living room every day now for over a year now. A dinner without any of them would be something to be thankful for."

Linda in Sarasota, Florida: "I'd love to invite Senator Biden over because he has a wonderful sense of humor and because he has an awesome smile. Plus, I would greatly enjoy hearing some of the many tales he must have to tell about his years in the Senate and all the various people he's dealt with over those years. And he has an awesome smile."

David in Mississippi: "I have to work Thanksgiving Day. I'll be paying taxes. They'll all be eating from my table."

Jamie in Hurlock, Maryland: "I'd choose Obama because after we've eaten turkey and stuffing, we could go out back and roll a joint and talk about how close we came to dropping out of college before we got our acts together."

Carla in Illinois: "Without a doubt, Mike Huckabee. He's the only candidate that seems like a real live person with his own thoughts and ideas. It would be fascinating to be able to spend an hour with him. I'd invite as many of my friends and family as I could fit into my home."

And Bill in New Jersey writes: "I really can't handle more than one turkey at the table on Thanksgiving, Jack."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. We post more of them -- oh, that was cute. We post more of them online, along with video clips of The Cafferty File.

Let me see that again.

What was that?

That's very nice. It looks like some of my relatives.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Jack.

And the pictures of the day on the other side of the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: And here's a look at some of the Hot Shots coming in from our friends at the Associated Press -- pictures likely to be in your newspaper tomorrow.

In Paris, passengers stand in an overcrowded subway car. Today is the eighth full day of a transit workers walkout.

In Senegal, a boy looks at tire burning in the streets. Vendors clash with police protesting an attempt to clear beggars from the capital.

In Germany, a plush holiday Teddy bear burns during a flammability test.

And in Australia, a first time mother holds her baby at his first public showing. The Sumatran orangutan is the zoo's newest addition.

That's this hour's Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.

And thanks for joining us.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT".

Kitty Pilgrim is in for Lou -- Kitty.

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