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Interview With President Bush; Will Bill Clinton's Latest Comments on Iraq War Hurt Hillary's Presidential Run?

Aired November 28, 2007 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now -- a CNN exclusive. After Iran's leader lashes out with a warning that Israel is doomed, President Bush has a warning of his own. What he'll do if Israel is attacked. My one-on-one interview with the president. That's coming up.

And former President Bill Clinton helping out on the campaign trail.

But will his latest comments on the Iraq War come back to haunt his wife, Senator Clinton?

And the wraps are off thousands of secret documents shedding some new light on president Richard Nixon's fall from power.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


He was left out of President Bush's peace conference in Annapolis and today Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, fired right back warning, among other things, that Israel is doomed to collapse -- his words.

I sat down today for an exclusive interview with President Bush, who has a warning of his own for Iran's leader.


BLITZER: Do you believe he would really like to destroy Israel?

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I were an Israeli, I would take his words seriously.

BLITZER: Would the U.S. respond militarily on behalf of Israel if Israel were attacked by the Iranians?

BUSH: I have made it clear that the -- absolutely, that we will support our ally Israel if attacked by Iran.

BLITZER: What does that mean?

BUSH: Well, you know, I hope it doesn't happen. But, you know, you're asking me to answer a hypothetical. My answer is -- and they've got to understand that we will support Israel if Iran attacks them.


BLITZER: The interview coming up -- my one-on-one interview with President Bush. We ran part one in the last hour. Part two coming up this hour. Stay tuned for that.

Iran certainly was left off the A List for the peace conference, left off the B List -- it was left all the lists. Whether it's hard feelings or his just as usual hard line stance, President Ahmadinejad, as we just heard, is lashing out today.

Let's go to our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee.

She's watching this story for us.

It sounds like Iran right now could be the odd man out.

What's going on -- Zain?


Well, Iran, as you know, was left off the Annapolis guest list. And it's coming back with some pretty harsh words about those who were there.


VERJEE (voice-over): It didn't get an invitation to Annapolis. Now, it's calling it a failure. Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, called the conference a political show that will never bring peace to Palestinians. He couldn't resist slamming Israel, saying it's doomed to collapse because it's been created on aggression, lying, oppression and crime.

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Once again -- once again wrong on every count.

VERJEE: The U.S. says it launch of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is a success. It has another big plus -- isolating Ahmadinejad and the Palestinian militants Iran supports.

MCCORMACK: He, along with Hezbollah and Hamas, seem to be the only ones who weren't pleased and actually quite impressed with the accomplishments of Annapolis.

VERJEE: Many Arab countries fear Iran's rising influence and worry it wants a nuclear bomb. They hope a peace deal with between Israelis and Palestinians will weaken Iran. But Ahmadinejad says Arab presence at the conference only discredits them and told his ally, Syria, it was a mistake to show up.

The U.S. has been trying to break the Syria-Iran alliance and saw its presence at the conference as a coup. Syria's envoy at Annapolis says it does whatever is good for Syria. FAYSSAD MEKDAD, SYRIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER: If it is in the interests of Syria to attend such a meeting, then it is the Syrian leadership that decides what's in the interests of the Syrian people.


VERJEE: Now, in spite of the tensions, Wolf, that exist between the United States and Syria, Syria did come to the conference. And the State Department today said that Syria's remarks behind closed doors at the meeting were actually pretty constructive. That could indicate that there may be an opening for the U.S. to capitalize on and weaken the link between Syria and Iran -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And I spoke about Syria extensively with the president in our interview, Zain. That interview -- the part of it on Syria -- that's coming up shortly here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I think you'll be interested in that. I think our viewers will, as well.

Zain Verjee at the State Department.

Wall Street took off like a rocket today. Hints of more interest rate help and bargain hunting by investors sent markets soaring. The Dow Jones Industrial Average had its second biggest point gain of the year.

Let's go to Ali Velshi.

He's in New York.

Quite a ride on Wall Street today. You know, one day they're up, the next day they're down.


BLITZER: What's going on?

VELSHI: Two days ago, we were talking about those markets market being in a correction, which means 10 percent off its highs. That's often a sign that things are -- are in trouble. And then all of a sudden, we had a big day yesterday, a big day today. Today is the second biggest point gain of the year. Take a look at this. Just by a smidgen, it's been -- it was beat on September 18th. That was the day the Fed cut interest rates by half a percentage point.

By the way, investors don't typically look at point gains, they look at percentage gains. And today's percentage gain, 2.55 percent, was the best one in the Dow all year. Today and yesterday were the best two days the Dow has seen in five years.


Well, Wolf, you touched on it. Number one, there were hints from the Fed that there will be more interest rate cuts, perhaps on December 11th, the next time the Fed meets. Also, oil dropping nearly four bucks. We're now closer to $90 -- almost there, actually -- and the fact that there are bargain hunters. There are people out there who say this market is low enough, it's time to get in.

So the correction has been erased. These markets are volatile. It's a good time to look at it and see whether you feel you can sleep at night when there are 100, 200 or 300 point gains or losses, because we've had a lot of them, Wolf, and there are a lot more to come.

BLITZER: How much of a factor, Ali, was Abu Dhabi paying billions to buy a chunk of Citicorp?

VELSHI: Huge. Huge, Wolf. This -- this happened on Monday morning. We got news of this. It injected money to Citi. Citi is one of the 30 Dow stocks. It sort of gave people a feeling that the world is out there, saying that some of these battered down American companies are bargains and that there will be more investment in them if they continue to be as cheap as they are.

That helped the markets a lot. And you're probably going to see more of that sort of investment to come -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Ali.

Thanks very much.

Ali Velshi has got a good handle on all of this, as all of our viewers know.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty.

He's got The Cafferty File in New York -- you know, they've got billions of dollars in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Qatar. And they're buying up a big chunk of a lot of stuff here in the United States.

How do you feel about that -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Well, it depends on what the assets are. There are strategic assets and there are non-strategic assets. But if you're buying a publicly traded company, it's just good business to buy when the stock price is down. And the price of a lot of these big multinational banks has been battered down by the credit crisis in this country. So if you're a shrewd investor, you wait for the price to go down and you buy when it's low and you sell when it's high. And, you know, that's just the way Wall Street works.

But I don't agree with selling ports, for example, to countries that used their banks to finance and launder money for the September 11th terrorist attacks. That would be Dubai. I don't think you do that stuff.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney should probably make a speech about his Mormon faith. This was off the table as recently as a few weeks ago, but a few things have changed. He's getting this advice now from Utah senator and fellow Mormon Orrin Hatch, who says there's been a lot of misinformation in the public about Mormonism.

Senator Hatch says there are concerns about Romney's religious beliefs -- that they might interfere somehow with him serving all people. There's no question they don't. He needs to put that problem to bed. Hatch says that all Mitt has to do is make it very clear that he's his own man. He doesn't tell the Mormon Church what to do, but neither does the Mormon Church tell him what to do. Hatch has endorsed Romney for president, calls him a financial genius who could solve issues involving Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Romney told voters earlier this month that his advisers had warned against him giving this speech explaining his Mormon religion. But a few weeks ago, he said he didn't rule it out -- although at the time it didn't seem necessary. But it might be now.

In Iowa, it seems like Mike Huckabee's rise in the polls has been fuelled, in part, by Evangelical Christians. And they have concerns about Mormonism. Some of Huckabee's supporters say they're uncomfortable with Romney's religion and they cite that as a major reason they wouldn't vote for him in the caucuses.

Some polls in Iowa are now suggesting that Huckabee is in a dead heat with Romney, who had led in those polls for months and has invested a ton of his own money there.

So here's the question -- should Mitt Romney give a speech now assuring voters that his Mormon religion will not interfere with his ability to serve as president?

E-mail your thoughts to or go to

A few weeks ago, Wolf, when he said he wasn't inclined to do this, it was because this Huckabee type situation, I think, hadn't surfaced as yet. Now it has. We might make this speech soon.

BLITZER: and a lot of historians always have suggested that John F. Kennedy gave a speech about his Catholic faith and explained what his attitude was and that certainly didn't hurt him. It helped him in getting elected president. Maybe Mitt Romney should do the same thing.

CAFFERTY: It couldn't hurt.


BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Jack Cafferty -- a New Yorker.

Will the United States attack Iran if Iran attacks Israel?


BUSH: They need to understand that we will support Israel if Iran attacks them.


BLITZER: My exclusive interview with President Bush. He answers some questions about the Iran, the Middle East peace process, working with old enemies and lots more coming up. You heard the first part in the last hour. The second part of this interview coming up next.

Also, Bill Clinton disagreeing with his wife over the war -- some candid comments on Iraq.

And President Nixon's secret documents. They've just been released. You're going to find out how he almost picked "Deep Throat" to head the FBI.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Our top story -- some stinging words and veiled threats from Iran's leader, as President Bush answers some tough -- answers some tough talk and warnings of his own.

I sat down with the president over in the Map Room at the White House just a short while ago for an exclusive one-on-one interview.


BLITZER: Let me read to you what Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, said today. And I'll quote him: "It is impossible that the Zionist regime will survive. We are disappointing that some individuals fell victim to the sinister Zionist regime. They are mistaken if they thought this summit would bring any achievements for them."

Do you want to react to that?

BUSH: He just made my point. It's -- this is a man who doesn't believe in democracy and freedom and peace. And this was a conference of people who were supportive of the idea of a democratic state living side by side with Israel. It's a sendoff of two leaders to negotiate this state -- a vision that has taken a while for people to accept.

And I'm the first American president -- I think the first American president ever to have articulated the vision. I did so because I understand that a democracy on Israel's border is important for Israel's security, and that very democracy is important for the Palestinians to have a hopeful life. But it's also important for the broader Middle East, because there is a struggle going on between a free society and a society envisioned by radicals and extremists -- many of whom are funded by Ahmadinejad.

BLITZER: Do you believe he would really like to destroy Israel?

BUSH: If I were an Israeli, I would take his words seriously.

BLITZER: Would the U.S. respond militarily on behalf of Israel if Israel were attacked by the Iranians?

BUSH: I have made it clear that the -- absolutely, that we will support our ally Israel if attacked by Iran.

BLITZER: What does that mean?

BUSH: Well, you know, I hope it doesn't happen. But, you know, you're asking me to answer a hypothetical. My answer is -- and they've got to understand that we will support Israel if Iran attacks them.

BLITZER: Syria is a country that the State Department still has on its list of states that sponsor international terrorism, yet they were invited to attend.

What was the thinking behind that?

BUSH: The thinking was because some of the Arab nations requested that Syria come. And we wanted to make sure as many Arab nations came as possible and -- which was quite an accomplishment for the secretary, I might add, to have convinced those nations to arrive. And I thought it was a very important signal for both the Palestinians and the Israelis to see the Arab nations there in the room, supporting a democracy living side-by-side in peace with Israel.

BLITZER: So was it good that the deputy foreign minister of Syria showed up?

BUSH: I didn't think it was harmful at all.

BLITZER: Because whenever I think of that, I think of the words you said on 9/11 -- and you said this from the Oval Office -- "We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them."

So if Syria is a country that harbors terrorists...

BUSH: Yes, we have our differences with Syria. No question about it. I also happen to believe that a democracy in the Palestinian Territory will advance the interests of people who care for peace. And we care for peace.

BLITZER: But do you think there's an opportunity now for the Israelis and the Syrians to negotiate a deal over the Golan Heights?

BUSH: That's going to be up to Israel and Syria.

BLITZER: Well, what do you think?

BUSH: I think what they ought to do is focus on a Palestinian state, Wolf. That's what we're focusing on.

BLITZER: So that's the priority right now, the Israeli- Palestinian forum (ph).

BUSH: That's why we had the conference in Annapolis yesterday which, as I said, was a hopeful beginning...

BLITZER: And... BUSH: opportunity for people to come together that have been at war with each other, to lay out a vision where people can see the emergence of a state. The state will be subject to the road map, as I told you. It's not going to come into being until certain conditions are met. But the first step is the negotiation of the state. And I believe there's a good chance that this can happen.

BLITZER: How important was the fact that the Saudis attended?

The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud, was there. Yet he pointedly refused to shake hands with the Israelis.

BUSH: I think it was a very important signal that Saudi Arabia was at the meeting. I was so pleased that His Majesty sent the foreign minister. And I'm thankful that His Majesty did that.

But you've got to understand, there's years of animosity that have been built up between the parties. And things don't change overnight. It was a significant step that Saudi Arabia was there and it's a significant step that other Arab nations were there.

And the question, however, is, can the Israelis and the Palestinians come to an agreement on what a state looks like?

That's where my focus is. And I believe they can, Wolf. And it's an exciting opportunity for them.

BLITZER: Let me ask a quick question about Pervez Musharraf, who took off his uniform today, the president of Pakistan. This is what you've been asking him to do.

Do you believe this is significant step in trying to restore democracy in Pakistan?

BUSH: I think it is -- I do. It is something that a lot of people doubted would ever happen. And he told me he would take off his uniform. And I appreciate that, that he kept his word.

And I've also said that President Musharraf is a person who has done a lot for Pakistan democracy. And, in my judgment, in order to get Pakistan back on the road to democracy, he's got to suspend the emergency law before elections.

BLITZER: But am I hearing it right? Do you still have a lot of confidence in Pervez Musharraf -- that he will work with you to find Osama bin Laden, who presumably is holed up somewhere along the border with Afghanistan?

BUSH: He has been an absolute reliable partner in dealing with extremists and radicals. And, you know, it's a tough situation in the remote parts of Pakistan. But there's many examples of where the Pakistanis have -- in cooperation with the U.S. -- brought to justice members of al Qaeda's hierarchy. And I'm thankful for that.

I also hope that he, you know, enhances Pakistani democracy. And taking off his uniform is a strong first step. And having elections that are out from underneath the emergency law would be a clear signal that he's put Pakistan back on the road.

BLITZER: We are almost out of time, but a year ago in September, when we spoke up in New York -- you were there for the UN General Assembly -- you told me that absolutely -- that was your word -- you would authorize U.S. troops to go into Pakistan if you had actionable intelligence on Osama bin Laden's whereabouts or other top-ranking al Qaeda members.

Is that still your position?

BUSH: Yes.

BLITZER: it hasn't changed?

BUSH: No, it hasn't changed.

BLITZER: Mr. President, thanks very much.

BUSH: Yes, sir.

BLITZER: Good luck.

BUSH: Thank you.


BLITZER: Fresh controversy over Hillary Clinton's Iraq War vote. And it's started by her own husband. You're going to find out what he said that has the spotlight glaring on her record.

And the American Red Cross is reeling. Its latest CEO had a blue ribbon resume, but he's now been forced out after a so-called personal relationship with an employee.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: A long and successful career ends in disgrace. The president of the American Red Cross resigning as word gets out of an affair with a co-worker.

Carol Costello is joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM -- Carol, what do we know about Mark Everson?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, the really sad thing about this, Wolf, is he was doing such a good job at the Red Cross. The organization told me his policies will remain in place, as will his management team. It's just that the boss has to go because he couldn't keep his personal life out of the office.


COSTELLO (voice-over): It came as a shock -- the Red Cross' president and CEO is out, leaving after just seven months because of a personal relationship with a woman employee that, according to the Red Cross, reflected poor judgment.

TRENT STAMP, PRESIDENT, CHARITY NAVIGATOR: And they hired Everson and sold him to the American public and to the American donors as the great savior for the organization that was going to restore the integrity, the accountability and bring true high performance to this organization.

COSTELLO: And Everson did seem to be the guy who could do that -- 53, married with two children. He'd worked in the Bush administration, heading up the IRS.

During his short tenure at the Red Cross, he impressed -- until he was forced to resign for what he called personal and family reasons.

STAMP: Donors are angry and, even more importantly, the staff at the Red Cross is angry. They feel like they've been betrayed.

COSTELLO: Stamp, who runs a Web site that evaluates non-profit groups, says donors had been angry with the Red Cross before Everson was hired because of its response to Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. The organization had been through two presidents in five years. Everson was supposed to make those controversies distant memories -- and he was starting to do that.

During the California wildfires, Everson's leadership and the Red Cross received kudos from those in need.

MARK EVERSON, FORMER RED CROSS PRESIDENT: We had 1,000 Red Cross people on the ground about now. That will more than double by the end of the day and we'll open up additional shelters.

COSTELLO: But now, his forced resignation is overshadowing his accomplishments.

STAMP: At some point, you have to ask what's going on with the Red Cross board?

Who are they hiring?

Why are they hiring them?

COSTELLO: The Red Cross told me the board was restructured a few years ago. And it talked to donors Tuesday to assure them that everything is under control. But the high level shakeup couldn't come at a worse time for the organization -- December is the biggest month of the year for donations to charities like the Red Cross.


COSTELLO: That female employee who had that improper relationship with her boss does remain on the job. The Red Cross told me the investigatial -- the investigation, though, into her improper relationship with Everson is over and done and that "they cannot comment on her future" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a sad story that is.

All right, thanks very much for that, Carol.

Carol Costello reporting.

Everson's background, by the way, includes both the public and private sectors. Between 1982 and 1988, he worked at the U.S. Information Agency and the Justice Department, where he was deputy commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. After that, he spent a decade with a French conglomerate, followed by threes as vice president of the U.S. food services company. In 2002, Everson had a brief stint in the Office of Management and Budget, before becoming Internal Revenue Service commissioner in 2003.

He took over the American Red Cross this past May.

Former President Bill Clinton creating controversy for himself and his wife's presidential campaign.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Even though I approved of Afghanistan and opposed Iraq from the beginning, I still resent that I was not asked or given the opportunity to support those soldiers.


BLITZER: That comment putting the Clintons' war stance under some scrutiny. We're going to show you the fallout.

Also, a surprise in new Nixon papers just out. We'll show you how "Deep Throat" -- yes, "Deep Throat" -- almost wound up as head of the FBI.

And killer campaign ads -- voters hate them, so why are they getting nastier than ever?

Stick around.


BLITZER: And to our viewers.


Happening now, Italian prosecutors dropped a bombshell on the case of a murdered British student. They now say they have clear evidence placing her American roommate, Amanda Knox, and Knox's Italian boyfriend right at the scene of the crime.

Also, Oprah Winfrey visits family of a student allegedly abused at her girls school in South Africa. The girl's father says Winfrey is not to blame and that it fully supports the talk show host. And a British schoolteacher in Sudan facing up to 40 lashes and a year in jail. Her alleged crime -- allowing her class of 7-year-olds to name a little Teddy bear, Muhammad, which is also the name of the Muslim prophet.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


His remarks drawing new scrutiny of her record on the war in Iraq. The former president, Bill Clinton, now saying he opposed the Iraq War -- and I'm quoting now -- "from the beginning."

CNN's Mary Snow is standing by live in New York.

She's watching this story for us -- so does this put the Democratic presidential frontrunner, Mary, in some sort of an awkward position?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, one political strategist put it this way -- with every rose bush comes some thorns. And while Bill Clinton may be an asset to his wife's campaign, sometimes he says things that need explanation.


SNOW: In Iowa Tuesday, what former President Bill Clinton said about the Iraq war overshadowed his point about eliminating tax cuts for the wealthy.

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON, UNITED STATES: Even though I approved of Afghanistan and opposed Iraq from the beginning I still resent that I was not asked or given the opportunity to support those soldiers.

SNOW: Opposed the war from the beginning, that comment got noticed. A month after the war started, here's what Mr. Clinton said about President Bush.

CLINTON: I don't think you can criticize the president for trying to act on the belief that they have a substantial amount of chemical and biological stocks because that's what the British military intelligence says and that's what a lot of other intelligence says, that's what I was always told.

SNOW: David Gergen, a former adviser to President Reagan and Clinton, says it's tradition for former presidents not to criticize their successors in times of conflict, but ...

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Even so to now go back and say, well I was really against it all along, I think races a lot of eyebrows. Well, if you were so against it, why didn't you give a bigger signal than you did?

SNOW: A spokesman to the Clinton campaign says from the beginning, President Clinton disagreed with taking the country to war in Iraq without allowing the weapons inspectors to finish their jobs. The campaign also points to comments like this, made just days before the war started.

CLINTON: I'm for regime change, too. There's more than one way to do it. We don't invade everybody we want to change the regime.

SNOW: Flash forward four years and some say the former president's recent comments about the war resurrect a thorny issue for Senator Clinton. She voted to authorize the war, but hasn't called her vote a mistake, saying she wouldn't have voted the same way if she knew then what she knows now.


SNOW: Some political observers, that is, say at this juncture in the campaigning, the message for the Clinton campaign needs to stay on the future not who was where on Iraq in the past. Wolf?

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Mary Snow reporting.

Meanwhile, some newly declassified documents from the Nixon presidential library are now out and they contain a surprising revelation about the late president and the source known as deep throat.

CNN's Tom Foreman has been going through those documents. A lot of fascinating history, what are you learning, Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think I'm learning, mainly, Wolf, this story is just never, ever going to end. Two years ago we learned who Deep Throat was. Now we learn how close Nixon was to awarding him a key appointment in his administration.


FOREMAN: The secrets he spilled helped lead to a president's resignation, but why did Mark Felt, a top official at the FBI, become Deep Throat and leak the story of Watergate? His family offered this.

NICK JONES, GRANDSON OF MARK FELT: My grandfather, Mark Felt Sr., is a great American hero who went well above and beyond the call of duty at much risk to himself to save his country from a horrible injustice.

FOREMAN: New documents released by the National Archives show that in 1973, Nixon received a stack of letters from supporters of Mark Felt, recommending that Nixon promote him to lead the FBI. For example, one agent wrote, according to the Associated Press, "Mr. Felt is a man of outstanding loyalty, character, reputation, habits. The fidelity, bravery and integrity of Mr. Felt are unquestioned." Instead, Nixon passed him over and Felt left the bureau soon thereafter. That rejection might look like the cause for Felt's exposure of Nixon, but Deep Throat began leaking Watergate information a year before Nixon passed him over for the top job.

RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Quite clearly, he hoped to be appointed head of the FBI, perhaps by revealing the information this way. He kept the flexibility of being able to pursue his ambitions, while at the same time, getting important information about serious misconduct into the public domain.

FOREMAN: Although Felt waited decades before divulging his identity as Deep Throat, the unmasking brought old animosity to life.

G. GORDON LIDDY, WATERGATE CONSPIRATOR: Mr. Felt was a sworn law enforcement officer who divulged to others the confidential files of the FBI.


FOREMAN: When President Nixon passed over Felt to run the FBI he chose first L. Patrick Gray and a year later, William Ruckelshaus, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, instead. But the loyalty of Ruckleshaus had its limits, too. When Nixon ordered him to fire the special Watergate prosecutor, he quit. Wolf?

BLITZER: I know you are also digging through all these documents you found some interesting information about two other former Nixon aides. That is Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

FOREMAN: Yes. It's kind of interesting. When you're in Washington for a long time, you get a sense of how these people are all part of the party for a long time and there were files on them, too, with everything from memos to press clippings to letters like this one where Rumsfeld is thanking the president the gift of a presidential star. There's also a job application from Dick Cheney, age 28, according to the Associated Press, where he lists a dozen jobs he's had and admits two convictions for driving under the influence. So, there are a few little interesting tidbits in there. Nothing earth shaking but still, a lot of interesting letters.

BLITZER: He obviously got the job, despite that admission. It didn't hurt him.

FOREMAN: Exactly. There's always hope kids. Keep working forward.

BLITZER: All right. Just be honest. Thanks very much, Tom, for that.

Killer ads spark an air war, the last presidential campaign was supposed to be the nastiest in recent memory. Is this one already getting worse?

The new questions about the questionable expenses by Rudy Giuliani. Did he use public funds for some very private purposes? We're watching this story as well.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The battle for the White House is being waged increasingly on the air and the campaign ads are getting ugly. Uglier and uglier, in fact.

CNN's Campbell Brown takes an in-depth look at the so-called campaign killers after tonight's CNN's You Tube republican presidential debate. Here's a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, everybody. I'm in an edit studio. Take number 52. I like that one.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bill Hillsman is known in political advertising ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is the big dig $12,000 over budget?

BROWN: For using a few words to make a big point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, how did the big dig get $12 billion over budget?


BROWN: It's the deceptive slash and burn attacks that he believes are hurting the political system. And he agreed to show us how both parties do it using the presidential front-runners.

BILL HILLSMAN: Look, you can make a poll say anything.

BROWN: For example, in September, the "Washington Post" asked likely democratic voters which candidate best represents the core values of the Democratic Party. 50 percent said Hillary Clinton.

HILLSMAN: The truth of the statistic is that Hillary's basically twice as good on this particular measuring stick as any of these other guys. The way you can take it out of context and twist it is it say only half of democrats really think Hillary Clinton respects or reflects the values of the Democratic Party.

BROWN: Political ads that distort the facts, use visuals to match. To make your opponent look bad, drain the color. Or, better yet, slow motion. It gives a sinister feel.

HILLSMAN: The editor controls everything. The editor controls everything. I think this is actually a very strong photograph of Giuliani for a positive ad.

BROWN: The photo was taken at the funeral of a marine killed in Iraq.

HILLSMAN: If you can put this photo in that context, it's brilliant. Because he looks angry, he looks determined and that's exactly what Americans would be looking for.

BROWN: But crop the photo and it changes.

HILLSMAN: The tighter you go on someone's face, usually the more unattractive most of us look.

BROWN: Those who know the game say the really nasty ads will pop up late in the primaries and in the general election. But just remember, what's said in the positive ads isn't necessarily true either.


BLITZER: CNN's Campbell Brown is joining us now live from New York. Campbell has her special coming up later tonight. Why is it, does it seem, at least, Campbell, these attack ads, they seem it be getting nastier and nastier every year.

BROWN: You know, Wolf it seems like they're getting nastier, but, in fact, they're really not. As part of this documentary, we went back and looked historically over the years at sort of the evolution of them. Going all the way back to the 1800 presidential campaign and the attacks we looked at against Thomas Jefferson. And, okay, at the time, they're not using television, obviously. They're passing out pamphlets but the language they use in these pamphlets they say basically, if you elect Thomas Jefferson, there will be rape, murder, incest, chaos in the streets. It is really tough stuff. What has changed, though, is the technology. And the fact that you reach so many more people through television, through the Internet. They're so much more creative that it seems like visually the impact they have is much more today. But they've been around forever and have been equally nasty back in the good old days.

BLITZER: Who's more negative, the democrats or the republicans in their attack ads?

BROWN: Well, I think we found examples on both sides that I think you could say were pretty equally nasty. What's interesting, though, it's not so much democrats and republicans or it's not being driven by the parties, per se or the candidates, per se, any more. But, as you well know, it's being driven by independent organizations, 527s, where the restrictions aren't there and many of the candidates like it this way. You know, they can let the independent organizations do the really nasty stuff, which allows the candidate to sort of stand back and say, my hands are clean, I had nothing to do with that. It serves their purposes at same time. You're seeing these independent groups having more and more influence and we profile both ones on the left, like which is probably the most powerful with 3.3 million members but also on the right it tends to be more independent or fringe groups. They're more splintered and the right is trying right now to sort of create an organization that could compete with in terms of its influence.

BLITZER: What should we expect next year, Campbell?

BROWN: Well, as you know, it hasn't really started yet. I mean, we're beginning to see some, certainly more verbal attacks between Hillary and Obama and Rudy and Mitt as things get a little bit tighter, but the closer we get to Iowa, you're going to begin seeing them take to the airwaves with some of the negative ads and certainly with the general election. BLITZER: Campbell, good work, thanks very much.

BROWN: You bet.

BLITZER: Campbell Brown reporting. By the way, you can see Campbell's special report tonight immediately after the CNN You Tube republican debate. Her special airs at 11:00 p.m. eastern and the CNN You Tube debate gets under way at 8:00 eastern later tonight.

And for an exclusive sneak peek at what it takes to put tonight's debate on, you can check on There's behind the scenes video plus blogging from the best political team on television,

Some news coming in from the campaign trail right now. Carol Costello is watching this story for us. What are you picking up, Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there was to be a democratic debate December 10th in Los Angeles, but the Democratic National Committee has officially canceled that debate because of the Hollywood writer's strike and also because the CBS News writers are now authorized to go out on strike. And because of that labor dispute, the candidates, at least the top three, have refused to cross the picket lines so the DNC apparently thought they better cancel it because it doesn't appear that any agreement is coming soon. So, the December 10th debate in Ls Angeles has been canceled and there are no plans to reschedule. Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: CBS was going it carry that debate. Thanks very much, Carol, for that.

Hundreds of U.S. fighter jets now grounded because of a potentially deadly defect. We're going to show you which planes are impacted and why.

Plus, a crucial day in court for O.J. Simpson. He's accused of kidnapping and armed robbery. Stick around. We'll update you on that and a lot more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's check back with Carol Costello. She's monitoring some other important stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Carol.

COSTELLO: Hi Wolf. Grounded again, the U.S. Air Force has ordered more than 400 F15 fighters out of the skies just a week after lifting a flight ban on those jets. The planes were re-grounded after new tests revealed possible structural problems that could cause them to fall apart in mid-air. Safety concerns prompted the Air Force to ground most of the F15 fleet earlier this month, but inspectors determined they were safe to fly and lifted the ban.

O.J. Simpson's back in court today to plead not guilty in a criminal case that could land him in prison for life. The former NFL star is accused of kidnapping and robbing two sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas hotel room in September. Two of Simpson's co- defendants also pleaded not guilty at today's arraignment. The trial is set to begin on April 7th.

And Americans aren't getting any thinner but they're not getting any fatter either. A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows adult obesity rates have leveled off. But says 33 percent of men and 35 percent of women were obese between 2005 and 2006. That's 72 million people. The adult obesity rate has generally been climbing since 1980, when it was just 15 percent. Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Okay, Carol, thanks very much.

Let's check back with Jack. He has the Cafferty file in New York. Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's good news. We only have 72 million tubs of lard waddling around the countryside. I mean what is the good news there?

BLITZER: The good news is there could be 75 million.

CAFFERTY: Could be 75 million. All right. I guess glass is half full. Should Mitt Romney give a speech assuring voters that his Mormon religion will not interfere with his ability to serve as president? Senator Hatch in Utah is suggesting he should. He's a Mormon, as well.

Winnie writes from Sandy, Utah, "Mitt Romney's religion is merely a diversion from the real issue, such as the flip-flopping on several positions while he was governor of Massachusetts, such as abortion and gay rights. Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up?"

Bryce in Las Vegas, "Even as a democrat, I'm sick and tired of hearing about people bash Romney's religion. I thought America was more sophisticated than that. But I guess I'm wrong. Does every candidate need a special speech telling religion won't get in the way of running the country? It's ridiculous."

Lane in Idaho writes, "Romney should give the speech because there are a lot of questions out there. I just don't see what difference it makes as far as religion concerned. Shouldn't we look to see where he stands on health care, energy policies, terrorism and the war in Iraq? These seem more important to me."

Jim in Mt. Shasta, California, "Being a former Mormon myself, I can assure you no matter what speech Mitt might give, it won't get rid of any fears that his religion will come first. Mormons are brain washed and their religion comes first above all else. All it would take is for the president of a Mormon church to have a so-called vision of what god wants him to tell the president to do and Mitt will do it, even if it meant starting nuclear war. Might as well keep Bush if that is the case. He's trying send us all home to god in a nuclear cloud before his term ends and Mitt could do the same thing if his church ordered him to." Rob in Hollywood writes, "Mitt Romney being a moron, I mean a Mormon, shouldn't have any effect on his ability to be president or his lack of ability to be president."

And Nelson in Connecticut writes, "I'm not concerned about Mitt Romney being a Mormon. I'm concerned about him being a republican." Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Jack, thanks very much. Stand by; we have our popular round table coming up in the next hour, as well. Jack is a regular member of that, as he should be.

The woman who serves as the voice of the London Subway System has been silenced shortly after making fun of it online.

Let's go to our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton. This is a really funny story, I guess. What did she say?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, if you've been on the London underground system, you heard this announcement.

EMMA CLARK: Mind the gap.

TATTON: Mind the gap, right? Don't fall down the hole between the subway train and the platform. Well, the announcer behind that is this woman, Emma Clark, the voice of the London Underground. That is until this week. You see, Clark had got a bit of media attention after posting a series of spoof announcements at her website. Take a listen.

CLARK: We'd like to remind our American tourist friends that you are almost certainly talking too loud.

TATTON: There are others, as well. Here we are again on a sweaty tube carriage, that kind of thing. Clark was quoted in this newspaper calling the London Underground dreadful. She since says that she was misquoted but the London Underground fired her, not for the spoofs, they say, which they concede was quite funny, but for criticizing the London Underground system. She might be out of a job, but Emma Clark has become quite a hit online. Her website collapsed under all the traffic. It's now back up today full of messages of support including one from an American tourist who said we thought it was quite funny.

BLITZER: I listened to it. I thought it was hysterical, a lot of it. Thanks very much, Abbi, for that.

Challenging a congressman on his home turf. Lou Dobbs, he's in Chicago tonight. He's talking and taking on Representative Luis Gutierrez in what promises to be a heated debate on illegal immigration. I'll speak to Lou in a moment. That's coming up.

Also coming up in our next hour, my exclusive interview with President Bush; I was over at the map room at the White House earlier today. The president speaking directly to the Israeli people, the Palestinian people about their fears of what's going on in the peace process.

Plus, republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani has to explain some questionable expenses from his days as New York City's mayor.

Much more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Lou Dobbs getting ready for his show that begins in one hour at 7:00 p.m. eastern. Lou is in Chicago tonight and you have a key congressman from Chicago, Luis Gutierrez, who strongly disagrees with you, Lou, on a lot of issues, aspects of the immigration debate.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: He does and that's one of the reasons we invited him, Wolf. As you know, I like to have a clear and complete airing of views, both sides of an issue. Luis Gutierrez is one of the people who has been at the forefront of the open borders amnesty agenda in this country for years. He's a fellow I want my audience to get the real good sense of and to hear what he has to say to justify his viewpoints.

BLITZER: Because in Chicago, I take it, this is a big issue. It's a big issue all over the country, but I take it there are a lot of illegal immigrants in Chicago and Luis Gutierrez, like a lot of those who support a pathway to citizenship for them, he believes that he needs to be their spokesman.

DOBBS: Absolutely. And they look upon illegal aliens, these activist groups, Luis Gutierrez, for example, many elected officials here as simply immigrants and pay absolutely no regard to the fact that they're illegal, believe that there should be open borders, amnesty and occasionally attach great sentiments of race to their arguments because their arguments of themselves, of course, are neither fact-based nor, in point of fact, very well reasoned. Nonetheless, it's a sentiment and here there's an immigration coalition led by the catholic church, led by socioethnocentric interest groups and of course business groups try to subvert the will of the people, the rule of the majority and to do so without even so much as an apology to middle class America and the concept of a rule of law. So, we're going to take that up with the congressman and have a full airing of views tonight.

BLITZER: We always expect that from your show, Lou. We'll see you in Chicago in one hour. Thanks very much.

And happening now, President Bush exclusive, I go one-on-one with the president about his ambitious goal for peace in the Middle East. You're going to want to hear what he has to say about responding to any attack on Israel by Iran.

Also, the whole world will be watching you. You'll be asking the questions at our CNN You Tube Republican presidential debate but will you be satisfied with the candidate's answers?