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Interview With Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee; Giuliani Under Fire; Thousands Protest Hugo Chavez

Aired November 29, 2007 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, some are wondering if the Republican presidential candidates are recuperating. They have endured smackdowns, boos from a ringside audience, and possibly deep political wounds in our CNN/YouTube debate.
It's getting down to the wire right now, with the first major contest in this presidential election only five weeks away.

Our chief national correspondent, John King, is in Saint Petersburg, Florida -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the day after the big debate in Florida means moving on from a state known for its warm temperatures and moderate politics, and, for most of the Republicans now, a heavy focus on a place that is a lot colder and a lot more conservative.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING (voice over): Five weeks to Iowa, and immigration is the most contentious debating point in the wide-open Republican race.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I said no to driver's licenses. I also said no -- when a bill came to my desk giving illegal immigrants a tuition break, I said, no, I would not do that.

KING: Mitt Romney's tough message is being delivered by mail, too. This glossy pitch to Iowa conservatives suggests his four top rivals support amnesty for illegal immigrants. They take exception.

FRED THOMPSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE Governor Romney supported the Bush immigration plan until a short time ago. Now he's taking another position, surprisingly.

KING: Governor Romney once did have a much softer view, speaking favorably in a Boston Globe interview two years ago about Bush and McCain proposals he now labels amnesty.

ROMNEY: Not taking benefits. And then at the end of that period, registering to become a citizen or applying to become a citizen and paying a fee. And those are things that are being considered, and I think that that's -- that those are reasonable proposals.

KING: Rudy Giuliani also draws then and now comparisons. RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I was president of the United States, I could do something about that by deploying a fence.

KING: He had a softer tone as mayor. In 1996, for example, he urged GOP nominee Bob Dole not to tap rising anxiety about government benefits to illegal immigrants.

GIULIANI: This is an opportunity to show that you're a leader, a statesman, and that you can step beyond the most immediate form of public opinion and really go to the core of what makes America such a great country.

KING: Senator McCain is a case study in the quicksand of immigration politics. The McCain-Kennedy bill collapsed in a conservative revolt, and the senator has all but given up on Iowa.

JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we as Republicans, and those motivated by Judeo-Christian values, ought to understand that these are God's children, that there is a human side of this issue.

KING: Along with immigration, abortion and same-sex marriage is the big issues in the conservative Republican campaign out in Iowa, and, like, McCain fresh indications for Mayor Giuliani today that he plans, for the most part, to minimize his role in Iowa's culture wars. The Giuliani campaign launching a big new ad today on taxes, targeting voters in New Hampshire -- Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: John King in Saint Petersburg for us.

Florida has been a key player in past presidential races, as all of us know. But, in the 2008 Democratic contest, its delegates may not get the play they want. Clearly, things could get ugly in Florida.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, has a view of the Democratic race from the Sunshine State -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, what does the Democratic race look like in Florida? It looks like what happens if you have a primary without any campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): What if you gave a primary and nobody came? Florida Democrats are about to find out. That's because they broke party rules. They moved their primary up to January 29 without getting permission from the national party.

The national party says it will punish Florida by refusing to seat its delegates at the Democratic Convention next year. Democratic candidates have pledged not to campaign in the Florida primary. Outraged Florida Democrats are suing the national party. SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: The party bosses have barred the candidates from campaigning in Florida, except for private fund- raisers.

SCHNEIDER: What happens if Florida Democrats vote, and there's no campaign? The result would probably look pretty much like what it is now. National front-runner Hillary Clinton would win in a landslide. For Clinton, signing the pledge not to campaign in Florida was a no-brainer.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I intend to abide by the pledge I signed, but I also intend to win Florida in November 2008.

SCHNEIDER: Florida Democrats have a message for the national Democratic Party: We dare you to ignore us.

LUIS GARCIA, FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: We are going to be the most important state in this election, for crying out loud.

SCHNEIDER: Suppose the parties nominate the national front- runners. Would it be another hanging chad recount, like 2000? Not right now, it wouldn't. Clinton is running nearly 10 points ahead of Rudy Giuliani in Florida. Why is she going so well in the state that made George W. Bush president?

Compare Clinton vs. Giuliani with Gore vs. Bush in Florida in 2000. The big difference would be in North Florida, the most Southern and conservative part of the state, the red region on the map. In 2000, North Florida voted strongly for Bush over Gore. A 2008 rate between Clinton and Giuliani looks like a dead heat in North Florida, mostly because Giuliani does so much worse than Bush did there.

(on camera): Florida Democrats seem to have no problem supporting a New York Democrat. But it appears that Florida Republicans may have a problem supporting a New York Republican -- Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Bill Schneider on the scene for us as well, thank you very much.

Let's check back with Jack Cafferty. He's in New York with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, things are looking up in Iraq, except when it comes to Americans' view of the war.

It's been widely reported the violence is decreasing in Iraq these days and as a result Americans are more optimistic about the military effort there than at any time in the last 14 months. Nevertheless, the public is as committed as it ever was to getting the troops out of there and bringing them home.

A new Pew Research Center poll highlights a very interesting split in public views. Consider this: 48 percent of those surveyed say the military effort in Iraq is going well. That is up from 30 percent in February; 43 percent say the U.S. is making progress against the insurgents. That number is also up from 30 percent.

But a full 54 percent of Americans want to bring our troops home as soon as possible. And that number has remained almost unchanged, as has the number who say the U.S. effort in Iraq will ultimately fail. That stands at 46 percent.

And it's worth noting that President Bush remains as unpopular as ever. His approval rating in this poll remains a dismal 30 percent.

So, here's the question: Why hasn't the military progress in Iraq made that war more popular among Americans? E-mail at caffertyfile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/caffertyfile.

It doesn't matter that the military is getting it done over there, Wolf. The American public wants the troops out of there.

BLITZER: They also want to see some political progress. They want to see the Iraqi government do what it's supposed to do, but, unfortunately, has not yet done. So, that could be a factor as well.

CAFFERTY: Sure.

BLITZER: Jack, stand by. We got our roundtable coming up this hour as well.

Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani is moving to try to deflect some pointed questions aimed at trips he made to the Hamptons out on Long Island while he was the New York City mayor and how the cost of security details during those trips was actually accounted for.

CNN's Mary Snow is joining us from New York with more on the story.

What's going on, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, today in New York, Rudy Giuliani was asked again why security costs were put into budgets where the city comptroller thought were inappropriate. Giuliani told reporters he thinks the story was put out there to focus on his personal life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): The questions involve security costs for then New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's police detail that were billed out to obscure city agencies.

Politico.com broke the story, and documents obtained by CNN show expenses in South Hampton, the same town where his then girlfriend, Judith Nathan, had a condo. Giuliani has admitted to having an affair while he was married. Nathan is now his third wife.

Regarding these security costs, Giuliani said:

RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was a perfectly appropriate set of expenses. I mean, it makes it looks like there's something wrong with this. I was covered by the police 24 hours a day every day that I was mayor. I was covered because there were threats to kill me.

SNOW: The expenses came into question after New York City's comptroller raised a red flag in 2002. He did an audit, and, found tens of thousand of dollars in travel-related costs to obscure city offices, like the Loft Board, which oversees converting city lofts.

The comptroller's office said it tried to get information to verify if the expenses were legitimate, but was told by city officials the information couldn't be provided because of security reasons.

WILLIAM THOMPSON, NEW YORK CITY COMPTROLLER: I'm not going to say it's an attempt to conceal. I'm going to say that it doesn't provide the openness and transparency that you would want. It is a more opaque and less open way of doing business.

SNOW: Giuliani was questioned about it during Wednesday night's Republican presidential debate.

GIULIANI: I had nothing to do with the handling of their records, and they were handled, as far as I know, perfectly appropriately.

SNOW: Republican strategist David Winston says he doesn't think the story will be damaging in the long run for Giuliani, but says it brings into focus once again messy issues about his personal life.

DAVID WINSTON, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: The issue it re-raises is his personal life, and it just takes it through one more cycle of discussion in terms of the variety of marriages. And, so, what he's got to manage here is a re-bringing up of those issues again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now, what remains unanswered is why the costs were covered in these different city offices. Giuliani's former deputy mayor told me he's still trying to track down when it was started, but says that this policy was done consistently, he says, to try and get bills paid quickly, and they were reimbursed by the end of the fiscal year -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Mary, thanks very much. We will watch this story.

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," that starts at the top of the hour, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. That's coming up.

But coming up next here in THE SITUATION ROOM: The presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, he says he can tell that he's surging.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you're getting kicked in the rear, it just proves you're out front.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Huckabee's come-from-behind charge in the race to the White House, and why he wants to abolish the IRS if he takes over the Oval Office.

We will also take the pulse of some Republicans. You can watch them move the meter as they watch the debate. We're going to tell you how it all adds up.

And he's been in the White House for almost seven years. Are his fellow Republicans, though, forgetting about President Bush?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: What a difference a few weeks, some hard campaigning and some memorable zingers make. Not very long ago, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee faced a very tough challenge, getting your attention. Now that has changed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The former governor of Arkansas is here with us in THE SITUATION ROOM.

You're probably as surprised as anyone that your numbers are as high as they are, I'm assuming.

HUCKABEE: Well, now what makes you think I'm surprised? Actually, there is some surprise at how well we're doing, particularly in states like Florida and Texas, where we have not been able to do a lot of campaigning, spend a lot of money, hire people. I think it's a remarkable kind of surge that we're seeing, and not just in Iowa, but in other states as well.

BLITZER: Let's talk about some of the comments you made in the debate last night. The IRS, you say dismantle the IRS, is that right?

HUCKABEE: Absolutely. We would do that if we enacted the FairTax, which moves us to a consumption tax. We get rid of all of the taxes that we have on productivity -- income, both personal as well as corporate. We end payroll taxes, taxes on savings, inheritance, capital gains, dividends.

You shouldn't penalize people for taking risk and being entrepreneurs. You also end the underground economy, because when you tax only at the consumption level, then you're also capturing those billions of dollars that are going untaxed that currently are in the hands of gamblers and drug dealers.

BLITZER: So all of the thousands of people who work at the IRS, all of the accountants out there who depend on their livelihood, what happens to all of them?

HUCKABEE: Well, first of all, the accountants will have a much better job taking people's money and investing it rather than just filling out paperwork for the government. And as far as the IRS, it's not the purpose of the federal government to just see how many people we can employ, it's the purpose of the federal government to operate our government more efficiently. And one efficient way to do it is to get rid of a $10 billion a year industry called the IRS, and a $250 billion a year compliance cost in American businesses.

BLITZER: All right. More than 100,000 employees at the IRS would be looking for new work. You understand that?

HUCKABEE: Well, there's 40,000 or more -- I think -- no, it's more than that -- 42 percent of the federal employees that are going to be retiring in the next decade. So frankly, by attrition, people who are out -- coming out of the IRS can find their way into other positions.

BLITZER: Fred Thompson, the former senator from Tennessee, he had his little YouTube video that he released. Didn't necessarily promote himself on that video, but he attacked specifically you and he attacked Mitt Romney as well.

But listen to what he said about you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUCKABEE: Others have suggested a surcharge on the income tax. That's acceptable. I'm fine with that. Others have suggested perhaps a sales tax. That's fine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, he put your clips, what you had said earlier, out on his video to show that you flip-flopped on these issues.

HUCKABEE: Well, it wasn't a flip-flop. First of all, if you noticed, that was about 110 pounds ago, and so I could use the excuse I was in a state of sugar stupor and was talking out of my head. But the reality is, that was a statement, about a minute's worth, taken out of context of a speech in which I was basically giving a put up or shut up speech to the legislature who had been saying we have got a $200 million deficit, and we don't like any proposal the governor has to fix it.

So I said, OK, you don't like my proposals? Here's one of yours, I will take it. Here's one of yours, I will take it. Here's one of yours.

What I was saying to them was, if you don't like my proposals, give me yours, but let's fix this deficit. And we did, Wolf. You know what we did? In 11 years as governor, income tax stayed the same, sales tax went up a penny. More importantly, I cut 94 taxes, a lot of those income taxes.

BLITZER: You took the pledge last night. You said you promised the president you wouldn't increase any taxes.

Is that right?

HUCKABEE: That's correct.

BLITZER: But what about if there's a national security -- some of the other candidates said they will make that promise, but if there's a national security -- a war, and they have got no other alternative to raise the funds needed to support the troops to fight that war, they might have to increase taxes.

Is that -- is that a fair exemption?

HUCKABEE: It is a fair exemption that even Grover Norquist, who delivers the pledge, would be the first to acknowledge. But there's no reason to raise taxes at the federal level. It's not at the federal level that our taxes are too low, our spending is out of control.

BLITZER: At least in some polls, either first or second. Are you ready for that?

HUCKABEE: You know, Abe Lincoln said when he was run out of town on a rail, If it weren't for the honor of it, I would just as soon pass. And quite frankly, it's a good thing, at least, to be attacked. And you know, the fact is, the more these guys attack me, it seems like the better my numbers get.

So though I'm not enjoying it a bit, I can't really be that unhappy about it, because I said it last night, I will say it again. When you're getting kicked in the rear, it just proves you're out front.

BLITZER: And you know what? A hundred and 10 pounds lighter, you look a lot better, you feel a lot better. We saw the pictures.

Thanks for coming in.

HUCKABEE: Thanks, Wolf. A pleasure to be back.

BLITZER: Good luck on the campaign trail.

HUCKABEE: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: It was the spark that really set off the fireworks. The immigration issue may have lit the fuse for the debate, but will it continue to divide Republicans as the campaign goes on? Our roundtable, including Jack Cafferty, they're going to tackle this subject and more.

And one of America's major foes has some trouble in his own backyard, tens of thousands of people taking to the streets to protest against Hugo Chavez. Is he in any trouble?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Carol, what's going on?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, that British teacher who was convicted today in Sudan of insulting religion plans to appeal the verdict. Gillian Gibbons was on trial for letting her students at a school in Khartoum name a teddy bear Mohammed. The court sentenced her to 15 days in jail and deportation. She was acquitted of inciting religious hatred. She could have received 40 lashes and a six-month sentence for that charge.

Massive protests in Caracas, Venezuela, today -- tens of thousands of people flooding the streets to rally against proposed constitutional changes. Among other things, they would eliminate term limits for President Hugo Chavez, create forms of communal property, and give greater power to the presidency. Venezuelans will vote on the proposed changes this Sunday. Tomorrow, Mr. Chavez plans to lead rallies in favor of the reforms.

Millions of people are needlessly getting dangerous radiation from C.T. scans that raise the risk of cancer. That's the finding of a new report, which says children are especially at risk. The researchers say the risk from a single C.T. scan is small. But they're concerned about the built-up public health risk over a long period of time. The study is published in today's issue of "The New England Journal of Medicine."

And Rodney King is recovering from a series of superficial gunshot wounds. Police in Rialto, California, say King was grazed by gunshots last night to the face, arms, back, and torso. Police say, after he was shot, King rode his bicycle from San Bernardino to his home in Rialto before calling authorities. No word on possible suspects. King's 1991 beating by police officers sparked widespread rioting in Los Angeles.

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

BLITZER: Carol, thanks very much. Stand by. We will get back to you shortly.

A head-to-head showdown over one of the campaign's hottest issues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: If you're going to take this holier than thou attitude, that your whole approach to immigration...

ROMNEY: I'm sorry, immigration is not holier than thou, Mayor. It's the law.

GIULIANI: If you're going to take this holier than thou attitude...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani sparring over one issue that is dividing the Republican Party. You will hear what our roundtable thinks about how it all played out.

And Iraq is another sticking point in the campaign, but why are some other candidates raising the specter of Hitler?

And for all of you with cars, here's Washington news that hits your pocketbook -- Congress now finalizing a deal that would raise fuel economy standards, big time, but it may have loopholes big enough for the auto companies to drive right through.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, White House hopefuls get into it at the CNN/YouTube Republican presidential debate, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani in a heated exchange over immigration.

And another verbal smackdown, this time John McCain and Ron Paul battling over the war in Iraq. You're going to find out why one of them invoked the ghost of Hitler.

Plus, a new terror tape is out allegedly from Osama bin Laden. Which candidates might it help in the polls?

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

The presidential candidates are pounding the campaign trail, talking about the issues that matter to you. Many of you are weighing what they're saying and if it's enough to earn your vote. One day after our CNN/YouTube presidential debate, we're trying to gauge exactly what happened.

CNN's Dana Bash talked to a key group of people in Saint Petersburg, Florida -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a major goal for a candidate in any debate is of course to sway voters who haven't yet made up their mind.

Well, CNN gathered a group of undecided Republicans here last night and gave each one of these gadgets to track every second of their reaction to the debate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): It was the sharpest headline-making exchange of the night.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The policies of the mayor of pursuing a sanctuary nation or pursuing a sanctuary city...

COOPER: We have got a number...

ROMNEY: ... are, frankly, wrong.

RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, I would say he had sanctuary mansion, not just sanctuary city.

(APPLAUSE)

BASH: But it did not go over well here, 24 undecided GOP Florida voters watching with special meters. Blue lines are men, yellow, women. Up means they like what they're hearing. Down means they don't.

ROMNEY: You, as a homeowner, are supposed to go out there and say, "I want to see your papers."

Is that what you're suggesting?

BASH: The bars dipped as it turned nasty.

(CROSSTALK)

GIULIANI: If you're going to take...

(CROSSTALK)

ANDERSON COOPER, MODERATOR: You asked him a question. Let him respond. Then we have got to move on.

GIULIANI: If you're going to take this holier-than-thou attitude...

BASH: These undecided Republicans liked substance, not spats.

On Iraq, a gender gap.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are winning the war in Iraq.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BASH: Women were turned off by John McCain's defense of the war.

SHARON TURNER, UNDECIDED VOTER: I think John McCain is wrong. I think this war that we're in is just like Vietnam, and there's going to be a lot of people left there. And it's not going to -- we're going to spend a lot of money on a war we can't win.

BASH: Another low, Mitt Romney on the Bible.

ROMNEY: I don't disagree with the Bible. I try and live by it.

BASH: Rudy Giuliani is often ridiculed for constant references to 9/11. GIULIANI: Well, the most important thing to do is to make certain we remain on offense against Islamic terrorism.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BASH: But it works. He got one of the highest marks, especially among men, talking terrorism.

Mike Huckabee scored the best on likability.

LACE MOBLEY, UNDECIDED VOTER: Mike Huckabee actually impressed me with his candidness and also his ability to answer the questions that were broached to him.

BASH: And with these undecided voters, this got the most laughs.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office, Anderson. That's what Jesus would do.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Many of the Republican voters last night said that they were frustrated the candidates didn't talk more about things like health care and education, issues that really affect their lives. And all of the 24 undecided Republicans who watched the debate came away still undecided -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks very much.

And, as we just saw, Dana showed us some of the more heated exchanges of the night, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney coming to verbal blows, specifically over immigration.

Let's go to our roundtable tonight to talk all about it.

Our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, is joining us. Jack Cafferty is of course with us, his book, "It's Getting Ugly Out There."

And it is getting ugly out there, Jack. That's been a bestseller.

And also with us is Jeffrey Toobin, our senior analyst, as well.

What do you think about -- what was your initial thought when you saw what was going on in that debate, Jack, specifically over the issue of illegal immigration?

CAFFERTY: Well, I thought that list dustup at the beginning between Romney and Giuliani was mildly interesting. But I thought Giuliani's attempt to belittle Romney by saying he ran a sanctuary mansion was pretty lame. He was suggesting that because some guy in the yard crew working for a company that got a contract to do landscaping at the governor's mansion in Massachusetts may have been illegal that Governor Romney somehow was supporting sanctuary treatment of illegal aliens.

Rudy Giuliani is smarter than that and so is the audience.

BLITZER: Gloria, were both of those guys, Romney and Giuliani, diminished by that squabble they had right off the top?

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think so. I think voters in Iowa, as well as the voters everywhere else, don't like to see their politicians squabble like that. But I can tell you, Wolf, that immigration, particularly in the Republican primary -- and including in Iowa -- is one of the top issues that Republicans really care about. And this is the way that Romney is trying to differentiate himself from the mayor. And I think each of them has an argument to make. And they want to try and convince the Iowa voters and the voters in New Hampshire that they're going to be tougher on immigration.

BLITZER: Jeff?

TOOBIN: Well, my thought was watching this, you know, who can out tough whom on immigration...

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: ...was the thousands of Hispanic voters leaving the Republican Party for the next 20 years. I mean, yes, they all say, oh, we're only objecting to illegal immigration. But that exchange between Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney -- when Huckabee tried to show a measure of humanity and say, you know, well, if a kid whose parents came here illegally wins a scholarship, maybe we shouldn't remove the scholarship from the kid. And Romney says no, no, no, we've got to -- I mean give me a break.

Ifs that -- is that where Americans are?

I mean maybe it is, but it strikes me that this party is moving so far to the right on immigration so fast, they may be leaving the rest of the country behind.

BORGER: Well, and I'm not sure that Romney actually won that exchange with Huckabee. Because Huckabee did look, if you will, more humanitarian in his approach to immigration reform and he appealed to the kinder, gentler, better nature of the American people. And I bet you that people who were watching that kind of approved of what Huckabee was saying. And I thought Romney was a little uneven last night and a little defensive, largely because people were all over him.

CAFFERTY: Yes, but, you know -- you know the point that was kind of missed, I thought, in this whole discussion of immigration -- we have laws on the books, Counselor Toobin, against illegal immigrants -- against hiring them, against letting them into the country. There are laws that are being ignored by the government that we pay taxes to enforce the law.

And the reason that they, you know, don't want to talk about that is that I'm not sure any of them have any intention of enforcing the laws. They talk about immigration reform, they talk about amnesty, they talk about worker programs, they talk about -- they're not enforcing the law. And if you don't like the law in this country, tradition always says you change the law. But until you change it, you enforce it. And our government is failing on that front.

BORGER: Well, the one candidate who is talking about it a lot -- or who has talked about it a lot and who got in a whole heap of trouble because he talked about it a lot -- was John McCain. And, you know, John McCain now, instead of talking about a path to citizenship -- because he wants to win the Republican primaries -- is talking about security. Because that's the one thing, Jack, that they can all agree on, which is you need to enforce the law and you need to have better security.

BLITZER: You know, I just want to make one point...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: ...Jeff, and I want you to respond. A lot of people focus in on the immigration issue at this Republican debate last night. But the most heated exchanges at the Democratic presidential debate involved illegal immigration, including driver's licenses for illegal immigrants in New York State and elsewhere. So this isn't just an issue that's dividing Republicans, it's also dividing Democrats.

TOOBIN: Absolutely. And I think most people would argue -- and I certainly would -- that the lowest moment of Hillary Clinton's campaign so far was her answer in the Philadelphia debate about driver's licenses, where she appeared to take two different positions in the space of about two minutes. I don't think there is any clear winner on this issue. But I do think this constant, you know, assault on immigrants -- illegal immigrants -- in the Republican Party is dangerous in a country where Hispanics are the largest and fastest growing minority.

BLITZER: Well, and the former chairman of the Republican Party, Mel Martinez, himself a Hispanic, agrees with you, that this potentially is a political disaster for the Republican Party in terms of bringing in those votes.

All right, guys, stand by.

We have a lot more to talk about, including other heated confrontations at that Republican debate. We're going to show you how the name Hitler came up in one topic and it had two candidates locked in a verbal smack-down.

And there's a new message out apparently from Osama bin Laden.

Which candidates would benefit most from his terror tapes?

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: More fireworks at the CNN/YouTube Republican debate as John McCain and Ron Paul really got into it over the war in Iraq.

Listen to this exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Congressman Paul, I've heard him now in many debates talking about bringing our troops home and about the war in Iraq and how it's failed. And I want to tell you that that kind of isolationism, sir, is what caused World War II. We allowed...

(BOOS)

MCCAIN: We allowed...

(BOOS)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Allow him his answer. Allow him his answer. Please.

MCCAIN: We allowed Hitler to come to power with that kind of attitude of isolationism and appeasement.

RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not an isolationism -- an isolationist. I want to trade with people, talk with people, travel...

COOPER: Time's up.

We're going to talk about this later.

PAUL: But I don't want to send our troops overseas using force to tell them how to live.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, Jack Cafferty, who would have thought the name Hitler would come up in one of these debates. That was a pretty sharp exchange.

CAFFERTY: You know, earlier in the show, I said that I enjoyed McCain last night and I did. I thought he got his feet under him and had his fastball under control -- except for that moment. And I found that remark absolutely offensive.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are costing this country $700 million a day. And I'm not sure what we're getting, if anything, for those. In addition, we have dozens of bases with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of troops stationed all around the world doing who knows where doing who knows what, to what eventual benefit to this country I still don't know.

And our military is stretched to the breaking point. We have increasing shell shock cases coming home that will require billions of dollars of medical care for who knows how long. And reasonable people can suggest that we revisit our foreign policy when it comes to our military inviting comparisons to Adolph Hitler.

I thought McCain was way over the top and way out of line.

TOOBIN: And keep in mind, you know, Ron Paul is a fringe figure in the Republican Party. And they treat him like the crazy uncle in the attic. His position on the Iraq War is shared by about 65 percent of the American people.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

TOOBIN: So, you know, the idea that, you know, the Hitler position is shared by 65 percent of the American people is pretty risky politics for John McCain. And I think, like Jack said, a pretty offensive comparison.

BORGER: but McCain wasn't really looking at the 65 percent of the American people, Jeff. He was looking for those Republican primary voters. Because what he needed to do onstage last night -- and I think he had more success in his exchange with Romney when he talked about waterboarding and the torture issue...

CAFFERTY: Absolutely.

BORGER: ...is that he wanted to say I am the only president up here on this stage. I am the only one with the national security credibility and the foreign policy credentials. And when we talk about torture, I know what I'm talking about when I talk about the Geneva Convention.

BLITZER: All right. All right, Jack, give me a quick answer. And if we have time, the other two, as well. Osama bin Laden releases, apparently, another audio tape today. We all remember on the eve of the last presidential election there was a bin Laden videotape that a lot of people think wound up helping Bush get reelected as opposed to John Kerry.

Who gains, who loses by this Osama bin Laden audio or videotape phenomenon?

CAFFERTY: I don't know that anybody gains or loses. I personally -- and I'm speaking just for myself -- I find it offensive that I even have to be exposed to this guy. I don't think these tapes belong on television. It's been over six years since this bearded, murdering weasel took out almost 4,000 of our citizens and we still taunt our population by putting these tapes in front of us.

I find it offensive. I'm embarrassed as an American that this jerk is still out there walking around. And I wonder if President Bush is embarrassed six-and-a-half years later when these tapes are all over the TVs in the White House.

BLITZER: I'm sure -- I'm sure he is. He told me yesterday when I spoke to him that he would authorize an invasion, if you will, of Pakistan if he had actionable intelligence where bin Laden was. That hasn't happened, though, yet.

CAFFERTY: We knew where he was before we went into Iraq, remember?

BLITZER: Well, they haven't found him yet.

All right, Jack, stand by.

We've got The Cafferty File coming up.

Gloria, Jeff, thanks to both of you.

We'll see you back here in the roundtable.

President Bush was all but unmentionable at last night's Republican debate.

CNN's Carol Costello is joining us now.

Why was the president of the United States -- his name barely mentioned, even though he himself is a Republican and these were all Republican presidential candidates?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, it sure seems like Bush has become a four letter word you don't want to mention if you're a Republican running for office. They've taken to talking in code, not daring to say the word Bush, but certainly not shy about promoting his agenda.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States.

COSTELLO (voice-over): Once upon a time, when President Bush's approval ratings hovered around 70 percent, Republican candidates clamored for Bush to be by their side. But with Bush's plunge in popularity, Republicans running for president have tried to make the leader of their party invisible.

Take Wednesday's YouTube debate.

TOOBIN: There is actually a Republican president of the United States. And he was almost never mentioned.

COSTELLO: The Bush moniker uttered just four times in two hours. But make no mistake, try as they might, the biggest presence on that debate stage weren't the eight Republican hopefuls, but Bush.

Kathleen Jamieson co-wrote "unSpun."

KATHLEEN JAMIESON, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: The Republican candidate for president is running on an issue agenda largely framed by the Bush presidency.

COSTELLO: And even though they won't readily admit it, most of these candidates agree with the Bush agenda.

For example, President Bush cut taxes. Congressman Duncan Hunter voted for them.

But who does he credit?

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I came in with Ronald Reagan in 1980 to cut taxes and I probably voted for more tax cuts than anybody here.

COSTELLO: And that strategy played out all night long. Mitt Romney never mentions President Bush's name, but his policy on torture and waterboarding sure sounds Bushesque.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I oppose torture.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States does not torture.

ROMNEY: I don't think it's wise for us to describe specifically which measures we would and would not use.

BUSH: I cannot describe the specific methods used.

COSTELLO: Senator John McCain is walking the tightrope, too -- criticizing not President Bush for a poor strategy in Iraq, but former secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, my friends, I'm the only one on this stage -- I'm the only one on this stage that said the Rumsfeld strategy was failing and was doomed to failure.

COSTELLO: So why not take on an unpopular president head on?

JAMIESON: It would just simply be foolish.

COSTELLO: Because most Republicans who vote in the primaries support many of the president's policies.

JAMIESON: It also would be perceived to be unloyal to do that, and, most importantly, in tactical terms, to hand the Democrats a talking point that could be used against the Republicans in the general election.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

COSTELLO: But you can sort of spin that around. Some say there is a danger of not overtly criticizing Bush. According to the publisher of Daily Code, the progressive Web site, if Democrats remind voters the Republican platform and Bush's policies are one and the same, victory will be assured in the general election -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Carol.

Thanks very much.

Let's check in with Lou.

He's standing by to tell us what's coming up right at the top of the hour -- Lou.

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

Coming up, 7:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN, tonight we're reporting on a new study that shows the United States is the most welcoming nation on the face of the planet. But a third of the immigrant population in this country is in the country illegally. We'll have that report.

Also, eight states give driving privileges to illegal aliens despite a national outcry to end that practice. Incredibly, more states want to join them. But a governor says not in my state, and he will be our guest tonight.

And China's growing trade imbalance, toxic exports and aggressive military buildup.

So what's Washington's response?

It's allowing China to dictate U.S. policy.

Please join us for all of that, all of the day's news and more at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou.

See you in a few moments.

A landmark deal in the works that will eventually impact every car owner in the country. We're going to show you what Congress is working on.

And why hasn't military progress in Iraq made the war more popular here at home?

Jack Cafferty with your email.

A lot more coming up, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In our Political Ticker, the former Republican congressman from Illinois, Henry Hyde, died today in Chicago of heart- related problems. He was 83. Over his decade long career, Hyde got a lot of attention, including when he helped lead efforts to impeach President Clinton back in 1998. He also gained attention as a staunch opponent of abortion rights. He retired from Congress this year.

In a statement, President Bush called Hyde -- and I'm quoting now -- "a tireless champion of the weak and forgotten."

Congress tonight is closing in on a deal to raise the nation's fuel economy standards for the first time in more than 30 years. At the core of the bill is a requirement to boost the average standard to 35 miles a gallon on most cars and trucks -- and to do that by the year 2020. The Senate passed the bill back in June. The House could vote on it next week.

President Bush today demanded that Congress approve billions of dollars in additional war funds without strings and without delay -- his words. Mr. Bush wants action before lawmakers leave for their Christmas break. He says the military has been waiting for the money for months and could soon face harm as a result. Spending billings have bogged down over provisions calling for a troop pullout. And Mr. Bush vetoed one such measure already.

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

Let's go back to Jack.

He's got The Cafferty File in New York -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: A bill to raise the fuel-efficiency of automobiles by 20?

BLITZER: Yes, just in time. Just in time because, you know, by then, you know what the price of a barrel will be?

CAFFERTY: Yes. I mean you'll have to mortgage your house to -- I mean what -- what is wrong with these people?

I mean what's the rush, right?

Twenty -- 12 more years, 13 more years. That's unbelievable.

The questions is -- why hasn't military progress in Iraq made the war more popular?

There is great support among Americans in the latest Pew poll for the advances of the U.S. military there, but they still want the troops to come home. Their view of opposition to the war hasn't changed.

Mary in Florida writes: "The war is still unpopular with Americans because fundamentally they don't believe that the ends justify the means. Americans now know that the Bush administration deceived them in order to get support for starting the war. And regardless of how the military is doing now, Americans don't like to be deceived."

Odin in San Jose: "The public is fickle, memory is short. The longer current improvements are sustained, the more support there will be for continued U.S. military action in Iraq. Eventually, everybody will want to be on the bandwagon."

S. Writes: "For the same reason a violently battered wife doesn't feel happy when her husband controls herself for a couple of days -- all the problems are still there. Even a good month can't resolve the underlying problems." Eric in L.A. writes: "It looks like Americans are realizing that intervening in the affairs of a turbulent foreign conflict for this length of time is the equivalent of a fool walking out into a rainstorm and not having the sense to come back inside."

And Terry writes from Pawleys Island, South Carolina: "We were lied to about the reasons for the war. We were lied to about how many troops it would take to win the war. We were lied to about how much it would cost. We were lied to about how Iraqis would respond. We were lied to about the Iraqi government wanting to share power. We were lied to about how the government was taking care of our wounded. We may be stupid. We're not brain dead -- and that's no lie."

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

We ought to start putting that roundtable on there, too.

BLITZER: That's an excellent idea. We should do that...

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: ...because it's become a very, very popular segment in our 6:00 President Pervez Musharraf hour, in part, Jack, in part thanks to you.

CAFFERTY: Well, you're so kind, Wolf. On that note, I'll come back tomorrow.

BLITZER: Thank you.

We expect you'll be here.

Jack, thanks very much.

There's still one stone unturned after last night's debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Allow him his answer.

Allow him his answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE) candidates, that is what the audience had to say. We're going to have more on Wednesday's so-called boo fest and what set it off.

That's coming up, right here THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Did you hear the booing at last night's Republican presidential CNN/YouTube debate? CNN's Jeanne Moos certainly did and she takes a Moost Unusual look at this new trend in debate audience participation.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How about a round of applause for all those boos?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I'll listen to what they have to say, all right?

(BOOS)

MOOS: The Republican debate was a boo fest.

RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just as we would object if they occupied our country.

(BOOS)

MOOS: Another subject was immigration.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We never proposed amnesty, but, you know...

(BOOS)

MCINTYRE: ...this whole debate...

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Come on, please. Let him answer.

MOOS: Or gun control.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Generally, those reasonable regulations would be about...

(BOOS)

COOPER: Let him answer, kindly.

GIULIANI: Let me finish.

MOOS: And some of the best booing came during the hottest exchanges.

MCCAIN: But that kind of isolationism, sir, is what caused World War II.

(BOOS)

MCCAIN: We allowed...

(BOOS)

MCCAIN: We allowed...

(BOOS)

COOPER: Allow him his answer. Allow him his answer, please.

MOOS (on camera): Do you think the booing detracts or makes it sort of more exciting?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More exciting, absolutely.

PAUL: He doesn't even understand the difference between non- intervention and isolationism.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it detracts. I think it's -- I think it's intrusive. It interrupts people.

MOOS: But it sure spices things up for a body language expert like Dan Hill.

DAN HILL: They are exchanging ironic, contemptuous smiles with one another.

MCCAIN: We allowed Hitler to come to power with that kind of attitude of isolationism and appeasement.

(BOOS)

COOPER: OK...

MOOS (on camera): You can tell how excited some of the bloggers were about all the booing by how many Os they added.

(voice-over): From 10 to 55 to 80. The booing boog started early, right after Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney began sniping.

ROMNEY: Mayor, you know better than that.

MOOS: Rudy ended up getting booed for attacking Romney on immigration.

ROMNEY: All right...

GIULIANI: It's really hard to have employer sanctions...

(BOOS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's play this -- let's play this next video.

MOOS: And when Romney gets angry...

HILL: He will throw in a weak social smile onto his face -- incessant smiling. I call him the Energizer bunny of social smiles because a natural smile will last one-and-a-half or two-and-a-half seconds.

MOOS: While Romney's might last 10 seconds or more.

So does some booing. It began in earnest in the last Democratic debate.

JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And my point is simply that people have...

BLITZER: All right...

EDWARDS: No. Wait a minute.

(BOOS)

EDWARDS: Voters have those choices.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We start playing with numbers...

(BOOS)

OBAMA: ...in order to try to make a point.

(BOOS)

OBAMA: And we can't do that.

(BOOS)

OBAMA: No, no, no, no, no, no.

MOOS: How quickly things changed. Less than an hour before these two are exchanging contemptuous smiles, they were just lovey dovey Ron and John.

MCCAIN: How are you doing, Ron?

PAUL: Glad to see you.

MCCAIN: It's good to have you here.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

BLITZER: No boos for Jeanne.

Thanks very much for joining us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.

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