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Dems Fight Do-Nothing Image; Public Disapproval for Congress & The President; Interview With Senator Joseph Biden

Aired December 13, 2007 - 15:59   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, some of the biggest names in baseball linked to illegal steroids. A stunning report released by former senator George Mitchell. I'll be speaking live here in THE SITUATION ROOM with Senator Mitchell, and we're going to bring you a news conference shortly by Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

Lots of news on that front coming up.

Also, the Democrats' last chance to debate in Iowa before the caucuses. Undecided voters tell us if they now have made up their minds.

Plus, Senator Joe Biden, he's standing by to join us live from the debate as well.

And it keeps getting worse. Democratic leaders in Congress preparing to end the year with many lousy reviews. We're going to take a closer look at some brand-new approval ratings and whether lawmakers are living up to the "do-nothing" label.

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

On the debate stage in Iowa today, we saw Democratic presidential candidates trying to run on their records, but that may not necessarily be so easy for the four current members of the U.S. Senate. Our brand-new poll shows the American people are even more shower on the Democratic-controlled Congress. And right now leaders on Capitol Hill don't have a strong list of accomplishments to prove them wrong.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is standing by with the new poll numbers, but let's go to CNN's Brianna Keilar on Capitol Hill first. She's watching all of this.

Democrats were rushing back to Washington to participate in some voting, and then rushing back to Iowa. What's the latest, Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they sure did rush back, even though it's make or break time on the campaign trail. They scrambled back here to Washington in an attempt to get some legislation moving, and the operative word there is "attempt."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KEILAR (voice over): Democratic presidential candidates hot off the campaign trail sped into Washington today, spending less than an hour on the Senate floor to vote yes on two measures, votes that in the end didn't really matter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The motion is not agreed to.

KEILAR: And with that, a Democratic push on a critical energy bill fell short. It's a different day, but in a way, the same old story. Faced with a determined president and a unified Republican minority, this Democratic-led Congress has held many votes that have failed.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: When one side or the other tries to jam their agenda down the throats of the other side, it doesn't work, and exhibit A is the dismal record of this broken Congress during this last year.

KEILAR: On the flip side, Democrats accuse Republicans of stonewalling.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: My Republican colleagues are filibustering themselves out of their seats come 2008.

KEILAR: In recent weeks, Congress has stalled on legislation to expand the children's health insurance program, stopped the alternative minimum tax from hitting millions more Americans, and reformed the Bush administration's terrorist surveillance program, not to mention the failure to fund almost the entire federal government and give the president more money for the war on Iraq. Democrats say their votes are important even if they don't win.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: We signaled change, we've made a difference, and now we're showing, in order to get much more of this done, we can do some of it this year, but we need a Democratic president and we need stronger majorities in the House and Senate.


KEILAR: Democrats are showing some signs of giving into the president's demands in the hopes that they can get some of this taken care of ahead of the holidays. It looks like ultimately they will approve the latest installment of war funding without strings attached. And Senate Democrats have a plan to scrap tax increases for oil companies from the energy bill in the hopes that they can pass that in the next couple hours -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brianna. Thanks very much.

She's on the Hill.

Let's get to the Americans public's dim view of the Democratic Congress and of President Bush. Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is here with some brand-new poll numbers as well.

Which side is in a stronger position politically, Bill? Would it be the president of the United States or the Democratic-led Congress.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: The Democratic Congress. And they don't want to risk it.


SCHNEIDER (voice over): The Democratic Congress and President Bush are nearing a showdown. Should Congress stand up to the president? Congressional leaders are painfully aware of what happened when the Republican Congress stood up to President Clinton at the end of 1995, but things are very different now.

In November 1995, President Clinton's job approval stood at 52 percent. What's President Bush's job rating now? Thirty-two percent.

STUART ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: The Democrats ought to have a freer hand here. They ought to be in a stronger position. But they don't quite see it that way.

SCHNEIDER: Why not? Here's one reason. The job approval rating for the Democratic leaders of Congress is only slightly higher than President Bush's. That's partly because Congress isn't standing up to President Bush. Most liberals say they disapprove of the job the Democrats in Congress are doing.

Moreover, when it comes to making tough budget choices, the public prefers the Democrats in Congress over President Bush by better than two to one. So why don't the Democrats stand their ground? Because they don't want to risk handing President Bush an issue.

ROTHENBERG: I think they figure if they can go into the election running against Republicans in the Senate, running against George Bush, they'll take that now rather than risk a big blowup.

SCHNEIDER: Of course, there's also a risk if they give into the president.

ROTHENBERG: If they look weak, if they look ineffectual, they could suffer some costs as well there, but they don't see those as great as a big blowup, what's often referred to as a political train wreck.


SCHNEIDER: Congressional Democrats don't want to be soon as causing a train wreck, even if that makes them looking weak and ineffectual -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much.

Bill Schneider with these latest poll numbers.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Roger Kahn dubbed them "The Boys of Summer" in one of the finest books ever written about American sports. Baseball has long been the great escape in this country. An afternoon at any Major League ballpark watching wholesome, fresh-faced union young kids playing a truly great game at its very highest level, well, that was a perfect escape from the tedium of the job, the drudgery of the commute, the tensions of the marriage, the problems with the kids.

A hot dog, cold drink and the cry of "Play ball always!" always better and cheaper than spending an hour on some shrink's couch. They had to go and ruin it for us.

When Mark McGwire, with a neck the size of a tree trunk, was shattering homerun records and waving his bat around at home plate like a toothpick, we should have known something was up, and it was. Now comes the depressing news that bunch of our heroes were jerking us around and have now been linked in a 20-month-long investigation to steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.

Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Lenny Dykstra, Andy Pettitte, Mo Vaughn, Gary Sheffield, it's a long list. It has dozens of names on it, according to George Mitchell's investigation.

This is a betrayal on a massive scale. The behavior is every bit as criminal as any politician who betrays the public trust.

We came to watch you guys play baseball, and you let us down.

The question is this: How much damage will a massive steroid scandal ultimately do to Major League Baseball?

E-mail your thoughts to, or you can post a comment on my new blog -- Wolf.


All right, Jack. Thanks very much.

Jack will be back shortly.

We're standing by, by the way, for a news conference on the breaking news about Major League Baseball. The baseball commissioner, Bud Selig, preparing to talk to reporters about this new report linking dozens of players to steroids and other banned substances.

And Later, I'll be speaking live with the man behind the new report, the former U.S. senator, George Mitchell.

Also ahead, did the Democratic presidential debate in Iowa that you just saw here on CNN register with undecided voters? We're going to find out if some are any closer to choosing a candidate.

But coming up next, Senator Joe Biden on the debate, and a new feud between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama over past drug use.

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


In exactly three weeks, Iowans hold their all-important caucuses, and the Hawkeye State will deliver the first verdict on the 2008 presidential race.

Joining us now, Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Joe Biden. He's in Johnston, Iowa, fresh from this hour and a half debate.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: Why do you believe you're better to produce change for the American people than, shall we say, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?

BIDEN: I'll just tell you why I think I can produce change. I've been ahead of the curve on an awful lot of things, Wolf, from the Violence Against Women Act when no one wanted to deal with women being abused, a crime bill that put 100,000 cops on the street, the -- getting President Clinton to move on Bosnia, Iraq, an Iraq plan.

I mean, this is just about action, it's not so much about change. It's about you don't have to guess what the next president is going to have to face. There's enough crises sitting right there on the table, and I've laid out clearly what I do...

BLITZER: But can they do it? Can your rivals deliver as well as you can?

BIDEN: Well, obviously I don't think so or I wouldn't be running. If I thought they could, I would be supporting one of them. I think they're all great people, but I think I'm best equipped at this moment with my background in foreign policy, my background in terms of constitutional issues that this president is dealing with and abusing, and my background in terms of 35 years in the Senate actually getting significant controversial issues settled and passed with practical solutions.

BLITZER: We heard you make a reference to your faith today, which clearly is very important to your life. We've heard a lot of discussion on the Republican side about religion, in part because Mitt Romney, arguably the front-runner, is a Mormon. But how important should a presidential candidate's faith be in trying to seek the White House?

BIDEN: I don't think it should be important to anyone but him or her. It's important to me, but I don't think it should matter to the American public whether I'm a practice practicing Catholic or I'm a Buddhist or I'm an atheist. I mean, I happen to be a practicing Catholic, it matters to me, but it's not something that I think makes me more or less qualified to be president of the United States.

BLITZER: What did you think of Mitt Romney's speech when he spoke about his faith and his being a Mormon?

BIDEN: I thought it was a shame he had to make the speech. You know, I remember being a junior in a Catholic high school in 1960 when president John F. Kennedy -- actually, the beginning of my senior year, when he was running for president of the United States of America, and I thought that speech he gave to the Baptist ministers in Texas would end the need for any presidential candidate in the future ever have to speak about or defend their religion. And I think it's a shame.

BLITZER: What about this comment from a co-chairman of the Clinton campaign in New Hampshire raising questions about the electability of Barack Obama because of his own acknowledged drug use as a teenager? What do you make of that?

BIDEN: I don't think much of it. And I don't think that will have anything to do whether or not Barack is electable.

I think there's other issues about experience in the rest we talk about. But I sure as heck -- I think this guy who is a man of character, I think he's a serious guy. I don't think it will have any impact.

BLITZER: Do you think that they should fire him and distance themselves from him in the campaign? He's the husband of the former governor of New Hampshire, Jeanne Shaheen.

BIDEN: Well, that's a decision for Hillary Clinton and her campaign to make. I don't even know the context of the -- of his statement, but all I do know is what Barack Obama did or didn't do as a teenager sure has virtually no relevance to whether or not he could be elected or should be elected president. There's other reasons why I'm running against Barack and others, why I think I'm better, but it's sure not because of anything he did in his teenage years.

BLITZER: You suggested the other day you really don't think the attorney general, the new one, Michael Mukasey, should investigate the CIA's decision to destroy those videotapes of harsh interrogation techniques. You want to see a special counsel named. A lot of other people are saying that's premature right now.

Why do you believe the nation needs a special counsel and that the attorney general is not the man to lead this investigation?

BIDEN: Look, here's an administration that has White House people indicted, an administration that had an attorney general leaving under enormous pressure from politicizing that department. Here's an attorney general who couldn't make up his mind whether waterboarding was torture.

I don't think -- I think just for his sake he should put out a special counsel, order one, because, look, this -- who knows where this leads to. This is, you know, destruction of evidence, it's possibly a violation of two elements of the criminal code, the federal criminal code. And this should be done independently and thoroughly, and I don't think the administration has the credibility to do it on their own.

BLITZER: And even as we speak, Senator, we just got a statement in from the Hillary for president campaign saying that Bill Shaheen has stepped down from her campaign in New Hampshire because of the controversy resulting from his comments to "The Washington Post" about Barack Obama's drug use as a teenager.

"This election is too important and we must all get back to electing the best qualified candidate who has a record of making change happen in the country."

The candidate is Hillary Clinton. So Bill Shaheen, the husband of Jeanne Shaheen, saying he is no longer involved in the Clinton campaign.

You want to react? Any immediate reaction?

BIDEN: No, I think -- I mean, Hillary made the judgment and it's their campaign. Look, I don't know what Bill said, how he said it.

I know him. I think he's a fine guy. I don't know enough to make a comment on that, except if he did say what was reported, it was an inappropriate thing to say, and I think they've dealt with it.

BIDEN: He said, "I made a mistake, and in light of what happened, I have made the personal decision that I will step down as the co-chair of the Hillary for president campaign."

All right, Senator. We're going to leave it right there.

BIDEN: Thanks a lot.

BLITZER: I appreciate it very much.

Good luck to you on the campaign trail.

BIDEN: Thank you. Thanks an awful lot, Wolf.

BLITZER: And we're asking some undecided Democrats who they were impressed with or who they were least impressed with after the Democratic debate.

Mary Snow is with that focus group in Johnston, Iowa, right now.

So what are some of the immediate reactions, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a lot of mixed results. Twenty-three registered Democrats who came in here undecided. We asked them who they felt performed the best in this debate. And they concluded they felt that John Edwards performed the best, with Senator Clinton right behind him.

Now, of course, this is unscientific, but also the other question posed to them, if the election were held today, who would you vote for? And in that question, John Edwards came in first, Senator Obama second, and Senator Clinton cane in third. But again, this is just a very small sampling. We had the help of two professors from Southern Methodist University compiling all this data, really watching as these voters here in Iowa watch the debate. And they had a dial meter registering what they liked when they heard it, what they didn't like.

Take a look at how they responded to Senator Clinton at one point during this debate.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'll ask the Congress to send me everything that Bush vetoed, like stem- cell research and the Children's Health Insurance Program, and begin to prepare my legislative and budget proposals for the Congress, because you have to move quickly in order to get off to a good start. And that's what I intend to do.


SNOW: That was one of the strongest responses.

We also noted that a number of times when candidates spoke about change in Washington, that also registered with the people in this room.

Kam San Sang (ph) Is here with us today.

Kam San (ph), you said that you were undecided but leaning toward Barack Obama. After watching the debate, how do you feel now in terms of who you'd support?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I would support Obama.

SNOW: Why is that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, because I think Hillary did a good job as far as the debate is concerned, but something about her that I just don't feel good about, having her as my president. Because I have a feeling -- I have a suspicion that no matter what she promised now, she's going to change her mind and then she's going to come up with a real good excuse why she did. Whereas, Obama, I think I can trust him.

SNOW: All right.

Now, we have a different opinion from Ron Rosenblatt (ph).

Ron, you were watching. Who are you leaning toward right now?


SNOW: Why is that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I believe that John Edwards and Joe Biden to me are the true statesmen. I'm looking for someone to lead the country who -- I don't agree with all of their positions, but I believe that they will have the respect and the admiration of not only the people in the United States, but my children, my daughters who are in college, and people abroad.


So, Wolf, as you can see, very mixed reactions in this crowd. But one thing that everyone agreed on is that they take this process very seriously. And all the people here, of course, plan to caucus in three weeks -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Mary's in Iowa. I can second what she just said, they take this caucus very, very seriously, the Democrats and the Republicans.

Remember, three weeks from today, they go into those houses, into the schools, the churches, they go forward with those caucuses three weeks from today, January 3rd.

Karl Rove has left the Bush White House, but he's still a target of contempt right now. Just ahead, there's a new move under way by the Congress to force Karl Rove to talk. We'll update you on what has just happened.

Plus, what will Major League Baseball do with the new report links dozens of players, current and former, to steroids and other banned substances?

We're going to go live to a new conference by Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: It's rocking the foundation of America's favorite pastime. We're standing by to hear from Major League Baseball's commissioner, his response to a sweeping report linking some of the top names in baseball to steroids and other banned substances. We're going to go to hear Bud Selig as soon as he starts speaking.

And it's what happens when you become a new front-runner. Mike Huckabee finding out his record is under attack, but how much of what's being said is actually true? We have a fact check.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

Happening now, stunning details of a shocking report. You're about to hear about a report linking some of baseball's elite to steroids and other banned substances. You're also going to hear from the man behind it, former senator George Mitchell. We're standing by to speak with him live.

Al Gore's harsh critique of the U.S. from outside the U.S., he calls it another inconvenient truth. In Gore's words, the United States is obstructing progress on a new climate change deal.

How will the Bush administration react to that?

And some of Oprah Winfrey's biggest fans are apparently turned off and say they'll tune her out. You're going to find out why some say Oprah crossed the line and lost their trust.

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

It's nothing short of a bombshell. Some of baseball's top current and former players linked to steroids and other banned performance-enhancing drugs. That according to a long-awaited report that has just been released.

The commissioners of baseball, Bud Selig, is now speaking, reacting. Let's listen.


BUD SELIG, MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL COMMISSIONER: ... here with me, Major League president Bob DuPuy, MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred, and Dr. Gary Green of UCLA, who is our expert on performance- enhancing substances.

I would also like to introduce Donald Hooton, who runs the Taylor Hooton Foundation, which Major League Baseball helps sponsor, and Steve Pasierb, the president and chief executive officer of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, which we have been a proud partner for the past several years.

I want to thank Senator Mitchell and his team of investigators for the exhaustive effort they made in tracing the use of performance- enhancing substances in baseball. Twenty-one months ago, when I asked Senator Mitchell to undertake this assignment, I said nothing is more important to me than the integrity of this game. I knew it was important for baseball to face the issue of steroids head-on.

Senator Mitchell had compete autonomy to pursue the evidence wherever it led, and he has done so. If there were problems, I wanted them revealed. If there were individuals who engaged in wrong-doing, I wanted those facts to come to light. If there were recommendations that would improve our drug-testing program, I wanted to hear them.

Senator Mitchell is one of the most respected public figure in the nation. His career in public service as a senator majority leader, federal judge, U.S. attorney, and, in my opinion, the leading international diplomat of our generation is exceptional, and he is a man of integrity.

His report is a call to action -- and I will act. I will continue to deal with the issue of performance-enhancing substance abuse.

Today, I announced that we will take the following three steps: First, Senator Mitchell made 20 recommendations, all of which I embrace. In fact, we have already adopted one of the recommendations and have eliminated the 24-hour notice that testers were giving clubs.

Those recommendations that I can implement independently, I will do so immediately. There are other recommendations that are subject to collective bargaining. I am also committed to these recommendations, and we will be reaching out to Don Fehr and the players association in the immediate future to urge him to join me in accepting them and to begin a positive dialogue on these matters.

Second, I will deal with the active players identified by Senator Mitchell as users of performance-enhancing substances.

I will also review the comments made by Senator Mitchell about club personnel, and will take appropriate action.

Senator Mitchell acknowledges in his report that the ultimate decisions on discipline rest with the commissioner, and he is correct. Discipline of players and others identified in this report will be determined on a case-by-case basis. If warranted, those decisions will be made swiftly. And I, of course, will give thorough consideration to Senator Mitchell's views on this subject.

Third, I will continue to be proactive about proposing new ways to detect and rid our sport of the use of performance-enhancing substances.

Senator Mitchell has found that our present testing program is effective in that detectable steroid use appears to have declined. Baseball currently has the most aggressive drug program in professional sports. We have banned steroids, amphetamines and human growth hormone, and imposed the stiffest penalties for use.

We are also taking part in major campaigns with the Partnership for Drug-Free America and the Taylor Hooton Foundation to educate America's youth and their parents about the dangers of performance- enhancing substances.

Just this week, the Partnership for Drug-Free America announced that steroid use amongst youngsters is down. I'm proud of the role that Major League Baseball has played in that decline.

But, as Senator Mitchell's report reveals, these efforts are not enough.

Players who are set on cheating have apparently moved from steroids to HGH. As we previously announced, we, along with the National Football League, are funding Dr. Donald Catlin in his efforts to find a valid urine test for human growth hormone.

We will do more to combat the use of HGH and to investigate and detect new substances. We will announce shortly an HGH summit to bring together the best minds in sports and science whose mission will be to fight and detect this undetectable substance.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the people who cooperated with Senator Mitchell's investigation -- in clubhouse attendants, owners, doctors, writers and law enforcement people. It is the forthright voices of these people that enabled Senator Mitchell to get to the bottom of questions of steroid use and make the findings that he did.

And of course, I want to thank, again, Senator Mitchell and his staff for their dedication and hard work and perseverance in investigating and making this report.

Baseball is America's past-time because of the trust placed in this sport by its fans. I'm proud to say baseball has never been more popular. I'm proud to say that our attendance continues to break records year after year and our fans continue to love the game.

But our fans deserve a game that is played on a level playing field, where all who compete do so fairly.

So long as there may be potential cheaters, we will always have to monitor our programs and constantly update them to catch those who think they can get away with breaking baseball's rules, in the name of integrity, and that's exactly think and that's what I intend to do.

As we implement the senator's recommendations, we will do even more. I can assure you we will not rest. Major League Baseball remains committed to this cause and to the effort to eliminate the use of performance-enhancing substances from our game.

So it certainly is open to questions now.

QUESTION: One of the things that Senator Mitchell said was he recommended that you forego discipline.

You seem to have indicated otherwise. Are you telling us that you will investigate each and every one of these names in this report and possibly discipline these players if you feel it's necessary?

SELIG: What I have said -- yes, what I have said is that I'm going to review his findings and the factual support for those findings. And punishment will then be determined on a case-by-case basis.

I will take action when I believe it's appropriate, particularly, of course, when I believe it affects the integrity of the sport.

And so, if action is needed, action will be taken.

QUESTION: Bud, before, you talked about one of the important aspects, from your standpoint, was the integrity of the game. And I'm just wondering what your thoughts are regarding some of these players in this report and the records that they have set and your feelings about possibly striking these records from the books, putting asterisks by these records, or some sort of notation that these players were named in this Mitchell report and found to have cheated. SELIG: Well, I certainly, as I said here, am very careful. I'm going to take it case by case. I don't want to comment now because I think that's, frankly, unfair. I have a lot of work ahead of me to do that. And I am going to do that.

And I think the results ultimately will speak for themselves. But I have a lot of work to do in reviewing each one of his findings -- and any other findings, frankly, that we have.

QUESTION: Is what I just said, is that a consideration that you're -- is that something you're considering?

SELIG: Something being action, you mean?

QUESTION: Regarding the (OFF-MIKE).

SELIG: No. The important point now is for me to take action on these recommendations and see where the best interest and the integrity questions come in. What they did, when they did it, how they did it, where they did it. Then I will make judgments in the future.

QUESTION: Commissioner, Senator Mitchell said that everyone involved in baseball is at fault, players, owners and the commissioner. He declined to allocate responsibility. I'm wondering if you are agree that you are at fault and where specifically those faults occurred?

SELIG: Well, hindsight is wonderful, and I have great respect for Senator Mitchell, obviously, and I understand that he feels that way. There are a lot of people in baseball who clearly feel differently.

But the fact of the matter is, it happened. I said at the time to the senator and I have said it, I think, to many of you who cover me on a regular basis that this document should serve as a road map not only for us but the people that come after us. Find out why it happened, how it happened, what happened.

And therefore, if it serves that purpose, as we move forward -- you know, I said the day that I announced Senator Mitchell, that I thought we had taken care of the present and the future as well as one could.

And I think that's worked out well. I think the program is clearly working. I'm sure there'll be questions. Nobody is more frustrated by the lack of a test for the human growth hormone than I am. But it's there.

So what we need to do as a result of all that is to look forward now. And if there is anything that all of us in baseball can learn by what happened in that decade, then we ought to do that.

But I think the important thing here is that we're moving forward today. QUESTION: Bud, two questions. One was to follow up on an earlier question. Senator Mitchell was very clear that he thought the time had come to move forward and urged you not to make punishments of these players. Why would you go in a different direction, if you do?

And, number two, there are several players named in the report who signed huge contracts in recent days. Understandably, the clubs maybe haven't reviewed the report until today. But what do you tell fans about the message that sends, that players who are in this report are getting millions of dollars from clubs?

SELIG: Well, in fairness to the clubs that signed players, they didn't know. And that's a decision that each club will have to make on its own.

And as for -- I understand what the senator said today. And I know he feels strongly about that. But I also meant what I have said today. I am going to review each one of these, case by case, because I feel that, frankly, that's a -- that's a byproduct of this investigation that I need to address.

QUESTION: Bud, you said that Senator Mitchell was going to have a free hand throughout the investigation.

When you got the report and you read the entire thing, what was your initial reaction about the scope of it?

SELIG: Well, in the name of candor, I have yet to read the entire report and scope. It's going to take me a long time to get through it, as I'm sure that all the rest of you do.

But, from what I have been briefed -- and quite thoroughly -- and from what I have listened to today, I think he gave a very, very thorough report.

I don't think anybody watching him today or who will read this report in its entirety, carefully -- there's a lot in here. There are people making conclusions, frankly, that if you read the report carefully, you may come to a different conclusion.

But I'm satisfied that he achieved what I asked him to do and what he set out to do. And he did it I think really very comprehensively.

QUESTION: Commissioner, a lot of former players are listed in here, who don't have lobby groups, a lot of former players were listed who are no longer active in the game, who may want to work in baseball down the road. Will you be meeting with them? Will they be prevented from gaining employment in Major League Baseball?

SELIG: Well, that's to be determined. You know, once they're out of baseball, I obviously don't have jurisdiction over those players. And individual clubs will have to make those kind of decisions, frankly, as they move forward.

You know, the fact that players are named and have done what they do, they're going to have to live with that.

But what the consequences are in the future is to be determined.

QUESTION: The "Glory Days" exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York is fabulous. It chronicles '47 to '57. And what's happening now seems to be just the opposite of that.

And here's the question: Will the successful prosecution of a guy like Barry Bonds help this in any case, shape or way?

SELIG: The Barry Bonds situation is now in the judicial system in San Francisco, and I think it most inappropriate for me to comment on that.

BLITZER: All right, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, Bud Selig, announcing his recommendations, what to do with this bombshell, this report that's just come out, a sweeping indictment of alleged steroid use in Major League Baseball.

The former Senator George Mitchell, who produced this report, took him almost two years, he's standing by to join us live here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

This is nothing short of a bombshell, some of the baseball's top current and former players linked to steroids and other banned performance-enhancing drugs, that according to this long-awaited report that's just been released today. It's rocking Major League Baseball and fans all over the U.S. and around the world.

The names among -- in this report linked, linked to this alleged steroid use include some of baseball's elite, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Andy Pettitte, and dozens more. The result of this report took 20 months, multimillion-dollar report. The result is quite damning.

Let's go to the White House.

Our correspondent Ed Henry is getting reaction from a former baseball owner himself. That would be the president of the United States.

What are they saying there?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's interesting.

You're right. Because of that, and also because of the fact the president highlighted the issue of steroid abuse back in his State of the Union in 2004, today, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino got a lot of questions about it.

She basically said that, back in 2004, the president said it was time for baseball to clean up its act, the players, the owners, and everyone, and, basically, the president is glad that they seem to be doing that, trying to turn the page, and also set a better example for young people in America. But, clearly, this is not the end of the scrutiny for Major League Baseball, already an announcement from Capitol Hill that, next Tuesday, the House Government Reform Committee is going to have Commissioner Selig and orders up to Capitol Hill to testify about all of this -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I suspect this situation is only just beginning, Ed. Thanks very much.

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

A lot of blame to go around, Jack, on all fronts about what has happened.

CAFFERTY: You know, the question this hour is, how much damage, ultimately, will a massive steroid scandal do to the sport of Major League Baseball.

Roberts writes from Redding, California: "How much long-term damage is done to baseball will depend on how the scandal is handled now. There has to be accountability. Those cheaters who are still playing should be banned for life, and many of their records and awards invalidated. Only that will prove to the fans that baseball is serious about cleaning up the game. Just looking forward is not enough."

Mike in Minnesota writes: "The scandal would be to turn your backs on the players who have followed the rules. We have the St. Paul Saints. It's a minor league team. I think people will come to watch players who play by the rules. Think of the guys who didn't use these drugs. I will never go to another Major League game if these guys get off the hook."

Billy writes: "I don't think steroids will ruin baseball at all. There is drug use in every sport. As long as baseball is starting to test for steroids and other illegal drugs, there shouldn't be a problem. In all honesty, I don't understand why this issue is even as big as it is as."

John in Michigan: "It should do a lot of damage, and it better. Every person who is in the record books linked to this should be given an asterisk and stripped of their title, whether it be a Cy Young Award, MVP, or Golden Glove Award."

Terry in Florida: "I am not excusing the baseball players, but when will a similar investigation be done in the NFL? Does anyone really believe those monster physiques we see each Sunday are all natural?"

J. writes: "A culture of sensationalism simply will not care. Entertainment for the masses is all that matters. Welcome to Rome."

And James says: "Pine tar leads to harder drugs. What did we expect?" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much. Once again, we are going to be speaking with the former U.S. Senator George Mitchell. He undertook this study. It took him 20 months to come up with today's conclusions. He's going to be joining us live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also, other news we're following, including Mitt Romney. He's out with some blistering new attacks on Mike Huckabee's record, but how much of what is being said is actually true? We're checking the facts.

Also, an adviser to Hillary Clinton now stepping down from his role in the campaign, after he made some very controversial comments about Barack Obama and drugs. Will any of this hurt Clinton's campaign?

And a CNN exclusive: The former top NATO commander says years of progress in Afghanistan could now be in jeopardy because of one disturbing reason.

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


BLITZER: Welcome back.

Ever since Mike Huckabee soared ahead of him in Iowa, Mitt Romney has been threatening to go for him tooth and nail. Now the former Massachusetts governor is stepping up his attacks on his Republican rival.

But here's the question: Are the allegations accurate?

Our Dana Bash is out on the campaign trail in Iowa, watching all of this unfold.

Romney clearly is turning up the heat on Huckabee, Dana.


You know, it's interesting, Wolf. Mitt Romney had a town hall meeting here in eastern Iowa today. He met for about 45 minutes with Iowa Republican voters. He didn't even mention the name Mike Huckabee. He saved the tough stuff -- tough stuff for us at a press conference afterwards.


BASH (voice-over): The Republican who led Iowa polls for months is now casting himself as the underdog. And Mike Huckabee?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's the front-runner, and so I want to describe how we're different on issues that people care about.

BASH: A day after a remarkably low-key debate, Romney launched his most aggressive critique of the candidate who has knocked him off stride.

ROMNEY: The more people come to Mike Huckabee, the more they realize they don't know about Mike Huckabee.

BASH: A rapid-fire attack on Huckabee's record as Arkansas governor, on immigration...

ROMNEY: That Governor Huckabee put in place in-state tuition breaks for illegal aliens.

BASH: ... on taxes...

ROMNEY: Governor Huckabee has increased taxes in his state by $500 million.

BASH: ... on spending...

ROMNEY: Governor Huckabee, as governor, took spending from $6.7 billion to over $16 billion. That is not a fiscal conservative.

BASH: ... on crime.

ROMNEY: Over 1,000 pardons and commutations, 12 murderers being pardoned? I think people of Iowa will say, that's unacceptable.

BASH: To fact-check, Huckabee did push college tuition breaks for children of illegal immigrants.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You don't punish a child for the crimes that a parent commits. And that's my position. Hasn't changed.

BASH: Huckabee did increase spending to fix schools and roads, and has a mixed record of raising and lowering taxes. He left office with an overall tax increase of $505 million. Huckabee's clemency record? He did issue 1,033 pardons or commutations in 10 years as Arkansas governor, double the number of clemencies by his three predecessors combined in 17 years.

At Huckabee headquarters, his upstart campaign scrambled to respond to such attacks, with prominent Arkansas Republicans vouching for him.

JIM BURNETT, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Mike Huckabee is as conservative and as committed to the principles of Ronald Reagan as any candidate in this race.


BASH: Huckabee's understaffed and underfunded campaign is really struggling with how to respond to this new intense scrutiny of his record. Huckabee himself declined to respond to Romney today, particularly the suggestion that his clemency record in Arkansas means that he's soft on crime.

Wolf, a Huckabee campaign spokeswoman tells CNN, we're not going to talk about that.

But they do know that they're going to have to continue to talk about a whole host of issues that are coming up again and again and again from Huckabee's past -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And they're not -- and they're not going to be going away, presumably, over these three weeks before the Iowa caucuses.

Dana, thanks very much.

Just a short while ago, as you saw live here on CNN, the Democratic presidential candidates, six of them, finished their last debate before Iowa's caucuses.

Here to talk about that and more in our "Strategy Session," two Democratic strategists. Stephanie Cutter is here, our own CNN political analyst Donna Brazile.

Both of you have worked closely in campaigns.

You were Al Gore's campaign manager back in 2000, 2004.

You worked for John Kerry. So, you know what goes on inside these campaigns.

When Bill Shaheen, the co-chair of Hillary Clinton's campaign in New Hampshire, now says he's leaving because of the comments he made raising questions about the electability of Barack Obama because of drug use when he was a teenager, how does that work, Donna?

Is that Bill Shaheen making that decision, or, in effect, is he pushed out by Hillary Clinton?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Bill Shaheen was on a conference call trying to build up this argument about Senator Clinton's electability. And then he got into this conversation about Barack Obama.

His comments were offensive. Barack Obama has been very candid about his drug use as a teenager. And he has also been very up front, saying that it was wrong and that it was a mistake. And he's told -- he's told that to young audiences across the country.

The Clinton campaign had to respond. They did the right thing. And Billy Shaheen -- we both Billy -- you can't control Billy Shaheen. And I hope it has no impact on his wife's campaign for the United States Senate.

BLITZER: Jeanne Shaheen, the former governor of New Hampshire. It's a powerful couple up in New Hampshire.


BLITZER: What do you think? Was he pushed out, or did he just make this decision, given the uproar?


But the point is that we do both know Billy Shaheen. And he is a top-notch operative in New Hampshire. And he has got good instincts. And I think his instinct was right here to resign from the campaign over these remarks. They were very damaging in terms of the storyline that is ongoing on Hillary Clinton.


BLITZER: Good instincts to resign, to step away.

CUTTER: The first thing you do in a crisis like that is to...

BLITZER: Bad instincts to raise this issue in a conversation with a reporter from "The Washington Post."

CUTTER: Absolutely. Absolutely. But -- but they essentially put an end to it today.

BLITZER: Here are the results of our unscientific focus group. You saw Mary Snow earlier out in Iowa. She had a bunch of Democrats, likely caucus-goers, undecided going into this debate.

And we asked them, all of them, if the election were held today, who would you vote for? Let's put up on the screen their results. Edwards won with 39 percent. Obama came in second, 26 percent, Clinton 22 percent, Dodd, Richardson and Biden each with 4 percent.

I was sort of surprised that Edwards did that well, but he's got a huge base out there in Iowa.

BRAZILE: Well, look, I'm not surprised. John Edwards gave a very consistent performance. He talked about corporate greed. He talked about fighting for the middle class. He was very specific.

But I thought his moment came when he reminded the voters in Iowa that he was there in Newton when the Maytag plant closed. That was a way of saying: I know your pain. I have known you now for four years. Trust me. I will continue to fight for you.

BLITZER: What do you think?

CUTTER: I think that there are 50 percent of the people in Iowa of the Iowa Democratic caucus-goers that are either undecided or say that they could change their mind. So, this was an important performance for him today.

And -- and John Kerry, when you were out there with him four years ago, he learned that lesson, because a lot of people thought Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt were going to emerge the big winners.

CUTTER: Oh, at -- at this point in the race, we were a distant third.

BLITZER: Even three weeks before the election?

CUTTER: Three weeks before the race, we were a distant third. We didn't close that gap until two days before the caucus.

BLITZER: So, what I hear both of you saying -- maybe -- I don't want to put words in your mouth -- that, between now and January 3, in -- among the Democrats, anything is possible?

BRAZILE: Four years ago, many voters were still dating Howard Dean.


BRAZILE: They ended up marrying John Kerry. Right now, they're dating John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama. We don't know who they will marry.

CUTTER: Absolutely.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much, Donna Brazile, Stephanie Cutter. Good work. Appreciate it.

And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: Dozens of Major League Baseball players, some of the best-known players in the business, are formally linked to steroid use, as a stunning 20-month investigation is revealed. We're going to show you what the baseball commissioner is vowing to do next.

Also, Democratic presidential candidates go toe to toe in Iowa, their last debate before the country's first caucuses. Did any of them manage to break ahead of the pack?

And a major terror trial simply collapses.