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Interview With Delaware Senator Joseph Biden; Report Links MLB Players to Steroid Use

Aired December 13, 2007 - 18:00   ET


Happening now: the big surprise in Iowa. It's not what the Democrats said on the debate stage. It is what they didn't say.

Plus, more on that bombshell dropped on some of the biggest names in baseball, a stunning report on the use of steroids and other banned substances. What happens now? The best political team on television ready to go to bat.

And back on the campaign trail, Mitt Romney is sharpening his knives and cutting into Mike Huckabee's record. How much of what he says is actually true, though?

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

Maybe there's something in the Iowa air. The Democratic presidential candidates breaking out today with a major case of camaraderie. If you watched their big debate in the leadoff caucus state, you might never know just how close and testy the campaign has become.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is in Iowa -- Candy.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you know all that tension between the Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton camps? Well, forget about it, at least for a 90-minute debate.

(voice-over): Three weeks to go, the last debate before the caucuses. You have never seen six such agreeable people. When Joe Biden defended himself for racially insensitive remarks, they backed him up.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That Joe is on the right side of the issues.

CROWLEY: They all want to roll back tax breaks for the rich and corporations and reconsider trade agreements that have cost American jobs.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We believe in trade, but we don't want to be the trade patsies of the world.

CROWLEY: Their differences were about who could get it done.

Edwards: Throw the bums out.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Corporate power and greed have literally taken over the government. And we need a president who's will to take these powers on.

CROWLEY: Obama: the politics of hope.

OBAMA: But we can only do it if we have the courage to change, if we can bring the country together.

CROWLEY: All of which gave Clinton an opening for the only zinger of the day.

CLINTON: Well, everybody on this stage has an idea about how to get change. Some believe you get change by demanding it. Some believe you get it by hoping for it. I believe you get it by working hard.

CROWLEY: Nobody slipped up. Nobody stuck out. But there was a stumper. The question was how Obama could bring about change with so many old Clinton advisers in his campaign.

OBAMA: You know, I am...

CLINTON: I want to hear that.


OBAMA: Well, Hillary, I'm looking forward to you advising me as well.


CROWLEY: As per usual, to the front-runners went the limelight, but the beauty of Iowa is that everybody gets a chance to speak.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D-NM), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I like best about Iowans is you like underdogs.


And you like to shake things up. You don't like the national media and the smarty-pants set telling you who's going to be the next president.


CROWLEY: Everybody gets a chance to hope.

(on camera): After all that sweetness and light, it is back to reality. And the reality is, this is a three-way tie here in Iowa for the Democrats. And, over the next three weeks, that may call for some HARDBALL politics -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Candy Crowley, in Iowa for us, thanks.

It is getting tougher for some of the Democratic presidential candidates to run on their records. Our brand-new poll shows, the American people have grown even more sour on the Democratic-run Congress.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is here with our brand-new poll.

Bill, which side is in a stronger political position right now? Would it be the president or the Democratic majority in Congress?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR 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 will 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. (END VIDEOTAPE)

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

BLITZER: Bill Schneider with the latest numbers for us, thank you.

In the Republican presidential race, Mitt Romney is stepping up his attacks on the rival who has apparently stolen a lot of his thunder out in Iowa. That would be Mike Huckabee. Romney's attacks are tough. But here is the question. Are they accurate?

Dana Bash is out in Iowa on the campaign trail.

Romney clearly turning up the heat on Huckabee right now, Dana.


Mitt Romney had a town hall meeting here in eastern Iowa today, Wolf. He spent about 45 minutes with Iowa Republican voters. He did not even mention the name Mike Huckabee once. So, he decided to save the 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: Now, Huckabee's underfunded and understaffed campaign is really struggling with how to deal with this intense scrutiny of his record.

The candidate himself declined to respond to Romney, in particular the suggestion that his clemency record back in Arkansas means that he's soft on crime.

Wolf, the Huckabee campaign spokeswoman said to us today, we are not going to talk about that.

But they know full well that they are going to have to continue to talk about that issue and a host of issues that are continuing to come out because of what his rivals are saying about him, about his record, and perhaps about what he wants to do if he were to become president -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You have got to expect those kinds of attacks when you are moving up and you are surging, as Mike Huckabee is.

All right, Dana, thanks very.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: "I'm sorry," that's the message coming from a couple of the top contenders for the White House. Instead of the public learning more about who might be best qualified to run this country, we are confronted with the aftermath of scurrilous personal attacks. First, it was a comment about Mitt Romney's religion. Mike Huckabee says he personally apologized to Romney after asking a reporter for "The New York Times" whether Mormons believed Jesus and Satan are brothers.

Huckabee, who had come under fire -- that's an understatement -- he got blasted for the comment -- says he told Romney after yesterday's debate that he would never try to -- quote -- "pick out some point of your faith and make it an issue." He said, "I'm sorry."

Twenty-four hours later, the Democratic side, a top Hillary Clinton adviser launching an attack against Barack Obama, Bill Shaheen saying Democrats ought to give more thought of Obama's illegal drug use when he was a kid before deciding if he deserves the nomination.

Shaheen later apologized, said his comments were not authorized by the Clinton campaign. No kidding. Late this afternoon, he quit. But his comments were nasty enough to warrant a personal apology today from Hillary Clinton herself.

Apparently, Clinton told Obama she was very upset by the remarks, that she told Shaheen it was unacceptable and that this is not the kind of campaign she's running. She said, she's sorry.

It certainly is getting ugly out there.

Here is the question. What does it say about the nature of the presidential campaign when major candidates are being forced to say, "I'm sorry"?

E-mail your thoughts to or you can post a comment on my new blog. You go there and the instructions are self- explanatory -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack, very much.

It's rocking America's favorite pastime. And baseball's commissioner says that he won't stand for it.


BUD SELIG, MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL COMMISSIONER: Our fans deserve a game that is played on a level playing field, where all who compete do so fairly.


BLITZER: A bombshell report links some top current and former players to steroids and other banned drugs. You're going to find out whose name is mentioned.

The voice of the voters -- why did a focus group like and not like some of the Democratic candidates at the presidential debate today? You are going to see approval ratings go up and down.

And a Democratic candidate reacting to what a Republican candidate did. Joe Biden says it was a shame that Mitt Romney had to talk publicly about something very private. Biden is here to explain.

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


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

I spoke earlier with one of the candidates on the stage today, Senator Joe Biden.


BLITZER: 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 will just tell you why I think I can produce change. I have 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 have 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 have 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: Senator Joe Biden speaking with me earlier from Iowa.

Coming up: 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 howling winds, freezing rain -- that ugly winter storm that has hit the Midwest is now taking direct aim at tonight's busy evening commute. We are going to tell you where.

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


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

Carol, what is going on?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, guess what? Winter has arrived in the Northeast.

The National Weather Service reports a mix of snow, sleet, and freezing rain. It is nasty in Boston, also in Rhode Island. In Albany, New York, they're getting lots and lots of snow. In New York City, roads and sidewalks are getting an icy glaze and travel is becoming treacherous in some parts of that state, like I said, Albany.

At New York City's three major airports, air traffic has been slowed by ground condition, but it is still moving. The storm is expected to blow out by tomorrow. So, thank goodness.

Off the Florida Keys, a plane plunges into the water. It happened at midday today, shortly after the single-engine plane took off from Marathon Airport just five miles away. A Coast Guard cutter plucked the two people on board from the water. They were wearing life vests and were uninjured. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Supporters of a proposal to ban same-sex marriage in Florida say they have enough signatures to put the measure to a vote. If the 600,000-plus signatures are verified, a proposed amendment to the state's constitution would be placed on the November 2008 ballot. And if the measure were to pass, Florida would become the 28th state to use a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. The New Jersey legislature has given its final approval to a measure abolishing the state's death penalty. The 44-36 state assembly vote would replace capital punishment with life in prison without parole. The bill now only needs Governor Jon Corzine's signature to become law. Governor Corzine says he will sign it within a week.

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

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Carol, for that.

It is a black eye on baseball, but players are not the only ones using steroids.


GEORGE MITCHELL (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Hundreds of thousands of our children are using them. Every American, not just baseball fans, ought to be shocked into action by that disturbing truth.


BLITZER: Now that the Mitchell report is out, what can be done about the epidemic of performance-enhancing drugs?

Plus, they were undecided when the Democrats began debating. Are they still undecided now? We have been taking the pulse of Iowa voters.

And Al Gore's fight against global warming leads him into Some surprising new territory. Did he slam his own country on behalf of his cause while he was overseas? Jack Cafferty and Gloria Borger and Jeffrey Toobin, they are all standing by, the best political team on television -- coming up.


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

Happening now: Some of the biggest names in baseball are linked to performance-enhancing drugs. A long-awaited report on baseball's so-called steroids era was released earlier today. So, where does America's game go from here? We are taking a closer look.

Also, the Democratic presidential candidates take their final shots in Iowa. A full breakdown of today's debate, that's coming up.

And Al Gore has some very blunt words for the White House on climate change. But did he go too far in criticizing the U.S. while he was overseas? All of this, plus the best political team on television.

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

A baseball hall of shame is revealed. More than 80 of the game's top players are linked to steroid use in a stunning new report that's rocking the sports world.

CNN's Brian Todd is watching the story for us.

So, Brian, who is on this roster?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some names you might expect, Wolf, including Barry Bonds, star pitcher Roger Clemens also on the list, this report, more than 400 pages, including details of players being injected, checks, shipping orders for steroids, a problem, its author says, stretched back two decades and touched every team.


TODD (voice-over): Anticipated for months, names dropped in advance, the report still jarring, a who's who of superstars.

The naming of Roger Clemens, one of baseball's most dominant pitchers for more than 20 years, and his New York Yankee teammate pitcher Andy Pettitte led one observer to call this a tough day in the Bronx.

Former MVPs Barry Bonds and Miguel Tejada and nine-time All Star Gary Sheffield also make George Mitchell's list of dozens of Major League Baseball players linked to the alleged use of performance- enhancing drugs.

MITCHELL: The use of steroids in Major League Baseball was widespread. The response by baseball was slow to develop and was initially ineffective.

TODD: Mitchell also levels blame on the players union for first opposing random testing and for a lack of cooperation with his inquiry.

MITCHELL: Each of the players was invited to meet with me so I could provide him with information about the allegations and give him an opportunity to respond. Almost without exception, all current players declined my invitation.

TODD: Mitchell recommends year-round, unannounced testing, the results open to the public, and says baseball should outsource the testing program to an independent person with real authority.

But he says baseball's commissioner should not punish players for past violations, unless they are so serious, that the integrity of the game is on the line. The commissioner indicates that he may be inclined to punish some.

BUD SELIG, MLB COMMISSIONER: 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.

TODD: The head of the players union says any decision by players not to cooperate was up to the players themselves and says this about repercussions. DONALD FEHR, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BASEBALL PLAYERS UNION: Many players are named. Their reputations have been adversely affected, probably forever, even if it turns out down the road that they should not have been.



TODD: We've been seeking comment from some of the players named in the report. An attorney for Roger Clemens has just come out and said he expects his client to adamantly deny the accusations against him. Our calls to representatives for Andy Pettitte, Barry Bonds, Miguel Tejada, Gary Sheffield have not been returned. A spokesman for the New York Yankees and Sheffield's team, the Detroit Tigers, say they are reviewing the report -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much.

Let's discuss this shocking report about professional baseball right now -- and steroids.

Joining us, our senior legal analyst, Jeff Toobin. He's in New York. His best-selling book is called "The Nine". It's about the U.S. Supreme Court.

Also in New York, CNN's Jack Cafferty. His bestseller is called "It's Getting Ugly Out There".

And here in Washington, our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger -- Jack, you heard the report from the former senator, George Mitchell.

What do -- what went through your mind as he was -- as he was reporting this?

CAFFERTY: Well, it's a betrayal on the part of these players of a great American pastime and something that kids in this country have aspired to since -- since I was a kid -- and that's a long time ago. But, you know, 20 years it took them to get around to this thing. When Mark McGwire was hitting home runs, he looked like King Kong swatting airplanes on top of the Empire State Building. I mean the bat in his hand looked like it was about this long.

Roger Clemens threw the barrel of a broken bat at the feet of Keith Hernandez during a Yankee/Mets game. I happened to see that.

I'm thinking what kind of a professional athlete conducts himself like that?

It's not like there weren't signs that something might be amiss.

BLITZER: Jeff, I know you're a huge baseball fan. And this is upsetting to all of us who love baseball.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, and to prove what a baseball -- it wasn't Keith Hernandez. It was Mike Piazza that he threw the...

CAFFERTY: Oh, Mike Piazza. I'm sorry. You're right.

TOOBIN: ...that he threw the bat at. And, you know, Roger Clemens is the name that really jumps out at you in this report, because, I mean, this is a guy who was widely believed to be among the handful of best pitchers in the history of the game.

So what are we supposed to think now?

I mean do we throw out all his records?

I mean, you know, maybe Jack needs to give me a cynicism, you know, transplant...


TOOBIN: ...because I just think...

CAFFERTY: You know what I thought about...

TOOBIN: ...I mean it's just appalling.


CAFFERTY: I thought about Nolan Ryan who -- you know, Nolan Ryan is not mentioned in any of this stuff and is, arguably, you know, one of the greatest pitchers that ever threw. Sandy Koufax.

BORGER: And Cal -- what about...

CAFFERTY: How does Roger Clemens belong in that group if he was cheating?

BORGER: What about Cal Ripken?

CAFFERTY: Absolutely.

BORGER: Cal Ripken and -- and let me take off my journalist hat here and put on my mother hat, OK?


CAFFERTY: Oh, good.

BORGER: Because I am the mother of two sons who played baseball as they were growing up -- are still huge baseball fans. And thank goodness Cal Ripken is their hero, who has not been tarnished by this. But I think the lesson to kids here is if you cheat, you get rewarded.


BORGER: If you cheat, you get to be rich and famous. And that -- that's not the lesson we want our kids to be learning.

CAFFERTY: You can even president of the United States, maybe. BLITZER: So what -- Jeff, what do you do with all the records now -- the asterisks, because that's what people are suggesting. But the Hall of Fame -- a lot of these guys named today -- and none of them have been convicted of anything. These are just allegations, to be sure. But in the minds of a lot of fans out there, they're guilty.

TOOBIN: Well, that's right. And Pete Rose was never -- was excluded from the Hall of Fame before he was convicted of anything in connection with gambling. And in many respects, this is worse because the gambling did not directly affect his performance on the field.

And, you know, I think you throw out the records. I think Roger Clemens doesn't go in the Hall of Fame. I mean I think if baseball wants to show that it is really serious about people who break rules, let these guys answer the charges and establish that they're not true or the heck with them.

BORGER: Well, let...

TOOBIN: They don't get any records. Throw them out of the game.

BORGER: Well, let me ask you baseball experts, then, what do you do about the players union here?

I mean this clearly was a declaration of war by Democrat George Mitchell on the union. Protecting -- protecting these people.

CAFFERTY: Well, I mean...

TOOBIN: What a disgrace to the labor movement.

CAFFERTY: I was going to (INAUDIBLE)...

TOOBIN: I mean this is what the labor movement is, to suggest -- to protect cheaters in their midst?

I mean I have no objection to their preserving free agency and making a lot of money. That's, you know, that's the American way.

But to protect cheaters?

That's appalling.

CAFFERTY: Well, yes. The Teamsters did a lot of good things -- except they stole the pension funds of their members and so, you know, their image -- their reputation was tarnished. I mean there's labor unions and then there's labor unions that don't play by any set of rules except the ones they make up theirselves. You know, Jeff's right. This is -- this a disgrace.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by, because we've got more to talk about.

It's their final face-off in Iowa before the caucuses.

Did any of the Democratic presidential candidates -- and there were six on the stage today -- manage to break ahead of the pack?

We're going to show you how they did and get the assessment from the best political team on television.

And is the former vice president, Al Gore, out of line?

His critical comments about his own country drawing fire.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Six Democratic presidential candidates facing off in their final debate in Iowa exactly three weeks before the all important caucuses there.

So how did they do?

Let's ask Jack Cafferty.

What did you think -- Jack?

CAFFERTY: You know, I'm almost reluctant to admit this, but I watched today and I watched the Republicans yesterday and both debates were boring.


CAFFERTY: But once in a while, as you listen to these people, it strikes you that there are some very articulate and intelligent and well-meaning and well thought out folks in both parties who would like to be president.

Edwards said something today. He said our collective moral responsibility is to leave this country better than we found it.

Our fathers and grandfathers did it. They did whatever it took to accomplish that for us. We need to do it for our kids and grandkids.

And then you turn around -- I mean they suck you in. It's like, yes, that's right, that's what we need to do. And then you look at the dysfunctional abomination that is the federal government and you wonder how it can go so wrong, you know?

BLITZER: Gloria, what did you think?

BORGER: Well, first of all, I think we're sort of at the part of the campaign, Wolf, where all of the voters in Iowa are kind of speed dating the candidates. You know, you sort of go to one, to go to the next, go to the next and you see what you -- what you like about them.

I agree with Jack, this debate really didn't shed any new light. But we're living in parallel universes.


BORGER: This was a sweet debate. They didn't want to take on each other in this debate. And then the parallel universe is the nasty campaign that's going on in Iowa right now. And I don't think the voters are going to like that. I think they probably like what they saw on TV today.


TOOBIN: Well, I just would echo both. You know, maybe I'm projecting, but the candidates seemed kind of punchy...


TOOBIN: ...because those of us who are forced to watch these debates are certainly punchy. There was nothing new. They were polite. They didn't want to make trouble. It was in the middle of the day on public television. I don't think many people were watching. And I think that shows the good judgment of the people in Iowa.

BORGER: There was one thing that was kind of interesting to me, which was when they were asked for their New Year's resolutions. Barack Obama's New Year's resolution was not to be too timid. And Hillary Clinton's New Year's resolution was first to exercise and then to win.


CAFFERTY: And Bill Richardson says the same one every year -- I'm going to lose weight.

BORGER: Right.


BLITZER: I want all of you to listen to the former vice president, Al Gore.

He was speaking at an international conference in Bali, in Indonesia, earlier today. The whole world -- representatives of a lot of the countries around the world were there. And he -- and he pinned the blame -- most of the blame -- on the global warming on the United States.

Listen to this.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali. We all know that.


(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right. Now, that may or may not be true. But there's a sense that, you know, they used to say politics stop at the water's edge, Jack.

Was it appropriate or inappropriate for Gore to make that comment?

CAFFERTY: What a pompous jerk. Does he -- I mean it's time for Al Gore to get over himself.

Does he think there's anybody at that conference in Bali that's unaware of the U.S. opposition to the Kyoto Protocols?

I mean ever since he won the Oscar he thinks he's some movie star. So I'm tired of Al Gore.

TOOBIN: Oh, Jack...

CAFFERTY: And I think he's out of line doing that.

TOOBIN: I couldn't disagree more. If Gore is right -- and virtually every scientist in the world thinks he is -- people are going to look back on this era and they're not going to look at Iraq and they're not going to look at immigration and they're not going to look at the economy. They're going to wonder why we didn't do anything about global warming. And if he's making a nuisance of himself, good for him.

BLITZER: I want to just let Gloria weigh in.

But, Jeff, what about China and India -- arguably, huge polluters, as well who haven't...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: ...who haven't played along this, either?

TOOBIN: Absolutely. And Al Gore knows that better than anybody. And he's talked about China and he's talked about India. But he said who's most responsible for the lack of progress?

And what administration fought global warming regulation at every step?

It's our administration, and Gore has every right to say it.

BORGER: He did also say, though -- to be fair to him -- that there are other countries to blame, that it is not only the United States.


BLITZER: But what about the notion...


BORGER: But I don't think...

BLITZER: Gloria...


BLITZER: Gloria, what about the notion that you know what, it's one thing to be, you know, obviously very critical here in the United States, but the notion of politics stopping at the water's edge?

Is that a quaint phrase that we used to hear in the' 70s and '80s?

BORGER: I think it is. And I think it's really interesting that Al Gore says this at the time when there's a presidential campaign going on in the United States and he has not endorsed any Democratic candidate. And I believe that to be because he would not endorse Hillary Clinton...

TOOBIN: Well...

BORGER: ...and thinks it might be dicey to endorse Barack Obama. So he's having his own little campaign . He's his own little power center right now...


TOOBIN: And the camp...

BORGER: ...and he's enjoying it.

TOOBIN: And a campaign where global warming is barely mentioned. So if he's trying to get attention for that issue -- you know, in an era with the Internet and with telecommunications, it doesn't matter where you talk. It's going to be transmitted everywhere anywhere...

CAFFERTY: But the point is...

TOOBIN: I just...

CAFFERTY: ...he was talking to an audience that's well aware of global warming. That's why they're all in Bali is to deal with global warming. This was just all about Al Gore trying to get the spotlight squarely on himself.

BLITZER: And is he...

BORGER: He's doing well at it.


BLITZER: He's got a Nobel Peace Prize as a result of that. But he did say -- what he was about to say was an inconvenient truth -- and that's plugging, you know, his movie and his book, the whole nine yards, also.

CAFFERTY: Yes. BLITZER: Jack, stand by. We've got The Cafferty File coming up.

Gloria and Jeff, thanks to both of you. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

Rating the debate -- a high tech system showing how the Democratic presidential candidates impressed undecided Democratic voters -- or not.

And our question of the hour -- what does it say about the nature of this presidential campaign when major candidates are being forced to say I'm sorry.

Jack and in your e-mail in The Cafferty File.

That's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: In our Political Ticker, we're asking some undecided Democrats who they were impressed with and who didn't impress them all that much after the last Democratic presidential debate, before Iowa's caucuses.

Let's go out to Iowa.

Our Mary Snow was taking part in this focus group that had come together -- Mary, who do they like, who didn't they like?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, overall, they did like John Edwards. This was a very small group. But we asked them if they had to vote today, who would they vote for. And John Edwards came out on top; followed by Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton -- of course, unscientific results.

We wanted to get a pulse on the feeling of these Iowa undecided Democrats. For some, they said the debate helped them cement their decisions.


SNOW (voice-over): For these 23 undecided Democrats, they liked what they heard when John Edwards was talking about the middle class and thought overall he performed the best.

JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because corporate power and greed have literally taken over the government. And we need a president who is willing to take these powers on.

SNOW: Holding individual immediators as they watched the "Des Moines Register" debate, these nine men and 14 women moved the dials to the right when they heard something they liked and to the left when they heard something they didn't.

Suzanne McKinley says she's gone from undecided to supporting Edwards in the Iowa caucus. SUZANNE MCKINLEY, IOWA VOTER: I was very impressed with the almost visceral passion that John Edwards had for the poor, for people who needed medical and for the different kinds of things he'd heard around the state.

SNOW: Placing second in performance among these Democrats, Senator Hillary Clinton, with moments like this.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'll ask the Congress to send me everything that Bush vet vetoed, like stem cell research and the children's health insurance program.

SNOW: For Mel Grundleger, he now says that he has his pick.

MEL GRUNDLEGER, IOWA VOTER: I think she was comfortable in terms of how she answered her questions. I think her thoughts, in terms of health care, the economy, are in line with the things I agree with.

SNOW: But after the debate, Kumsan Song says she's now shying away from Senator Clinton.

KUMSAN SONG, IOWA VOTER: At the beginning, I really thought that maybe I would go for Hillary. Yes. But she, I don't know, changed her mind about a few things and that kind of disappointed me.

SNOW: Song says she intends to support Senator Barack Obama, who scored well with this focus group when he talked about what he would do in his first year of office.

OBAMA: I will call in the Joint Chiefs of Staff and tell them they have a new mission, which is to -- in a responsible, careful way -- end this war in Iraq and bring our combat troops home.


SNOW: And, Wolf, even though this group said that they felt that John Edwards performed the best here, we also asked them who do they most likely win the Democratic nomination. To that answer, they voted Senator Barack Obama -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting.

All right, Mary.

Thanks very much.

Let's check in with Lou to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Thank you very much.

Well, we've got Iowa settled, at least on the Democratic side, Wolf.

Tonight, coming up at 7:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN, we'll have more on the Democratic presidential debate today in Iowa -- the questionable judgments of the moderator and the organizers of those debates.

Also, tonight, police have almost completed their investigation into the homeowner who used deadly force to protect a neighbor's property.

Will that homeowner be indicted?

I'll be talking with the senior police officer involved in that case.

And presidential candidate, Congressman Duncan Hunter says President Bush missed an opportunity to rectify an outrageous miscarriage of justice by his Justice Department. Congressman Hunter joins us, as well. We'll be discussing the continued imprisonment of Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean.

And tonight, we'll tell you what happened in that fight to stop baby Gabriel Allred from being taken from his foster parents in Oregon and sent to Mexico all -- all at the device of the state government in Oregon.

Please join us at 7:00 p.m. Eastern for all of that and much more, all the day's news -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: BLITZER: Lou, see you in a few moments.

Thank you.

Let's go back to Jack.

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

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is what does it say about the nature of this presidential campaign when the major candidates are suddenly being forced to say I'm sorry?

Jim says: "It says they're human, and thank god for it. If we're looking for perfection, no one will ever run the country. At least Hillary had to apologize for someone else. Huckabee has only himself to blame. But being able to say I'm sorry is an attribute often missing these days in politics. Lord knows, this current president should say it over and over and over again to this nation."

Merreill writes: "Very simple, Jack. It means they're all hammerheads that shift their mouths into gear before engaging their brains. They're a sorry lot and for that, they should be apologetic."

Eric in Utah: "Who cares if one candidate apologizes to another? Presidential candidates should apologize -- directly to the American public. After all, we're the ones they're pandering to."

Ramesh, San Francisco: "So unfortunate the major candidates and their associates are throwing mud at their rivals on issues that have nothing to do with the national and international issues they are supposed to be addressing. This is the time to put their unleashed tongues on a leash and focus on issues that are of concern to the American public."

Johannes in Brookings, South Dakota: "I think apologizing and forgiving are two great qualities we need more of in this world. A leader that's able to say I'm sorry might be able to restore our soft power. It's time to stop not caring about other countries and to apologize when we mess up."

And Ira writes: "I'm sorry, I don't believe them when they say I'm sorry -- or anything else." -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jack.

I'm sorry.

CAFFERTY: You're forgiven, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you. Thank you.

CAFFERTY: Don't let it ever happen again.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty will be back tomorrow.

The Democratic candidates on their best behavior today in Iowa. But CNN's Jeanne Moos managed to find some notable moments. She's going to give out a few awards when we come back.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: A little snowy in Boston right now. It's December. That's what happens. Today's Democratic debate wasn't exactly what you would call a barn burner. But there were choice moments.

CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a look at some of the most unusual moments.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): OK, the latest Democratic debate won't win the prize for most exciting. But we do have some other awards to hand out.

For instance, the award for most spontaneous round of applause...


MOOS: ...goes to someone who wasn't even in the debate -- Chelsea Clinton.

The most overt attempt to shame the Republicans award goes to Hillary Clinton, who mocked the Republicans' refusal a day earlier to do a show of hands on a question about global warming.


CLINTON: Carol, if you want to ask us to raise our hands about global warming, go ahead. We all want to be on record. We believe in it and think it's a real problem.


MOOS: A not quite so real problem resulted in the weightiest New Year's resolution award for Bill Richardson.


GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My New Year's resolution is one that I have every year, and that's to lose weight. And I'm going to do it again.



MOOS: He must have Mike Huckabee's old family Christmas card from before he lost over 100 pounds. Vertical stripes aren't always the answer.

The most genuine show of support for a rival came when Joe Biden was asked about several racial gaffes he's made.


SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DW), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My credentials are as good as anyone who has ever run for president of United States on civil rights.

CLINTON: Here, here.





MOOS: The most intensely delivered flub award goes to John Edwards.


JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Did we make this country better than we left it? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

EDWARDS: Better -- leave it better than we started.



MOOS: But there's no waving off the destined to be the most repeated sound bite of the debate. It came when the moderator asked Barack Obama about having so many advisers who used to work for Bill Clinton.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, the -- you know, I am...


CLINTON: I want to hear that.

OBAMA: Well, Hillary, I'm looking forward to you advising me, as well.



MOOS: The most eloquent sucking up to Iowans award goes to underdog Bill Richardson.


RICHARDSON: This is what I like best about Iowans, is you like underdogs.


MOOS: Our most superficial award is for most improved makeup job. Look what a difference a day made between moderating the Republicans and the Democratic debates. (INAUDIBLE) post on a snarky Web site Wonkette, she was veering dangerously close to Ronald McDonald territory yesterday.

Finally, we present the award for candidate in the biggest hurry to get to the debate.


MOOS: That's Chris Dodd's car speeding to the airport with a cup of coffee clinging to the trunk.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York. (END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: And he managed to retrieve that cup of coffee, too.

This note -- you can take the best political team with you any time, anywhere. Download the best political pod cast at

Thanks very much for joining us.

I'll see you back here tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

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