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Iowa Democrats Concerned About Iraq; Interview With Joe Biden

Aired December 20, 2007 - 17:00   ET



Happening now, Iraq is the number one issue in Iowa for Democrats.

Can candidate Joe Biden use that do claw his way back from the back of the pack?

I'll ask him about that and how a terrible personal tragedy put his career in perspective.

And pepper spray and stun guns -- New Orleans police clash with protesters trying to force their way into city hall.

And they went into the snow-covered wilderness to find a Christmas tree and were lost for three days. New details on the dramatic rescue of a California family.

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux.


New tensions today between the White House and the California governor's mansion. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to get tougher on greenhouse gases -- well, tougher than the Feds. The Bush administration says no.

CNN's Brian Todd joining us now -- Brian, how bad is this fallout?

It seems to be getting pretty ugly.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Suzanne. Someone close to Arnold Schwarzenegger tells me this is a definite low point in what's described as an up and down relationship between California's popular governor and his fellow Republican, the president.


TODD (voice-over): A senior aide to Arnold Schwarzenegger tells CNN the governor let out a sigh of disappointment after a "terse phone call" Wednesday with President Bush's environmental chief, Stephen Johnson. Schwarzenegger is frustrated that the administration slapped down California's request for a waiver that would have allowed the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles quicker than a new federal plan the president just signed.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: It's another example of the administration -- the administration's failure to treat global warming with the seriousness that it actually demands.

TODD: Sixteen other states want to follow Schwarzenegger's lead and be more aggressive on emissions. EPA head Johnson calls that a confusing patchwork of state rules and has the backing of his boss.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The director, in assessing this law and assessing what would be more com -- you know, more effective for the country -- says we now have a national plan.

TODD: Still, the administration has to brace for a lawsuit promised by Schwarzenegger to overturn the decision. In the ebb and flow relationship between Schwarzenegger and Mr. Bush, the tide now seems far offshore.

JOEL FOX, FORMER SCHWARZENEGGER ADVISER: It's never been a warm, throw your arms around the shoulders kind of relationship. Even during the re-election campaign for the president, when he would come to California, the governor wouldn't always be there to greet him.

TODD: They've also clashed on stem cell research and health care, but stood together on immigration. Schwarzenegger campaigned for Bush in Ohio in 2004 but is said to be much closer personally and politically to the president's father. Analysts say he's walked the ideological tightrope very smoothly.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Schwarzenegger's brand of politics -- Independent, iconoclastic, forges his own path, independent of President Bush -- that's the kind of politics Californians like.


TODD: In fact, Schwarzenegger has got a 56 percent approval rating in one recent California poll -- far above the president's national numbers. And our own Bill Schneider says there's talk of a Schwarzenegger run for the Senate. If that happens and he gets in, analysts say he could start to really influence the GOP here in Washington, turn the party in a different direction -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Brian, thank you so much.

Brian Todd.

A major new development in the case of those videotapes destroyed by the CIA. The spy agency today opened its doors and its files to Congressional investigators. The CIA is inviting them to review documents related to the tapes which showed interrogations of key Al Qaeda suspects. And a House intelligence committee wants to know who OKed the destruction of the tapes, who knew about it within the Bush administration and why Congress was left largely out of the loop. The CIA and the Justice Department are already looking into the matter. At a year end news conference, President Bush today repeated that he first learned of the tapes' destruction in a briefing from the CIA director this month. He said today the probes should reveal exactly what happened.


BUSH: I'm going to reserve judgment until I find out the full facts. And I know I'm going to be asked about this question a lot as time goes on. And I'm just going to prepare you -- until these inquiries are complete, until the oversight is finished, then I will be rendering no opinion from the podium.


MALVEAUX: And also on the president's mind today, fresh concern about a comeback by Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies in Afghanistan and weakening resolve by America's allies.

Let's turn to CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara, can the U.S. and NATO actually win in Afghanistan?

What is the thinking?

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the military says they can and that they are. But listen to President Bush today. There are plenty of mixed signals, Suzanne.


STARR (voice-over): Across Afghanistan, violence is up nearly 30 percent in 2007. In Washington, worries the war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda might be slipping.

BUSH: My biggest concern is that people say well, we're kind of tired of Afghanistan, therefore, we think we're going to leave.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: It's an absolutely essential mission to stabilize Afghanistan.

STARR: Why the worry?

U.S. commanders say about 4,000 more troops are needed. And privately, they say, since NATO won't likely send any, it's U.S. troops that may have to fill the gap.

What's really going on?

Is the threat in Afghanistan getting better or worse?

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been pressing NATO for troops and equipment. But he insists...

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The Taliban have not been able to make significant gains. In fact, one could argue that they've hardly made any gains at all.

STARR: The United Nations' own data shows since 2003, the threat of violence has spread to more than a third of the country.

Bruce Riedel, a CIA veteran, says look across the border to understand the risk.

BRUCE RIEDEL, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: We have seen, in 2007, a spectacular resurgence of the Al Qaeda organization in Pakistan and the border lands of Afghanistan nearby.

STARR: Al Qaeda and the Taliban, he says, control a lot of territory.

REIDEL: The operational space that Al Qaeda is using in Pakistan is getting bigger -- not getting smaller. Part of that is because the Pakistani government is preoccupied with the political crisis within Pakistan. Part of it is because NATO doesn't have enough forces in Southern Afghanistan to repress the Taliban.


STARR: The U.S. has long worried that, really, the Taliban and Al Qaeda's strategy has been to just wait out the U.S. and NATO and hope they send their troops home. 2008, Suzanne, may be the year that everyone will watch for just that -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Thank you, Barbara.

And Jack Cafferty is in New York with The Cafferty File -- Jack, what are you looking at?

CAFFERTY: No more frontrunner when it comes to the Republican presidential race. At least that's according to a late poll from "The Wall Street Journal"/NBC News.

It shows Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney tied nationally -- 20 percent each; Mike Huckabee close behind -- 17 percent; followed by John McCain at 14 percent and Fred Thompson at 11.

Now, just six weeks ago, Giuliani held a double digit lead over his closest rivals. It's all gone. Other polls show Giuliani's lead shrinking in Florida -- one of the big states that he's been building his campaign strategy around. Experts say they haven't seen a Republican race so fluid and in such turmoil for more than 50 years. There are several reasons, including President Bush's approval rating and the fact that this is the first campaign in a very long time that doesn't include an incumbent president or vice president. There's also the aging of the conservative coalition that was created by Ronald Reagan back in 1980. We're now seeing economic, national security and social issues are all vying for the voters' attention.

So here's the question -- why has the Republican race for the presidential nomination suddenly turned into a free-for-all? Go to and post a comment on my new blog -- Suzanne.

Jack, thanks so much.

It's definitely looking like a free-for-all.

Well, presidential candidate Joe Biden...


SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DW), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Rudy Giuliani. I mean think about it. Rudy Giuliani -- there's only three things he mentions in a sentence -- a noun and a verb and 9/11. I mean there's nothing else.


BIDEN: I mean there's nothing else. And I mean it sincerely. He is genuinely not qualified to be president.


MALVEAUX: Well, he has done well in the debates but is barely registering with voters.

Does he have a hope of making it past Iowa?

Well, I'll ask him.

Plus, chemical spray and stun guns -- protesters clash with police in New Orleans over public housing.

And rescued alive -- a family of four survives three days in the woods after trying to find a Christmas tree and getting lost in a snowstorm.



MALVEAUX: A former prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp is free on bail in Britain at this hour.

Angus Walker has details.


ANGUS WALKER, ITV NEWS CORRESPONDENT: His hair and beard are uncut as a protest against his detention in Guantanamo Bay -- the prison camp he left -- Jamil El-Banna walked free for the first time in five years.

JAMIL EL-BANNA, FREED GUANTANAMO DETAINEE: Thank you very much, everybody -- everybody. My solicitor, the British people and the British government -- everybody, M.P.s for parliament, everybody, thank you very much for your help. I am tired. I want to go to home. I see my children.

WALKER: Although still wanted in Spain on terror charges, the magistrate here granted conditional bail -- accepting the findings of a U.S. military review board which decided earlier this year that he was not a threat to America or its allies. And so it was home. Reunited with his children at his house in North London, this was the first time his youngest daughter had met her father. She was born after he had been captured by the CIA in 2002.

Omar Deghayes, a Libyan refugee -- his hair and beard also uncut -- blinded in his right eye during his time in Guantanamo, appeared in the same court, also accused of being a member of Al Qaeda in Spain. He was also bailed.

OMAR TAHER DEGHAYES, BROTHER OF OMAR DEGHAYES: All these allegations, all these issues have been addressed millions of times before. There's nothing new. And it's just such a pity to be so close and yet so far away.

WALKER (on camera): Although both Jamil El-Banna and Omar Deghayes appeared in court today and although both spent up to five years in custody in Guantanamo Bay, neither have ever been charged with any terror offense here in the U.K. Both wait the next Spanish extradition hearings in the new year.

Angus Walker, ITV News, Central London.


MALVEAUX: And Carol Costello is off today.

Zain Verjee is monitoring the stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Zain, what are you looking at?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, in Panama, 18 years after the U.S. invasion, it's a national day of mourning. Just a short while ago, Panama's legislature voted to officially establish the day of mourning and create a commission to determine how many people were killed when American troops stormed the capital. Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega was arrested on drug trafficking charges during the take over.

A long stalled bill speeding up background checks for potential gun buyers is headed to the president's desk. The bill also clarifies which mental health records should be included in a national database. After months of negotiations, it was passed by voice vote in the House and Senate. It's not clear if the president will sign, veto or just ignore the bill.

They call them fender benders, but if you're driving a minivan, just a minor bump in a parking lot could prove really expensive. New tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety show that a collision at speeds of three to six miles an hour can cause more than $3,500 of damage. The Nissan Quest had the worst results of six minivans tested, while the Dodge Grand Caravan fared the best. And in news affecting small businesses, the Senate approved the legislation to give small business loans to veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The companion bills expected to be passed by the House and President Bush says that he's going to sign it into law. Among other provisions, the legislation allows for loans up to $50,000 without collateral -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Zain, thank you so much.

Zain Verjee keeping up with all the news.

And presidential candidate Joe Biden is in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll get political and personal.

Plus, pepper spray and stun guns -- police clash with protesters trying to force their way into New Orleans city hall. We'll tell you what the trouble is all about.

And addicted to the Internet -- Chinese teenagers get sent to a boot camp to kick their cyber habits -- why the doors and windows are locked.



MALVEAUX: Iraq is an issue that Democratic voters care deeply about. As chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Joe Biden knows a little something about that. But as a presidential candidate, he remains well in the back of the pack just two weeks before the Iowa caucuses.

But can he turn things around?

Senator Joe Biden joining me now from the campaign trail in Iowa. Senator, thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

BIDEN: . Thanks for having me, Suzanne.

I appreciate it very much.

MALVEAUX: It was weeks ago that your colleagues in Congress said that they were not going to give any money for Iraq -- the Iraq War -- unless there was a timetable to withdraw troops. Well, they now have sent the president a spending bill that includes $70 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan. There are some in your party who are saying the Democrats essentially -- that you have failed them.

You didn't show up for that vote.

Why should they not believe that you've failed them, as well?

BIDEN: Well, we didn't fail them. We -- that $70 billion is needed to defend the troops. I was able to get $15 billion in that bill to build these MRAPs -- these vehicles that increase by 300 percent the survivability of our troops. Seventy percent have been killed because they ride around in these uparmored Humvees which are not designed to save their lives. And 70 percent of the 28,000 injuries are because of that. Everybody knows I would have voted for that. I am the only Democratic candidate that voted to fund the troops back in May. As long as there's a single troop on the ground, I will vote to protect them.

MALVEAUX: Why didn't you show up for the vote?

Did you feel like essentially the numbers simply weren't there?

BIDEN: Well, we -- I -- Harry Reid knows and the leadership knows if they need me -- and I'm sure it's for the candidates, as well -- if they need us to make a deciding vote on anything, we will be there. But the fact of the matter is it was overwhelming. It was a compromise that was reached between the leadership of both parties. And that's how it was arrived at. And there was no -- I mean, it was lopsided. So had I been needed, I would have been there.

MALVEAUX: How do you address those in your party who are so frustrated at this point that there is not a withdrawal date for troops?

BIDEN: I address them by saying you've got to send us more senators and elect me or some Democrat president. Because the truth of the matter is, as you know, Suzanne, you know the Senate well -- you need to get 16 Republicans to vote with us to be able to override a presidential veto. Even if we add 65 votes to set a date, the president vetoes that and it goes away. So we need to change the makeup of the Senate and hold Republicans who continue to vote to keep troops there indefinitely accountable for it in this next election.

And I'd point out one thing. The Biden plan to exit Iraq received overwhelming support from the House and Senate, Democrat and Republican, and is sitting on the president's desk right now.

MALVEAUX: Let's take a quick look at some of these Iowa poll numbers here. They say that the most important issue for the Democratic caucus goers certainly is Iraq, at 30 percent. But then you take a look at your numbers here in terms of whether or not you're the likely choice for them. Biden, it says, at 3 percent. You have really made...

BIDEN: No, no, no. Eight percent. No, no.


BIDEN: The most recent poll says 8 percent.

MALVEAUX: Eight percent...

BIDEN: Just taken.

MALVEAUX: ...obviously, for Iraq. But I want to ask you this. You have made foreign policy, really, the central issue in your campaign.

BIDEN: Yes. MALVEAUX: You have an incredible amount of experience in this area.

Why is it not resonating more with these voters in Iowa?

BIDEN: Well, I think it is resonating. The most recent poll shows me moving into fourth place in Iowa, number one. Number two, this is exactly where -- I'm way ahead of where Kerry was and where Edwards was the last time around. The Iowa voters -- and there's a bunch of them in this room I'm sitting in. I just spoke to a large group of them here in Webster City. They're just making up their minds right now. And they're just beginning to focus. They've been focused, but now they're making their decisions.

And I think I'm going to do very well out here. I think you're going to be very surprised. And if I'm not, look, I ran a campaign based on what I believe and what I said I would do as president and what I thought had to be done -- or has to be done. And so, you know, either way it's fine. But I believe you're going to see me getting a ticket out of Iowa.

MALVEAUX: If you don't come in the top three, do you drop out after Iowa or do you go on?

BIDEN: Well, the probability is anyone who doesn't come in in the top three or a very close fourth -- I mean if they're bundled up -- is not likely to be able to do much more beyond that. And that includes John Edwards, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, as well. And so it's the same for all of us out here. The expectations of me are a great deal lower and the expectations for Senator Clinton and Obama are extreme -- and Edwards -- are extremely high. And you know, as a reporter, the national press will make a judgment on who exceeded expectations and who is alive and well going into New Hampshire. And...

MALVEAUX: So what will you do?

BIDEN: And it -- well, I'll go on to New Hampshire, because I think I'm going to be -- exceed expectations and I think I'm going to be viewed as one of the leading alternatives to whoever the number one person is.

MALVEAUX: So let's turn from politics more to the personal here. Obviously, your book coming out, "Promises To Keep." You really show a very different side of yourself. You talk about back in 1972 after you lost your wife and child in a car accident. And you say: "Most of all, I was numb, but there were moments when the pain cut through like a shard of broken glass. I began to understand how despair led people to cash it in and how suicide wasn't just an option, but a rational option."

Tell me how you survived that moment and why are you talking about this now?

BIDEN: Well, I wrote a book -- I was asked to write a book on my career. And I wrote a book without mentioning anything about the most significant thing that happened in my life. And the publisher said how can you write about your life and not mention that you lost a wife and a daughter and had two children very badly injured in a -- when a tractor trailer blind-sided them and you were not in the car?

How can you not talking about it?

And I talk about it not in, as you noticed, not in a lot of detail. But it is part of my life. It is part of what has impacted on me and one it is part of what has affected the person I am today.

And the way I got through it, I have an incredible family. My sister, Valerie, who manages my campaigns and all of them -- my sister and her husband moved in to help me raise my children without being asked. My mother was there. My brother, who's on the campaign trail with me, moved in an apartment with on a -- with an old barn on the property. He made it into an apartment. Everyone was there to help me. They were there constantly. And I can only wonder how in God's name does a single parent left with that kind of tragedy and who doesn't have a family to help them out. I was just extremely, extremely fortunate.

MALVEAUX: And you weren't alone. Senator John Edwards also losing a son.

Do you believe that this makes you a stronger person, a stronger candidate?

BIDEN: I don't think it qualifies me any more or less for president other than one thing -- tragedies like that either make you stronger or make you weaker. They don't leave you the same, I promise you that. And what it's taught me is that I can handle anything. I can handle -- you know, I later ended up being told I had a 30 percent chance of living. I had two cranial aneurysms and an embolism.

But, you know, look, you go through things and a lot of people have gone through these things. And it teaches you things. I know what it's like to be a single parent for five years. And I had a lot of help, but I know what it's like. And I can -- it gives me such empathy for women making $30,000 a year raising two kids, being held to the same standard I was held to.

So, it just gives you a different perspective. And a lot of people -- a lot of people -- a lot of people go through the kinds of things that I went through. And they get up every day and put one foot in front of the other. And that's why this country is so full of grit, so full of gumption, that we so underestimate the capacity of the American people to not only take a hit, but get back up.

MALVEAUX: Senator Joe Biden, thank you so much for joining us on THE SITUATION ROOM.

Glad you got on the other side of that tragedy.

BIDEN: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Thank you. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama launches a push for votes in New Hampshire. But some of his main competition may actually be from one Republican candidate. We'll explain.

Plus, family survival -- a father and three kids lost in a snowstorm now safe and warm. Find out what they did to survive.

Also, boot camp for Internet junkies -- shock therapy for kids who can't log off.




Happening now, mortgage relief -- President Bush signs a measure to provide financial help for homeowners facing foreclosure or bankruptcy. It comes amidst a mortgage crisis that has sent foreclosures to record highs.

And Rudy Giuliani checks out of the hospital. The republican candidate was treated overnight for flu-like symptoms. A spokeswoman said doctors found nothing of concern.

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

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama trails rival Hillary Clinton by 12 points in the latest New Hampshire poll. Now he's ramping up a strategy to attract votes from independents.

Mary Snow joins us now with an update. Mary, how is it working so far for Senator Barack Obama?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Suzanne, today Senator Barack Obama in with independents who have now said that they are going to be supporting him. He is hoping to spread that message and hoping that they will put him over the top to win this primary.


SNOW: He shows he can pitch. Can he hit his target? Democratic presidential candidate hopeful Senator Obama is taking aim at people like Russ Duellette, an independent who is supporting Obama. Obama is trying to win over more people like him by promising to reform ethics in Washington and he's sending a signal to independents he can reach across the political aisle.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If there is a republican out there who is the best person for any particular cabinet position or any administration agency that will make a difference, then I will make that appointment.

SNOW: At a town hall meeting Wednesday, Obama threw out some republican names such as California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and retiring Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

RUSS DUELLETTE, INDEPENDENT VOTER: That's great. But I don't think being independent means just reaching across to republicans.

OBAMA: That includes independents. I mean independents, even better.

SNOW: Claiming a stake in that territory between republicans and democrats can prove crucial. Independents can vote for either party in the primary and they helped Senator John McCain this win stage republican primary in 2000. While independents can make up a powerful block, Andy Smith, a university of New Hampshire political science professor, says, they are more likely to be swayed by trust than issues.

ANDREW SMITH, UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAMPSHIRE: Undeclared voters frankly don't pay as much attention to politics. They're not as concerned with politics and it's the celebrity or the image of the candidate that's far more important to them than issues.


SNOW: Andy Smith of the University of New Hampshire, says about 44% of the registered voters in this state are independents and in a tight race, he says, they can really make or break a race. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: So Mary, who is his main competition for independent voters?

SNOW: Well you know, it is interesting because one candidate who is really going after the independent voters is republican Senator John McCain. Because in 2000, he was very successful winning them over. And because there's so many candidates, you know, the competition has really stiffened up. Those two, McCain and Obama, are really seen as the two main candidates looking for that voting block.

MALVEAUX: Mary, thanks so much.

We are seeing live pictures of Senator Barack Obama there shaking hands and greeting supporters, obviously trying to win over as many people as he can in the two weeks before the Iowa caucuses. A dead heat in this race for Iowa and clearly, every handshake, every vote, every moment certainly counts.

Mary, thank you so much.

And President Bush held a yearlong news conference today and because it is a campaign year, campaign politics, had a way of sneaking into the session with reporters.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, you saw that President Clinton said recently one of the first actions of the new Clinton administration would be to send presidents 41 and 42 on a worldwide goodwill mission to restore the country's good name abroad. I wonder if you think it is necessary and --

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: 41 didn't think it was necessary. It is going to be a one-man trip.


MALVEAUX: The president was also asked about criticism from republican candidate Mike Huckabee who spoke of a "bunker mentality" in the Bush administration.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Bush, your foreign policy, you saw your foreign policy was described as arrogant, go it alone. I wonder why you disagreed with that and if there is any danger --

BUSH: That's a clever way of getting me interested. Look, during the primaries and during the general election, I suspect my name may come up a lot. And what the American people need to do is to sort through the rhetoric and reality. And so this -- this is -- subtle attempt get me to start commenting about primaries and I'm not going to do so. I will wait, reserve judgment, and be patient and after the primaries are over we will help my party unify because I believe we will keep the White House.


MALVEAUX: President Bush also predicted that republicans will regain seats in the House and the Senate.

A new government study is adding fuel to the old debate over sex education in schools. CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joining us now with details.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, a really interesting study coming out of the journal of adolescent health specifically talking about sex and teenagers and trying to figure out a specific topic about whether or not sex education in schools actually work. Now a couple of things to point out is this was based on a survey, actually asking teenagers about their sexual habits and it was also a data collected in 2002 from the Centers for Disease Control. Some of the findings, interesting nonetheless.

Take a look at this. What they found was that teenaged boy who had sex education in school were 71% less likely to have sex before age 15. In teenage girls, it was not as profound. But when they had sex education, they were 59% less likely to have sex before age 15. But look at this. In African American teenage girls, if they had sex education in schools, they were 91% less likely to have sex before the age of 15.

Sex education seems to be working. At least that's the conclusion of the lead researcher for this particular study and they also say that it under course the idea it is okay to talk about sex as opposed to not talking about it. Now it is also important to keep in mind this did not directly compare sex education classes with abstinence only programs. There was not a direct comparison. Also, the lead research made an important point. It is okay for parents to talk to their kids about sex. Not leaving it entirely up to the schools. Suzanne, back to you.

MALVEAUX: Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much.

Then went into the wilderness to cut down a Christmas tree and got lost. They were found after three days in the snow. Now new details of the family's rescue.

And a battle over housing in New Orleans. Police used pepper spray and stun guns on protester who's tried to storm city hall.



MALVEAUX: Dramatic details are emerging on how a family in northern California survived three days in a freezing snowy wilderness after getting lost looking for a Christmas tree to cut down. Rescuers found them and airlifted them to safety late yesterday.

Our CNN's Dan Simon is here to tell us about this incredible story. Dan?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Suzanne. This gives you an idea in terms of the element this family was facing. The snow came in so fast. Within a few hours, they were inundated by several feet of snow. In some cases, it is snow came up to their knees. That's why they had to be rescued. Meanwhile, we are really getting a sense in terms of how they survived this ordeal by looking at photographs taken by the father.


SIMON: Three smiling children. The youngest, middle and oldest looking for a Christmas tree and spending quality time with dad.

FRED DOMINGUEZ, FATHER: All good spirits. Playing, joking. Cut down the tree.

SIMON: Not before long, they settle on this tall spruce.

DOMINGUEZ: We found the tree. We agreed upon it.

SIMON: Each wants take picture with the prize. The time stamp on these photos shows it is just after 4:00 on Sunday afternoon. From here, they plan on hauling the tree back to their truck. But darkness approaches. The family gets lost. And the snowstorm moves in.

DOMINGUEZ: This is the first picture I took when it just starts snowing. And that was directly ahead of us. And you couldn't see your face in -- hand in front of your face. SIMON: It is clear they are not going to make it out tonight. They find shelter under a rock and some branches. The next morning they looked surprisingly content, perhaps because the fresh snowfall has made for breathtaking scenery but reality sets in.

DOMINGUEZ: That's what we were walking through, forward.

SIMON: They are not going to make it out on their own. They look for some new shelter and find this tunnel underneath a bridge.

DOMINGUEZ: You know what? That tunnel saved our lives completely. That tunnel completely saved our lives because it was the shelter from the storm.

SIMON: But the kids' feet are frozen. They would later say it was the makeshift socks cut from their father's t-shirt that made things a bit tolerable. As you can see, they also use each other to try to stay warm.

DOMINGUEZ: My daughter had frostbite and we noticed it. I told my son, rub her feet. Rub her feet.

SIMON: From here there is a long gap in the photos. Until this. What they say is the greatest picture of all. The helicopter that brings them home.


SIMON: Suzanne, as you know, everybody was released from the hospital. They slept at home last night. But as a precaution today, they went back to the hospital to be examined by a doctor. We are told everybody is doing fine except for the daughter. She is still there. She does have some frostbite. She is hooked up to an IV, getting some treatment. She has what's described as minor frostbite by the doctors. It is causing her some pain. But we are told that she's going to make a full recovery, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Dan, I notice they took pictures of a lot of this. Did they tell you why they were documenting this whole ordeal?

SIMON: It is just something that the father said he wanted to do. He had the camera with them and if, in fact, something bad happened to them, it would ...

MALVEAUX: OK. Sorry. We've lost audio from Dan. I want to follow up though. Here is a quick look at some of the other riveting survival stories.

In January of 1993, a mother and her infant son were found alive in a cave in a remote section of northern Nevada. The father hiked 50 miles through deep snow to find help.

In April 2003, rock climber Aron Ralston spent six days trapped in a narrow Utah cannon after his hand was pinned by a shifting boulder. He repelled after amputating his right forearm with a pocket knife. And in March of this year, twelve-year-old Boy Scout Michael Aubrey survived three freezing nights lost in the mountains of North Carolina.

Chemical spray and stun guns, the response from New Orleans police today as protesters tried to force their way into city hall. Demonstrators planned to disrupt a meeting of the city counsel. At issue, approval of a federal plan to demolish thousands of public housing units damaged by hurricane Katrina. On the scene, reporter Travers Mackel of our affiliate WDSU.


TRAVERS MACKEL, WDSU REPORTER: We are joined by a protester. What's your name?


MACKEL: And you are -- we saw you in the video. You were there trying on get through the gate. What was going through your mind? What were you trying to do when you were shaking the gate?

O'CONNELL: Trying to gain access to the city council meeting which we all feel and know we have a right to attend. We were denied access in trying to enter and in the process, were brutalized by the police. I got pepper sprayed and tasered. And my Jacket, luckily they missed my skin and pulled my Jacket off. Tried to pull me inside.

MACKEL: Looked like you were putting up quite a -- a fight to get inside. Was that necessary in your belief?

O'CONNELL: It was necessary, yeah. They were -- refusing us our right to attend the council meeting.

MACKEL: Where are you from? Why are you participating in this?

O'CONNELL: I live here and I'm a student. The housing is a concern for all of us. It should be. I'm supporting the residents in that way.

MACKEL: Is it unfortunate that it got to the level that it did? It got to the level where protesters like yourself were in a melee with police officers?

O'CONNELL: Sure it is unfortunate.

MACKEL: Would you do something like that again? The protesters are back and mounting at the gate? Will you try to break it again?

O'CONNELL: It could have been avoided if we allowed entrance and hopefully they will decide to do that soon because there's still resistance out here. Hopefully they will decide that's what needs to happen to allow everybody that wants to be at the meet to be there.

MACKEL: What did you think would happen when you all tried to get through gate? What were you all trying to do? What did you think would happen when you broke through that gate?

O'CONNELL: It is a hard question to answer. We just -- I was here in support of the people who needed to have their voices heard inside the city council meeting and being denied that right.

MACKEL: Police say using the pepper spray, using the tasers was justified, that the crowd was to some extent out of control. Do you disagree with that?

O'CONNELL: No. There was no one being violent. We just wanted to come inside attend the meeting there was no threat of violence. I don't think it was justified.


MALVEAUX: City hall.

And then this just in, we are getting word the New Orleans City Council has approved the demolition of 4,500 low income housing units despite the protests you actually saw. Clearly, a very controversial issue but once again, New Orleans deciding that their government deciding they will go ahead and do it anyways. If we have reaction and more from those protests we will get that to you momentarily.

Do you think your kids are spending too much time on the internet? Well, China may have a solution.

And my interview with democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards. I will ask him about Hillary Clinton's recent comments on one of his signature issues, poverty. Is she trying to steal his thunder? Hear what he has to say.



MALVEAUX: Some researchers labeled internet addiction disorder. Some experts say more studies are need before overuse of the internet can be separated for other obsessive behaviors. That has not stopped treatment facilities from cropping up around the world. John Vause visited one in China and he's here to tell us about it.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, China has more 60 million internet users, second only to the U.S. But many young people here are showing signs of addiction, especially to online games and their parents are taking some desperate measures to try to help them.


VAUSE: This is boot camp for internet junkies where a growing number of Chinese kids are being rescued from cyberspace, dragged back into reality.


VAUSE: This woman that didn't want to be named says her 15-year- old son would lock himself away for hours and they constantly would argue and his school work suffered. He clearly wasn't interested in what she was saying.

Internet addiction is defined as spending four hours a day or more online. In some cases, to break that, patients are shocked with low voltage jolts.

I just play online for as long as I could, says this 18-year-old. Even if I was tired, I wanted to reach a new level. I couldn't stop.

Many are addicted to games where they become one of the characters. So this is part of their therapy. Laser tag, a real game in the real world.


VAUSE: Experts say all of these kids lack self-confidence and they couldn't cope with pressure from their parents to do well at school, which is why computer games where success accounts for little effort and is so addictive.


VAUSE: The clinic is run by Tao Ran. Each year he treats almost 1,000 kids, some cases are extreme. One boy broke up with his girlfriend and became addicted to the internet. For three years, he never left his room. He didn't shower or cut his hair.

Earlier this year, at an internet cafe, police say a man aged about 30 died of exhaustion after playing online for three straight days. Shanghai police are now enforcing a 16-year age limit at all internet cafes.

Every minute in China, 100 new users are logging on and many of them, like these kids, will have trouble logging off.


VAUSE: Almost all of those kids come from wealthy families which is just as well because a three-month treatment at the clinic costs about $4,000 U.S. Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Fascinating. Thank you so much, John Vause.

More million Muslims today took part in one of the last residuals of the hajj pilgrimage called the Stoning of the Devil. Muslims throw stones at three pillars to symbolically reject the devil and temptation. The annual pilgrimage is one of the pillars of Islam on the first day. Pilgrims travel from Islam's holiest site in Mecca to Medina where they meditate. From there, they head to Mount Arafat where Muslims believe Prophet Mohammed delivered his last sermon and leave at sunset heading back towards Mena for the stoning ritual and then return to Mecca and celebrate eve.

Time to check back with Jack Cafferty. And Jack, what are you working on at this moment? JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question hour is why has the republican race for the presidential nomination suddenly turned into a free-for-all?

Daniel in Ironton, Missouri, "The nomination is tight because there is no clear reason for the republicans to exist. Iraq is no longer an issue because violence is down. Most Americans want to get out. Terrorism has faded from views. Social conservatives have no real candidate they can find. Most candidates are globalists whose are soft on illegal immigration. Right now it is more about choosing someone that can win rather than someone they agree with. However, most have no idea who really could win. They should be looking at Ron Paul."

Don writes, "A wise man once said, "It's getting ugly out there." Well, the current crop of republican saviors about as watered down as it gets. Giuliani and Romney appear not to be able to decide on whole wheat or rye at lunch, let alone their policies. McCain is just pitiful since the day he sang "Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran" and ever spoke to Kennedy about immigration. Huckabee's evangelist in Clinton-esque clothing and Thompson is reading his stuff from cue cards. My candidate Ron Paul needs to heat it up more or he's going to fade into Al Gore's Internet and never be seen again."

Tom writes, "It's a free-for-all because none of them stand any chance of winning. A Republican Party member stands as much chance of winning as a Communist Party member. Maybe all these guys think it would look good on their resume but realistically speaking, republicans won't be able to elect a dog catcher in 2008."

Dan in Las Vegas, "Let's see, we have a grumpy senator, a dopey doctor, a sleepy part-time actor. Wait a minute, do I detect a theme here? Perhaps the reason there is a free-for-all is that the positions these guys have are in fact fairy tales."

And Robert writes, "The republican field is like a used car lot full of lemons. None of them is much better than any of the others, and there's little to choose between them. The American voter wants a new car next November." Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: No shortage of strong opinions. Okay. Thank you so much, Jack.

Because of his new front-runner status in Iowa, republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is now in the crosshairs of his rivals. But is he going to return fire? We are going to take a look. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: Happening now, President Bush tries to prove he is relevant to the race to replace him. Is he willing though to go out on a limb and really dish about the White House candidates?

Also this hour, just two weeks until Iowa. The contests are close and the issues are center stage. I'll ask democrat John Edwards about our new polls and about his fight with Hillary Clinton over helping the poor.

And can this relationship be saved? Arnold Schwarzenegger's dealing with the Bush White House sink to a new low. We'll tell you why the California governor is frustrated.

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