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THE SITUATION ROOM

Year Six in Iraq War Begins; Police Make Arrests in Anti-War Protests Around the U.S.; Slowing Withdrawal of U.S. Troops in Iraq; Kilpatrick Refuses to Resign Amid Sex Scandal

Aired March 19, 2008 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Five years after an American-led invasion targeted the regime of Saddam Hussein, the U.S. military begins another year in Iraq. President Bush insists that patience will bring victory. His would-be successors offered their own takes on the war today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The soldiers from across this great state need a commander-in-chief who will end the war in Iraq and bring them home.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: And they certainly deserve the same voice in choosing that person. That's why I've been saying for some time that the people of Michigan and Florida must have a voice in selecting our nominee for president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Five years have gone by since that fateful decision. This war has now lasted longer than World War I, World War II or the Civil War. Nearly 4,000 Americans have given their lives. Thousands more have been wounded. Even under the best case scenario, this war will cost American taxpayers well over a trillion dollars.

And where are we for all the sacrifice? We are less safe and less able to shape events abroad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: John McCain's campaign issued a statement saying the Republican -- and I'm quoting now -- "wants American forces to come home when our clear and serious interests are at stake in Iraq, which nearly 4,000 Americans have given their lives to secure, are truly safe." Other requirements, he says, include defeating Al Qaeda, containing Iran and limiting the potential for a cataclysmic civil war.

McCain's senior adviser, Mark Salter, defines that as -- and I'm quoting him now -- "making us safer." And he's adding, "Senator Obama's plan, if it can be charitably described as one, would do the reverse."

President Bush today is sticking to his guns, calling the Iraq War, as we just said, "noble, necessary and just."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The successes we see in Iraq are undeniable, yet some in Washington still call for retreat. War critics can no longer credibly argue that we're losing in Iraq, so they now argue the war costs too much.

In recent months, we've heard exaggerated amounts of the costs of this war. No one would argue that this war has not come at a high cost in lives and treasure. But those costs are necessary when we consider the cost of a strategic victory for our enemies in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: A brand new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows only 31 percent of Americans approve of the way the president is handling his job. That's a new low for Mr. Bush in the CNN polling.

That's 40 points lower, by the way, than his approval rating at the start of the war exactly five years ago. The president concedes the financial cost of the war has been much higher than anticipated, but some calculations are truly astonishing.

CNN's Mary Snow has been looking into this part of the story. She's joining us now live.

And, Mary, do we have a real handle on how much the American taxpayers are paying for this war?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, this debate over the exact dollar figure -- the Pentagon says overall the cost has topped $500 billion so far. Some economists say it's much, much higher than that. And to put it in perspective, they've broken down what that means to ordinary Americans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): The Pentagon estimates it costs $9.5 billion a month to finance the Iraq War. But some economists say that only accounts for operating costs. Factor in long-term health care for veterans, replacing military equipment and interest rates, and the figure is closer to $25 billion a month.

Economist Linda Bilmes of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government projects in her new book that the entire cost of the war is a staggering $3 trillion. The White House says that number is exaggerated. Bilmes says it's conservative.

LINDA BILMES, CO-AUTHOR, "THE $3-TRILLION WAR": In this war, this is the first time we actually have cut taxes and increased spending at the time went to war. We have also, for the first time since the Revolutionary War, we have borrowed money from overseas to finance the war.

SNOW: Because that money is borrowed economists say Americans haven't yet felt the full economic effects. The reconstruction of Iraq has created jobs among contractors, but economists say it's come at an expensive price. The non-partisan National Priorities Project has calculated the consequences of money spent on the war instead of domestic issues.

GREG SPEETER, NATIONAL PRIORITIES PROJECT: If, in the first two years of that war, we would have instead put that money into rebuilding schools, we could have rebuilt every school in this country that needs to be rebuilt.

SNOW: The group calculates that same amount of money could have rebuilt 77,000 U.S. bridges. In places like New Orleans, they say one week of war funding could finance 26,250 housing units. They add, with one year's worth of the money spent on the war...

SPEETER: We could have provided health insurance for everyone of the nine million children that doesn't have health insurance for the next five years.

SNOW: Some economists argue the biggest cost is a crisis of confidence in the U.S.

IAN BREMMER, EURASIA GROUP: There's definitely a belief that the U.S. dollar is not going to be the world's currency. And America's role in the Iraq War has had a very significant part to play in the changing of that perception.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now analysts also say there is a risk to not spending on the war. An example, they say if troops were pulled out too quickly and the Iraqi government fell apart, it could mean Iraq's oil supply would be cut off, sparking another spike in oil prices -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Mary. Mary Snow reporting.

Let's get to the human toll of this war right now on this, the fifth anniversary of the start of the war -- 3,992 United States troops have been killed in Iraq and 29,395 have been wounded. Estimates of the number of Iraqi civilians killed in the war vary, but according to the British anti-war group, Iraq Body Count, that number stands between 80,000 and 90,000 people.

Anti-war protests and vigils are taking place around the United States today. These pictures here show one of the largest of the protests taking place in San Francisco just a short time ago. There were a series of demonstrations in the Washington, D.C. area, where police arrested more than 30 people who were allegedly blocking entrances to the Internal Revenue Service. The protesters said they were focusing in on the IRS because it gathers funds for the war.

And this just coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM. Right now, the current drawdown of U.S. troops, the dismantling of last year's troop buildup is likely to be followed by what military experts call a prolonged pause, if the military commanders wind up getting their way -- and there's every indication they will -- from the commander-in- chief.

Let's go straight to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, because she's getting some new information.

Barbara, what are you learning?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a lot of the country's attention may be focused on the anniversary of the war, but here at the Pentagon, all of the work is really focusing on the way ahead, on the next phase, as you say, of troop withdrawals from Iraq.

CNN has spoken to a number of top military officials. And they tell us now that the most likely option to be presented to President Bush will be for a four to six week pause before any troop -- additional troop withdrawals are announced.

This will begin in July, when the last of those five so-called surge brigades returns to the United States. So what we're looking at, most likely, is a four to six week pause beginning in late July before General Petraeus or any of the top commanders will be ready to make further decisions on troop withdrawals.

Wolf, all of these discussions really go into full swing tomorrow. General Petraeus briefs Secretary Gates first thing in the morning.

BLITZER: And Barack Obama spoke extensively about the war in Iraq on this, the fifth anniversary, with our own Anderson Cooper just a little while ago. We're going to have some of that interview coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Barbara, thanks very much.

Let's get to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Hillary Clinton is challenging Barack Obama to a rematch in Michigan and Florida. Clinton made a last minute trip to Michigan today to emphasize her support for a re-vote there, saying that it's "wrong and, frankly, un-American" not to have delegates from those two states seated at the convention. Clinton is also suggesting the outcome of the general election could be at stake if Democrats don't count these delegates.

Of course, the DNC penalized both of these states for moving up their primaries.

Obama, whose name wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan, has not yet supported or opposed the plan, but his campaign has raised a number of questions about the proposal. They say a re-vote wouldn't make such a big difference in the overall delegate count and that the Clinton campaign is now trying to change the rules to suit itself.

As for Florida, plans there fell apart over the weekend when the state's Democratic Party said there will not be any re-vote.

For Clinton, though, many see the re-votes in these two states as a big necessity. Victories there -- big ones -- would held her close the gap with Obama when it comes to pledge delegates, as well as the popular vote. Two more victories would also bolster her argument to the superdelegates that she can deliver the key states.

But the argument to seat Florida and Michigan's delegates based on the results from January seems to lose some weight when you consider this. A new study of these two states' primaries back in January, done by a professor at the Wharton School of Business, suggests that about two million more people would have voted in Michigan and Florida if they thought their votes would have counted. In other words, the word was out that the elections wouldn't count and he estimates two million people that would have voted just stayed home.

So here's the question: If neither Florida nor Michigan holds re- votes, where does that leave Hillary Clinton?

Go to cnn.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack. See you in a few moments.

Barack Obama put it all out in the open -- his major speech on race in America. Now the fallout may be just beginning. We're going to get an update. We'll also have an exclusive interview with the candidate himself. He spoke with our Anderson Cooper just a little while ago.

Also, she touts her experience as first lady. Now thousands of pages from her old White House schedule have been released. What does that information tell us about Hillary Clinton's qualifications to return to the White House?

And in the midst of a sex scandal with a trail of explicit e-mail and a possible prosecution, Detroit's mayor is now digging in his heels. The city council wants him out, but he's not leaving. Carol Costello is working the story.

Lots news happening today, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Democratic convention in Denver may already be threatened with deadlock if hundreds of delegates from Florida and Michigan are not seated. Now Hillary Clinton is warning Democrats that things could actually get worse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Ignoring Michigan and Florida would be a grave mistake. We won't be able to end the war in Iraq. We won't achieve universal healthcare. We won't end the housing crisis and get the economy moving again unless we win in Michigan and Florida in November.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Can Florida's convention seats be saved? Like Michigan, the state was stripped of its delegates, punished by the Democratic Party for an early primary. One survey suggests many Florida voters are prepared to punish the party by withholding votes for the eventual nominee. Efforts to arrange a do-over primary have failed so far. Now some state lawmakers are offering a compromise.

Let's go to John Zarrella. He's our man in Miami. He's watching the story for us. It's complicated.

Where do things stand, John, right now?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you're right, it absolutely is complicated and everybody seems to be floating some plan out there at this point in time. But it is clear that what ultimately happens in Florida -- and perhaps Michigan, as well -- is going to be up to the Clinton and Obama campaigns.

Now today in Tallahassee, the state Senate minority leader, Steve Geller, issued a plan. And what his plan calls for is to take 50 percent of the delegates from the January 29 results and award them. The other 50 percent -- and the total was 210, so 105 each -- 105 would be awarded based on the results of January 29, the original primary.

The other 50 percent would be awarded based on some mathematical formula as determined by how Obama and Clinton finish in the delegate count in all the primaries, or how they finish in the popular vote count. So proportionately divided. So a bit complicated, but that's what he says.

And then, on top of that, he issued what he called a very strong challenge to both campaigns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE GELLER, FLORIDA STATE SENATE: Show more leadership. You want to be, you know, the president of the United States. You want to be able to negotiate with Hugo Chavez and Kim Jung Il and the Republicans -- and I'm not putting them in the same -- but you want to be able to negotiate with everybody. Start by showing that you can negotiate with each other.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZARRELLA: Now, of course, neither side appears to be rushing to the table in response to what Geller said. Of course, Hillary Clinton saying, look, we need to re-vote in Michigan and Florida. And Obama's people saying we're interested observers at this point.

A CNN poll that just came out on Monday, Opinion Research poll, said 63 percent of Democrats surveyed across the nation would like to see re-votes in those two states.

But, more importantly, a poll just released by "The Miami Herald" today showed that 44 percent of Democrats in Florida want to count the January 29 primary. Only 20 percent of Democrats in Florida want to hold a new primary.

And, Wolf, 24 percent of Democrats surveyed said if Florida's vote doesn't count, they may not vote for the Democrat in November. And that is scary for the Democrats -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very scary. Frightening numbers for the Democrats. John, stay on top of this story for us. The ramifications are enormous.

And a reminder why every delegate counts for the Democrats. As of right now, CNN estimates that Obama leads Clinton by just 142 delegates and neither is close to getting the 2,024 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

Barack Obama put it all out in the open with that major address on race in America. It was a bold, perhaps risky, political move, but now the fallout begins.

Let's assess. We'll start with our Suzanne Malveaux. She's here in Washington watching this story for us.

You were in Philadelphia yesterday listening to this speech. What's the fallout you're picking up, Suzanne? What are you hearing?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Barack Obama says that we have been stuck in a racial stalemate for years. And what he's doing, he's urging Americans not to ignore this sensitive subject. And as it turns out many people do want to address it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OBAMA: Race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): What began as damage control over controversial racial remarks by Barack Obama's former pastor has erupted into an all-out debate over race. The blogs are blowing up over Obama's race speech -- from fierce Obama critics to avid supporters -- online and on-air.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: We live, after all, in the United States of amnesia, many people simply want to forget the race issue. Barack Obama threw down the gauntlet yesterday.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: A rare opportunity in politics to talk about a very touchy subject, a subject that often clears the room, because no one wants to put their anger, their resentment, their hopes, their aspirations, their disappointments on the table.

MALVEAUX: On the table, black anger, white resentment and its expression behind closed doors. OBAMA: That anger may not get expressed in public in front of white co-workers or white friends, but it does find voice in the barbershop or the beauty shop or around the kitchen table. A similar anger exists within segments of the white community.

MALVEAUX: That anger, among a host of other emotions, is now being unleashed, including conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who took on Obama's comments regarding the challenges of growing up bi-racial.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: He has to trash his grandmother for being a racist because it's part of who he is. No, it's not. He's trying to tell us he knows so much hatred and so much racial bias and so much segregation that he's the guy to fix it, when he is the agent -- not the agent of the healing, he's the product of healing.

MALVEAUX: The question remains whether Obama's call to seriously deal with America's racism will be answered.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: At the moment, there are so many other issues crowding out upon us, you know, that seem so urgent, such as the economy, how we wind up with this war in Iraq, what do we do about healthcare and climate change, that it's not high on the agenda.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And, interestingly enough, it was former president Bill Clinton who was the most recent president to try to have a national conversation on race, with his National Commission on Race. But in talking with those involved, as they graded from mildly successful to a travesty, the problem, they say, is that it was sidetracked by other distractions at the White House.

Clearly, Wolf, this is a very emotional issue for a lot of folks and they want to put it on the table and talk about it.

BLITZER: It's a good idea to discuss. It never can hurt. Thanks very much, Suzanne, for that report.

By the way, our Anderson Cooper just sat down with Barack Obama for an exclusive interview down in North Carolina. Part of that interview we're going to have for you coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I think you're going to want to hear what he's saying today.

For the latest political news any time, you can always check out our political ticker at CNNPolitics.com. The ticker is now the number one political news blog on the Web. That's also where you can read my latest blog post. And, as I said, I posted one just a little while ago on the whole issue of experience versus change.

While politicians argue about troops and costs here in the United States, on the ground in Iraq, it's a very different story. Coming up, what it's really like for U.S. troops and what they think the military needs to do next. And it's video like this that the Chinese government has tried to block. It shows what's really happening with the deadly protests ongoing in Tibet.

Lots more news coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Carol, what's going on?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in the latest attempt to ease the housing crisis, federal regulators are clearing the way for another $200 billion to flow into the battered mortgage markets. A rule change announced today allows government-sponsored finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to reduce the capital they keep on hand and that could enhance their ability to finance mortgages and allow some at-risk borrowers to stay in their homes.

President Bush is tapping veteran prosecutor Ken Wainstein to be his new Homeland Security adviser. In a statement earlier today, the president praised Wainstein and outlined his new duties at the White House, which include helping to combat terrorism and secure the country's borders.

Wainstein currently heads the Justice Department's anti-terror programs. He'll replace for more homeland security adviser Fran Townsend.

Take a look at these pictures from eastern Tennessee. Authorities there say an oil well fire that erupted earlier today is contained, but they're waiting for outside help before deciding what to do next.

The fire broke out after crews digging near the well hit a high pressure pocket, sending oil spewing from the ground. Several homes were evacuated and one person reportedly suffered minor burns. Officials from a Texas-based company that specializes in oil well fires are said to be on their way to assess the situation.

Now, in news from around the world, dramatic new video shot by an Australian tourist shows the first independent images of last week's riots in Tibet.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL SMITH, AUSTRALIAN TOURIST: We're standing here in the middle of Lhasa and the fighting has (EXPLETIVE DELETED) exploded. Tibetan people going crazy, just (INAUDIBLE) at cars, breaking into Chinese shops. Crazy (EXPLETIVE DELETED) far out.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COSTELLO: The pictures show for the first time Chinese security forces moving in to restore order. The images show riot police and armored personnel carriers. They have not been aired by China's state-run media -- the pictures, that is. Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Carol, very much.

No, ifs ands or buts -- Barack Obama sums up his Iraq policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: When I am commander-in-chief, I will set a new goal on day one. I will end this war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Coming up, our exclusive interview with the Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama. He has just sat down with Anderson Cooper. We're going to share it with you.

Also, Detroit's mayor digging in despite a sex scandal, explicit e-mail and a possible prosecution. Carol will be back with that.

And thousands of pages are made public from Hillary Clinton's old White House schedule. Does it shed any new light on her claims of value added experience as first lady? Brian Todd reviewing the records.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, stocks plunged on Wall Street today with the Dow Jones industrial average giving back nearly 300 points, well over half of yesterday's big gain. The sell-off came despite a steep drop in oil prices, better than expected earnings from the major financial firm, Morgan Stanley and news of a new infusion of cash into the struggling mortgage market.

Severe weather and floods forcing hundreds of people from their homes across the Midwest. At least 11 deaths are linked to the weather and four people are missing at this hour.

And a breaking point on gas prices. A new CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll shows that 64 percent of those polled say they have cut back on driving because of rising costs. Even more say prices at the pump are causing them financial hardship.

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

Earlier today, the National Archives released thousands of pages of documents detailing Hillary Clinton's schedule as the first lady from 1993 to 2001. Senator Barack Obama's campaign and others have been calling for the release, saying the documents are necessary to evaluate Clinton's experience as first lady.

Let's turn to CNN's Brian Todd. He's been poring over these documents.

What have you learned, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, this gives some perspective on just how deeply involved Mrs. Clinton was in her husband's presidency and the public face she tried to portray when things started to unravel.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Publicly, she keeps herself engaged and focused while her most painful private moments are exposed. And her husband's presidency falls under its most serious threat.

January 21, 1998, the day the Monica Lewinsky scandal blows up in the national media, Hillary Clinton starts her schedule with a private meeting in the White House, then travels to Baltimore for events at a college until late afternoon. Then back to the White House for a black tie dinner. All part of thousands of pages of Mrs. Clinton's schedule as first lady just released by the Clinton library.

But Carl Bernstein, a biographer of Hillary Clinton, says what's not in these documents, like what he says happened on that trip to Baltimore, tell the real story.

CARL BERNSTEIN, AUTHOR, "A WOMAN IN CHARGE": She was on the telephone with her aides, she was trying to learn more about what the press was doing. She did not want to give the impression of a firestorm that was raging outside.

TODD: The schedule also shows what's already widely known as extraordinary involvement by a first lady in policy. Diving into health care reform just three days after her husband's inauguration and countless meetings day after day until that initiative died.

Also, appointments that back up her claims to have been involved in the Northern Ireland peace process, helping refugees from Kosovo. But there are thousands of redactions, names missing from several meetings at a time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not about someone who is eager to shine a light on her full record. That's the point. And at the same time, some of this is understandable for when you're running for office, the slightest thing can be misinterpreted.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Critics say this document dump had to be forced out by a lawsuit from Judicial Watch, a long-time political foe of the Clintons. A Clinton spokesman said the lawsuit had nothing to do with this release and the Clinton team had nothing to do with the redactions. He said a key aide to the Clintons actually fought to unredact some parts of it -- Wolf BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thanks very much. Scholars are going to have some additional material.

Let's get back to our top story right now, the war in Iraq beginning its sixth year today. President Bush calls it a noble, necessary and just fight. Here's how the presidential candidates view it.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Are we safer because of this war? That is why Senator McCain can argue, as he did last year, that we couldn't leave Iraq because violence was up, and then argue this year that we can't leave Iraq because violence is down. When you have no overarching strategy, there is no clear definition of success. Success comes to be defined as the ability to maintain a flawed policy indefinitely.

Here's the truth. Fighting a war without end will not force the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future. And fighting in a war without end will not make the American people safer.

So when I am commander in chief, I will set a new goal on day one. I will end this war. Not because politics compels it. Not because our troops cannot bear the burden, as heavy as it is, but because it is the right thing to do for our national security.

CLINTON: The Iraqi government has to take responsibility for its own future that we have given them, the precious gift of freedom. It is up to them to decide whether or not they will use it. But we cannot win their civil war. There is no military solution.

And as we bring our troops home, we must take care of them. Our veterans deserve our greatest efforts to fulfill our obligations to them. With the healthcare and the other services that they have so richly earned, and we've got to have a 21st century G.I. bill of rights for these young men and women so they can go to school or start a business or buy a home. So there's a lot of work ahead but I'm confident and optimistic that we can do this work together.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are succeeding. And we can succeed and the American casualties overall are way down. That is in direct contradiction to the predictions made by the democrats and particularly Senator Obama and Senator Clinton. I'll be glad to stake my campaign on the fact that this has succeeded and the American people appreciate it.

Now will we be able to succeed fast enough, will they be able, al Qaeda be able to come back, that's a tough question. They're on the run but they're not defeated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Joining us now from the northern part of Baghdad, a small U.S. combat outpost, our own Michael Ware. He's embedded with the 101st airborne right now on the scene.

Michael, five years. Who would have thought U.S. troops, 140,000, 150,000 would still be deployed in Iraq five years later? We got an assessment from the president of the United States today, a rather upbeat assessment. Things were definitely, he says, moving in the right direction.

You have been there since day one. Give us your five year bottom line assessment.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, first and foremost, I have to tell you that given the situation on the ground, even though there's a downturn in violence, even though the surge so-called has been a success, and I'm not talking about 30,000 troops sent to reinforce the capital.

I'm talking about America doing deals with its enemies, about America running its own militias and putting them on the U.S. payroll, I'm talking about a political surge trying to batter this Iranian linked Iraqi government. All these things have produced some success.

Certainly less people are dying each and every month. But just last month, more than 600 Iraqi civilians still died. That's not good by anyone's measure.

Despite these successes, what I can tell you Wolf is that even entering the sixth year of this grinding seemingly never-ending war, there's no way America can leave any time soon, not if it wants to retain any shred of its international standing, nor if it wants to do anything to help the Iraqi people, Wolf.

BLITZER: So when they talk about a pause in the withdrawal this summer, it's going to go down to 140,000, 145,000, then they are going to keep it at that level for awhile, what I hear you saying is they will have to keep it at roughly that level for some time to come.

WARE: Oh, absolutely. You talk to any officer here in Iraq, you even talk to the sergeants, you can even talk to the specialists, the every day soldier. Now as embittered as they may be, though the morale remains high, their commitment to being a professional soldier, to protecting their brother, continues, all of them know that this problem is far from fixed, and there's no long-term solutions.

Indeed, I have had countless conversations with soldiers and officers over the past month here in Iraq where we talk endlessly about America's opponents, be it al Qaeda, be it Iran, be it others, playing a long game, a generational game, whereas the men in uniform can't help but feel frustrated by the fact that America is fighting this war election to election.

So this country is broken. America broke it. Whether you were for or against the war, in the beginning, is moot. Whether there was WMD is irrelevant. You had the situation you have now. America simply can't walk away, not any time soon -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What would happen if the U.S. started withdrawing troops in major numbers, a brigade or two a month, over the next year and brought it down to 20,000 or 30,000 troops? What would be the immediate impact?

WARE: Well, what we would see is once U.S. forces reach a certain level where they're unable to flex real combat muscle, where they can no longer intimidate the myriad of groups and international players like Iran here in this country, and I have to say, Iran is not intimidated right now with 160,000 troops. But once American forces get to the point where all they can do is basically defend themselves as they withdraw, watch out.

I mean lot of people point to the southern Iraq. Now while relatively peaceful, you see a whole rainbow alliance of Iranian backed militias in battles for power. Imagine that across the country, throwing in not just rival Shiite on Shiite as Iran plays its hand, making sure no one group becomes powerful enough. Add to that Shiite versus Sunni, Arab versus Kurd, Turkey and Iran pressing their claims in the Kurdish north.

You will see that if America pulls out or if America stops paying the 70,000 plus former insurgents who are now U.S. backed militias, then other people will step in; Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait, even American rival Syria will step in. You will see proxy wars, something that will be far worse than Lebanon in the 1980s -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Michael Ware, be careful over there. Good luck. Thanks for joining us.

WARE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And talk about a scandal. Prosecutors say he's been caught cheating, lying, and now could face criminal charges. But Detroit's mayor says he's not leaving office. The city council wants him out. The latest on this very bizarre standoff, that's coming up.

And one-on-one with Barack Obama. You're going to hear what he has to say about the fight for votes in Florida and Michigan. Our own Anderson Cooper sat down with him just a little while ago. That interview coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Detroit mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, is defying his critics and the city council by staying in office in the midst of a growing scandal. Carol Costello has been following this story for us.

Carol, what is going on now?

COSTELLO: It's just an unbelievably bizarre story, Wolf. I mean the city council wants him to resign. The mayor says no way. Mayor Kilpatrick is embroiled in a perjury case involving an alleged extra marital affair and very embarrassing text messages.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: Detroit's quandary? Kwame Kilpatrick, a mayor some admire and some don't. Detroit city council president, Ken Cockrel.

KEN COCKREL, JR., DETROIT CITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT: We feel that he has not been straight up with us. We feel that he hasn't been honest. And that's mainly where we're coming from. That's why we feel at this point in time, we would be best served as a city, as a region and indeed, as a state, if the mayor were to step down.

COSTELLO: And the city council outlines 33 reasons why in a non- binding resolution, asserting there is a constitutional crisis, a fundamental degradation in the city leadership rooted in an apparently flagrant disregard for the rule of law.

The mayor could also be criminally charged next week with perjury. Prosecutors are investigating whether he lied under oath about an extramarital affair when he testified in a police whistleblower suit against the city. The evidence, mountains of recently discovered text messages, allegedly sent by the mayor to his lover and then chief of staff.

This one from April 2003. Mayor Kilpatrick, "I'm at a Laker game. The security doesn't believe I'm mayor." Beatty, "And did you miss me sexually?" Kilpatrick, "Hell yes! You couldn't tell? I want some more. Don't sleep."

The council says the mayor settled the whistleblower case for $8.4 million without telling its members about a confidentiality agreement he struck with the plaintiffs to keep the text messages secret. So the council has called for the mayor's resignation. His reaction?

MAYOR KWAME KILPATRICK, DETROIT: My reaction is OK, now since it's over, it has no effect. It's not binding. Let's get back to work.

COSTELLO: Kilpatrick does have allies. A powerful group of Detroit business leaders want him to remain on the job, telling me the mayor has an excellent economic plan.

CYNTHIA PASKY, DETROIT BUSINESS OWNER: First of all, he hasn't been charged. Second of all, when he's indicted, there may or may not be a trial. We're a long way from the outcome of that. In the meantime, he's a good mayor. We need to keep the agenda of the city moving forward.

COSTELLO: Kilpatrick is confident he will be vindicated.

KILPATRICK: As I said to you one time before, there will be a time when all the truth will come out. I think at the end of that, everybody will be vindicating Kwame Kilpatrick legally and politically.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: It will be tough. The city council is conducting its own investigation at taxpayer expense. If the mayor is charged with perjury, he can still serve as mayor but if he's convicted, he will be forced to step down -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a story. Carol, thanks very much for that; Carol Costello working that story for us.

Hillary Clinton is challenging Barack Obama to a revote in Florida and Michigan and now, Senator Obama is responding in a CNN exclusive, Obama goes one-on-one with our own Anderson Cooper. He's talking about the race and what he'll do about Iraq if he makes it to the White House. The interview coming up.

Plus, if Florida and Michigan don't revote, where does that leave Hillary Clinton? Jack Cafferty asks and your e-mails are coming in. They're pouring in right now.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: If neither Florida nor Michigan holds revotes, where does that leave Hillary Clinton?

Dennis writes from Dallas: "I don't think Michigan or Florida will get a redo in their primary. Hillary will go on to win Pennsylvania but not by enough to seriously put a dent in Obama's delegate lead. Whatever gains she makes will likely be erased in subsequent primaries. She will then be left asking the superdelegates to award her the nomination."

Amy in Kalamazoo, Michigan writes: "Should the two states choose no revote at all, Hillary Clinton will come out behind in the delegate county but still looking like the single person who fought for the people of these states, while Obama will look like the poster child for the establishment. Nice role reversal, eh?"

Lenore writes: "If Obama doesn't quickly answer Hillary's challenge for those re-votes, he will certainly win the nomination but lose the election. Clinton is counting on him not biting the revote bait and thereby being responsible for disenfranchising all those voters. Obama's people are right. She can't win enough delegates to catch him with a revote and yet he's refusing. Just what is he afraid of?"

Paul writes: "If Michigan and Florida do not revote, it forces Hillary to follow the original rules that she was more than happy to accept when she was the front runner."

Minas writes: "Why do I bother to respond to this, your rather self-serving question. If Michigan and Florida don't get a revote, it leaves McCain in the White House in 2008, Hillary in the White House in 2012 and Obama in the doghouse with Reverend Wright as his mentor."

Carlo writes in Baker, Louisiana: "Hillary will be she should be, exit stage left."

And David in Minneapolis says: "One step closer to being forced to resort to throwing an actual kitchen sink" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

Was Barack Obama's speech on race enough to help quiet the controversy over his pastor? We'll talk about it with Lou Dobbs. That's coming up next.

Plus, across the country, protesters are using the Iraq war anniversary to make their voices heard. Some are louder and more unusual than others.

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

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BLITZER: Lot of talk out in the newspapers today and in the news media praising the eloquence of Barack Obama's speech on race.

Let's bring in Lou Dobbs. He's watching this story for us.

What's your reaction on this, the day after you've had a chance, Lou, to digest what he said?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": I don't think the senator in my opinion took sufficient responsibility for his relationship with the reverend.

On my radio show this afternoon, listeners basically were saying much the same thing. There wasn't much of a split on it. They were somewhat disappointed and across the country, that seemed to be the case.

For my part, I think the senator did, however, even though he was forced to, began an important dialogue that we should be having in this country. We should be moving well beyond the incendiary comments of his long time pastor Reverend Jeremiah Wright and we should be moving much, much closer to talking about how we can bring this society together instead of accepting separate communities.

It's painful to hear people talk about the black community or the white community. This is one community, and the ideals of our nation require that we make it so.

BLITZER: Was it a mistake for him even to deliver that speech yesterday?

DOBBS: No, I think the mistake, honestly, I think it's a great thing for all of our candidates. I really believe all candidates running for national office, for that matter, for any office, should be discussing race. It's an important part of our reality.

I think the mistake was he did not, you know, deal with the issue of Reverend Wright and his outrageous comments and viewpoints much, much sooner in his life and his relationship with him.

BLITZER: So where do we go from here?

DOBBS: I think where we go from here is let's get honest about what we're doing. I mean we've got two basic national values embodied in our constitution that are the fabric of our very existence. That is individual liberty and equality, equality of rights, equality of opportunity, both economic and educational.

Let's make that a reality for one another irrespective of race, religion. Let's really start to acknowledge nationally that is OK to care about one another and that we have to come together as Americans and not allow separation on the base of race or age or income. Let's build one great community. That's the promise of this nation to be at hand.

BLITZER: We'll have a lot more of Lou coming up in an hour. Lou, we'll see you on your show. Thanks very much.

DOBBS: Thanks, Wolf.

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